sign uplog in
Want to go ad-free? Find out how, here.

Elizabeth Kerr blames television for sabotaging our financial future

Elizabeth Kerr blames television for sabotaging our financial future

By Elizabeth Kerr

A brain is like a huge computer processing billions of pieces of information everyday.

It’s fairly efficient at this - but we could make its job a hell of a lot easier if we just fed it messages that supported our financial goals instead of making it work overtime fighting off the ones that don’t.

Therefore this week I’m taking your TV prisoner.

According to a study by Tom Corley on the website the average person in the United States watches six hours of television each day, whereas the rich barely hit an hour. Also,  it was established that people spend an extra US$208 annually for each hour of television that they watch weekly.

There is no reason to think this would not be the same, if not even worse, in NZ.

Reality TV is the genre that pisses me off the most because it's in no way a representation of reality; yet because of the way our brain processes information it has a big impact on our spending habits.

You might feel in control of your attitude towards spending but all it takes is one night of television viewing and suddenly your brain and your wallet are more open to botox injections and designer dogs.

For the fun of it let me illustrate with a few examples:

My Kitchen Rules – A cooking show-off. Watching this show not only makes you hungry but raises the bar for what is considered a meal.

Contestants race around the supermarket plucking hundreds of ingredients off the shelf for just one meal. No one carries a calculator or shopping list with them.

Remember, eating is just to provide you with nutrients to be healthy and ward off hunger. Dinner is not meant to be a work of art every evening and it’s totally acceptable to serve leftovers, stuff from the freezer and not have dessert.

This show does not represent reality and your wallet and waistband will thank you to realise this.

Real Housewives of Orange County/New Jersey – A show following several women who spend their time drinking wine, coiffuring their hair, arranging flowers, bitching about each other and planning fashion shows.

It’s what all of us NZ housewives do right?

The Block – I admit to liking the concept of this show because people working hard to achieve a goal should be applauded.

However, this show has the detraction of making you feel very dissatisfied with your home, insecure with your furnishings and impulsive for all things Freedom Furniture/modern retro. There is too much emphasis on style rather than function in these homes and it’s expensive to emulate.

Additionally such shows have an uncanny ability to make the viewer feel like an expert in DIY and design: “No, you can’t do it. Yes, buying those tools is expensive. And, no, it’s not an investment!” Enough said!

Surveillance reality shows such as Jersey Shore and the GC are the worst.

Let’s be clear that these people are paid and encouraged to have a good time.

It is not normal for young people to have the cash to live in a modern house, in a nice area, wearing designer clothes and go out drinking all the time.

In your financial youth any money you earn should be just to keep you from being naked or hungry and the rest is for investing in your future.

Storage Wars – People bidding to buy other people’s forgotten possessions. If this show doesn’t reinforce the tragedy of having too much stuff lying around then nothing else will.

The more TV we watch the more tolerant we become to the lifestyles and behaviours we see.

The impact is that they reinforce what you don’t have, can’t do and won’t be. After this the only thing that will make you feel better is an expensive three course meal with beef jus and pea jizz, served on a set of laminate nesting tables from Freedom Furniture, to host your crazy drinking party - whereby you’ll be legless and making out with your neighbour in the morning. Not a good example of how you should be spending your money.

But, it’s not all bad...

On the other hand there are some fantastic reality shows out there, which I think are actually very helpful for reinforcing some good financial habits.

These are shows whereby people make some smart decisions with their money, which can be quite encouraging, and your brain will thank you for the positive reinforcement to your goals.

George Clarks Amazing Spaces or Tiny House Nation - A show about people building small cheap and functional housing. After this show you will never whinge about your inability to afford a decent first home in this country again.

These very clever houses are designed to meet all of the owners’ specific needs without the wasted space or humungous price tag.

Pioneer Family – Next time you moan about not having wet-wipes or foaming liquid soap take a moment to give praise that you have running water and after you’ve done your business you never need see that sucker again!

Till Debt Do Us Part –If you needed motivation to sit down with your partner and discuss your finances, this show gives it in spades.

The people on this show are grossly in debt by spending far more than they earn on crap they don’t need and have to claw their way out with the help of a very practical coach.

Survivor Island –A great example of how everything we need to live a satisfying life can be learned or bartered. The person with the most practical skills and a positive attitude wins.

Young, Dumb and Living off Mum – If you see yourself in this show then slap yourself and get on with it. Otherwise this show is inspirational for reminding you the importance of taking responsibility for your own life.

To conclude with this week: I personally think that watching TV is the number one tool for sabotaging your ability to be different from the rest of the herd; and let’s face it being financially independent is being different.

Do yourself a favour and behave like you’re already rich and fill your time with more productive activities instead.

If you have views on any of my columns or you have favourite TV shows that reinforce good financial decisions please comment below or email me at Have a great week!

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.


Agree, last time I used it was the election I think.

... or maybe the yearly Budget.

In a similar vein to this column: When I came to Auckland I was surprised at how people were influenced by reading the NZ Herald. There is all sorts of advice in it, which the people I talked to would parrot. And they would all nod their heads as they discussed it as if it were gospel. One example would be the Mary Holm column. One random person who for some reason reigns supreme with her final say over the correspondents' financial decisions.  I have always wondered why people continue to ask for her advice. One possible explanation may be that some are ficticious writers, akin to "vendor bids". However, apart from some basics (which can easily be learnt from other sources by the way), there is nothing new in that column.
If you want to make progress on your own terms. Make your own decisions based upon your own unique background. Do things a little bit differently. Live on a boat. Don't renovate. ie Enjoy the charms of yesteryear. Buy a tiny car. Invest money/ time in areas that you know about. etc.
Your column is different. Its new , its original.....

I haven't watched TV in any meaningful way for years, I only ever catch it when at someone elses house. It is all part of the "Bread and Circuses" to me and my bias was confirmed in a critical thinking paper at university where the abolute control of all out media sources was discussed. Yes even the top Architects in the photographic era have tightly controlled their images.
Having made a couple of cameo appearances on reality TV myself you can be assured that it is all totally sensationalised and sometimes false. On one occasion footage taken weeks apart was edited to appear as though it was one event. My dealings with television news has been similar (I have appeared there also) and on one occasion they had written the story and more or less scripted me on what to say. I have commented on these pages before about the trend for stupid, but apparently clever, one liners to dominate the news.
So what do I do with the 42 hours per week that I am not watching TV, well read of course.
Probably a fair bit of it is spent brewing my own beer and drinking it :-)

"stupid, but apparently clever, one liners"
Reminds me of "corporate vision/ mission statements"... With the ominous undertone of: If you don't buy into this vision, you will be replaced... :)
Try typing in "here we come" or "nice to meet you".   ha ha ha

Cameo and news appearances?  Wow.... care to tell me more ?
In your experience is the financial impact of brewing better or worse than purchasing a mid-brand beer?   In Australia i used to brew at a micro brewery where i would go in and mix the beer but they would do all the minding and id be called back after so many weeks to bottle it.  Not sure that counts as "brewing my own beer".  Only marginally better off financially but the pride was priceless!

Perhaps one day, but not publicly on this forum for now. I will be first to admit that some of my views are controversial in the current context and prefer not to risk the commercial activity in relation to my invention, or my family. There are some personalities on here that would not be trustworthy, including a couple that appear professional trolls. I have popped into so they all know me, as do a handful of others.
The TV side is interesting and I am close to the action of one right now.
In regard to beer brewing the correct comparison would be to a top end craft beer as I do brew from grain. Although consistency still eludes me and some are only average, but I am serving my own apprenticeship if you like. My equipment is modest so I am brewing 20L of good beer for less than $20, sometimes less as hops can be a significant cost and I prefer a malty brew. If you include your own labour then the advantages isn't so clear, but I get to drink the exact beer I like. My Irish Stout would be as good as the Guiness Foreign Extra Stout :-)
Spending about 3K on plant would get you a nice 40-50L system along with kegs and a few other time saving bits and pieces. That plant would last a lifetime.
Brewing does take a good technical mind.

I was involved as talent on one of Marc Ellis's "How the Other Half Live".

For once I was pleasant surprised at the respect we got from the film team, and how well they put together the final show.   Far better than I'd dealt with before.

You've forgotten a very important "show"  one that in context of your good article (and the brain's tendency to adapt to it's repeated environment - sensory input is it's only "reality")

A show so popular yet so insidious that it slides straight past your deliberate consciousness despite being so relevant to this article.  So insidious it didn't deserve a mention despite being one of the longest running "shows" on the box.  
 The "show" you never mentioned was ...

The 6pm news?


they make up over 30% of "couch time" after all...

Nice one, although I thought the news was a pretty good guess.

I was going to mention those pesky adverts but I thought if I did then every man and his dog would write to tell me that if I had payTV, such as MySky, that I could fast forward those.   And then I would have to write a column on the ridiculousness of paying for TV next week :)
the other genre of tv that gets my goat is infomercials.   The one about pants that make you sweat is halarious!!

I tend not to be staring at the "income reducing box" during infomercial time.   Especially bad habit when working from home, like tidying closets and other procreastination busy work.

But the adverts all flash and noise, telling you you need more, buy now, be cool, be wealthy.

As for Sky, there are channels that do have advertising (sorry, sponsorship) in programs, and for many .. the number of station breaks  !!!!    You think you'd know the brand of channel you're watching for the content and you're watching it!  (not like the advertsiing branding that radio stations had to do because the tracks were generic across all stations.)

But ads... no designed to make you feel better.
All that repeat into the brain that you must buy buy buy, sell sell sell.  Go off the box for couple of months and you'll really notice how driven they are at their jaded audience.

Welcome to Rupert's world.  Across the ditch, it's well known that he can even dictate the election outcomes to his liking via his vast media empire.  Lucky NZ, he only got a small foot hold there!