check: We as a society need to learn how to better manage our money. That's why
it shouldn't come as a surprise that a whole new slew of reality shows are
aiming to address our collective interest in all things financial, from saving
money and spending wisely, to turning our clutter into cash, to dealing with
matter your motivation, as you flip through these money-focused reality shows,
here's how to look beyond their face value to pick up some priceless money and
Photo credit: WE tv
The 411: A real family of nine faces foreclosure and is forced to
downsize their spending.
Why you should watch: This cautionary tale reminds us how easy it is to lose our
way with credit and the consequences therein.
The credit takeaway: You can put yourself on a debt diet, too, by learning how to
live on a strict budget. "The first step in getting
out of a hole is to stop digging," says Matt
Wegner, a certified financial counselor who writes the personal finance blog, Living In
Financial Excellence. "Get rid of the credit card [debt] and
believe that you can live without borrowing money,"
do that, you'll need to plan carefully, and stay committed to your goal. Start
by developing a written monthly spending plan and setting aside a small
emergency fund of about $1,000 before paying off your debts one by one, says
Wegner. "This starter emergency fund helps you avoid going back to the credit
cards when life happens (car needs repairs, water heater bursts, etc.)," he
Stars" (History Channel)Photo credit: ©2009 AETN/Joey
The 411: Upon hearing the title, you might conjure up images of
selling your things in a desperate bid for cash, but the show delves into some
interesting pawnshop transactions involving really rare and cool items.
Why you should watch: It's fun to try to spot a fake, learn a bit about the pawn
and appraisal businesses, and listen to the back stories of the customers.
The credit takeaway: Understanding the value of your purchase (and how it will
change over time) will help you use credit and make purchases more wisely.
"You'll notice on the show that many people are disappointed in the negotiated
price of their item," says Wegner. That's because most people don't realize
that the very minute you take an item home, it becomes "used" and, therefore, worth less than the original price. In other
words, he says, think of a purchase made on credit as a consumable good that will
lose value over time as opposed to an investment.
The 411: Realistically, most people don't have enough hours in a day
to strategize a complex coupon game plan the way the folks on this show do. But
there is much to be learned from listening in, from how to spot a bargain to
stacking coupons to finding deals.
Why you should watch: Simply for the "wow" factor of how much people
can actually save.
The credit takeaway: Putting in the time and effort to find the best deal -- whether
you're making a purchase or shopping around for a credit card -- can be worth
like 'Extreme Couponing' illustrate that everyone can and should put in
work and dedication to better their financial lives," says Kim McGrigg, spokeswoman
for the nonprofit Money Management International. "The next time you are tempted to accept that credit card offer that comes in the mail, take a few minutes to research whether or
not it is actually the best card for you."
Pickers" (History Channel)
Photo credit: ©2009 AETN
The 411: Sure, they drive around looking for the treasure that can
be found in someone's trash heap, but the team of pickers offers priceless
lessons on antiquing, how to bargain and negotiate, and more.
Why you should watch: Not only will you get a history lesson via the antiques that
are discovered, you'll think twice before tossing those trinkets grandma handed
down to you. Selling them might actually pay off.
The credit takeaway: Before you even think about "picking" (buying) a high-priced item
like a flat-screen TV or a piece of jewelry you've been eyeing, ask yourself
two questions: "Can I get a better price
by waiting or shopping around?" and "Can
I really afford it?" If the answer isn't yes to both, be prepared to walk
away, just like the Pickers. As McGrigg notes about the show, "they have a limit
in mind when negotiating price. That way, they don't get caught up in the
moment and don't pay more than they intended."
Debt Do Us Part" (CNBC)Photo
The 411: A financial expert helps couples facing financing crises work their way out of debt.
Why you should watch: Money is said to be the biggest source of marital stress and
even divorce, so watch and learn.
The credit takeaway: Gail Vaz-Oxlade, host of the show, stresses that you need to keep
the line of money communications open with your partner. "Money isn't a dirty subject. As long as we keep treating it like a
taboo, we'll continue to not learn from our mistakes, or the mistakes of our
friends and family," she says. "If you can't talk to your mate about money,
then you shouldn't be getting married. It's that simple."
Wegner adds that
open communication about finances (minus the finger pointing and blaming) is critical to a successful
marriage. "It's important for couples to create their spending plan together so
there are no surprises and there's an element of accountability to each other,"
he says. "It's imperative for both sides to give a little and find the middle
ground on spending. Compromising to turn individual goals into joint goals
helps the relationship last much longer."
there is much to learn as you lounge in front of the tube, don't forget what
reality TV is all about. "We have to be
careful to remember these shows are still television productions designed for
entertainment, and that not everything is as real as it seems," says Wegner. "Be
careful to research the facts before taking action based on what you see in
See related: 7 simple ways to create an emergency savings fund, Top 10 credit card television episodes, Q&A with Gail Vaz-Oxlade