Zooey Deschanel’s Budget: What She Could Do Differently

Gabrielle Karol

Zooey DeschanelIt’s bad enough having your divorce discussed in weekly magazines, but the way you set up a budget, too?

When Zooey Deschanel and her husband, Ben Gibbard, lead singer of Death Cab for Cutie, filed for divorce last month, her lawyer filed an income and expense declaration—revealing, in other words, her current budget and overall net worth. (You can see your own numbers by signing up for free in the LearnVest My Money Center.)

To see how the “New Girl” star was faring financially—and give her some helpful tips—we sat down with Mina Black, a LearnVest Money Coach and Financial Planner, and had her analyze the actress’s budget.

RELATED: How to Set Up a Budget if You Want to Have a Baby

The Stats

Zooey was recently nominated for a Golden Globe for her role on the sitcom “New Girl.” Here are the basic details about her finances:

  • $95,000 per month in income
  • Owner of property worth $693,000
  • $48,000 was paid toward her mortgage this year
  • About $1.6 million in the bank
  • $1.6 million in stocks, bonds and investment accounts
  • Monthly expenses of about $22,500
  • Three credit cards, all of which are paid off in full each month

What Mina Says:

As a LearnVest Financial Planner, I tell my clients that a healthy budget is split up into a 50/30/20 ratio: 50% toward essentials like housing, utilities and transportation; 30% to discretionary (or “fun”) spending that we call “lifestyle choices”; and 20% toward financial priorities like savings and debt repayment.

My general assessment is that Zooey is a very frugal and smart young star. As you can see, Zooey is keeping her lifestyle choices, essential expenses and financial priorities to less than 50% of her budget. The rest, which is unaccounted for by the documents released, is probably being put toward savings and investments. And she’s already made big steps in building up those categories, discussed below.

Of course, people will say it’s pretty easy to keep your expenses to such a low percentage if you’re a celeb making $95,000 each month. But to put this in perspective, it was revealed in 2007 that Britney Spears made over $700,000 per month … and spent every penny of it. Not so frugal.

RELATED: How to Set Up a Budget for Commuting Costs

Her Housing

Zooey’s only debt is her mortgage. And despite bringing home a major salary—$1.1 million this year—she appears to have been very conservative on the real estate front. She’s not living in one of those crazy palaces you see in People magazine … a $693,000 home seems pretty reasonable for a celebrity living in Hollywood. Frugal decision-making like that allows her to keep her essential expenses to a minimum.

Food and Dining Out

Zooey has declared that she only spends $125 each week on dining out—which is a lot lower than some of the numbers I see for clients who are not celebrities! But she spends $1,000 per month on groceries. That’s far higher than LearnVest recommends (no matter what your income, we generally advise that people spend no more than $300 for one person on groceries each month). Maybe she’s buying a ton of truffles (of the mushroom variety, not Lindor) or entertaining at home a lot, since she’s not spending that much money dining out. Alternatively, she shops at very pricey grocery stores—possible, given that she lives in an expensive city.

RELATED: How to Set Up a Budget for a Divorce


Another number that surprised me: Zooey reportedly spends only $2,000 on clothing per month. Her monthly net income is somewhere around $48,000, so that’s 4% of her income. Given that showing up in designer clothes to events is practically part of her job description, I would have thought she would be spending more on clothing. Mind you, for a normal person, 4% on clothing each month would be absolutely exorbitant. But since she’s so frugal in other categories, for her, it’s OK.

How Does Your Life Balance Out?

Share your experiences and advice with an LV reader looking to find more balance in her life.



Zooey gives $1,500 to charities each month. While that’s a significant chunk of change, it doesn’t add up to a huge percentage of her yearly income—just 2%. The average high-income individual in the U.S. donates about 3-4% to charities each year. Zooey is clearly devoted to giving, as her donations add up to $18,000 each year, but she could still afford to give a little more. That said, charity is definitely a personal choice! (Here’s a way you can budget for giving all year long.)


As we mentioned above, Zooey has 51% of her income left over each month after her expenses. She already has over $3 million in savings and investment accounts (so we can pretty safely assume she’s also maxing out her retirement accounts). Because she’s in such a volatile industry, it’s smart for her to continue saving for a rainy day when she might not be such a hot new star. That said, she can start having a little more fun with her money and keep saving.

RELATED: How to Set Up a Budget With the 50/20/30 Rule

With the 51% left over, she could put 20% toward savings and investments, which would still be significant. Then, with the other 31%, she could start having a little fun. Remember, at LearnVest, we’re all about living life richly and getting the maximum from your money.

RELATED: How Much of My Paycheck Should I Save Each Month?

Clearly, she’s already built up her emergency fund. Now, as long as she keeps hitting her target savings goals, she can stand to spend a little more … and enjoy it!

More From LearnVest

Check out the one thing Kim Kardashian did right with regard to her divorce.
Did Heidi Klum’s success lead to her breakup with Seal? Find out.
See the $3.65 million home that Scarlett Johansson put on the market after her divorce from Ryan Reynolds.

Image Credit: Flickr/breezy421

  • Freemna Christina

    All that money for groceries probably has something to do with the fact that she is vegan. She may even have a personal chef preparing the dishes, it’s not easy (or cheap) to prepare tasty vegan fare

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=798945250 Shantelle Vye

      I agree. My sister is vegan. She was going to spend the night at my house a few months back, so I tried to make sure there was vegan-safe food for her in the house so she could make something for herself. I ended up spending $90 for two-ish days worth of food! I only bought about 12 or so items too!

      • Guest1441

        I am vegan & $90 of groceries would last me 2 weeks.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=798945250 Shantelle Vye

          Aren’t you just special then? How “vegan” are you exactly? My sister is VERY strict. Not to mention we have only 2 stores that carry vegan friendly foods, and they have outrageous prices (six dollars for a small container of vegan “margarine-like” spead? F that! Had to buy it though, because she needed it for one of her meals). One of the joys of living in Maine.

          • Erin

            Hi Shantelle! I am vegan and $90 would last me a week or two as well. I think what you shared about the margarine spread provides helpful insight into the cost – processed foods, whether vegan, vegetarian, or conventional, always cost more than unprocessed whole foods. I keep costs down by avoiding purchases like meat analogs and non-dairy sour cream/butter/cheese etc. A box of vegan burgers might cost a couple of dollars, but it is far cheaper to buy a can of beans or lentils and make my own burgers – plus they are healthier because they don’t require all of the preservatives needed to keep frozen items shelf-stable. I also avoid vegan dairy products like butter and cheeses because they are mostly made of oil (unwanted fat and calories) and they never quite taste right to me. As you can imagine though, cooking with whole, unprocessed vegan food can be time intensive, so there is a trade-off between saving money and spending time.

    • Azraph

       And if she entertains, a huge chunk of that could be alcohol.

  • Paola4242

    I’m sure she gets most of her clothing for free… That’s why she doesn’t spend more than $2,000 per month on it.

  • Dacubsfan

    She probably doesn’t have to spend money on designer clothes because designers often loan or give celebrities in the spotlight their designs to wear (great advertising). I would bet that a lot of her material goods she owns are gratis. This goes for anything from clothes to cars.

  • Gaidin6

    Booo LearnVest!  Using someone’s persona tragedy to drive you business!

    Despite the fact that she’s a public start, the idea of using her financial document like this is in poor taste.

    Sorry but You’ve lost me as a client, regardless of you “noble” cause.

    • Jennifer

       Agreed. Sifting through someone’s personal financial documents is not cool, even though her lawyer might have inadvertently made the documents public.

      • Raj

         I agree. There are lots of other examples which could have been used to illustrate the balance between different expenses and lifestyles.  Zooey is going through a personal trajedy and this particular example is NOT becoming of an otherwise fine website.

  • Jenna

    I had been enjoying the interviews with various celebrities about their finances, but I feel like this article crossed a line. Despite the fact that the document was public record, it doesn’t seem she had a chance to explain any of the assumptions made about her budget.

  • Jeaninezoe

    WOW! I guess respect for an individual’s privacy is low on the list of priorities in your business venture, as I’m sure Ms. Deschanel was not a willing participant in this gratuitous analysis of her finances…not to mention the fact that she is, no doubt, in an emotionally vulnerable state given the dissolution of her marriage. Poorly done, LearnVest! Shame on you!

  • Jess

    As far as her groceries go, she’s a VERY strick vegan and that kind of lifestyle, as great and healthy as it is, comes with a very hefty price tag.  I think more of us would be eating way healthier if it wasn’t so darn expensive.  I thought she lived in NY too.  Manhattan is already expensive; eating WELL in Manhattan is even more expensive.  That being said, I feel bad for her that her financial business is out in the open like this.  And I agree with Jenna – Ms Deschanel really didn’t have a chance to defend herself or comment on this article.

    • Jess

      Strict*  LOL

      • Jess

        strict*  sorry for the typo.. feeding the kids while one-handed typing this. :)  LOL

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1305900204 Christina Rose Eddleman

      She also is gluten free. The combination of gluten free and vegan incredibly limits what she can consume and leads to very pricey options.

    • Boo

       No, she was born in – and lives – in Los Angeles.

      • Tara D.

        Actually she does have a place in NYC and while she lives in Los Angeles for filming at times, she will tell you she calls NYC home. I know for a fact she has a place in lower Manhattan.

  • Anonymous

    I can’t believe LV stooped to the level of celebrity gossip. Ok, sure, if you want to mention Zooey as your tagline to get people to read about financial strategies and perhaps mentioning the situation as an opener, even though even doing that is still distasteful sans actually interviewing her for this article, but continuing on to report TMZ-obtained financial documents and splattering her personal life even more across the internet just for business? I thought LV was above this. You should be ashamed of yourselves for this article.

    • harlemhope

      I thought the situational analysis was helpful. Although there were some holes in Zooey’s finances – I think the heart of the article was the 50/30/20 model! I find these kind of pop articles entertaining and useful…

      • Anonymous

        I do agree that the 50/30/20 model, is very helpful and informative, but they way they exploited her life is not cool and they did not make that the purpose of the article. Over half the article was just telling us about (and judging) Zooey’s finances instead of shifting the focus solely to LV user strategies. All the headings began with her finances and analyzing and judging them, telling us if they’re ok for a celebrity budget or not, and spending more time about analyzing her life instead of helping users apply the philosophy to their own lives–no tips, tricks, or helpful ideas for sticking to 50/30/20. Literally only SIX sentences in the entire article giving advice to users, the rest was judging her financial circumstances that do not even apply to the every day LV user.

  • Helenecausse

    although it supports your editorial line this is going too far – where is the privacy in this ? and honestly people like her are part of the top 5% of incomes – so i am not sure taking an individual within this income range makes up for a good illustrative example on your investments and saving strategies.

  • Blackravon

    I also find this article to be in poor state. An interview with Ms. Deschanel i would understand but a unauthorized look at legal documents is very invasive. And she’s stated very publicly that she’s vegan with MANY food allergies. 

    • http://eemusings.wordpress.com/ eemusings

       That would definitely run up the grocery bill. SIGNIFICANTLY.

      Meanwhile, I’m sure she gets plenty of free swag and contra, so maybe it’s not so surprising that her clothing budget is lean.

  • Ncaz3799

    How is analyzing a celebrities budget of over a million dollars compares to my budget of 62,000. NO COMPARISON. She can afford anything. With over a million dollars in saving she does not have to worry about anything. I am very happy for her but this article was not realistic for me.

  • Kbgjtg22

    WHY Only …. $300.00 a month per person for food?
    I spend $250.00 on one trip to the supermarketeven when I’m trying to be careful!!

    • Anonymous

      This is Mina from the Financial Planning team at LearnVest and I wanted to make sure I responded to your question regarding groceries. This number is based on working with thousands of LV members, we have observed that the average person spends $200-$300 per groceries. Of course we have to be very mindful that a lot of factors will impact this number: where a person lives; what they are buying (ex. pre-packaged foods, dietary restrictions, etc.)) and where they are shopping. There are ways to cut the cost of groceries such as planning your visits by creating a list and not straying from it. Taking advantage of store weekly deals and buying in season produce are two other great ways to cut down on the cost.

  • http://twitter.com/lavendargoose Melissa Baker

    “Mind you, for a normal person, 4% on clothing each month would be absolutely exorbitant.” Really? That really surprises me. For me that would be $38.88 per week, or $2021.76 per year. I guess that looks like a lot for a year, but $38.88 per week is like one new shirt or pair of pants, or pair of shoes, or a bra or two every week. I just read that the average lifetime of a bra is about 3 months, and one should have at least a couple to switch off on, so it seems that buying on bra, one shirt, one pair of pants, and one pair of shoes a month is not “absolutely exorbitant.” What does everyone else think? I genuinely want some feedback, please. Thanks!

    • Anonymous

      Hi Melissa, 
      This is Mina from the Financial Planning team here at LearnVest. I wanted to provide you some feedback regarding your comment. I completely get what you mean about the 4%! It doesn’t seem high right?  While 4% doesn’t seem like a whole lot, it may not always be the best use of my money. Let’s say I spend $40/week on clothing, this is almost $500 every 3 months for clothes that I probably will end up wearing a few times! That $500 could go a long way in my 401(k) over 20 years.  Of course, there are times when I’ll need to spend more than my regular amount for clothing (i.e. pregnancy new job that requires a suite everyday,etc). The goal is to try to stick to around 2% and to take advantage of deals, coupons and shopping during off peak days (better sale items). 

  • Dmblover31

    That’s a really nice breakdown. However most of this doesn’t account for all the free stuff she is getting being a celebrity. She probably gets free dinners, free drinks, free partying, free shoes, free clothes AND free jewlery just because she’s a hot young star and people seem to want those types of folks to start trends.

  • http://twitter.com/Smecksie Melanie Carek

    For going on about saying “It’s bad enough having your divorce discussed in weekly magazines, but your budget, too?” and then jumping on the bandwagon, shame on the LV team. However, if they had gone about this the right way in talking to Z.D. then I am all for it. It’s nice to see a celebrity who isn’t living well beyond their means (which I admit has to be a bit difficult to do, right?) or is spending money like it really does grow on trees. She is making smart decisions about her money and I for one appreciate seeing this. As a commoner like most of us here, I can relate to these numbers if I just take off a zero here and there. ;) Just because she makes gobs of money, doesn’t mean it isn’t relevant to those of us seeking financial advice with a much smaller budget. Lighten up ladies.

  • Boo

    $693,000 is even a crazier low number, when you consider that she lives in Santa Monica, the “New York’ of Los Angeles County as far as real estate prices are concerned.

  • Boo

    Also, wouldn’t quite a lot of that “extra” 51% go in taxes?

    Or am I the only one who noticed that that’s not mentioned in the budget?