By Aili Nahas
Updated November 04, 2013 12:00 PM

It’s photo shoot time for Tori Spelling‘s family, and her four children – Liam, 6, Stella, 5, Hattie, 2, and Finn, 14 months – are loving the wardrobe selection part. As designer denim and tiny tees get strewn about, Spelling smiles and shares a recent fashion anecdote. “Stella was telling Hattie the other day, ‘That dress you’re wearing? That was my dress first,'” she says. “And Hattie’s like, ‘Yeah!’ It made me so happy. I love that they know we hand things down.”

Famously extravagant television mogul Aaron Spelling’s grandkids wearing hand-me-downs? Absolutely. “We’re all about repurposing,” says Spelling, 40. “It’s a really good value to have.”

Especially these days. One year after her reality show Tori & Dean: Home Sweet Hollywood was canceled, the reality star/jewelry designer/bestselling author has made some changes in her life, like replacing Burberry with a significantly less glamorous “B” word: budgeting. Instead of the 6,700-sq.-ft. mansion they once owned in Encino, they’re now renting a more modest home in the San Fernando Valley. Their kids’ birthday parties are less over-the-top than they once were, and they’re even watching their medical expenses: Dean, 46, decided against getting the vasectomy he wanted after their business manager said the couple couldn’t afford it.

They are hardly broke – Spelling has a new memoir, Spelling It Like It Is (see box), clothing and jewelry lines and a new HGTV show, Tori & Dean: Cabin Fever, premiering this spring. “But we’re in the entertainment business, and things change year to year,” Spelling says. “We don’t have a series on the air right now, so we have to be more restrictive of what we can spend, just like anyone who doesn’t currently have a steady job.”

The current financial dip began in 2011, when they sold their Encino home at a loss. Spelling’s retail space InvenTORI failed to perform as hoped. And in May, after being diagnosed with placenta previa, she spent 55 days of her pregnancy with Finn in the hospital and could no longer work. “My doctor called me a ticking time bomb,” she says. “I could have died.”

The scare – and the weeks spent away from her children – helped remind Spelling what matters most. “I’m child-focused now,” she says. She and her mother (who, she points out, “does not financially pay for anything,”) have worked through their problems, and she dreams of a happy future with her own daughters. “I see a 20-year-old girl walking down the street with her mom holding hands, and I’m like, ‘I want to be that!'” she says.

In other words, no Prada? No problem. “I haven’t bought a purse in three years, and it’s fine. I look back at that girl who shopped at Gucci in my 20s, and I can’t even relate. I can’t believe I thought it was important.”

Which doesn’t mean there aren’t a few more material things she wishes for. “I work really hard,” Spelling says, “and there are certain things I want to give my kids. Like a big kick-ass farm! We’ve had lows, but I set goals and I keep going. I always bank on myself.”