April 23rd, 2011

Financial Lessons I’ve Learned From Watching “Glee”

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I’ll admit it. I’ve followed “Glee” since its premier.

I’ve watched glee club director Will Schuester and his cast of misfits every week, eagerly awaiting the newest pop song remix performed by “New Directions.”

I’ve grown to love the quirky characters and their antics, especially when it comes to the impressive song-and-dance numbers that still somehow manage to keep the “gleeks” at the bottom of the social food chain. When I started re-watching season one on Netflix, I realized “Glee” teaches an interesting array of lessons about friendship, priorities, and life, many of which can be related to personal finance.

So here’s my list of some financial lessons learned from “Glee,” the bad and the good.

The Bad

No matter what your profession, always spend the dough to dress your best.

Emma Pillsbury, the school guidance counselor, is always dressed to impress at work. She sports prim and proper dresses and cardigans from stores like Kate Spade, where the average dress could have her paying a whopping $300. Combine that with a $100 cardigan from J. Crew and $200 shoes from Anthropologie, and Emma’s outfit comes to a total cost of at least $600 (not including accessories, undergarments, and tax).

My guess is that guidance counselor Emma can’t afford to wear a new Kate Spade dress to work every day, which means she may have some serious credit card debt spent on clothing and accessories.

Don’t follow Emma’s example. Buying good-quality clothing is smart, but designer wear shouldn’t be a regular purchase in your life if it means breaking your budget or racking up debt. Make sure you’re paying your essentials, putting away money in savings, and paying off debt before you indulge in a pricey piece of clothing.

In relationships, communication isn’t important.

In the first season, glee club director Will and his wife Terri have a rocky marriage. Will starts spending more time with glee club, so Terri lies about being pregnant and convinces her husband they should buy a house they can’t afford. I know, crazy right?

Amidst the downward spiral of their marriage and bad money choices, they don’t communicate. They both keep secrets from one another and they never discuss their budget. Sadly, the lack of communication and mistrust leads to the end of their marriage.

For couples, money can be one of the hardest things to talk about. But it’s also one of the most important things to talk about. How you spend your money together—and apart—can greatly impact how you relate to one another. It’s best to be up front about everything, including money and finances.

The Good

Always prepare for the worst. Like a Slushie in the face.

In most of the first-season episodes, the glee kids are regularly tortured by the high school jocks, who buy Slushies with the explicit purpose of dousing the gleeks. Usually caught unaware by the Slushie attacks, the gleeks end up soaked, sugary, and shivering.

But in one episode in particular, the glee kids outfit themselves in rain jackets as protection against random acts of Slushie-throwing. When approached by a group of Slushie-touting jocks, the gleeks throw their rain hoods over their heads in unison, bracing for impact. It just so happens that the jocks pass them by, but there’s a lesson to be learned from this quick thinking: Prepare for the worst.

I’m not suggesting you live in fear of the unknown, but be prepared for financial tough times by starting an emergency savings fund. Let your stashed cash be your rain jacket in a financial Slushie storm.

Sacrifice for what’s important.

Will is constantly battling his adversary, cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester, who time after time tries to undermine the glee club’s success. Sue sends in spies and attempts to sabotage the club, but can never quite seem to succeed. And it’s due to the fact that Will has devoted all of his efforts to the glee club, making huge sacrifices of his time and ensuring the glee club’s success.

The same goes for your finances. If you’ve sacrificed to keep your budget on track by avoiding the “Sue Sylvesters” of money like debt and over utilizing credit, good for you! Maybe you’ve had to sacrifice by not buying something you want or by living more frugally, but sticking to a budget and spending wisely will pay off in the long run.

Bottom Line: I’ve had some fun with this post, but in all seriousness, you shouldn’t take your financial lessons from a network television show. Only you know what’s best for your money, and it starts with a healthy budget and smart money moves.

What are some of the best money lessons you’ve learned over the years?

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