Money Talks, So Should You

Cheapskate Culture: How pop culture ruined my (financial) life

Alyssa Vitale
by Alyssa Vitale, Dimespring 30

For me, pop culture is appealing for its ability to remove me from the here and now — to draw me out of everyday worries and swivel my focus to something different. But years spent watching everything from “Richie Rich” to the “Real Housewives” series has completely skewed my financial brain. 

For the record, I’m not a delusional idealist. I’ve never thought for a minute that these stories are reasonable, realistic (despite some of the “reality” labels), or in any way attainable for me. I don’t believe in the overly ubiquitous portrayal of Gatsby’s American dream. Still, it’s easy to forget about the necessity of real-life financial planning when you get lost in a Charybdis of pop culture. 

READ: How can I get my debt under control?

I used to watch “Sex and the City” for entertainment. My 16-year-old self settled on the couch primarily concerned about what sort of crazy antics Carrie, her friends and her man would get into this episode. Now an unemployed college graduate with an English degree, I guffaw at Carrie Bradshaw’s closet being funded by a measly one-column-a-week paycheck.

Even if financial difficulty is shown at all in pop culture, it comes off so distantly. It’s relatable, but in the end it usually gets miraculously resolved - or people die. To teenage me, both these conclusions were conceptually understandable, but, realistically, incomprehensible. Death and 401(k)s weren’t exactly on my radar, although they probably should have been.

My financial ineptness never became a real problem until I graduated from college this past May. I heard warnings about the poor job market but never heeded them. I graduated with bachelor’s degrees in English and Spanish. I had a sweet year-long editorial internship at a nationally recognized publication. I had even worked for three years at my university job. “It’ll be a breeze!” I thought. “I’m a shoe-in for an entry-level position!” 

READ: Owning up to my financial truth

Fast-forward to September, and I still don’t have a full-time job. My student loan grace period is up in November. (Just in time for Christmas! Sorry, family.) I’m now 100 percent in “Give me a job, any job” mode. It’s rough, stressful and, put simply, not fun. 

All this being said, I’m no defeatist! While I grasp for a source of income, I still believe strongly in the importance of pop culture. I’m working my way through budgeting — helped by some part-time positions and freelancing — but I vow to find new sources of frugal entertainment. Just like a pair of sunglass-sporting brothers before me, I’m on a mission from God.

Alyssa Vitale is navigating the waters of thrifty entertainment, one penny at a time. Alyssa is a member of the Dimespring 30, a community of bloggers sharing their thoughts, experiences and attitudes on personal finance.