& Fortune: Actress Meg Tilly
teaches her: Live within your means
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you aware that your family had it worse than most?
Tilly: We knew they didn't
live the same way, so we had to really pretend. People would always
say, "Oh, you're so lucky, you have the happiest family," and I
would think, "Oh, if you only knew." But we had to keep the smiley
faces on because there were social workers coming around all the
time, and we would get in really, really bad trouble if we ever
hinted that anything wasn't right. This is why it's kind of scary
coming out now, even though I'm 46 and nobody can get me.
Bankrate: How did you cover up from
Tilly: We got very
good at scouring the Sally Ann (Salvation Army). The trick was getting into the
Salvation Army without people seeing you get in; you walk straight on the sidewalk,
you glance around to make sure there are no kids from your school, and then right
as you get to the door, you make a sharp turn, zip in fast and go directly to
the back of the store. Then you can kind of shop at your leisure because anybody
who's in there shops at the Sally Ann as well.
How did you survive?
Tilly: Because our stepfather
didn't work after the first three years of being married to our
mother and with there were so many of us kids, it was very hard
for my mom to support us on a teacher's salary. We had tons of siblings.
Four of us were full blood, then two halfs, then three stepbrothers
and sisters, and then there were a couple other stepbrothers who
were full-grown. And then there was one kid who lived with us for
a little while. 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: You finally
danced your way out of town. How did that happen?
Tilly: My grandmother
paid for my ballet lessons once we moved to Victoria, so I was able
to take ballet. I got on full scholarship with ballet in New York,
and it wasn't that expensive to get to New York, because Greyhound
Bus was having a $99 one-way special. I got a ticket and just got
on the bus and took it cross-country. I was 18. It was scary because
I didn't have money for hotels or anything, but the problem solver
that I am, I washed up in the bathroom. Landing in New York was
a very, very scary experience for me, but I survived. Every time
you survive something hard, it makes you stronger.