If you’ve ever lent Vanessa Hudgens money in a parking lot, she’d like to express her thanks.
Let’s just say, “I can be scattered at times,” the actress and singer says with a laugh.
“I now carry a phone that is attached to my wallet because before then, I would go places and forget my wallet. Multiple times I have gone to SoulCycle, parked in the parking lot, and gone to leave, to realize I have no money, no way of paying the parking fee,” she says. “So I literally have gone up to people like, ‘Do you have any? I totally left my wallet and home and can’t get out of the parking lot.’ I’ve 100% been that person.”
So she doesn’t have it all figured out. But, as a result, there’s one money lesson the Disney Channel alum — who stars in next month’s rom-com Second Act alongside Jennifer Lopez — will make sure to pass onto any future offspring.
“I’d want them to see it more,” she says. “I think kids this day in age aren’t really seeing the money because everything is digital. We have Apple Pay, we have credit cards, we have Lyft. One of my girlfriends said her daughter didn’t realize that Lyft actually cost money, because she thought it was just something on your phone — you push a button and a car shows up.
Write this down, parents: “I think it’s important for kids to see that these transactions that are happening are from hard-earned money and that money is a tangible thing — it’s something you can hold and touch. It doesn’t just magically appear through technology,” she says.
As an actress, Hudgens is a firm believer that the right costume can get you into character. And when it’s confidence you’re looking for there’s nothing like a power suit to get you there. She recently teamed up with SUISTUDIO to design a capsule collection that includes versatile looks from a party-ready tuxedo jumpsuit to a rust, velvet two-piece that could close at any negotiating table. “I never grew up around women in suits,” she says, but when she puts one on, “there’s something transformational that happens.”
Here, Hudgens talks suiting up, that time she booked a gig at the airport, and why the rom-com renaissance couldn’t have come at a better time.
On being a first-time designer… I’ve never truly designed something on my own, so I sat down with the [SUISTUDIO] design team and basically pulled a bunch of reference photos of Bianca Jagger because she’s been a style inspiration of mine for so long. She does the masculine/feminine vibe so well. I pulled pictures of David Bowie. I love the playful freedom that they had and wanted to incorporate that into my collection. I figured out what suits I wanted to make, what materials I wanted to make, what buttons I wanted to use, down to every detail.
On her first paycheck… I played Cindy Lou Who in How the Grinch Stole Christmas at the Old Globe Theatre when I was, like, 8 years old.
On what her parents taught her about money… That it’s hard to come by, honestly. My mom is from the Philippines and she was raised, basically, in a house with a thatch roof and I think 12 brothers and sisters. So money was not something that was at their fingertips. My dad was a firefighter, so he didn’t make a whole lot either. I grew up very, very conservatively. Travel wasn’t really a thing. I didn’t even get on my first flight until I was 14. Money was something that wasn’t necessarily talked about much in a positive way. It was always like, “How are we gonna pay the bills?”
On her bargaining skills… I negotiate. Not when it comes to business deals — I let my team handle that. But when it comes to swap meets, marketplaces, flea markets, I definitely barter and try to get them down as low as I can. I love a bargain and a sale. So whenever I can get that, I just know that the discomfort of going through it is worth more.
On having a credit card declined… I have not had a credit card denied. Oh wait, yes, I have! Because I tried to spend more money than what’s allowed. I think I was at like, Cartier, buying myself a Cartier bracelet probably, like, 10 years ago. And it was more than what my card was going to let me spend. So I just used another one ‘cause it had a higher spend limit. But I only have two cards. My assistant takes care of one, and I have the other one.
On working with J.Lo… The world is such a crazy place right now, I think the resurgence of the rom-com couldn’t be here at a more appropriate time. And J.Lo was the O.G. of rom-com! It’s cool I get to be a part Second Act with her.
On irresponsible spending habits… I bought my home when I was 19 years old. You’re starting from scratch — you have to get curtains, you have to get furniture, you have to buy all of that stuff. And my mom reminded me how much money I spent on curtains in my house, and I was like, “Why would you let me spend that much money on curtains?!” Stuff like that I think I splurged on because I didn’t really know how hard you have to work to make sure that you have an income. I mean, I used to buy Louis Vuitton bags all the time, and it was kind of a mess.
On her Postmates habit… I’m not the biggest chef, nor do I really have much time to cook, so the amount of money that I spend on food is ridiculous. It’s breakfast almost every day. Some Pinkberry on there. Sometimes you just need people to bring you food.
On selling her stuff… My assistant has been selling a lot of things around the house for me through TheRealReal. Some furniture, bags that I don’t want. I just learned there’s a home department. I’ve been in my house for a long time, and I’m trying to keep things fresh.
On the Netflix era… I’m really excited about my Netflix movie coming out at Christmastime, The Princess Switch. I feel really excited to be a part of their family and to have the movie be so accessible to audiences. It’s another rom-com in the world of Princess Diaries and Parent Trap. I grew up obsessed with Parent Trap; me and my sister would act it out, and now I get to be the one playing two characters and doing a switch myself.
On who should pay for a date… I’d say in the beginning, yeah, play your part. He [boyfriend Austin Butler] totally paid. He’s a man — take the girl out, and then pay the bill. We’ve been in a relationship almost seven years, and it’s a partnership more than a courting, so you evolve into the relationship and then figure things out logistically from there. But, in the beginning, I think guys should always pay for the girls. They should be gentlemanly.
On her new music video, “Lay With Me,” with Phantoms… “These guys, we go way back. We used to be in an acting class together when we were, like, 15 years old. And we ran into each other at the airport. They were like, “We have this song. We’d love for you to come into the studio and record it.” And I’m down to try new things. I went to the studio and listened to the song and fell in love with it, and decided that this would be the one we would put out there. I think the music video is going to be extremely nostalgic for the fans. I think they’re gonna freak out. I hope they freak out in a good way.”
On balancing passion and cash… So much of what I do that I’m really passionate about, I don’t get paid a lot for, like The Frozen Ground. A lot of times the really fulfilling projects tend to be indies, and you don’t get a solid paycheck from that. It’s definitely a struggle finding the balance of what is going to pay and what is going to fulfill me creatively.
On the best thing money can buy… Creative freedom, whether that’s making your own film, opening up your own dance studio, traveling the world, being inspired by seeing different artists work.
On setting goals… I make a vision board on January 1 of every year, and two years ago, the biggest thing on my board was to say ‘yes.’ I had been saying no for a long time – with reason — in my career. I didn’t want to be pigeonholed after High School Musical so saying no was necessary. But the problem with that is it just got comfortable saying ‘no,’ it almost became a habitual thing, and I feel like I might have missed out on a couple of opportunities. So if I could go back in time, I would tell myself, “Say no to the things you should say no to, but don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable and put yourself into work situations that you know you’ll grow in.”
On the best money advice she gives… Think twice. I love telling my girlfriends when we go shopping, if they see something that they really like, “Sleep on it and if you can’t stop thinking about it, come back and get it.”
On the value of a reward system… That’s a big thing of mine recently. Like, pain/pleasure: Is the pain of what I have to do going to outweigh or underweigh the pleasure that I will receive by doing so? I’ve made some decisions recently that are difficult, in my personal and professional career. And I, throughout it, have told myself, my future self is thanking me.