In Scrimp and Splurge, financial planner Rona Birenbaum looks at how Canadians make everyday spending decisions. Here she speaks with Christine Solomon, a Canadian actress whose latest work involves the movie Kids Can.
Rona: What do you like to scrimp on, and why?
Christine: I scrimp on clothes. I love fashion, but a classic wardrobe never goes out of style, so I don't feel the need to chase the latest trends. Thrift stores, consignment stores, and wholesalers offer unique pieces, and then it's a matter of mixing and matching. I've also got the best tailor and she has saved me so much money, whether it's by altering a bargain find or making something out of new fabric, which is always so much cheaper than buying off the rack. Plus, you get to wear something that truly fits like a glove.
Actors have to go to many events, so another smart move is to pay a stylist who will get you clothes for free. A stylist has relationships with fashion designers who will lend clothes to an actor to wear on a "red carpet." This helps the designer promote their work while the actor looks fabulous. It's a win-win.
I also save on bars and restaurants. I don't really drink and I like to know where my food comes from, so I try not to eat out unless I have a meeting.
Rona: Were you always conscious about the origin of your food or is this a new awareness?
Christine: In my late teens I started realizing I needed to take charge of my health. I wanted to get toned and healthy. It's important because I have a skin condition called rosacea and I have to be careful about what I put in my body. Changing my diet improved my rosacea. It's good for my body – and my pocketbook.
Rona: What do you like to splurge on, and why?
I like to splurge on a few things, but most of the money I spend is related to my team and my career. In the entertainment business, you are as blessed as the team behind you. Agents, stylists, assistants and publicists help me get work and stay top of mind for new projects. I like to pamper them once in a while and I always remember to send a gift on birthdays and holidays. It's very important to me.
Rona: What did your parents teach you about money when you were growing up?
Christine: My dad was an accountant and really good at saving money, at making smart decisions. He taught me to start saving at a very young age. When I started earning a paycheque, he taught me to write down all of my expenses and keep only a set amount of what was left over as pocket money for that month. The rest would go into savings – no questions asked.
Rona: Was there a time that you were glad you had the savings?
Christine: There were many moments, all career-related. When starting as an actor, it's important to hire a publicist. Getting a publicist costs money, but it pays off with good publicity and improved career development.
Another important thing to note is that acting is a business, not just a craft. Actors get a paycheque but we still have to pay taxes on that income, and so its important to set that money aside.
Another thing my dad taught me was to save my loose change. It's an easy and effective way of increasing your savings without noticing the difference. Of course, most of us now pay with a debit card so loose change is getting rarer, but some banks and apps, like Mylo, now offer you the possibility of rounding up your purchases using that very same principle.
Rona: What $100 item or service did you purchase in the last 12 months that has given you the most pleasure and why?
Christine: I bought a really good blender, so I can make some healthy organic juices. I use it to detox and stay healthy. I love splurging on things that can last me for a long time and that serve an important purpose in my life, like my health.
Rona: What item or service did you purchase in the last 12 months that you regret, and why?
Christine: It's not just one item but the accumulation of all the small things you end up buying because you think you might need them; those impulse buys that end up breaking or not working. I used to see things like gadgets and facial products advertised on TV or online and read the reviews and buy it. Then I'd realize that some of the reviews were fake. Bloggers promote something and say it works. I'd receive it and it wouldn't work. I don't do that any more.
This interview has been edited and condensed.