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

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.