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The Basics

Even famous folks budget

Meg Tilly stretched the Chinese food. Alice Cooper still has money from the 1970s. Eric Bogosian lives a 'frugal' life. They and other celebrities haven't forgotten the value of a dollar.

By Bankrate.com

Celebrities share what they learned about budgeting back when money was hard to come by:

Dave Barry

Notable: humor columnist, author ("The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog").

Bankrate: Parents are typically our role models as money managers. What sort of role models were yours?

Barry: We didn't have much money. My dad was a Presbyterian minister, and my mom was a homemaker, and there were four of us kids. But my parents had the gift of not worrying about money, not letting the lack of it be a big deal. I know they were always pretty close to the edge financially because after they died I saw all the accumulated financial records and correspondence. But we managed to be a pretty happy family doing simple things, and I don't recall feeling disadvantaged, except when I wanted a go-cart, and my dad had to explain that we couldn't afford one. So now I REALLY want a go-cart.

Lesson learned: Don't emphasize money if you don't have much; be happy.

Eric Bogosian

Notable: writer, actor ("Law & Order: Criminal Intent").

Bankrate: A lot of artists have to deal with variable income. How do you manage it?

Bogosian: In terms of the way I deal with things financially, I'm frugal. I try to live within my means with as little debt as possible. My first priority was to make sure I had someplace to live in Manhattan, so real estate became part of it, and I just spread out.

Lesson learned: Live within your means.

Alice Cooper

Notable: singer, songwriter, musician.

Bankrate: What has your traditional investment strategy been?

Cooper: I have no idea. I don't do any business. I have been with the same manager for 33 years, and the deal is, "I make the money; you manage it. Don't tell me where it is; just tell me at the end of the month how much is there." We've been together 33 years. We still have money from the '70s. I put myself on an allowance, and I'm probably one of the only guys from the '70s that still has cash.

Lesson learned: Put yourself on an allowance.

Judge Alex Ferrer

Notable: host of TV's "Judge Alex," former Florida judge.

Bankrate: Has the difference in the pay been life-changing?

Ferrer: Yes, but it's not life-changing for me because I'm not the type of person who makes more money and then says, "See you, I'm going to go out and buy a bigger house." It's nice to be comfortable, it's nice to not have to worry about financial issues, but I know this industry is fickle. I tend to save more than I spend or use it in ways that will have lasting value.

Lesson learned: Save more than you spend.

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Al Franken

Notable: comedian, author ("Rush Limbaugh Is a Big, Fat Idiot").

Bankrate: Tell us what you learned about budgeting from your father's mother.

Franken: It was a very odd wrinkle in my family's financial history. She was one step up from a lady who collects cans and leaves $200,000 to the city of Memphis or something. She lived in this little apartment in Washington Heights, in this lousy area of New York that became lousier every day. And if you'd come she would bake an apple pie, and she'd have the same dress and shoes on that she'd worn for 60 years, and she'd steam stamps off envelopes, that kind of thing. I still have a vestige of that mentality. And she, by virtue of investing and stuff like that, left our family a couple hundred thousand dollars or something, which actually meant something then.

Lesson learned: Live frugally, pass on to the next generation.

Jeff Greenfield

Notable: CNN political analyst.

Bankrate: Do you have an investment strategy?

Greenfield: I don't have any investment strategy, but I've never been leveraged. I've always felt that there may be a time when the news business says, "You know, we've had enough of you, Greenfield. Move on," and I never wanted to be in a position to say, "Oh, my God. I've got all these debts that I have to handle." So I've done this pretty cautiously.

I've been lucky enough to live well for a long time. I've been well-compensated for what I do. I don't live large. My needs are not extravagant, but I enjoy life. That's what it's meant for me.

Lesson learned: Don't be extravagant but enjoy life.

Carl Hiaasen

Notable: journalist, novelist ("Nature Girl").

Bankrate: You always kept your day job. Was that due to an underlying skepticism that the fiction writing would work out?

Hiaasen: Absolutely right. There's no business as unstable for a writer as book publishing. I mean, most people get a paycheck regardless of what kind of week or month or year they've had, they still get a check every week. The security of having the paycheck from the (Miami) Herald coming in was essential, because there are gaps in royalty payments and gaps in the advances you get. At the beginning of each year, I have no idea what I'm going to make that year, none whatsoever, so it's pretty tough to budget when you've got a family, a college plan for your kids, this and that. I could have a great year or I could have a lousy year. If someone in Hollywood buys one of the books, suddenly it's a great year. It is uncertain. When there has been a point in your life that you haven't had any money, you are very careful with it, and I am.

Lesson learned: If you can't predict what your income will be, it's important to budget.

Meg Tilly

Notable: actress ("Fame," "The Big Chill"), author ("Singing Songs").

Bankrate: How did you survive your very poor childhood?

Tilly: I worked as a waitress from the time I was 14. That was Fridays and Saturdays, usually until 2:30 or 3 in the morning. It was hard work, but I was really excited because I was earning money. Then I worked at a deli and the restaurant. I had been saving that money. You make money where you can and you save. Coming from that kind of background, you either learn how to save or you learn how to spend. I saved because it gave me a sense of having choices in my life.

Bankrate: "Fame" opened a lot of doors for you and helped end the lean years. Were you prepared to handle success?

Tilly: When I danced in "Fame" that was more money than I'd ever seen. It was like, "Holy cow!" I saved most of it, but I did splurge a little. If we had a really long day shoot where we were dancing on concrete all day, I would go to a Chinese takeout and get beef with broccoli -- and that would last for several dinners. Otherwise, I would get a big chicken and make a big soup out of it, and that would last me for a week. That's how I kept my expenses down in New York.

Lesson learned: Eating in will help you save money, and saving money will give you choices in life.

Updated Feb. 23, 2007

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