Television is a form of escapism. Most of us will never have an affair with the president, live in a post-apocalyptic zombie ridden world, or be a Kardashian. That is why certain television shows are so popular. The viewer can witness an experience that they will never have in real life, and perhaps, would never want to have in real life. People are obsessed with Game of Thrones but very few people would actually want to be part of Game of Thrones. iPhones weren’t even invented yet, ya know?
Living in the post-recession era, people tend to be smart with their money. People budget and don’t live frivolously for fear of another recession, which is why watching the Kardashians live extravagantly is so entertaining to some. This is also the reason why some of television’s most interesting, most loved fictional characters are not particularly good with money. It’s enjoying to watch fictional characters spend and shop, while you sit at home and don’t spend a dime.
The reason these fictional characters aren’t great financial role models differs from character to character. Some characters have emotional problems, leading them to make purchases to try to fill a hole. Some characters spend money to live a fabulous life that is beyond the reach of someone on a small writer’s salary. Some characters are meth kingpins who don’t know what to do with a stack of money the size of a mattress. Whatever their financial sin may be, here are ten television character who are bad with money:
10. Don Draper from Mad Men
Don’s financial flaws stemmed more from his existentialism and/or emotional issues. Remember when he was like, “Nah, I don’t need this car. Here, take it kid.” in the last season? Or remember when he felt some sort of guilt towards his ex-wife Megan and gave her one million dollars, which would be about 6 million dollars with today’s inflation? Don’s complexity and assortment of emotional issues may have been what propelled him to be at the top of his field as an ad man but it also made him careless with the money he earned. Giving away stuff because you’re going through an existential crisis is not the best financial decisions.
9. Lorelai Gilmore from Gilmore Girls
This single mother who managed a hotel ate food at Luke’s in every single episode. They ate there a lot, like, a lot a lot. Lorelai and Rory would pop in there for breakfast before Rory had to go to school, Lorelai would sometimes pop in solo for lunch and then the girls would occasionally grab dinner there as well. Did she have a tab going at Luke’s? Was Luke charging them? Did he give Lorelai some sort of single-mother-who-I’m-secretly-in-love-with discount? Assuming that they were paying for these meals, Lorelai is on this list. Even if Luke wasn’t charging them, they ate out at several other places and would often joke about never cooking. Refusing to cook and eating out for every meal is possibly one of the worst financial decisions, especially for a single mother sending her daughter to Yale and trying to open her own inn in the process. This is not to mention the amount of coffee Lorelai purchased, which could add up to cost of a down payment on a house.
8. Nick Miller from New Girl
Nick Miller is the adorable man-child character on New Girl. He’s really bad at being an adult, like really, really bad at it. No only does Nick not have a savings account, he didn’t even have a bank account, saying that it’s like putting money in a paper-bag with fancier walls. Excuse me? When he inherits $8,000 after his father passes away, he intends to go shopping with the money until Jess, his girlfriend, finds his secret box where he stashes away all his responsibilities so he doesn’t have to see or deal with them. That’s right, he throws his bills into a box and never pays them. His girlfriend has to go behind his back to pay off his bills with this inheritance.
7. Tony Soprano from The Sopranos
Tony Soprano may have been one of the most conflicted crime bosses in television. He suffered from depression and anxiety but that didn’t stop him from being the street boss of the DiMeo crime family. He did what he had to do but was ultimately a tragic character. What is even more tragic is the fact that he discounts all of Carmela’s financial suggestions. While her suggestions to invest money may come from a fear that Tony could one day disappear and therefore his gravy train of dirty money to buy the family cars and jewelry would also disappear, her suggestions are not without a point. If Tony was bringing in hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, he should have been making investments that would have set him and his family up for the future.
6. Michael Scott from The Office
Michael actually isn’t awful with his personal finances. He owns his own condo and has a seemingly decent job. In season four, when Jan is sucking him dry money-wise, Michael gets a second job as a telemarketer. While there are red flags when it comes to Michael’s personal finances, they came more from his being a welcome mat for Jan. The area where he’s a little lost financially is at work. He is often spending the company’s money on elaborate office parties that aren’t necessary. He’s also written off thing like magic lessons as an office expense so he can impress his clients with magic tricks. Also, the amount of time it takes accounting to explain to the reason why they must spend their surplus to Michael is kind of alarming.
5. Rachel Green & Monica Geller from Friends
Rachel Green and Monica Geller were both bad with money at one time or another during the course of the series. Rachel should be applauded for her bravery in breaking away from the easy housewife life and forging her own path, but her shopping habit was a downfall. She literally had to cut her credit cards in half to stop using them. Throughout the series, she continues shopping. On the other hand, Monica is the one with money making schemes. During one episode, she starts making jam until she realizes the high cost per container that she’d have to charge in order to turn a profit. In another episode, she gets into the stock game because she sees a stock that has her initials. Finally, let us all never forget when the girls bet their gorgeous apartment and lost it. What was that?
4. Hannah Horvath from Girls
In the pilot of Girls, the audience watches Hannah’s reaction to her parents cutting her off financially. As a twenty-something out of college, her reaction should have been more like, “Yeah, you guys are completely right. I should be financially independent.” Instead, her reaction was that of disbelief and stealing the tip her parents left for the maid at a hotel. In Hannah’s pursuit to be a writer, she struggles to make much money. When she does get a job writing at GQ, she quits the job to pursue her real writing. By quit, I mean to say that Hannah has a meltdown and ruins any and all connections she made at this job. Then she moves to Iowa for grad school at the best MFA writing program in the country but leaves during the first semester. Hannah’s constant starts and stops don’t allow her to make any progress in forming a career and making a real living.
3. George Bluth Sr. from Arrested Development
Most of the Bluths were awful with money despite having so much of it. Perhaps, it is because they had so much money that they were so horrible with money. Lindsay spent obscene amounts of money shopping during the course of the show. Lucille probably drank hundreds of dollars a week. Gob works as a part-time magician. While none of these financial choices are great, George Bluth Sr. takes the cake for hiding $250,000 in the walls of the family’s banana stand. This savings turned to smoke (literally) when Michael Bluth lights the stand on fire to prove that he is independent from his father. Not only did George Bluth Sr. not earn interest on his savings but he also lost all of it because it wasn’t in the bank.
2. Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City
What list of characters who have bad financial habits would be complete without Ms. Bradshaw? She bought $40,000 in shoes and had no place to live. She had to charge tomatoes. The truth is that while she always looked fabulous, not being financially secure when you are nearing 40 is not fabulous at all. On top of buying designer clothes without any money in her savings, she also ate out for every meal, never cooked at home and used her oven for sweater storage. Carrie Bradshaw spent her money on maintaining a fabulous life but was not smart in doing so.
1. Walter White from Breaking Bad
Good ol’ Walter White knew how to make money. He may have made it illegally but nonetheless, he was making stacks and stacks of money, stacks that he kept hidden in his house… Wait, what? Walter White had no idea what to do with his duffle bags of money until Skyler stepped in and took over the business aspect. Sure, Skyler couldn’t account for all of the bajillion dollars that his supreme meth was making but what she could account for, she put in the bank and started earning interest. Remember that bed of money Walt had in storage? Now, imagine the interest he would have earned if that was in the bank.