Image: Britney Spears
Dan Steinberg  /  AP file
Singer Britney Spears attends the Scandinavian Style Mansion party in Los Angeles on Dec. 1, 2007. After a year of excessive spending, she's now practicing more fiscal restraint.
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updated 5/18/2008 1:21:31 PM ET 2008-05-18T17:21:31

The Hollywood haters sometimes get it all wrong, like they did with that whole Miley Cyrus-Vanity Fair photo shoot business. They turned what was clearly a public service campaign for regular melanoma screenings into something much, much more unseemly.

Now they're picking on Britney Spears for her recently disclosed $61 million in annual expenses during 2007.

I know what you're thinking, because it's exactly what I thought, too: I can't believe that Britney Spears actually knows how much she spent in 2007!

That's right: Britney Spears apparently keeps track of her spending better than most of us.

When you review this latest financial disclosure, as well as previously released public documents about her finances — breaking down her major expenditures into more manageable monthly spending chunks — it becomes clear that Britney's accounting system was far more detailed than the average American's:

Instead of celebrating Britney's eagle-eyed bookkeeping, the press (and a lot of people with MySpace blogs and some extra time on their hands) got all judgmental and then condemned her reaction to the scrutiny. (Seriously, like you wouldn't go all kinds of crazy, too, if your monthly spending habits — those late-night fast food outings, prescription co-pays, bi-weekly lip waxings, girls nights out, and, uh, whatever it is she spent $5 million a month on — were trotted out in public?)

Britney buckles down
The truth is that since last year, Britney has buckled down. She's practically the poster child for fiscal restraint.

An insider recently revealed to InTouch Online that today Britney's spending is one-fifth of what it was before. That's right: Britney slashed her budget by a whopping 80 percent:

Talk about tightening the proverbial belt (since actual belts aren't in this season) — and this from someone who already shopped at Wal-Mart and was perfectly content with Cheetos, Pepsi and her baby sister's hand-me-up clothes (even if they were a tad on the clingy side).

If she keeps it up, in no time Britney will be back on Forbes magazine's list of richest female entertainers in the world, which at one time estimated her worth at $100 million. (Her lawyer, according to Life & Style, reports that Ms. Spears' net worth today is just $40 million.)

Be more like Britney
Of course, everyone wants to know how she did it. And therein lies the brilliance of the Britney brand — her ability to turn turmoil into a "teaching moment." Let's see what Britney can teach us about cutting the financial fat:

  • Slash transportation costs: With a tank of gasoline rivaling the cost of a decent mani-pedi, getting to and from work every day becomes a significant lifestyle choice. Britney made a Big Statement (both about our reliance of foreign oil and the environment) when she chose to cancel her tour for her new album, "Blackout." (Brilliant title, by the way.) Critics say the move cost her $50 million in forgone paydays. But did they bother to calculate how much she and her touring crew actually saved in gas? In fact, this big eco-conscious statement overshadowed smaller ones she regularly makes to cut down on her spending at the pump and personal carbon emissions by hitching a ride with her Pops or the paparazzi.
  • Cut your housing costs: Housing costs account for a big portion of the average American's budget. The Britney answer? Take in a renter! By opening her heart and spare bedrooms to her father, she helped make her monthly mortgage payment a lot less daunting.
  • Slash discretionary spending: Everyone's got their own version of the daily latte — that seemingly innocent everyday treat that slowly but surely eats into your overall net worth. Britney's "latte" has never been culinary in nature. (In fact, she's publicly championed cost-effective meals at KFC, Taco Bell, and the like.) No, Britney's financial Achilles heel was on her head. She really took a bite out of her spending by ditching those pricey Hollywood hair stylists and going with a chrome dome. No more expensive weaves and frizz-fighting products.
  • Get free babysitting: Every parent knows that the costs of childrearing are killer. Besides paying for a college education and outfitting a $130,000 home nursery, there's the issue of finding reasonable childcare when you need it. Britney's response to this everywoman issue was to consolidate her children's care under one household — her ex-husband's. As she's gotten her finances together, however, she has stated publicly that she can now afford to take on a larger portion of child-care costs, perhaps because of her new lucrative side gig...
  • Turn your trash into treasure: What can you get for discarded hairpins, random playing cards, old lipsticks, perfume packaging, and rusty used razors?: $122.50. That's what the contents of Britney's trash can went for when they were recently put up for auction on eBay. Not a bad fallback gig when your world tour is canceled, eh?

So before you take out your own trash, ask yourself: What would I do if I had to cut my spending by 80 percent? Answer: Be a little bit more like Britney every day.

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