5 TV Show & Films That Have Important Money Lessons

by Katy on June 5, 2016 · 20 comments

The following post first appeared over at ClarkHoward.com.

TV gets a bad rap for setting unrealistic expectations for lifestyle and spending, and for the most part it’s well deserved. After all, no one on Friends ever seemed to go to work, yet they all had amazing Manhattan apartments and an aversion to inexpensively home brewed coffee. Okay . . . maybe Joey as a soap opera star could have afforded his housing, but you know that Phoebe’s part time massage therapist/musician career would have her living in squalor instead of the great apartment that she occasionally shared with Rachel.

Luckily, there are a few television shows and movies out there to combat the illusion that it’s normal to live beyond your means without consequence. Whether it’s TV or film, there are money lessons to learn from your idiot box.

Life or Debt

Hosted by salesman, author and motivational speaker Victor Antonio, this Spike TV show follows one financially troubled family per week. Antonio sits down with the family to figure what what they’re doing wrong. Whether it’s overspending, underearning or a combination of the two, Antonio does not hold back with the cold hard truth. The family proceeds to work Antonio’s plan with varying degrees of success. It’s on the dude-tastic Spike TV channel, so you know it ramps up the drama and intensity.

Ironically, this show can only be watched for “free” if you subscribe to a pricey cable-TV package, although you can watch individual episodes for $2.99 apiece through Amazon Prime. However, there are 67 video clips that you can watch for free through Spike TV for us frugal types.

‘Til Debt Do Us Part

Author and financial expert Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s Canadian TV show ran on CNN for a few years, and is now available to watch online HERE. Similar in format to Life or Debt, ‘Til Debt Do Us Part also works with couples who are in dire financial circumstances. The difference is that although Vaz-Oxlade doesn’t hold back on the tough love, there’s no obviously manufactured drama in the name of fake reality TV. Also, you can watch episodes for free, which helps to keep us frugal types from living outside our means.

Living on One Dollar

This documentary follows three privileged American college students who travel to rural Guatemala to try and live on one dollar per day. This film shines a light on the difficulties that billions of people throughout the world face on a daily basis. (And frankly, it puts some perspective on our own American money woes.) The lessons they learn and the relationships formed with the locals make this documentary worth your time. It’s available to watch on Netflix HERE.

Shark Tank

ABC’s show where billionaires fund struggling businesses may seem an odd choice for a must see money themed TV show, but hear me out. Watching the presentations that the entrepreneurs give to the sharks is extremely illuminating, as are the follow up questions. Having a specific and directed plan for one’s business is the key to success, whether it’s for a multi-million dollar corporation or a household budget. And best of all, full episodes are free to watch through ABC.go.com. Gotta love free!

Queen of Versailles

This documentary follows the Siegel family, whose time share fortune was brought to a crashing halt by the great recession of 2008. Their sudden reversal of fortune stopped any progress on their Versailles inspired home, which was planned to become the largest single family structure in the United States. (It’s since been completed.) Unfortunately, this film is a stark cautionary tale more than anything else. The lesson here is that living beyond your means can only lead to disaster, whether you’re keeping up with the Joneses or Marie Antoinette. Click HERE to watch The Queen of Versailles on Netflix.


Money lessons can be learned from those who dedicate their careers to teaching good money habits, but also from watching those who mismanage their fortunes. Either way, pop a bowl of popcorn and put your feet up. You’re in for an interesting evening of entertainment.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Twitter.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Instagram.
Click HERE to join The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Pinterest.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Joanna June 5, 2016 at 11:00 am

I went into watching Queen of Versailles preparing for rage porn. I wasn’t expecting to LIKE her and subsequently feel a great deal of empathy for her. She is so invested in her children, family, and friends – you can tell she really cares. Her husband is cold toward her a lot of the time, her stepdaughter later committed suicide, and she was trying to protect her kids from the financial implosion. I highly recommend watching it.


Krystal June 5, 2016 at 5:46 pm

Exact same feelings when I watched it.

I though I read somewhere that the property was eventually finished.


Michele June 5, 2016 at 10:49 pm

The daughter was hers and her husbands that died, not her step daughter.


Renee June 5, 2016 at 11:24 am

Monica and Rachel’s apartment was rent-controlled (it was a plot point in one episode.) What I always wondered was how Chandler and Joey lived right across the hall and yet their apartment looked like it belonged in a completely different building.


Krystal June 5, 2016 at 5:44 pm

Right, and the stairwell seemed too wide and not steep enough to afford Joey and Chandler exterior, street facing windows on that same wall in their living room.

Phoebe was rent controlled too, it was also her grandma who passed it down.

You’ll never guess what I am watching right now…


Sharon June 5, 2016 at 12:16 pm

Third paragraph: ‘underrating’ — what does this mean?


anna June 6, 2016 at 12:32 pm

I was wondering the same thing. Is it a misprint?


anna June 6, 2016 at 12:37 pm

I looked up the article on the Clark website, it’s supposed to be “under earning”. That makes so much more sense.


Katy June 6, 2016 at 12:47 pm

I sent them that edit, but I guess I forgot from my own end! Ha!


CW June 5, 2016 at 12:25 pm

Gail Vaz-Oxlade also has a show called”Princess” about self-indulgent young people living beyond their means and expecting handouts from family and friends. It is also available on slice.ca.


hmbalison June 5, 2016 at 1:31 pm

The link for the Gail Vaz-Oxlade show doesn’t work for the U.S. I get error messages that the content is only viewable in Canada.


Katy June 5, 2016 at 5:27 pm

Hmm . . . that’s a bummer.


Megyn June 5, 2016 at 7:05 pm


I was planning to watch it all night while going through paperwork to toss/shred since hubby is on shift, so this is a huge bummer. Any way to trick it to think we are in Canada?


Carole June 5, 2016 at 3:32 pm

By the way, I can’t seem to find your articles on the Clark Howard blog. How is it done?


Katy June 5, 2016 at 5:26 pm
JD June 6, 2016 at 5:26 am

I don’t have cable TV any more, just an antenna, so I don’t see shows like this anymore, but I used to see one in which a guy went to couples’ homes and went through their finances to help them get on the right track. Some folks got really on board once they saw it could work, but I remember that one couple, while planning the wedding “of their dreams,” refused to take any responsibility for the fact that they were already drowning in debt, and simply blamed each other for all their problems. They never did follow the budget, although the woman tried a little for a while, and it looked to me that their marriage was going to fail, too, assuming they ever made it to the altar in the first place. I felt a little voyeuristic at times watching such shows, but at the same time, I sometimes got a needed eye-opener when I heard MY excuses for failing to save come out of a spendthrift’s mouth on TV, making me realize that was all it was — an excuse!


Mrs. Picky Pincher June 6, 2016 at 10:45 am

Thank you for sharing this! Now that we’re on our frugal journey, we find most of mainstream TV shows to be too “loud”–fast cars, diamond everything, $1,000 socks; you name it. I need some frugal-friendly viewing and it sounds like you’ve listed some great options.


jimmah June 7, 2016 at 9:39 am

how abouts extreme cheapskates? Them people is funny!


Rosanne June 7, 2016 at 5:03 pm

Thank you for letting me know about “Life or Debt”. I just binge watched all the episodes while doing stuff around the house. I can’t believe that one couple from the “Straight outta Camden” episode. They haven’t paid their mortgage in 2 years, yet 6 months ago they bought a timeshare?? And she was driving a Range Rover?? They were the only participants who did not get with the program and did not see a turnaround. I know of a couple who would be perfect for this show . I only see them at a bbq once a year, and every year I wonder “Did they lose the house? Did she give up her five hundred dollar a month grooming expenses?” Every year, they somehow keep juggling…. This year, they lamented how both their cars were repossesed. They ended up getting two new cars with their parents co-signatures. They are almost 40.


Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: