Skip to main content

Melissa Gilbert is best known for playing Laura Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie. Gilbert admits she didn’t manage her money well during the height of her career. Now, she follows a budget and pays close attention to her finances. Here’s what Gilbert said about her financial life after Little House.

Melissa Gilbert moved from California to New York’s Catskills

Melissa Gilbert poses in a mint green dress during a media event.
Melissa Gilbert | Monica Schipper/Getty Images

‘Little House on the Prairie’: What Is Dean Butler’s Net Worth?

Gilbert desired a slower pace. She and her husband, Timothy Busfield, decided to move from California to upstate New York. Moving away from Hollywood gave the couple an opportunity to start over. They could save money and enjoy the peace and quiet they craved. Busfield discusses their journey in Gilbert’s book, Back to the Prairie.

“After Melissa and I found each other, we found that we were both craving a life away from the lights and pressure of Hollywood,” writes Busfield. “I had moved to Michigan in early 2012, and after we married a year later, she packed up her bags and joined me in the slow lane of the Midwest.”

Melissa Gilbert sticks to a budget

Gilbert tells Next Avenue she’s not as wealthy as some people think. She describes herself as a “gig worker.” Gilbert says it’s necessary to budget her money because she never knows when she will book her next job. She and her husband are careful with their finances.

“We live on a budget like [most] people do,” Gilbert tells the publication. “We are gig workers. Neither one of us is on a long-running series right now. I was — 50 years ago. I don’t know where people think that money’s gone. And the concept the outside world has of what residuals are is just so far from the reality.”

Gilbert says the residual checks from Little House on the Prairie are not as hefty as they once were. She reveals one of her checks was just a few cents.

“I mean, I just got a check for 20 cents,” says Gilbert. “The stamp costs more! I’m not poo-pooing my experience on Little House on the Prairie, but that salary is long gone.”

Melissa Gilbert used to be ‘reckless’ with money

Gilbert plans her finances carefully because she’s not receiving a steady paycheck. She admits to engaging in “reckless” spending during her time as a cast regular. There’s usually a lull between projects, so Gilbert thinks twice before making a big purchase.

 “It’s different from what I was accustomed to for a good chunk of my life, where I was reckless in my spending habits,” Gilbert tells Next Avenue. “The assumption was that it would never go away—then it started to go away. I have learned to be very mindful of my expenses and to prioritize what really matters. I thought I was doing that, and then the pandemic hit. Then I realized what really matters—and it isn’t shoes.”

Sheiresa Ngo on Twitter.