Actress Debra Messing remembers her big break distinctly. After all, before her career took off, she was a broke grad student whose only regular splurge was a $3.99 soy burger. She indulged in that meal once a week.
So, when the TV star got a substantial check for the first time, her first purchase felt like a big deal.
“I went to a store and bought a gold ring with a garnet in it. It was $235,” Messing tells CNBC Make It, adding: “I kind of gulped and couldn’t believe I was doing that, but I decided that I'd work really hard.”
Messing, who graduated from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts in 1993, made a splash with the NBC sitcom “Will & Grace.” It first aired in 1998 and Messing’s role as Grace Adler earned her up to $600,000 per episode, The Richest estimates. Today, the star is worth an estimated $20 million. She's still acting and recently partnered with T.J. Maxx to work on The Maxx You Project.
Jewelry remains her “one guilty pleasure,” she says, but she’s thrifty overall: “I refuse to pay full price for clothes. I was taught that from a very very young age.
“My mother would basically say, ‘You’re stupid if you go to the mall and pay full price if you can go to T.J. Maxx and get it for less.’ And nowadays, with the apps and everything, there are so many places where you can get things on sale that I just won’t walk into a place and pay full price.”
She also got some lasting money advice from her dad, she adds: “He always told me, ‘Put 10 percent of every paycheck into a different account and don’t touch it. Just pretend it doesn’t even exist and live off of everything else.’” says Messing. “I think that is a simple rule that anybody can follow.”
Indeed, the general rule is to aim to save between 10 percent and 15 percent of your income for retirement, while more is always better. As Messing notes, one effective saving strategy is to send that chunk of your income directly into a savings or brokerage account. If you never even see the money you're setting aside, you won’t be tempted to spend it and you’ll learn to live without it.
Like this story? Subscribe to CNBC Make It on YouTube!