How Much Does Your TV Affect Your Spending Habits?
Jun 28, 2012
The American Dream is an ideal that has been skewed over the generations. Once defined as having freedom and accomplishing anything, it now means being rich and famous. Even for those who don't want to be famous, we all have the dream of living comfortably and buying anything we want. Unrealistic lifestyles can lead to a pile of debt and only make you want to buy more - and TV is partly to blame.
Any average size woman trying to lose a few extra pounds will tell you that it's impossible to look like the models in magazines. It doesn't seem to stop them from trying though. We buy expensive clothes, highlight our hair, get haircuts, wear expensive jewelry and drop weight no matter the consequences (over eight million Americans have an eating disorder).
But attempting to look like celebrities is not the only thing we do - we want to live like their fictional characters. We see an outfit they wear and look for it online, only to find that it costs hundreds of dollars. Of course it does! Television shows have people who shop and dress the actors to their exact body size and coloring.
Clothing aside, our favorite shows often take place in unrealistic homes. Our favorite characters live in loft apartments in very expensive cities, or in enormous houses in the suburbs (sitting in the drive-way are at least two SUVs). We believe if they can afford it on his bartender salary or her police officer salary, we surely can. Next thing you know, you're taking out a loan for granite countertops or the newest sports car.
Living Beyond Your Needs
Because of TV, many people begin to skew wants into needs. When watching a house hunting show, we distort how large a house should be in order to survive. After all, what family of four doesn't need five bedrooms and a master suite (including an on-suite bathroom with a two-sink vanity)? I can say I've seen at least one couple discuss how small a walk-in closet is - when three people are standing comfortably in it!
The truth is, we've turned need into entitlement. We don't just believe that we need stainless steel appliances, but when we watch TV, we believe we've worked hard and deserve those nicer things. In fact, the family members of the home buyers constantly say 'you deserve it'. Television encourages this behavior for ratings, but for those of us sitting on our couches, we begin to think this is how people should live. Then we attempt to mimic it.
Reality Meets Reality
Worse than fictional characters are reality stars. Reality television is about as real as a cupcake-pooping unicorn. Morals aside, people just do not live that way. And those who do (B-list celebrity shows) are the exception, not the rule. Hugh Hefner aside, how many 85 year-old men do you know that are juggling three twenty-something girlfriends in a multi-million dollar mansion? We watch celebrities jet from one fabulous vacation to another without blinking at their spending. We try to emulate this lifestyle, but vacations are expensive. So are shopping sprees, meals at fancy restaurants and little dogs that need carried in an oversized, designer purse.
Have you ever noticed blurred or blacked out t-shirts or soda cans on reality shows? That's called pixilation or greeking (this is when they substitute the name of a product for something very close). They do this because it is otherwise endorsing a product. This form of advertising invades our minds with subliminal messages. You know you're guilty of looking at something and then wanting to try it - and it wasn't even a commercial for the product! We won't even mention how celebrities endorse products (a.k.a. get paid for doing it) and allow it to affect our thoughts.
The Television Knows
Okay, so your TV doesn't know, but executives and marketing firms do. They realize that we idolize these people (hence the title American Idol) and want to be like them. Soon, chefs are creating their own line of pasta, rock stars are putting out clothing lines and magazines tell us where to get that dress that Zoeey Deschanel wore on her show. Like a disease, the knowledge of our easily-influenced minds spreads and stores begin to sell the items that celebrities wore. Websites are set up with the sole purpose of taking your money so you, too, can look like a celebrity.
When you see something on television, you must first consider if you really need it. Next, decide if you have the money to splurge on it. And finally, is it worth the money? You can buy a delicate silk Dior dress for $500 that you'll wear to your sister's wedding, or you can buy a non-designer cotton summer dress for $25 that will last you through the whole season. The choice is ultimately yours. Either way, be aware of what you're watching.
Have your spending under control? Then see what TV can teach you.