7 personal finance tips from ‘Ghostbusters.’

th-1Saw the “Ghostbusters” reboot on Friday and laughed quite a bit, especially at the antics of Kate McKinnon. While she didn’t actually steal every scene in which she appeared, McKinnon certainly borrowed some of them without permission.

The woman is damned funny. Since we don’t have a television, I’ve never seen her work on “Saturday Night Live” or “The Big Gay Sketch Show.” I might go see the movie again just to watch her. (The others were great, too.)

As for the fanboy bro-haha about the reboot being a heretical sacrilege against all that’s good and holy about dude films, all I can say is “Grow up.” Movies get rebooted all the time. You either go see them or you refuse to go see them. What you don’t do is wail about how this has ruined your childhood.

Seriously. Some guys, and maybe some gals, actually say this. If the first 18 years of your life are rendered meaningless by a movie remake, I suggest you seek help. Or maybe some anti-hyperbole tablets.

In keeping with my theory that personal finance lessons are where you find them, I went to “Ghostbusters” in full money-geek mode and with a notebook. Here’s what I found.


1. Ignore the haters.

In a subtle nudge at those butthurt fanboys, Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) advises against reading the online comments. Somebody somewhere always thinks he’s smarter than you or gets his kicks dragging you down.

Anyone who’s taking control of his finances knows this is true. Some people like call you “cheap” or accusing you of having No Life At All. Others tut-tut that your financial progress is either negligible or something you should have done years ago.

Money haters gonna hate. Quit giving them rent-free space in your head.

P.S. Trolls are the ones with No Life At All.


2. Big Brother is watching.

Seems like just about everyone has a smartphone these days, which means you’re surrounded by cameras. Thus you need to be careful about how you present yourself in a public place (or even at a private home), or when writing a blog/commenting on someone else’s.

It’s likely that potential employers will run your name through the Google in addition to checking your references. Your current boss might do that, too, or someone might clue him or her in to some of your online shenanigans.

You know, that YouTube video of you and other elementary school teachers chugging 40-ouncers and chanting “Eff the PTA”? The Facebook status update that includes racist “jokes”? A rant about your stoopid supervisor on the blog that uses your real name and workplace? Duly noted by someone who holds a lot of power over your future.

Don’t say, do, wear, drink or make out with anything you wouldn’t want a potential boss – or your mother – to see online.


3. What looks like the end may be a fresh start.

In fact it’s a questionable YouTube video that gets Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) booted from her university gig – and right when she was so close to tenure she could spoon it. Apparently professors aren’t supposed to consort with phantoms and then scream, “Ghosts are real!”

Maybe your own job loss wasn’t your fault. Still stinks! But no matter how scary unemployment feels, it may be a chance to change your life. Movies aren’t the only things that get rebooted.

Maybe that means going back to school (been there!), looking for work in a new field, taking up a pal on her offer to let you rent a room at her home on a different coast so you can start over. Or perhaps you’ll be like me and decide to throttle way back and rethink the way you look at work.

In all of those situations it helps to have an emergency fund and a flexible definition of the good life. Which leads me to…


4. Needs vs. wants: Know the difference!

The Ghostbusters gang was shown a potential headquarters building that looked great. (Also familiar, to fans of the original movie.)  When the realtor said, “The rent is $21,000 a month,” Erin’s immediate response was “Burn in hell!” (Which was, I think, the only cuss word in the whole film.)

The quartet wound up renting over a Chinese restaurant instead. Sure, they wanted the larger place. What they needed was to stay within their (nearly nonexistent) budget. Keep that in mind the next time you want to beef up your collection of gazingus pins, or to upgrade to a bigger and better [whatever] when the old one still works just fine.

Take care of business – including having an emergency fund and retirement savings – before you take care of pleasure.


5. Add to your skill set.

Dreamboat receptionist Kevin (Chris Hemsworth) turns out to have Web design skills. True, they’re not all that skillful. But the fact is he can do more than one thing.

As should you. Let a prospective employer (or a current one) know that you’re a notary public or that you’ve got a commercial driver’s license. Talk up your ability to operate a forklift, shoot and edit video, speak a second language, produce commercial-quality landscaping, work social media like a pro or whatever it is that you do well.

Don’t stop learning and improving. At the end of the film the women are not only expanding their business, they’re amping up (as it were) the equipment they use.


6. Improvise!

All that equipment is heavy, though, and humping it up and down the subway stairs gets real old real fast. But if they can barely afford rent they sure can’t afford a car payment or auto insurance.

Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) says her uncle has a vehicle that’s big enough for all four of them plus their oscillofluxatronmagnetothingies. She also provides anti-slime coveralls for the gang, i.e., she kites them from her day job.

I wouldn’t advise stealing office supplies (or anything else from the workplace) to meet your needs. However, I do suggest that taking a look at what you’ve already got before buying something you think you must have.

Suppose you want to make a pie for the first time and the cookbook says to blend the shortening into the flour with a fork or a pastry cutter. Most households have forks, so skip the trip to the housewares store.

Don’t rush to buy bigger-ticket items, either. As I noted in a post called “The pickup truck theory of life,” you’d be amazed what you can lease (coffins?) or borrow.

Say you want to paint the house or refinish the deck. Rent rather than buy a power washer. But before you do that, put the word out among friends and family – someone might already have a power washer and be glad to lend it to you.

Note: Don’t be that person who’s always asking for stuff and for help but never reciprocates. That person is kind of a jerk.


7. Go with it.

At one point a green fiend materializes in the middle of a heavy metal concert. The performer runs with it and the crowd goes wild.

Ever have something really unexpected happen? You have three options: Freak out completely, make the best of the situation or embrace the chaos.

Here’s an example: A local construction company that specialized in remodeling was hit hard by an economic downturn. One of the owners was asked to clean up a place where a horrible crime had occurred. The company did such a good job that it began getting more chances to clean up bad scenes and, later, flood and fire damage. Now it specializes in “restoration” jobs rather than putting in granite countertops and soaker tubs.

The company could have gone under. Instead, it went with what was available. Or, as the Ghostbusters might put it, “When life hands you demons, make demonade.”

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  1. Now I want to go and see the movie! Glad I’m not the only one who brings notebooks places! Great connections and pretty funny yourself too 🙂

  2. I love this 🙂

    • Donna Freedman

      Thanks. Tell your friends!

      I hope there’s a FinCon Phoenix (PhinCon?) meetup the next time I visit Abby. If not, maybe we can do our own again — and it doesn’t have to be at Wendy’s.

  3. I wasn’t really interested in seeing this until this post, so thanks! Sounds fun!

  4. Lisa O

    That was an enjoyable read!

  5. Catseye

    I read a review in our local paper that said the movie was okay, but not nearly as good as the original. Thanks for your opinion, Donna. I’ll probably see it if I can get my movie buddy to go with me.

    • I really liked it. We saw it with a receptive crowd, which really helps, and it turns out I barely remember the original – just a few visuals, not the actual plot or anything. But if you do remember the original, there are cameos and referenced lines in the remake that will probably make you happy.


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