Personal finance tips from reality TV
For some viewers, reality TV shows only offer entertainment, but if you dig deeper many of those same programs teach valuable lessons about how to save money.
Here, financial experts dish on the not-so-obvious personal finance messages in the unscripted entertainment of the reality shows: “What Not to Wear,” “The Biggest Loser,” “Extreme Couponing,” “19 Kids and Counting” and “Pawn Stars.”
‘What Not to Wear’: Invest in quality
TLC style gurus Stacy London and Clinton Kelly say the people they make over on their TV show concentrate on finding a few high-quality clothing staples and building their wardrobe around those basic pieces.
“Often people shop with the belief that if an item is on sale, they should buy it,” says Kathleen Burns Kingsbury, author of “Creating Wealth From The Inside Out Workbook.” “Many of these bargain hunters wind up with a closet full of clothes they never wear or have only worn once.”
Buying a piece of clothing just because it has been marked down won’t save you money if you don’t need it and end up shoving it to the back of your closet. When something is on sale, it’s on sale for a reason and you truly do get what you pay for, Kingsbury says.
Each time you make a purchase, think about the price relative to how long the item will last and make a decision based on your long-term goals. You can buy a used car for under $5,000, but that car might require numerous repairs and towing expenses. Why not invest in a car that will last and be reliable?
‘Extreme Couponing’: Have a shopping strategy
For those who tend to impulsively purchase items when shopping, it is good to have a plan, Kingsbury says.
While radical, the reality TV show “Extreme Couponing” demonstrates how you can save money by planning ahead.
“While most of us will not go to the extreme that the couponers portrayed do, if we shift our money mindset to be one of planning instead of convenience, we can not only save money, we can buy just the items that we need or really want as opposed to what is marketed well or catches our eye,” Kingsbury says.
Watch an episode, and learn about coupon strategies and how to write a grocery list, bargain shop and follow a sale, Kingsbury says. Those are financially useful exercises, but they don’t need to be done as radically as they are on the TV show.
’19 Kids and Counting’: Prioritize your needs
On average, it costs $1,160 per month to raise a child, says Keith Weber, a Certified Financial Planner in Fort Collins, Colo. Multiply that by 19 kids and by 12 months, and you’ve got the dollar amount that the Duggar family might spend each year on child rearing.
The reality TV show “19 Kids and Counting” demonstrates how imperative it is that we prioritize how we spend our money, Weber says.
The family is their No. 1 priority. Every child on the show is fed, clothed and housed, and you don’t see a lot of miscellaneous spending. It comes down to knowing what your priorities are. The Duggars value relationships more than material items.
The Duggar family doesn’t seem to have the things that clutter the rest of people’s lives, Weber says.
‘The Biggest Loser’: Make slow, steady progress
Whether you’re trying to lose weight like the candidates on “The Biggest Loser” or reduce your debt and cultivate new spending habits, slow and steady wins the race.
“Don’t be discouraged if you fail to make progress (during) one week. The contestants on this reality show don’t always lose weight at every weigh-in,” says Praveen Puri, author of “Stock Trading Riches.”
Just as losing weight is a constant struggle, you can actually expect to lapse into your old spending habits occasionally. Forgive yourself when it happens and try again. Learning to save money and spend it wisely is a process that doesn’t happen overnight.
Having a supportive group of people encouraging you to adopt healthy financial practices helps you move closer to your goal, just as having like-minded people in your network who are eating right and exercising regularly helps you lose weight.
‘Pawn Stars’: Practice negotiation
On the popular reality TV show “Pawn Stars,” you watch and learn from the characters’ techniques about how to get better deals.
“When you hire a house cleaner, landscaper or other service provider, ask, ‘How much do you charge?'” says Dr. Brad Klontz, co-author of “Mind Over Money.” “Then talk them down to what you can afford.”
You would be surprised at the number of places where you can haggle. It never costs anything to ask, Klontz says.
Rick Harrison, the owner-operator of the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas, and his dad, the “Old Man, the Appraiser” bring solid skills to their negotiations in every episode of “Pawn Stars.”
“This is not something we’re born with, so it needs to be practiced in front of a mirror, if necessary,” Klontz says.