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Is Reality TV Affecting Your Spending Habits?

Since its introduction, the TV has transformed the day-to-day lives of Canadians and in particular, our spending habits.  Whether you’ve made purchases from a home shopping channel or have been influenced by a TV commercial, watching TV has likely prompted impulsive spending at one time or another. However, the influence that TV has on Canadians’ spending habits goes beyond just commercials. There’s no question that the growing popularity of reality TV and do it yourself (DIY) programming is affecting spending habits and the overall financial health of many individuals. According to a recent survey, an increasing number of Canadians are resorting to debt options to pay for their home renovations. It can be difficult to live within your means and avoid getting stuck in a cycle of unmanageable debt and unrealistic views of the ‘perfect lifestyle’.

Both reality TV and DIY programming have become hugely popular over the last decade. The content of these programs provides an entertaining glimpse into the lives of ordinary folks and celebrities alike. While they are entertaining and provide useful advice in terms of DIY projects, we sometimes allow reality TV shows to influence our financial decisions. We come to associate a ‘good’ lifestyle with exotic vacations and designer clothes. There is a sense of entitlement if we witness an average person renovate their backyard into a paradise. Once we begin to compare our lives to reality TV stars, or shift our focus from ‘needs’ to ‘wants’, we begin to jeopardize sound financial decision making. This is a precursor for overspending, which sometimes leads to the need to seek out debt options to get back on track.

The idea of flying from one vacation resort to another or undertaking home renovations may be alluring, but remember to consider the real world impact these decisions have on our lives and personal finances. As viewers, we are not privy to much of the behind-the-scenes workings of reality TV. We assume that certain lifestyles or renovations are easily within our financial means. Although you may want the latest designer hand bag because you saw it on TV, can your budget support the associated cost? Can you afford the extensive landscaping construction project without resorting to a debt option such as a second mortgage on your home? Will these things improve your life or will they eventually lead to unmanageable debt and financial stress? When we put ‘wants’ ahead of ‘needs’, we compromise long-term financial health for short-term feel good moments.

Try to keep in mind that reality TV shows do not usually depict the financial means of an average working class Canadian. To live within your means, it’s important to prioritize your ‘needs’ vs. ‘wants’. A sound financial plan and budget will keep you on track to meeting savings goals, whether these goals relate to retirement savings or a landscape redesign. If you have to convince yourself to make a purchase out of a want, step back and ask whether the purchase aligns with your forced savings goals. Will it impair your ability to manage debt? Will you need to finance your purchase or renovation with additional debt? Debt options such as lines of credit and credit cards should only be used in case of an emergency situation and not to renovate your home.  Remember, one dollar saved is two dollars earned!



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