Episode focusing on the cast (or at least one Upper-Class Twit
or Rich Bitch
) trying to achieve some basic living function despite being seemingly without money. May have to ironically settle for a Bulk Buy Only
Can function as Lampshade Hanging
to explain a character's inexplicable income or explain the irony of a character who does
make quite a bit of money but never seems to enjoy it for long.
May also be a Cultural Trope in reference to the high living expenses in Japan.
If this is a common theme then it may be a case of Perpetual Poverty
. See also Forgot to Pay the Bill
The polar opposite is A Fool and His New Money Are Soon Parted
Not to be confused with Bizarro Episode
, which is completely different.
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- Tenchi Muyo! had an episode like this, also highlighting the fact most of the Pretty Freeloaders had no visible means of support. Further played around with in Tenchi Universe where Kiyone and Mihoshi have to work multiple part time jobs just to afford to stay on Earth, and later in the same series where the group is forced to open a bar in Kiyone's space cruiser just to raise money for fuel, all while on the run as the most wanted criminals in the universe.
- This may however be justifiable, given that all of the characters who come from off-Earth would possess mainly currency that Earth governments would not recognize. Kiyone and Mihoshi's Galaxy Police salaries, then, would be unspendable on Earth, while Tenchi's family would have only Japanese yen, not recognized in the rest of the galaxy.
- This happens in one episode of Tenchi in Tokyo, in which the girls head out to Tokyo with meager amounts of money to work there. By the end of the episode, it was Sasami who made the most money, thanks to a street act she performed with Ryo-Ohki.
- And further played with in the manga series, especially volume 9 of the first (specifically titled "The Quest for More Money"), where the cast explicitly sails off for a treasure hunt. Stow away those questions about your first true love, there's gold in them thar planets! (Note that it was Tenchi and the girls who were out of money. Tenchi's father was in no way broke, but he was out of town and they don't have access to his money. Tenchi, naturally, vetoed Washu's suggestion of hacking into the bank records and giving themselves money.)
- The volume ended with no actual money being acquired on the quest (in fact, they lost money in the process)...but then there's a final scene showing that Emperor Azusa sent Ayeka a container filled with gold bars. So many that Yosho says it would crash Earth's gold market if released into circulation.
- CowboyBebop's characters are frequently wanting for money and especially food, despite their occasional lucrative bounties. Faye was the worst offender, constantly rummaging the ship for the other character's stashes of food or valuables. She also had a habit of gambling away her bounties at the track as soon as she cashed them in.
- Almost every episode was a Broke Episode. What keeps this show from the definition of Perpetual Poverty was that they never seemed to have any shortages of bullets, cigarettes, or oxygen, commodities that must surely have been pricey for an interplanetary lifestyle.
- It's even mentioned in one episode by Spike that bounty hunting is a lousy way to live, since depending on the funds from hunting people down is no way to make a reliable living. Some weeks may be great, but other times there may be a dry spell of people to pick up and turn in. Not only that, but the show also showed that sometimes due to the high risk nature of their "business," sometimes the bounties didn't live long enough to BE cashed in. In addition, most of the time we just saw Spike and his crew go after the BIG bounties, the ones that would put them on easy street. When we did see Spike and his crew deal with minor criminals, the payday was quite modest.
- It's even mentioned in one episode that there are also "costs" to being a bounty hunter. paying off all the collateral damage done.
- To be precise, it was basically a rule of the show that the crew would never collect a significant bounty. Ever.
- Outlaw Star is almost as much about Broke Episodes as Cowboy Bebop. Like with Cowboy Bebop, most of the money is spent on the upkeep of their spaceship, such as docking fees, repairs and ammunition. It does not help that Gene's ego refuses to let him accept jobs unless they're suitably dramatic or high-paying enough.
- Hilariously enforced at the end of one episode that ended with them bringing home a treasure trove of Dragonite. Unfortunately is was low grade, and the money received from it was just enough to cover the cost of damages and other expenditures for their ship, leaving them right back where they started.
- One of the three major episode situations of Samurai Champloo, the Spiritual Successor to Cowboy Bebop. Usually the responsibility for getting money/food/other necessary items fell on Jin; Mugen and Fuu forced him to pawn his swords at least twice, and his glasses once.
- The Paper Sisters from Read or Die were frequently broke, especially in the manga. This is because they would spend all of their food money on books. If only there were some way to make money out of paper...
- Their powers over paper don't include being able to print things on it however. On the other hand if you've seen the OVA, there are interesting things done with actual paper money...
- Patlabor: Several episodes are dedicated to showing how the SVU2 manages during budget cuts, or simply due to the costly expenses of repairing and maintaining the Labors. The Next Generation takes this to its logical conclusion, by revealing that SVU1 was eventually disbanded, after the top brass of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department decided it was too costly to support both Labor divisions.
- Yuugen Kaisha: In the fourth Incident File, the members of Phantom Quest end up having to take part-time jobs, just to get by, thanks to the Hadja stealing all of their clients.
- Honey and Clover could be called one big broke series for some of the characters. As is life for people at college.
- Love Hina: in episode 14, where everyone in the apartments has to provide 10,000 yen for bills. Also to a lesser degree in episode 6 where Shinobu and Motoko have to fund their 'rescue mission' by doing odd jobs.
- Strawberry Marshmallow has Nobue often seeking a job to make money for cigarettes, although she is hardly above stealing yen from her younger sister, blatantly.
- Trinity Blood: Abel, being the disorganized person that he normally is, never has enough money when he needs it.
- He states at least once during the series that this is because of a vow of poverty he took. He is not allowed to have more than a few coins at a time.
- The Get Backers are constantly broke to the point of showering in fountains and mooching food from vagrants. If they make an insane amount of money on a job, expect them to lose it all almost immediately. If they have a little left over, expect their car to get towed.
- Every episode of Nerima Daikon Brothers focuses on the efforts of the title trio to get some easy cash, usually by stealing it from some con artist or other crooked character. By the end of the episode, the money was gone, either lost to the winds or confiscated by the mark's original victims.
- While never exactly the theme of the episode, Slayers plots involving Lina and company doing some service for money were common. Given their eating habits which often amount to "two of everything on the menu, please" per meal, per person, Lina's mercenary nature regarding being paid for doing almost anything inconvenient to her is potentially explainable. A lampshade was hung on this in the third series, TRY, where despite the fact that the entire group has enough money for their meal, Filia is the only one with local currency, hence her tearful exit leaving them unable to pay for their meal. Further referenced later in the series when they're unable to pay for something and Filia notes that if they didn't eat so much, they'd have money. There is also a brief point where Lina orders an even more extravagant amount of food than normal and tells the restaurant to charge everything to Amelia, who is outraged at the rudeness of eating on another person's credit.
- In Grenadier, Rushuna and Yatchan are often broke and hungry, and in one episode resort to performing entertaining stunts in the street for money, with little success.
- Bleach manages some of the most amusing Lampshade Hanging and subversion of this. At one point two minor characters are shown taking jobs at a convenience store to get by, ducking the manager to rush out and assist the heroes in their battle. Later, several of the incredibly powerful cast manage to find reason to let their hair down and do things like join in a little kids' soccer game, bake cakes under the direction of an expert chef ghost, etc. Of course, The Lancer Renji Abarai, being a freeloader at the Urahara shop, is frequently pushed into helping with the menial tasks associated with such an establishment. (Ironically, despite being designated a "freeloader", it appears that for the duration of his stay Renji does more work than the actual employees.)
- The two sisters in Binbou Shimai Monogatari are usually broke or pretty nearly so, which forms the subject of a lot of episodes. In fact, the entire series can be described as a "Broke Series".
- Train's group in Black Cat never have enough money to pay for a halfway decent meal (mooching off of the waitress' kindness of giving them bread crusts). And if they do get millions from a particularly good sweep, Train uses it up on all the damages he causes or on the vast amount of food he eats.
- The entire plot of Yamada Tarou Monagatari (Yamada Tarou's Story) revolves around the titular character's sunny outlook on life despite abject poverty that forces him to work multiple part-time jobs to support his mother and many younger siblings. He's also incredibly smart and attends a prestigious school on a full scholarship, though he has to be convinced to pursue higher education despite his obvious talents because he worries what his family will do without him around.
- Makino Tsukushi in Hana Yori Dango often seems to be the only sane member of her family, and usually has to step in to solve her family's financial woes (often brought on by her nitwit father) by getting part-time jobs. She tells her family that she would gladly attend a school OTHER than the monumentally expensive Eitoku (which she loathes), but they refuse because it's so prestigious and makes them look good in addition to giving her greater opportunities for the future.
- Despite eventually dating the richest guy in Japan (Domyouji Tsukasa) and pal-ing around with his uber-rich clique (The Flower Four), Makino routinely refuses to request their financial support. This doesn't stop them from helping her out in a pinch, though.
- The fourth One Piece film Dead End Adventure is started by this Trope: the Straw Hats enter a race to win enough money to tide them over until their next adventure, which you'd think would come into play more often given Luffy's appetite.
- But it does- offscreen. When Luffy complains how the crew doesn't have much money when the White Berets' fines prove too much for them to afford with the little they have left, their immediate response is to show him the food bill.
- One Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple story has the Ryouzanpaku going bankrupt, and holding classes for children as a means of breaking even.
- The earliest chapters of Ah! My Goddess deal with this, namely in that Keichii's dorm doesn't allow women, but he's stuck with Belldandy and really can't afford to live anywhere else. The solution: having divine forces on your side helps. It's a slight subversion in that the protagonists don't get money (although Keichii eventually gets a good mechanic job much further into the series), but they do get good housing for free.
- Excel Saga is mainly a tremendously cartoonish parody of the financial crisis in Japan; as such, Excel and Hyatt are constantly and unequivocally broke and hungry most of the time. One of the Running Gags is that their pet, Menchi, is their emergency food rations for most of the series.
- The girls' neighbors Watanabe, Iwata and Sumiyoshi are broke for most of the beginning of the series. Usually Iwata and Sumiyoshi mooch off Watanabe, to much of the latter's chagrin. They later become civil servants and unwitting opponents to the girls' organization ACROSS.
- Poor Poor Lips has a broke arc when Ren's mother cuts her off from the family fortune, forcing her to close the jewelry store she runs as a hobby and move in with her impoverished former employee Nako.
- Frequently done in Ranma ½, since only Genma has a job (as a janitor). One anime episode starts with Saotomes, Tendos and Happosai having a breakfast of only rice, pickles and tea. Kasumi explains they are out of food and money and the next meal will be only rice and tea. Ranma and Akane spend the episode trying to get some money or food off their unwanted harems. It ends with only tea for supper and only water for the next meal. But lack of continuity saves them from starving to death.
- The Avengers, despite usually having Tony Stark's funds, once had to work for a millionaire to pay the bills. When they found the millionaire was dishonest, they refused to be paid by him.
- Likewise, the Fantastic Four get most of their money from a) licensing and merchandise or b) Reed's patents. When either of these get negatively impacted by bad PR, lawsuits, massive destruction, or whatever other crap gets thrown at them this year, they usually have a huge scramble, since they pour all their money into scientific research and building interdimensional stardrives/soul jars made of pocket universes/robotic toasters, not to mention a ridiculous amount of defense mechanisms; and repossession, etc, of their junk is as catastrophic as any supervillain attack.
- A few Italian Uncle Scrooge stories suggests that Scrooge would be flat broke if the Beagle Boys, or some other cataclysm, successfully managed to deprive him of all of his cash money. For this to sound plausible, you have to ignore the fact that he'd still own thousands of shops, factories, and mines.
- Actually, he usually only claims of being broke when that happens, in order to guilt-trip Donald into helping him (and offering him some free meals). When his business doesn't go perfectly right (temporary decrase of 0.01% in profits, for example) he even claims he's going to become broke... in a few centuries time. It's more about his personality than about being broke at all.
- By the time of the Don Rosa comics, Scrooge's giant money bin filled with cash — the Beagle Boys' favorite target — contains only the money that Scrooge earned personally. While this makes significantly more sense, it does mean that in subsequent comic stories Scrooge's personal position is never really in any danger.
- One Golden Age Batman story had Bruce Wayne lose his fortune due to an embezzler and Batman and Robin attempting to continue their crimefighting career while struggling to do things like buy gas for the Batmobile.
- One early-ish issue of Gold Digger had the Diggers sisters finding out they were being hunted by the IRS, but with no cash on hand thanks to Gina's inventions, Brit's shopping addiction and coming back empty-handed from their last couple expeditions. Gina's rival Penny's convinced to loan Gina the money she needs, if she'll cover Penny's niece's fast food job for a day. And wouldn't you know it, that's the day one of Gina's favorite professors stops by and mistakenly assumes she works there all the time. On the plus side, this gets Gina and Penny to finally bury the hatchet and become friends.
- Astérix and the Cauldron is a variant, with the "don't care about money" protagonists trying to recover stolen money in a Gaul broken by Julius Caesar's military expenditures.
- The 1989 mystery / comedy Second Sightnote starts with the staff of the eponymous detective agency — an ex-cop, a paranormal scientist and a crazy psychic — searching for a stolen statue in a museum. They do find the statue and the perpetrator, but the psychic accidentally breaks several other works of art. In the next scene they learn that the reward minus fines equaled several dollars, but the good news is: they were paid in cash. The team immediately spends the reward in the nearby diner. Being broke forces them to take the next case, which forms the bulk of the film.
- The Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser story "Lean Times in Lankhmar", after a period of very little money the usually Heterosexual Life-Partners main characters get into and argument and go their separate ways. The Mouser ends up as a gangster’s goon and Fafhrd becomes an acolyte for a fairly unsuccessful religion, Isaac of the Jug. Their jobs soon become entangled when Fafhrd’s boisterous sermons attract new followers and The Mouser’s boss wants to extort the popular new faith, but also due to some sort of emotional breakdown ends up genuinely believing in the religion. This is probably one of the funniest stories in the series.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, Arya Stark, who as the daughter of a powerful lord has never wanted for anything, becomes a street urchin, catching pigeons for food.
Live Action TV
- On Cabin Pressure, MJN Air and its employees suffer from Perpetual Poverty. However, the second series episode "Johannesburg" deserves special recognition because it centers around Douglas and Martin's increasingly desperate attempts to get together the money to pay for the damage they did to Douglas's ex-wife's property during Douglas's daughter's birthday party.
Role Playing Games
Truth In Television
- You will have this episode at least once in your lifetime. Probably sometime in your 20s, maybe that car repair bill and paycheck have opposing dates, maybe your dream career demands unpaid internships after college just when your student loans start to sting, or maybe you shouldn't have gone out drinking last night and bought the bar a round.
- Unless you weren't a child of affluence, in which case you will have experienced this at least sporadically throughout your childhood; "regular folks" will have at least a handful of stories involving how their families had to, as the wonderful British idiom goes, "make do and mend". These children end up, through a combination of learned thrift, scholarships, grants, and collegiate-era McJobs, graduating from college with minimal debt, or if they end up having "broke episodes" as adults, will instinctively know what to do to make sure those episodes are as brief as possible. (Money expert Dave Ramsey refers to that as "living like no one else [e.g. subsisting on rice and beans] so you can 'live like no one else' [i.e. with fabulous wealth]".)
- Given the 'current economic climate' television shows are featuring lots of 'make do and mend ideas' including a school teacher paid a proper wage, who paid her rent and bills and then lived on £1 a day.
- People aren't the only entities that become broke - corporations and governments of many levels can have them as well. Different situations bring different terms - the largest municipal bankruptcy case in US history is Detroit in 2013 because the case of 1970's New York City is "merely" being declared insolvent (simply stating "we can't pay all our next upcoming bills" - "bankruptcy" is a legal declaration of insolvency made by a judge that affords various legal protections and duties on the one declared bankrupt). Resolving Broke Episodes of large entities like these don't play out quite the same way, though - see, for instance, our Useful Notes page on economics for how this works (or rather how it doesn't) for sovereign governments.
- Star Fox Adventures is this for the Star Fox team. The team hasn't collected any fees for a while, and thus the Great Fox is barely functional and they're down to one working Arwing. And even there, Fox has to scrounge fuel for after the initial flight down.
- While the character's lack of money is the whole motivation for the series, this really hits hard in episode 6 of Manwhores, forcing the apartment crew to ply their wares in a less than safe part of town part of town.
- In Stupid Mario Brothers The Interactive Adventure, it happened because Mario was too lazy to pay rent and gold coins aren't accepted as currency.
- Even the Richest Duck in the World can't buy his way out of this trope. One DuckTales episode, "Down and Out in Duckburg", had Scrooge McDuck lose all his possessions on a technicality, leaving him and his family to eke out a living on the streets. Scrooge even has a nightmare about a Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous parody covering his dire straits. Fortunately, Scrooge manages to get his assets back by the end of the episode by fulfilling the contract that had cost him his fortune.
- Averted in many of the later Five-Episode Movies in the series put Scrooge's entire fortune in danger at once (teleported away, flushed into a lake, sunk to the bottom of the sea, or abducted by aliens). This is an aversion because, even without access to his money bin, Scrooge never had any difficulty marshalling any resources necessary to recover it.
- The Real Ghostbusters suffered from this. Thanks to things like Egon's experiments, the cost of maintaining their equipment and Slimer's food bill, the Ghostbusters often found themselves strapped for cash. Anytime they got a job with a potentially big pay off, they would get stiffed on the bill for some reason or another, as how it tends to happen with this trope.
- Catscratch has Waffle accidentally bankrupt the family by buying vases to get the included bubblewrap. They eventually return the vases with the receipts.
- The titular Zeta from The Zeta Project is a robot assassin capable of generating as much money as he needs- in one episode, this feature is disabled, leaving Zeta stranded in a transport hub.
- Without Ofdensen around to protect them, Dethklok of Metalocalypse find themselves cut off from their money by the record company until they renegotiate their contract
- Biker Mice from Mars had one for the villains: after another foiled scheme causes an explosion in the Plutarkians' resource pit, the High Chairman cuts off Limburger's funds, forcing him and his henchmen to move to a trailer park. They decide to get into the Chairman's good graces again by adding his face to Mount Rushmore and teleporting it to Plutark. Thanks to the protagonists' actions, only the Chairman's head is teleported away and this, combined with the fact that it landed on top of his mother in law pleases the chairman who starts funding them again. Unfortunately for Limburger, because his funds didn't return on time to honor the check he gave to the Villain of the Week, said villain destroyed Limburger Plaza in retaliation.
- An episode of Jimmy Two-Shoes had Lucius losing his entire fortune thanks to Beezy and being forced to room with Jimmy and get menial jobs.
- The Looney Tunes Show, "Peel of Fortune". Bugs gets his money from royalties from the carrot peeler he invented. But when Daffy steals Bugs' plans for an electric carrot peeler, the market for regular peelers dries up and Bugs ends up losing all his money. The Reset Button is pressed when the electric carrot peeler is recalled and Bugs invents a Time Machine to keep all this from happening.
- Adventures from the Book of Virtues: In "Integrity", Zach and Annie attempt to earn money by selling special homemade weathervanes to people, but they just sell them very fast because Annie cut the corners. Unfortunately, their customers didn't like the weathervanes, so they form an angry mob wanting their money back. This makes Zach and Annie retreat to Plato for help.
- In "Honesty" (1998), Annie attempts to have Zach pay her fifteen dollars when they paint Annie's mother's fence, but after they get done, Zach is irritated at Annie so he won't pay her.
- Mickey's Good Deed, a Depression-era cartoon, has Mickey Mouse as a poor street musician who doesn't get a cent from passersby, and lets a rich guy buy his beloved Pluto for his Spoiled Brat son so he can play Santa to a destitute family. Pluto escapes the kid's clutches and happily reunites with Mickey.
- My Dad The Rock Star episode "Going for Broke" featured the Zillas losing their wealth when a mistake from a member of the IRS caused it to be confiscated. They moved into Quincy's home, driving his father insane. It turned out Quincy's father was the responsible for the mistake. The Zillas got their money back and keep no hard feelings.
- Hey Arnold! had notorious rich girl and diva Rhonda Wellington-Lloyd's family go bankrupt, causing them to move into Arnold's boarding house and keeping it a secret.
- Family Guy had Carter gone broke from a lawsuit settlement from publishing Peter's erotic magazines and his wife divorced him. Unable to live as a regular person, he and Peter commit unsuccessful robberies. By the end of the episode, Barbara divorced Ted Turner and obtained half his assets and the Pewterschmidts are wealthy again.
- An episode of Doug had the rich girl Beebe's family go bankrupt from a bad investment on a foreign crop that got completely destroyed in a storm.
- The Beatles cartoon episode "Please Mr. Postman" had the boys penniless after Ringo blows all their money on rings and then he loses the rings shaking hands with fans. They have to find a way to contact Brian (Epstein) in London for more money.
- Kim Possible episode "Triple S" featured a con artist who scammed the Seniors out of their vast fortune. When said con artist was worried about retaliation from Senior, he offered $2 billion for Senior's capture. Junior claimed the money to buy back Senior Island.
- The Series Finale of As Told by Ginger features Mr. Gripling losing his fortune and being arrested for insider trading.
- In The Venture Bros., Dr. Venture is constantly trying to keep his father's legacy afloat; it's heavily implied that he has eaten most of the money and most of his efforts rely on embezzlement, industrial theft and rent from his tenant, Orpheus.
- As a matter of fact, Rusty's friends Pete White and Billy Quizboy are flat broke and live in a trailer outside the Venture compound. Whatever money they have is because of Billy, while Pete usually mooches from him; unbeknownst to Billy, Pete has been mooching from him as early as his Quizboy days, he is responsible for the loss of his arm and one of his eyes (it's so bad that Pete is considered a villain by the OSI), but the OSI erased his memory after their own disastrous involvement with him.
- Mr. Burns gets this in The Simpsons episode "The Old Man and the Lisa" after he discovers his stocks are all hopelessly out of date. Given that, as a rule, Status Quo Is God in Springfield, he works his way back up to a nine-figure net worth by the end of the episode by picking up recyclable litter.
- Happened to Tara in an episode of Beverly Hills Teens, when a long-lost relative claimed the family fortune. It turned out to be a scam in the end.
- The Legend of Korra featured an episode where the Fire Ferrets had lost most of their hard-earned winnings by paying their rent and equipment costs, and therefore couldn't supply the entry fee they needed to enter the pro-bending tournament as well as being in danger of being turned back to the streets. Mako attempts to earn money by getting a day job using his lightning-bending to power a grid at a power plant and Bolin also tries to get some by panhandling for coins while his fire ferret Pabu does tricks. They eventually get the money they need when Mako's new friend Asami convinces her father, the wealthy industrialist Hirosi Sato, to sponsor them in the tournament.
- Archer Vice opens with the Feds raiding ISIS - it turns out that all those questionably-legal jobs the agency has taken over the years were, in fact, mostly illegal. The team is reduced to trying to figure out ways to sell a mountain of cocaine they had squirrelled away in their headquarters. Given how incompetent and/or insane the various members of the team are, Hilarity Ensues.
- One episode of Sabrina: The Animated Series featured Gem's family losing all their money, with Gem moving into Sabrina's house.