Expect the Unexpected and Other Financial Advice from Inside the Big Brother House

July 19, 2012

I have a confession to make: I am a huge Big Brother fan. I’ve watched every episode since Season 8, get the live feeds every year, and would consider myself somewhat of a superfan. I am constantly strategizing along with the HouseGuests, trying to imagine what they are going to do next, and coming up with possible big moves that could take players to the end of the game. (And you know this means I’m applying to Big Brother Canada!)

It takes all of my willpower to not tweet about it 24/7, especially with spoilers from the live feeds. And admitting all of this makes me feel like a huge dork! But I know that a) the personal finance community probably doesn’t want to hear about it, and b) I don’t like spoiling what’s happening live. What I can do, just this one time, is turn some of the most popular catchphrases and key terms into financial lessons from inside the Big Brother House.

You Have to work for what you want.

Every week, the HouseGuests compete in a Have/Have Not competition. While the Have’s get “luxuries” like hot showers, food, etc. the Have Not’s must sleep on awkward beds (usually with the lights on), take cold showers, and eat nothing but slop (what looks like tasteless oatmeal). The best lesson taught by any competition, in both the Big Brother house and in life, is not that there are winners and losers but that you must work for what you want. We often take for granted how our own basic needs are met by hot showers and cooked meals, but these are things we need to survive and, therefore, we prioritize and budget for them. And luxuries, such as the ability to purchase something new for ourselves, must also be earned through the process of budgeting and saving.

Don’t open Pandora’s Box.

In the Big Brother house, Pandora’s Box is an opportunity presented once or twice each season. What’s inside could be good or bad for both the opener and/or the rest of the house. The moral decision to open or not open Pandora’s Box reminds me of shopping; more specifically, justifying purchases. We are constantly bombarded with the “need” to have the newest of this or that, or feel we deserve some sort of “want” but, more often than not, it comes at a price. If you’re buying what you want with a credit card you can’t pay off, or blowing savings on something you think might maybe will be worth it, the better option is to walk away from it altogether. Your credit and reputation are worth more than what an impulsive decision can get you.

Embrace your inner Chen-bot.

Since the first season of Big Brother U.S., host Julie Chen has been known for being slightly robotic. She spits out her lines like she’s reading from a cue card and, as so, has rightfully been nicknamed Chen-bot. What I see in Julie is that she knows this game so well that she can say every scripted line when it needs to be said. When the camera light goes red, she does what she has to do. Much like the mentality I needed to payoff $17,000 of debt in 1 year, I can now see that Julie is simply staying on-track. By keeping the end goal in mind, she does what she needs to do, says what needs to be said, and manages to do so with a smile on her (slightly robotic) face.

Don’t be a floater. Form an alliance.

Ok… I might be slightly biased on this one, as I would consider the personal finance community, as well as readers and the people I connect with through various social media, my alliance. But before I had all of you, I was floating through life. I was racking up debt left and right and no one knew how bad my situation was. It wasn’t until I knew I had to “play the (budget) game” that I could see I needed a support system. I started by writing here anonymously and found many others who were also trying to win the same game as I was. By teaming up with people (anonymous or not) who will keep you accountable, as well as have your back when you need them most, you’re that much more likely to get ahead.

Expect the unexpected.

The most popular catchphrase, and this season’s theme, is the best financial advice of all. Why do we build up savings, Emergency Funds, etc.? To cover the costs of the unexpected. In the Big Brother House, this catchphrase is used to keep HouseGuests on the edge of their seats. Knowing anyone or anything could enter the house, or change the rules of the game, they have to strategize every move they make and conversation they have. In real life, car repairs, hospital visits, vet bills, etc. are just a few of the things you can’t always plan for. And if you can’t make it to the end of the week, you’re out of the game.

  • Rob July 19, 2012 at 4:19 am

    “And if you can’t make it to the end of the week, you’re out of the game.”

    However, unlike Big Brother, in the game of life if you do screw up you always do get second chances to get back in the game if you have but the courage and determination to take them.

    • Cait July 19, 2012 at 8:11 am

      Lots of players have had second and third chances, to get back in the house ;)

  • Jordann @ My Alternate Life July 19, 2012 at 5:35 am

    Love this! Especially the alliance part, that was a big part of what was missing with me until I found the PF community. There’s nothing that helps you succeed more than to be part of a group of like minded individuals.

  • bogofdebt July 19, 2012 at 5:37 am

    I’ve never seen this show but I’ve heard of it. Like Jordann said, I love the alliance part–it really helped me out to discover the PF community when I first started to come out of debt. I had all these examples of people who had or were getting out of debt and I knew that I could do it to.

  • queenlbee July 19, 2012 at 7:08 am

    I don’t watch this show–but I love what you did with this post. such a fun read!

  • fromshoppingtosaving July 19, 2012 at 7:41 am

    I don’t watch the show but this reminds me of my post that I just wrote about my fave show Breaking Bad =) Funny how we can garner so much useful financial advice from TV….who woulda thunk?? I love that you even had a lesson learned from Chen-bot. LOL! I gotta check out this show..sounds intriguing.

  • Lea July 20, 2012 at 11:20 am

    This post as awesome! I <3 Big Brother! I've been watching since season 1, although I don't watch the live feeds myself. I just read various spoiler pages to catch up. I wouldn't have thought of the link between BB and PF, but the way you've tied the two together is incredible.

  • Mo' Money Mo' Houses (@momoneymohouses) July 23, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    Haha I love this, great post. I used to watch Big Brother when it was first on the air, but haven’t watched it since. I do however love watching Bachelor Pad which is sort of the same thing.

  • Pacific Financial Planners August 23, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    Great financial advice indeed from a Big Brother fan! I agree that the thing one should prioritize budgeting for are the necessities in life and not those that are just for wants.