I remember when “The Bachelor” premiered on ABC.
I was a sophomore in high school, and Alex Michel was a total dreamboat. With glee, I looked forward to watching the show on Monday nights, and to discussing the drama on Tuesday mornings.
In the years since, I’ve watched more seasons of the hit show than I care to admit. And I’ve come to realize that not only is it incredibly unrealistic in its portrayal of romance — a fact that’s underscored by its abominably low success rate — but also in its portrayal of financial issues.
Here are four totally false money lessons perpetuated by “The Bachelor,” plus the real-world financial tips you should follow instead.
It’s Important to Keep Up With the Joneses
First impressions matter. Especially when you’re competing with dozens of others to win over a single guy or gal. The show’s contestants take that to heart — and often spend gobs of money making sure their wardrobes are up to par.
On her blog, former contestant Jillian Harris admitted she refinanced her house and spent $8,000 on clothing before appearing on the show. While I understand the desire to impress the Bachelor/ette and look good on national television, that’s an insane amount of money.
If there’s one financial lesson every guru agrees on, it’s this: Live within your means. Trying to compete with your peers is a sure way to end up unhappy and in debt.
Anti-Bachelor financial tip: Read “The Millionaire Next Door” to learn about people who live frugally and mindfully — and end up incredibly wealthy. Listen to the Choose FI podcast to learn about the financial independence movement. Set up automatic savings so you can easily invest in your future.
The Best Dates Cost a Lot of Money
Helicopter rides. Hot tubs in the desert. Private concerts. Whirlwind trips to exotic countries.
These are just some of the dates that Bachelor contestants go on. Of course, that’s why we all watch the show: It’s entertaining to see how the producers will top the last episode.
But, if you use these dates as a metric, you might feel like your own outings are a little underwhelming. A new dude wants to go for a walk? Or out for coffee? That doesn’t compete with a hot air balloon ride in Chris Soules’ arms.
Here’s the truth: Dates don’t have to be extravagant. In fact, some of my best dates have been shockingly simple.
Anti-Bachelor financial tip: Whether you have a new Tinder match or a longstanding partner, remember that great dates don’t have to cost a lot of money. Put thought, rather than money, into your next excursion. Find a free concert in your boo’s favorite music genre, hike a mountain with a romantic viewpoint, or pack a picnic and head to the park. If you and your companion are right for each other, you’ll enjoy your time — no matter what you’re doing.
You Can Ignore Your Finances for Weeks
Bachelor contestants only find out they’ve been selected a few weeks before the show airs. And then they have to prepare to be gone for up to six weeks.
Once they arrive at the “mansion,” they’re not allowed to use phones, computers, or TV. They can’t even read books. Basically, they’re deprived of entertainment so they’re forced to consume exorbitant amounts of alcohol and generate drama.
You know what being offline for six weeks leads to? Ignoring your finances for six weeks!
One former Bachelorette contestant told MarketWatch he set up automatic bill pay and gave his parents deposit slips and passwords. While that was super responsible, I can’t imagine all the contestants (cough, Lucy the “free spirit,” cough) are that forward-thinking — which can mean lots of financial stress when they return to real life.
Anti-Bachelor financial tip: Stay on top of your finances by logging into your online bank and credit card accounts at least once a week, and by using a credit monitoring service to be alerted to suspicious activity. For a bird’s-eye view, sign up for an all-in-one financial app like Mint or Qapital.
There’s No Need to Talk Money With Your Honey
Although I’ve heard the Bachelor or Bachelorette talk about children, politics, and even religion with the contestants, I’ve never heard them talk about money. (Let’s be real: I haven’t seen every episode of every season, so it’s possible they have — but it’s certainly not shown frequently.)
Um, hello! You’re looking for somebody with whom to spend the rest of your life, à la Trista and Ryan. From everyday spending habits to overall mindsets, money is one of the most common reasons for divorce. Not talking about money with a potential partner is downright ludicrous.
Money shouldn’t be taboo in any relationship. By being open from the start, you’ll not only determine if you’re financially compatible, you’ll also figure out how to accomplish future goals together.
Anti-Bachelor financial tip: Sit down with your partner to talk money. Gather up all the pertinent information — your salary, retirement account balances, debts, etc. — and bare all. Explain your parents’ approach to money and how it has affected your views. Discuss your hopes and dreams, followed by the budget and timeline that will help you get there.
Why I Still Watch ‘The Bachelor’
As much as I like to make fun of it, I still enjoy this silly show.
It promotes a lot of misconceptions about romance, sure, but it’s kinda fun to believe you can go on national TV and find the love of your life. And of course it’s also fun to watch all the drama and tears and craziness unfold.
So go ahead and binge; play Bachelor Fantasy if you’d like. Just please ignore the financial advice — I think even Chris Harrison would agree with me on that.