How often do you watch films about finance? We’re guessing you’ll say never. But what if we told you that the topic of finance slips into lots of films—we just don’t pay any attention to it. It’s much more interesting to follow the love story, laugh at the comedy, get caught up in the action, or empathise with the main character, and not think about money. 

Over the next few articles, we’re going to look at films where finance, while not necessarily playing a major role in the plot, can’t be ignored. If you’ve already seen any of these films before, then after reading these articles, you’ll hopefully look at them in a new light.

The first film we’re looking at is Confessions of a Shopaholic.

A poster of the film

Title: Confessions of a Shopaholic

Directed by P.J. Hogan

Release date: 13 February 2009

Cast: Isla Fisher, Hugh Dancy, Joan Cusack, John Goodman, John Lithgow, Kristin Scott Thomas, Leslie Bibb

Confessions of a Shopaholic tells the story of Rebecca Bloomwood, a young woman so obsessed with shopping, she has a ton of debts. On the way to an interview for her dream job with the fashion magazine Alette, Rebecca tries to buy a green scarf, but one of her 12 (yes, 12!) credit cards is declined, and the shop doesn’t accept cheques. In desperation, she runs out into the street and tries to buy all the hot dogs at a hot-dog stand-by cheque if the seller will give her change in cash. Her sick great-aunt, she claims, really, really needs this scarf. Overhearing this, a man in the queue gives Rebecca the $20 she needs to buy the scarf, and says the key phrase of the whole movie: 

🛍 Cost and worth are very different things.

Financial Takeaway From Confessions of a Shopaholic

But what does that have to do with finance? Well, let’s say you’re investing in a company. You could pay a high price per share, but do you really need to? The share might cost you a lot of money, but that doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily get a lot of income from that share. What it costs you and what it’s worth to you are not the same.

Maybe it’s a promising start-up company you’re investing a little money in (after doing your research, of course). You hope that, down the line,  it will maybe double the money you put into it. But the real value is in the fact that you didn’t blindly invest money in a well-known corporation, but rather you did the research yourself and invested your money in what you were sure of.

Ok, back to the movie. 

Rebecca arrives for the interview only to find out the position has already been taken. However, there is still a vacancy at a financial magazine called Successful Savings, and it could lead to a future position at Alette. Rebecca takes the risk, but when she goes for an interview, it turns out that Luke Brandon, the editor-in-chief of Successful Savings, is the same man who gave her the money for the scarf. Seeing him, Rebecca tries to get rid of the scarf, but it backfires,  her lie is revealed, and she leaves without the job.

Later that evening, Rebecca’s friend Suze advises her to write to Alette to showcase her writing talent, but Luke gets the letter by mistake. Impressed by the letter, he hires her. 

Luke’s reaction to Rebecca’s letter

Here’s a quote from Rebecca’s letter:

🛍 Security can mean different things to different people. For some, it’s going to a party wearing the right shoes. This might leave you feeling secure for an evening, but have a crippling effect on you in later life.

Either you wear comfortable shoes that don’t really match your outfit, or wear the perfect shoes for your outfit, but they blister your feet so you can’t manage more than 10 steps in them. 

Or in financial terms, when you choose where to invest, it’s not enough to rely only on your affinity for the company. For example, just because you enjoy watching TV shows on Netflix doesn’t mean you need to invest money in it without hesitation. Do a little research, look at the statistics, decide on your financial strategy. Decide what really fits you, what you feel most secure about. And only then, put your money in.

Always remember that any investment is a risk, and an impulse investment is a multiplied risk. Of course, that doesn’t mean you’ll be left penniless, but investing in a hurry is definitely not worth it.

Anyway… Luke gives Rebecca an assignment for a new column, but instead of getting started, she goes clothes shopping. Later, she realises her new “100% cashmere” coat is a fake, and this gives her the idea for her article:

🛍 Your store card is like a 50%-off cashmere coat. The first time you meet, it promises to be your best friend. Until you look closely and realize it’s not real cashmere. Then, as winter comes, you discover that your coat isn’t actually a friend at all. You should have read the fine print. Should look more closely at what you’re getting into. 

What about investment? What’s in the ‘fine print’? The rules of use, of course, : for example, which asset will bring the most profit, when it’s better to buy and when to sell, how to diversify your portfolio. There can also be a note about remembering to act responsibly when choosing a bank or app to trust with your money. Read all the conditions and don’t let yourself be fooled.

Rebecca decides not to use her real name for the article, writing instead under a pseudonym. And so The Girl in the Green Scarf (get it?) appears. Her article becomes a sensation in the world of finance, and the magazine Successful Savings goes international.

An image of The Girl in the Green Scarf

“Do not answer this call, it’s Derek Smeath”.

It seems that everything is going well, but all the while, the debt collector Derek Smeath has been hunting for Rebecca, and she’s  been finding more and more excuses not to meet with him, like: 

  • in hospital with depression;
  • detained in Finland on work;
  • dead dog;
  • picked up an infection in Finland (yeah, Finland gets a lot of mentions in the film);
  • in hospital with gallstones;
  • the cheque is in the mail (14 times);
  • the cheque is lost in the mail (14 times);
  • recovering from a chemical fruit acid peel.

The editor-in-chief of Alette magazine helps Rebecca choose a dress for a TV show Rebecca and Luke have been invited on, so that people can get to know The Girl in the Green Scarf better. After shopping and meeting Suze, who gives her a bridesmaid dress for her wedding (she marries her boyfriend Tarquin), Rebecca goes to a meeting of Shopaholics Anonymous. Taking group leader Miss Korch for a regular member of the group, Rebecca asks if she can leave the shopping bags in her car. But Miss Korch, being very serious about fighting shopaholism, gets Rebecca to donate the dresses to a charity shop. After the meeting, Rebecca goes back there, but can’t afford to buy back both dresses. And here we need to remember Luke’s phrase about cost and worth. The dress for the TV show is on sale for $110, the bridesmaid dress for only $20. Yet Rebecca chooses the first one.

Unluckily for Rebecca, debt collector Derek Smeath is in the audience for the TV show. He takes the opportunity to expose her debts and all her ridiculous excuses. Not only is she fired for bringing the magazine into disrepute, Suze also discovers that she gave away the bridesmaid dress and is furious with her. 

But don’t worry! It all works out in the end

Alette’s editor-in-chief offers Rebecca a position, but she declines. Helped by the other members of Shopaholics Anonymous, she hosts a clothes sale to cover her debts, selling even the famous green scarf. And so she finally gets Derek Smeath off her back (in the most inconvenient way for him).

This is how Rebecca did it

She buys back the bridesmaid dress and goes to Suzes’ wedding, eventually earning Suze’s forgiveness. Afterwards, walking past a beckoning store window, she manages to overcome the temptation—and her shopaholism.

Rebecca then bumps into Luke, and he unexpectedly returns her the green scarf. They make peace… and all the rest of that lovey-dovey stuff, and (we assume) they live happily ever after.


What’s the point?

Confessions of a Shopaholic can be thought of as a regular rom-com, but if you dig a little deeper, you can find some interesting ideas about finance that can spark the interest of people who might not have thought about the topic at all. And wouldn’t that be great?

At the beginning of the film, Rebecca calls her 12 credit cards magic. But by the end, she has realised that finance is not magic, but something that calls for a careful approach. Since you’re reading this article, we think it’s safe to assume you’re interested in improving your finances through investing. Here are some tips for you: 

  • Before investing in anything, study the company in detail. Follow its behaviour on the market, and pay attention to any news.
  • If you see any terminology you don’t understand, Google it or look up the meaning in the Education section on our app. By the way, stay tuned, as we’re planning to completely update this section very soon, and add even more useful information.
  • Before any transaction, always check all the information carefully. For example, make sure you know how much taxes you have to pay and for what.
  • Don’t make impulsive decisions. Before buying an asset, watch it. Add it to the watchlist and set a price alert, so you receive notifications whenever the price reaches the amount you want.
  • Assess your risks. If you want to buy a risky asset, consider using the Smart Stop feature, which notifies you when it should be sold, helping you to save money.

As with all investing, you may get back less than you put in. Your capital is at risk. Be sure to conduct research on stocks that you want to invest in. If you are unsure about this, you should seek advice from a professional advisor. Orca does not provide investment advice.

Orca is an appointed representative of RiskSave Technologies Ltd, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FRN 775330).

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