Michael: To prepare to meet all of you, I studied the human concept of "friends". I even watched all ten seasons of the show Friends. Boy, those friends really were friends, weren't they? Although, and I realize this is the kind of observation that would only occur to the mind of a eternal being, how did they afford that apartment? A waitress and a chef, with those Manhattan real estate prices?
Eleanor: Yeah, we were all confused about that too.Your cast of good-looking single hangarounds live in a fancy apartment in the middle of the town. None of them seems to work, or if they do, they're usually actors, columnists or whatever leaves them with a lot of leisure time to have drama in their clean, well-furnished apartments. How can they afford it? They have Friends Rent Control, named after Friends, where the cast handwaved their situation by saying they had rent control. For those of you not up on your real estate law, rent control means that a landlord can only raise a tenant's rent by a certain percentage each year. It's entirely possible for the neighborhood to gentrify over the decades, and such a tenant might only pay a few hundred a month where new ones would pay thousands. This trope implies that the renters in the examples below all somehow benefit from this, even if they're young and the place would have always been expensive during their tenure. Illegal subletting may be involved. Besides appealing to audience fantasy, this is usually done because large sets are easier to film in. If Monica or Chandler's apartment on Friends had been realistic for their income and New York City's high cost of living, it'd be a single room with maybe a kitchenette and a bathroom. Doing a scene with all six main characters would have been a total nightmare for the cast and crew. Also, especially in sitcoms, indoor sets usually have one completely blank "wall" where the crew and studio audience are, requiring the rest of the set to take up a lot more space than is needed to fit in all the requisite furniture and appliances. To emphasize, this isn't just about having a large or open plan home for the characters. It is about the correlation between several factors:
- Typical cost of living. In the United States, for example, inland cities tend to be less expensive than the coasts, and suburban dwellings are usually cheaper than trendy highrises or rowhouses.
- Financial stability of the characters. A steady day-job tends to be far more lucrative than a wish-fulfillment career of a painter, writer, performer, etc.
- The quality of the place. Busted appliances, structural damage, and being in a "quaint" neighborhood also drive the price down.
- Then the actual size, and even then sometimes good cinematography makes it look larger than it really is.
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Anime and Manga
- Sailor Moon:
- In the first anime, Sailor Moon's household, in the particularly expensive Tokyo district of Juubangai, is kept afloat by a news photographer (although later it seems he's been promoted to editor, and in the manga and live-action television series he's instead highly respected and well-known photojournalist).
- Another baffling example is the case of Makoto Kino/Jupiter, who is orphaned and does not have a job but owns and maintains her own apartment. Fanon tends to say that her parents left her a very large inheritance. The same is also true of Mamoru Chiba/Tuxedo Mask, however in the anime he is seen working at various jobs and it is explicitly stated that his parents left him a very large trust fund
- In Detective School Q, it's not clear if Kyu's mom actually has a job, but she can afford a house in Tokyo.
- In Pokémon, one has to wonder how Delia Ketchum affords her house, considering that she doesn't seem to work and she has no husband. While it's not alluded to in the show, additional material reveals that she runs the only restaurant in town. This still doesn't explain why she seems to be home all day despite her live-in help, Mr. Mime, doing all the household chores. Granted, perhaps the Pokemon regions have different economic policies.
- Ah! My Goddess played with this in case of Keiichi, who lives with all three goddesses in a ridiculously large mansion that no college student could realistically afford. In reality, however, it's a rundown and abandoned Buddhist temple that was refurbished by Belldandy's magic.
- The three sisters in Minami-ke are all students, with the oldest being in High School, and they live by themselves in a fairly big four-room apartment, despite having no apparent income. It's implied once that their father isn't around, either living elsewhere or dead, and the mother isn't referred to at all.
- Played with in various continuities of Tenchi Muyo!. A frequent cause of disbelief is the size of Tenchi's house, that's apparently too large for the incomes of a single architect (Tenchi's father Nobuyuki) and a retired Shinto priest (his grandfather Katsuhito) to maintain, let alone acquire a land for, especially with the frequent Broke Episodes in TV Series, bringing the accusations of Masakis being the Land Poor. On the other hand, at least in the OVA continuity it's justified by the fact that it sits in the countryside on the grounds of a family shrine, of which Katsuhito is the priest, and that their original house in the city was much smaller. Furthermore, at least in the OVA continuity the Jurai Empire has serious covert influence on Earth, and Katsuhito has basically infinite funds, if he ever chose to use them.
- Possibly averted in My Lovely Ghost Kana, because the apartment building where Daikichi lives is described as "nearly abandoned" and he may actually be squatting. Neither is it entirely clear what he actually does for a living.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica seems to enjoy toying with this. It helps that the characters who live alone don't require things like food or heat to survive. Mami, Homura and Kyoko are 15-year old girls who live alone in a fairly large Japanese city with no income, yet they can each afford their own homes. Homura owns a large apartment in a European-styled building with modern furniture and holographic displays, though odds are she steals things to afford it (or stole the apartment itself), given that's how she gets her weapons. Kyoko is shown in nice rooms, but she's homeless, and the nice rooms are hotel rooms she gets into. Mami's apartment is an aversion at first; it is rather large, yet barren and spartan, with cheap furnishings that reasonably fit with her means. However, this realism was a byproduct of the animation budget running out. The Blu-Ray version fills her house with all sorts of things that she could never afford, planting it firmly into this trope.
- The main character's no exception. Madoka's dad is a househusband, she has a baby brother and her mom is a realistically alcoholic business woman. Even if she makes a ton, it can't be enough to afford the Kanames' large, custom-built, ultramodern house in the Mitakihara suburbs. Which amusingly is the case, as Word of God stated that Madoka's family got the house build by a friend who works in the construction industry.
- Digimon Tamers is notable for avoiding this trope most of the time, but Jenrya/Henry's house is a little harder to justify; he has a bunch of siblings and his father's job (never explicitly explained) doesn't seem like it would be able to afford the enormous apartment he lives in.
- The Tendo Dojo in Ranma ˝ is a traditional Japanese compound with four bedrooms, two guestrooms, a large tearoom, and a large freestanding dojo, all surrounded by a an expansive walled garden including The Thing That Goes "Doink!". It's all a bit much for a self-employed martial artist supporting three daughters and three freeloaders. While it's reasonable to assume that a traditional dojo would have rooms to house students, Mr. Tendo doesn't appear to have any students, other than Akane (daughter) and Ranma (freeloader).
- Played with in Love Hina, where none of the girls appear to be employed and, aside from Naru and Shinobu, none of whom have any source of family income. And somehow they all make rent, something that is referenced once or twice throughout the series.
- The Hyoudou residence in High School DxD starts out reasonable, being a two-storey family home with both parents implied to work. It then starts to push it when Asia and then Rias moving in reveal it has at least two spare bedrooms. After the rest of Issei's Battle Harem moves in and Rias has the house renovated into a six-storey, three-basement estate, the only explanation for Issei's parents not having to pay outrageous property tax (not to mention violating zoning laws) is Rias' magic.
- Averted with the club members who don't live with Issei, however. Kiba and Gaspar are mentioned to live in an apartment complex nearby on Rias' dime, and she could easily afford that.
- Both averted and justified in Noir, where Mireille Bouquet's Parisian apartment is one large room with a divider between the living room/office (where a pool table doubles as a desk) and the bedroom with a galley kitchen and small bathroom. Yet Mireille comes from an extremely wealthy Corsican family and is the sole survivor besides her Uncle Claude, who lives in a mansion and himself dies during the course of the series, presumably leaving his assets to her, so if anything she's likely living below her means. And that's just going off what she's inherited, since she also works as what's implied to be a high priced assassin and takes a number of lucrative jobs over the course of the series, so she doesn't ever appear to be worried about money.
- The Sakamoto household in Family Complex lives in a luxurious two-storey residence despite having four children (all of whom attend prestigious school) and only one breadwinner who works as "a simple construction worker". Lampshaded in the Sequel Series, Princess Princess, where Tohru and Yuujirou asked Akira if his family is wealthy when they saw his house.
- Played with in Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid in that rent isn't the issue (as a senior programmer, Kobayashi makes more than enough to afford a 3 bedroom apartment). No, the real problem is her utilities bill, since Kanna and Ilulu both regularly consume massive amounts of electricity to recharge their mana (it's eventually revealed that Tohru uses her naturally produced mana to supplement them).
- In Circles, Paulie inherited a fabulous Boston mansion from his American aunt, then converted it to four spacious apartments.
- Donald Duck lives in a free-standing two-floor house, despite not being able to hold a job for very long, or living on his uncle's slave labor wages. Handwaved by claiming Scrooge rents him the house, but that just raises more questions.
Film — Animated
- Inside Out has Riley's family moving to San Francisco, specifically an area similar to Russian Hill (not exactly cheap), with little hint as to how much either parent makes. Riley's father is hinted to be in management in a company that seems to be struggling (he mentions potentially laying off workers) and the mother's occupation is never hinted at.
Film — Live Action
- In Notting Hill Will works in a small bookshop but lives in a large house, in an expensive area of London, shared with an apparently unemployed room-mate.
- The heroes of Lakeview Terrace buy a large, beautiful house with an in-ground pool in a wealthy district of Los Angeles, an area with very high housing costs. They refer to this as a "starter home." The villain as well, who is able to afford a house in the same neighborhood while working as a beat cop, with the additional burden of two children and a deceased spouse. Even with him mentioning "working my ass off, saving every dime", it's too implausible—unless one assumes his late wife's insurance helped.
- Guy Woodhouse in Rosemary's Baby is a struggling actor, and his wife Rosemary is a stay-at-home housewife, and yet they are able to afford a spacious prewar apartment in a stately building on Manhattan's Upper West Side. Even in the 1960s, expensive and sought-after real estate. Although the Satanic coven might have something to do with it!
- Sleeping with the Enemy: Laura is able to rent, fix up, and maintain a HUGE, beautiful home, despite only having worked a part-time job at a library before fleeing her abusive husband and initially not working at all when she does get away. And when she does finally start working, she's still in a job that doesn't pay much. Even for Iowa in the early 90's that's quite a stretch. As well as that she's able to afford plenty of luxuries like brand name products. The book is only slightly better—Sara/Laura paid a month's rent for one floor of a house in advance but then had to live on beans and apples for two weeks until her job (which came out of nowhere and paid very well, not to mention paid in advance) started. The rent was supposed to be "cut" because Laura was willing to paint, but it couldn't have been cut that much; painting is a one-time expense. So the real question is why she fled her husband after months of planning without even enough money to pay for a month's expenses, knowing she'd have to be exceptionally lucky to land a job that doesn't require an identity.
- Charlie from So I Married an Axe Murderer maintains a very nice, roomy apartment in San Francisco despite seemingly having no other job apart from working as a beat poet, something that's hard to get paid for at all, let alone paid enough to make rent in San Fran. His love interest Harriet and her sister live in a positively huge loft, but since Harriet's the only person we ever see behind the counter in there, it's possible she owns the butcher shop where she works.
- Romy and Michele in Romy and Michele's High School Reunion live in a spacious, loft-style apartment steps away from Venice Beach, which would be one of the most expensive apartments in Los Angeles, renting for around $7,000 a month in 2015 dollars, despite Romy working as a cashier at a car dealership and Michele being unemployed.
- The two main characters in Final Destination 4, an unmarried couple in college, live together in a very nice house with no mention of them having jobs or parents helping them out.
- The family in Soul Surfer live in a very nice house, with no mention of what either parent's job is. And if the mother is homeschooling the children, she might very well not be working at all.
- Nobody's sure how the two male leads of Bio-Dome are able to afford their nice house, despite being a) terminally lazy, b) terminally stupid, and c) the #1 cause of damage to any structure unfortunate enough to contain them.
- Dana, the leading lady of Ghostbusters (1984) and Ghostbusters II, lives alone with baby Oscar in a spacious corner apartment in Manhattan overlooking Central Park. This would literally be one of the most expensive apartments in the country. As a cellist for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, she would earn around $80,000 a year when the film was set. The filmmakers could have easily given her a nice apartment in her price range, instead of putting her in a penthouse worth millions in the real world. On the other hand, being designed and constructed by a doomsday cult for the purposes of their Eldritch Abomination summoning cannot be good for the value of a building, especially since the summoning worked.
- As Buzzfeed points out, Jovie's apartment in Elf seen toward the end of the film is apparently quite nice and fairly spacious, although she (presumably) lives alone in Chinatown which is about $2000-4000 a month in New York. She works in a department store and states earlier in the film that her hot water was shut off.
- Abby in The Ugly Truth has a beautiful apartment despite running a failing television network.
- In The Skulls, Will, Luke and Chloe live in dorm rooms that are bigger and nicer than some people's apartments—and single rooms at that, which are more expensive than shared—even though it's been said repeatedly that Luke is struggling financially and is only at this prestigious university via scholarship. This might ironically explain how he is able to afford such a nice room—he's seen working as well—but there's still no explanation for how Will can. A throwaway line indicates that Chloe is wealthy, but even so, dorm rooms simply do NOT look like that.
- Lois Lane's Metropolis apartment in Superman is awfully, awfully nice—with a balcony, no less! Lampshaded in MAD Magazine's satire of the movie:
"Lotus Lain": "Who would believe a man can fly like you?!""Superduperman": "The same people who'd believe that $185-a-week reporter could live in a Taj Mahal apartment like this!"
- Safe Haven: The heroine is able to afford a bus ticket, then able to rent and fix up a cottage, despite impulsively fleeing her abusive husband and only finding work as a waitress. Especially glaring as it's completely the opposite of what happens in the book: it takes an entire year for her to save the money, and she has to barely eat and stay in cheap motels in order to get by.
- In You've Got M@il, Kathleen Kelly lives in a beautiful, spacious prewar brownstone in the Upper West Side on the earnings from a small children's bookstore. It's slightly more plausible at the start of the film, when her business is doing well (her merchandise is rather high-priced) and she shares the apartment with her boyfriend, who's a rather successful journalist. (It's also hinted that most of the furnishings were inherited from her mother, who may have owned the place before her.) When her business begins to suffer, however, her lifestyle doesn't seem to be affected at all (aside from one scene where she doesn't have enough cash to cover her purchases at a food market). Moreover, she continues living in her spacious quarters after her boyfriend moves out — and, more unbelievably, after her business goes under.
- In La La Land, Mia works as a barista but can afford to drive a Prius and live in a huge apartment, big enough to host an elaborate musical number with choreography and backup dancers, though it's also shown she lives there with three other women. Sebastian also lives in a decently sized apartment by himself, despite his only occupation for most of the film being playing piano for tips. Los Angeles may be cheaper than New York City, but not by much. Sebastian does get employed by Keith as a keyboardist for some pretty good money, but it begs the question of what he was doing before that.
- Elizabeth Wakefield's New York apartment in Sweet Valley Confidential is a good example, particularly since it seems to be combined with One-Hour Work Week and Unlimited Wardrobe.
- In one of the Sweet Valley University books, the twins' college friend Isabella is forced to take in a new roommate after a car accident means that she can no longer afford to keep up the rent. Although Isabella has wealthy parents, she claims that she doesn't take money from them. She also does not have a part-time job alongside her studies, which leaves the reader wondering how Isabella has thus far paid for the spacious and beautifully-decorated apartment described in the book.
- The Dresden Files:
- The Carpenter family, which consists of seven children, their stay-at-home mother, and a father who works part-time as the fist of God and part-time as the owner/foreman of a small construction company. (It's explicitly stated in one of the short stories that Michael Carpenter refuses to cut corners and doesn't build large, lucrative homes.) They live in a large house in Chicago that is always in perfect repair, since Michael apparently has enough spare time between fighting evil and building middle-class houses to keep his own home and yard in fantastic shape, including upgraded doors, a panic room, new extensions as needed for a growing family, and a treehouse that's probably at least studio-apartment size. It's possible that divine grace (or, more likely, the Church) drops baskets full of money on a Knight of the Cross, though that doesn't explain why teenage runaway Molly Carpenter could afford a place to stay, along with several hundreds of dollars worth of tattoos and piercings, without access to her parent's money.
- Karrin Murphy lives in a rather nice house in the city, well above what she should be able to afford on a cop's salary. This is justified by explaining that the house was Murphy's grandmother's, and it was left to her in the will.
- Inverted for Dresden himself. He often has problems paying the rent for his crappy office, and it is eventually revealed that one of his enemies bought the property and has been jacking up the rent prices just for him. His apartment is decently sized (one tiny bedroom, one tiny bathroom, a generously sized kitchen/living room and space for a large lab in the sub-basement), but cheap due to being in the basement and sub-basement and lacking amenities he can't use like a water heater and refrigerator. Even so, he sometimes struggles to pay the rent, but his elderly landlady lets the occasional late check slide in exchange for help with snow-shovelling and taking out the garbage.
- A variation appears in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. An enormous amount of space on the Nautilus is devoted to the library, the dining room, and other amenities for use only by Captain Nemo, with hardly any space for use by the crew. While Verne would never have had chance to see a real life submarine, he did estimate the internal volume of a submarine that could be devoted to living quarters fairly realistically. But, while the opulence of the Nautilus' interior served an important plot point, the details of how its crew lived was irrelevant for the story.
- Cathy's apartments in Petals on the Wind are pretty posh for a ballet dancer.
Live Action TV
- Friends, the Trope Namer.
- Handwaved by Monica claiming that her grandmother originally rented the apartment and she is illegally subletting it, which is actually in the realm of possibility due to rent control in Manhattan. The superintendent is actually aware that Monica is breaking the law, and one episode centered on Joey trying to persuade him not to blow the whistle after his patience runs out. That being said, there was a chunk of time where Monica was unemployed, meaning the entire apartment's rent fell to the wages of a waitress. A particularly terrible, and therefore probably poorly-tipped, waitress. (Though in fairness, Monica borrows money from Ross and makes several references to her savings being quickly depleted, so clearly she was still paying some rent.)
- Chandler and Joey's apartment directly across the hall is an aversion, as Chandler has what is implied to be a high-paying white collar job which would allow him to support both himself and the frequently unemployed Joey, and yet their apartment is roughly a quarter the size of Monica's and is sparsely furnished. This was lampshaded by Chandler in the Grand Finale, by telling his newborn children of the apartment: "because of rent control, it was a friggin' steal."
- Played straight with Phoebe, whose apartment was larger and nicer than Joey and Chandler's. Justified in early seasons as she was sharing it with her grandmother but is later living alone on a masseuse's salary.
- There's also the original apartment Ross resided in that was about midway between Joey and Chandler's and Monica and Rachel's apartments size-wise that he lived in alone. He may have lived there with Carol originally, but he stays there until Emily forces him to move and he moves in with Joey and Chandler, then to Ugly Naked Guy's apartment, which is much smaller than even Joey and Chandler's place, but much nicer looking.
- In Becker, Linda the brain dead bimbo nurse of Dr. Becker lives in a spacious and lavishly furnished apartment overlooking Central Park that Becker is completely envious of. Though this is because her parents, who are extremely rich, pay for it. Becker himself has told her that he has the desire to murder her and live there, played for laughs.
Linda: You know Becker, I have a real urge to hug you.
Becker: Yeah, I have a real urge to kill you and live here.
- JAG: Mac's Georgetown apartment probably costs as much for one month's rent as a JAG lawyer would earn in three months. It can't even be handwaved in any meaningful way, since it's well-established that Mac came from a poor family. (To their credit, they never really even tried.) The same arguably applies to Harm's apartment, but it has the mitigating circumstance of being located "north of Union Station" (a really bad neighborhood in real life, so it's somewhat plausible that even an apartment that big and nice would be relatively cheap).
- Living Single also takes full advantage of this trope. While it makes sense for stockbroker Kyle and handyman Overton to afford their nice place and for lawyer Maxine to afford her rarely-seen apartment, the place (and main hangout) where Regine, Khadijah and Synclaire live and how it could be afforded defies logic. The women live in a beautifully furnished apartment where each of them not only has their own room , but also has a second-story, in spite of them being employed as a department store salesgirl, the owner of a fledgling magazine (which is so cash-pressed, that they usually don't even have money for office supplies) and an aspiring actress/receptionist working for said magazine, respectfully. But as the series goes on, Regine gets better jobs over time and Khadijah's magazine gains hype which presumably leads to higher pay, which makes their living situation easier to swallow.
- Married... with Children. Al Bundy made minimum wage and was the only working member of the family, yet they lived in a two-story house with a large basement in a neighborhood that's nice enough to have a pair of upper-middle class bankers as their next-door neighbors. It's also clean and tastefully decorated, making it a stretch for us to believe that the place is a dump.
- S Club 7:
- The second season of their TV series LA 7 fits closest to the trope. S Club 7 manage to find a pretty nice building with enough room for seven people. Their landlady Joni features as a supporting character and she first gives them the apartment out of sympathy. The gang are constantly talking about how they're broke and owe each other money, hand-waving it somewhat. One episode also has the power getting rather easily shut down just from all seven using it at once - and Joni claims that the wiring was "kind of a death trap".
- Miami 7 inverts it, with the group living in bunk beds in what looks more like a cramped military barracks than a Miami hotel. Knowing how tight the owner Howard is, it's incredibly possible that he gave them the worst rooms in an already terrible hotel.
- Hollywood 7 and Viva S Club were a bit more justified in that they were now established as a band in America and thus earning enough to afford their homes in Hollywood and Barcelona respectively.
- Carrie from Sex and the City is an interesting example, as this depends on whether the episode in question depicts her as a nationwide sensation like the real Candace Bushnell or as another workaday columnist. If the latter is true, then it's unknown how she can afford her nice apartment and her extensive collection of shoes. One episode revealed that her rent is only $750 a month, though at the time she only had $1,600 in her bank account. One episode lampshaded the trope. Carrie remarks to her screenwriter boyfriend-of-the-season that his TV script about a bunch of young actors living in a Manhattan penthouse is hardly realistic. Another episode reveals her apartment was rent controlled. When Aidan buys her building and gives her the option of either buying the apartment or leaving, she starts to look at more believably-priced buildings (including one which apparently reeks because it's right above an Indian restaurant.) Apparently, she got the apartment and the rental value just exploded around her. The exterior of her apartment, actually a five bedroom townhouse, sold for $13.2 million in 2013.
- Richie and Eddie from Bottom definitely are not Living in a Furniture Store: their residence is a gradually decaying first-floor walkup flat over a corner shop. And yet, although we occasionally meet the landlord, making the rent never seems to be an issue, despite the fact that our protagonists haven't held a steady job since 1979. They attempt to handwave this away in an early episode by mentioning an aunt of Richie's who is the actual owner of the flat; said aunt, however, is never spoken of again.
- The West Wing has perhaps the strangest variation on this. The show's White House sets include vast, opulently furnished rooms such as the Lobby, the Roosevelt Room, and the Mural Room. The real-life West Wing either doesn't have these at all, or has much smaller, shabbier versions, as you'd expect given that, for all intents and purposes, this is essentially a glorified government office building. Part of what causes this dissonance is the desire to create a sense of constant activity within the White House, resulting in the TV version being more active than the real thing (as well as having many more pretty glass doors and windows to exhibit this activity).
- Mostly averted on Community, however the Troy/Abed/Annie apartment in Season Three plays the trope relatively straight. Although Annie is a penny-pincher and both Troy and Abed are probably getting support from their parents, their means of paying for the apartment is never explicitly stated. However, being in Colorado and not New York, this is not too much of a stretch.
- Seemingly played straight, then justified and averted in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Dennis and Mac live in a nice two-bedroom apartment with a leather couch, despite making less than they would on unemployment. Dee lives alone in a very nice apartment despite making even less than the bar owners. Dennis and Dee come from a wealthy family, however, and a season 5 episode explicitly mentions that Frank pays Dee's rent (and presumably at least helping with Dennis'). Meanwhile, Charlie lives in abject squalor, averting the trope entirely.
- Particularly egregious in Heroes.
- Mohinder is able to afford a huge apartment in Brooklyn working as a taxi driver, as was his dad. Apparently — according to season 2, when Matt and Molly move in with him — it was a three-bedroom, only one of which was occupied throughout season 1. We do, however, see Mohinder's family's Big Fancy House in India, implying that his family was wealthy. Which makes you wonder why they were working as cabbies in the first place...
- They really draw attention to it in Peter's case: he gets a job as a nurse, throws a huge party in his new apartment, and everyone acts like it's tiny. Sure, his family's rich and they live in a mansion, but it's still a huge apartment by New York standards.
- D.L. and Niki's house also qualifies. Their entire plot is kicked off by the fact that they can't afford the rent. But they live in a two-story house in the suburbs which is a little too big for three people, has a pool in the backyard and reflective surfaces on pretty much everything, and a PS3 inside. If only they'd moved into an apartment or sold something, they wouldn't have had to borrow money from the mob.
- The Bennetts "go underground" by living in a massive house in a very wealthy neighborhood in Southern California. Noah's cover job is an entry-level position at a copy shop. Presumably he has a great deal of money from working with Primatech and Claire's biological family is absurdly wealthy but using it to live beyond his obvious means kind of defeats the purpose of going into hiding.
- How I Met Your Mother
- The apartment where Ted, Marshall, and Lily live has an abnormally large main room but is otherwise not that big. Both the kitchen and the bedrooms are fairly small (Ted's drafting table is in the main room cause it won't fit anywhere else) and it's implied the building itself isn't that great. Ted has always been employed as an architect and Marshall lives off his student loans. Averted when Lily moves out and ends up living in a one room apartment so small that its Murphy bed can't even come down all the way. Lampshaded by Ted in season four: "I thought having a rent-controlled apartment on the Upper West Side was half the reason she agreed to marry me."
- Justified when Marshall and Lily move into their own place—It's nice, but not overly spacious, and it's stated to be outside their price range despite both of them working full-time (he as a lawyer!). It makes even more sense when we find out that the only reason it was even close to their price range was that it stinks due to its proximity to a sewage plant, and the floors are not level.
- Robin's original apartment in the first few seasons is also pretty spacious considering she worked for a low-end news job at the worst station in New York and had five dogs. Season 9 explains that Robin has a lot of money from her wealthy family - and she was previously a famous Canadian pop star.
- Lampshaded after Marshall and Lily spend some time in a spacious suburban home, and when they return to their apartment, it suddenly appears cramped and tiny in comparison. (This sets up a trope subversion for the rest of the show: We can now assume that all of the apartments are small, and only look big to people used to New York apartments.)
- Subverted in Scrubs. At first, Elliot lives in a quality apartment despite her low salary. It is later revealed that her rich father pays for all her expenses, and when she refuses to let him make decisions on her life, he cuts her off, forcing her to bunk with her friends or live in a U-Haul truck for an extended period. We do see the effects of this trope, however, when Carla thinks of JD and Turk's normal-sized apartment as "tiny."
- Played with in The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. The twins and their mother occupy a dwelling that looks more like an incredibly-cramped one bedroom apartment than a suite in a five-star hotel. In the first episode, though, Carey says that he and Mr. Moesby worked out a deal where she gets free room and board.
- In Reaper, the guys move into a massive three bedroom apartment which cost them only $1,200 a month in rent. Despite Sock trying to handwave it away by saying that he "got a great deal" and it "used to be a meth lab," it's obviously way over the minimum-wage group's income bracket. Especially considering the established gay couple living next door, who have obviously been there for ages, and the wonderful state of repair it is in. This is later justified when it is revealed that the Devil, Satan, Father of Lies, He Who Is Legion, the Beast Whose Number Is 666, happened to sign their lease as part of an Evil Plan to put down a demonic rebellion.
- Explained in Flight of the Conchords: the landlord realises they've been paying rent in New Zealand dollars, not American dollars, and evicts them. The flat is dingy and also quite small: bathroom, living room and twin bedroom.
- iCarly: The living room and dining room are somewhat realistic, but how many condos do you know that have a second and third floor and an elevator? It's also decked out with the latest technology. The Grand Finale confirmed that the elevator opened up to more floors than just the three the Shays used, which might explain why they can afford the apartment - Anyone can enter their apartment at anytime, without their permission.
- During the first season, Cordelia finds herself a sweet, roomy apartment that she can afford on a receptionist's salary. It's haunted. One of the ghosts tries to kill her, but the other is nice and is thus not exorcised. Phantom Dennis is referenced occasionally in future seasons.
- It was also never explained how Angel could afford to live and keep an office in the building that he used for Season 1. The hotel used for Season 2 onwards however received two handwaves on the subject: first a wealthy client who owed Angel Investigations a favour handled all of the paperwork on the matter, then Lilah (in order to piss off a co-worker) fabricated even more paperwork. Some episodes show that Angel has a sizable collection of antiques from his three hundred years of being a vampire - so presumably he sells them to avoid money problems.
- Gossip Girl:
- The Humphreys keep griping about how they are poor (at least in comparison to the rest of the cast) and how times are rough, which makes sense given that Rufus is the sole breadmaker and he owns a low key art gallery. Their loft, however, suggests that they are considerably more wealthy than Rufus' job would make them, and that they are far from as poor as they keep saying that they are.
- Blair's dorm room at NYU is approximately the size of at least two actual dorm rooms, so unless she also bought the room next to hers and knocked down the adjoining wall, there's no explanation for how absurdly spacious her room is.
- In Seinfeld, Jerry and Elaine have steady jobs, and Jerry's apartment is based heavily on his actual former apartment in the Upper West Side. George's living arrangements depend on his employment status, sometimes resulting in him having to live with his parents. As far as Kramer is concerned, no one has any idea how he can afford his apartment with no obvious source of income, but this was kind of a Running Gag throughout the series. It was shown in an episode of Mad About You that Kramer sublets from Paul and that Paul doesn't want to let go of the apartment; as such he may be subletting at under market value as Kramer is a "good" tenant. In an early episode, it's mentioned that the rent of the apartment above Jerry's is only $400 (possibly actually rent controlled, considering the former resident was an elderly lady).
- On Charmed it was initially played straight - with the three sisters owning a spacious house in San Francisco, which has some of the most expensive real estate in the US. The house has been in the family for generations, but even the property tax would be a too much for a bank teller-turned-head chef and museum curator-turned-auctioneer to afford. Around the fifth season it's a bit more realistic; Piper now runs a club that is always packed with people (and is able to afford respectable musical guests) and Phoebe is doing well enough as an advice columnist to appear on talk shows and get billboards. The house is said to have been built on a spiritual Nexus generations ago, being passed down over the years - so we have to assume that their ancestors exploited A Wizard Did It quite a bit - if the show weren't really big on the "not using magic for personal gain" thing; the need to protect the nexus the house is sitting on from falling into the hands of evil might have allowed them to get around that.
- In Drake & Josh, the family lives in a beautiful dwelling. But the father is only a weatherman on the local news. And he does a lousy job of predicting the weather. As for the mother, we never even see her working. What's more is that the pilot episode implies the house comes from Drake's side of the family - so Audrey must be doing very well for herself to own such a house while supporting two children. Audrey is divorced from her first husband so she may have won the house in a settlement, considering she appears to have full custody of the children.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer
- Although not an apartment, Buffy and Willow's dorm room is rather large for a dorm housing incoming freshmen.
- Xander averted this in season four, living in his parents' basement and being charged rent while he went through a number of scut jobs. Then in season five he moves into an absurdly spacious apartment, with the handwave that he had earlier been given a permanent job with a decent level of responsibility. Justified by season seven when he's in charge of a major project and frequently in suits to talk to clients.
- In seasons 1-3 Joyce has a gallery and yet Buffy is always shown wearing the latest fashions in every episode without working on her own. While one could argue that Buffy's father might send money their way it's still a huge stretch that Joyce's gallery pays for their nice house (and the constant repairs to it), all their luxuries and Buffy's designer wardrobe. In one episode, Xander comments that Joyce had at some point taken to buying cheap furniture (the coffee table was made of balsa wood) and having workable yet inexpensive repair work done around the main window due to the constant damage to the house.
- Sunnydale is stated to have insanely low property values. This fact serves two purposes: it explains how a single mom, and later, a group of twentysomethings who are either college students or working in fast food can afford such a nice home, and it explains why people even live in a town that is ravaged by demons on a near-weekly basis.
- The Young Ones: Four unemployed college students are renting a house in London. Averted partly by the implication that Mike is blackmailing their landlord into discounting their rent, partly by the fact that the house is falling to pieces (their first house is condemned and demolished at the end of the first episode), and almost entirely by the fact that all UK higher education students at the time got a generous means-tested grant to cover their living expenses, Housing Benefit to top up any shortfall, unemployment benefit during vacations and paid no tuition fees. Part of the joke was the needless squalor in which they lived, given how relatively well-off students could be. In the final episode, they get turfed out when Jerzy has enough of them not paying rent.
- Gilmore Girls is a borderline example. Lorelai and Rory live in a lavishly furnished two-story house in rural Connecticut, far larger than is practical for a single mother and her teenage daughter. She lives there on the salary of a bed-and-breakfast manager, a job she earned working up from being a maid after being a teenage mother at sixteen. It's a plot point that Lorelai saved up for years to afford the house, which isn't in the best condition. For the bulk of Rory's childhood, they lived rent-free in a converted shack behind the inn.
- Bunheads veers wildly back and forth on this trope: one of the arcs of the first season was dedicated to the financial intricacies of the main characters' home ownership situation, which, however, never made much sense and never seemed to actually imperil their ownership of a house that they explicitly could not afford. Played utterly straight when Sasha, a sixteen-year-old girl without a paying job, whose parents have both moved to different cities, leaving her to live on her own, rents and furnishes a gigantic apartment in impeccable taste. Although her resourcefulness in dealing with the logistics of all this at 16 is highlighted, there's not so much as a Hand Wave towards who is paying for all this.
- On The Secret Life of the American Teenager, everyone's houses and apartments are very nice and wonderfully decorated, despite everyone having various jobs that should create economic differences between them. Ricky's apartment gets a pass because it used to belong to Leo's wealthy parents. A few headscratchers in particular are Adrian and her mom having an upscale apartment in season one , even though they were supposed to be kinda poor. Daniel and his friends also manage to have lavish apartments, despite being college students.
- The King of Queens. Doug is a package delivery man and Carrie is a legal secretary, yet they can afford a detached, two-story house in Queens while supporting Carrie's elderly father and paying for a car, big-screen television, daily dog walker and other luxuries. Granted, Doug's job is unionized, big-firm legal secretaries do pretty well, and Queens is not Manhattan. Still, it is New York City with the related real estate prices, taxes and insurance rates.
- Long-running Australian soap Home and Away has many examples, mostly teen characters set up in their own living spaces but with no job or income to support them.
- The house that Ellie, Marco, Paige, and Alex (replaced with Griffin later on) shared looked a little more spacious than what four college students could realistically afford.
- Similarly, in later seasons, Fiona's condo. At first her finances are being covered by her wealthy parents but after her mother is investigated for tax fraud, Fiona is forced to take on a roommate and yet the both of them are able to pay for a very large condo in a very trendy neighbourhood in Toronto with their combined salaries from minimum wage mall jobs (and Fiona's is only part-time, as she was still enrolled in school).
- Subverted in El Chavo del ocho. Don Ramon and La Chilindrina live in a one-bedroom apartment in a low-rent neighborhood. However, given that Don Ramon is either unemployed or in a very low-wage job, he should still not be able to afford it. Thing is, Señor Barriga forgives his rent and has been doing so for the past fourteen months, and in some episodes, Don Ramon manages to scrape up the dosh to pay for at least one month.
- On That Girl, Ann Marie is a struggling actress, auditioning for bit parts and taking various one-off temp jobs on the side, and yet she can afford a spacious, groovily decorated bachelorette pad in the middle of Manhattan.
- In Castle, averted and played straight. Castle, being a famous bestselling author of over 20 novels as well as being well-known in New York's elite and upper-class circles, can easily afford his spacious penthouse. On the other hand, Beckett's apartment would break the wallet of a police detective, and this was before it got blown up. Her new place as of Season 4 is even more extravagant. But then, the show notes that she does come from a wealthy family...
- Parodied on 3rd Rock from the Sun when August is planning her future with Tommy:
August: We could move to New York and rent a loft in the Village with a view of the river. It'll probably cost about... three hundred bucks a month. But, you know, that's okay — we'll find jobs in book stores.
- Perfect Strangers: A photographer, a mailroom clerk/cartoonist, and two flight attendants couldn't possibly have afforded a big Victorian house in Chicago's Old Town neighbourhood.
- The newer Bionic Woman is a struggling bartender raising her teenage sister by herself. She also lives in a San Francisco apartment that would strain the resources of anyone making less then seven figures, much less five.
- The Vampire Diaries. Matt Donovan seems to be able to keep himself afloat despite his only source of income being a part time job at the Mystic Grill. One could also wonder how Alaric Saltzman is able to live in such a swanky apartment on a teacher's salary. Or how Elena and Jeremy manage to live comfortably despite all of their caretakers being dead. Though the latter case is understandable being the Gilberts are a wealthy family, they're friends with the mayor and also several vampires who can just compel the payments to go away.
- Zigzagged in New Girl. The cast lives in an extremely spacious loft apartment in Los Angeles, and their fortunes rise and fall over the course of the show. Winston and Jess are each jobless at some point in the early seasons, and Nick is always broke. However, Schmidt does make a good living at a white collar job. In later seasons, as many as six people are living in the loft, splitting the rent. Similar apartments rent for $4,500 a month.
- Initially averted in CHiPs when Ponch lived at a mobile home in a trailer park. Later played straight when he moved into a fancy apartment by the marina. It makes you wonder if he was on the take.
- Full House: Some found it unrealistic that Danny could have afforded what was obviously a very nice, very big town house (5-bedrooms, with a spacious attic, huge basement, and attached garage) in a presumably equally very nice section of San Francisco on a TV morning show host's salary, as well as support three young children. There's never any mention of Joey or Jesse paying him rent (not that they could have, given how sporadic their employment was for the first few seasons of the show).
- Near the end of the first season of Person of Interest, Reese moves into a huge apartment overlooking a park that probably has a monthly rent greater than the monthly mortgage payment of most suburban houses, which he never could have afforded back when he was an Army NCO or a CIA agent (The pay scale for his current job - vigilante working on behalf of reclusive billionaire - never being mentioned). Fortunately, the apartment was provided by his boss, who could easily afford to pay the rent for him (Assuming Finch doesn't own the building outright). Finch also mentions in a later season that he is paying Reese a lot, to the point that he can pay for any lifestyle he chooses even after routinely donating most of it to charity.
- Played straight in Wizards of Waverly Place. Nobody in New York, especially not owners of a sandwich shop that seems to be perpetually half-empty, can have a house, complete with basement, parking lot, and balcony in TriBeCa. Though there could be explanation in that Jerry (the dad) seems to STILL have some very big pull in the magical world. This would help with the situation. Also, their uncle not only is magic, but is Shakira, so he might lend them money.
- Justified with Sherlock and John's flat on Baker Street, as Sherlock has helped the landlady Mrs. Hudson (by ensuring her runaway husband would be executed in the US), so she gives him a discount (unspecified, of course). On the other hand, Sherlock makes no money off his police work and frequently refuses compensation from private clients (John usually steps in and takes the money). John was only shown working once by getting a job as a local doctor... only to fall asleep in the office due to long nights investigating. He does receive pension after being discharged from the army but claims in the pilot that it's not nearly enough to afford a place in London. Also, in the pilot, Mycroft offers to pay John to spy on Sherlock (John didn't know who Mycroft was at the time). When Sherlock finds out, he berates John for refusing and later explains that Mycroft's concern was that of a brother, not an enemy. Mrs. Hudson can afford to live in a townhouse in an expensive London neighborhood because her late husband run a drug cartel and she inherited a sizeable fortune when he was executed.
- Justified with Sherlock's brownstone in New York in Elementary, as his father is the one who owns the place and lets his son use it, provided Sherlock stays clean and goes through the 12-step program. Joan is hired to live with him and keep him clean, being paid enough to keep her apartment. Later, after finding out that the guy she was subletting to filmed a porn video there, she gives up the place and moves her stuff to the brownstone. As in Sherlock, Holmes consults the NYPD for free, although he does work with private clients during downtime. After Holmes Sr. stops paying Joan for her services, Sherlock offers to pay her out of his own pocket if she stays on as his apprentice. Previously, Joan was an accomplished surgeon and, presumably, could afford a nice place. We later find out that the Holmes family is Fiction 500 wealthy and thus Sherlock's living accommodations are actually quite spartan by their standards.
- Subverted in Malcolm in the Middle - when Reese storms/is kicked out of the house, he manages to rent a really nice apartment on an (admittedly well-paying) part-time job. However, it turns out he's paying the rent and all the expenses by credit card, and has racked up several thousand dollars debt in a matter of weeks. It's also implied in a Halloween episode that Malcolm's family can afford their house partly because its value plummeted after the man who lived in it just prior to them went insane, slaughtered his family, and decorated the place with their body parts.
- Justified in The 10th Kingdom: Virginia, a waitress, and her father Tony are able live in an apartment right next to Central Park because Tony is the janitor there and the apartment is part of his pay.
- In My Name Is Earl, it is unknown how Earl and Joy paid rent on their trailer which they de-facto inherited from Earl's old roommate Frank, who went to prison, considering that Earl was often between jobs (he did occasionally work various odd-jobs, but due to his problems with authority, they never lasted long), and Joy never worked at that time. (She is occasionally shown to run a nail salon out of her trailer later in the series, but it appears that she started that business after her marriage to Earl ended.) They stole a lot of things, but those were almost always either things like formula for the kids, or luxury items that they used but did not resell. It's subverted later, when Earl mentions that he and Joy would camp out in an abandoned RV when the bill collectors got to be too much. (It was their de-facto "vacation home.") Even though their standard of living is low, by all logic it should be lower.
- Not that Joy's standard of living is that much better after she divorces Earl for her longtime lover Darnell. As a bartender or the manager of the Crab Shack, Darnell makes a base salary even below minimum wage, and this being Camden, the tip jar is often empty.
- Some viewers have wondered how Marley's mom can afford a two-story house when their poverty is often a plot point. However, the house could be a rental, and renting in semi-rural Ohio would cost a fraction of New York's prices.
- The Bushwick loft that the New York group live in starting in season 4. At first it's just Rachel and Kurt, then Santana joins them but doesn't seem to pay rent. The loft is quite spacious, though the apparently low price could be justified by the fact that it's very far from Manhattan and the neighbourhood is rough. Still, for a while the only one with a job is Kurt who had an internship at Vogue.com until the three of them got part time jobs at a diner. It's possible that their parents are helping them out though since they are college students. Now though Rachel and Santana have moved out so it's just Blaine and Kurt living there, and Blaine doesn't have a job (yet) so we don't know how that loft is getting paid for. Blaine's parents have been noted to be well-off enough to pay the high tuition cost at Dalton, so they probably help out.
- Will & Grace usually justified this, one way or another. Most of the characters are established to either make enough to afford decent housing or are mooching off those who can. The second season shows that Grace can apparently make enough to afford a large apartment by herself, but not enough to actually furnish or clean it.
- In the pilot of Once Upon a Time, Emma is shown living in a spacious high-rise in downtown Boston that would be pricey for a bounty hunter, even one with a steady flow of assignments (which is hardly guaranteed), especially in Massachusetts where being a bounty hunter is an effectively dead job since 1980s.
- Once again in Season 3, with the timeline reset, Emma and Henry now reside in even more expensive NYC, in a fancier apartment. Boy, apparently New York City's got lots of bail jumpers to bring in.
- On Graceland the main characters live in a spacious beach home that they could never afford. This is perfectly justified since they are federal undercover agents and the house is a safe house owned by the federal government. However, it also means that they cannot really bring any not-in-the-loop friends to the house since their cover identities could not afford the rent on a place like that and people would start asking questions. Mike can get away with this since his cover is that of a pilot on temporary assignment in LA whose expenses are covered by his airline. On the other hand Johnny is supposed to be a personal trainer and Charlie usually pretends to be a homeless junkie so they could never explain how they can afford to live there.
- However, Charlie only pretends to be a junkie when working a case involving drugs, in the pilot it's mentioned she tells the locals she's a trust-fund kid.
- Caroline in the City: Caroline lives in a palatial apartment in Manhattan. The number of comic strip creators (even nationally syndicated ones) who could afford that can be counted on one hand, but she appears to be one of them. (Most comic strip creators have very middle-class salaries.) It's helped by her being popular enough to have a Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon and frequently mentioning working on calendars and greeting cards as well, making it seem like Caroline has been franchised in-universe into a merchandising giant like Garfield. Richard, by contrast, lives in a squalid studio apartment that became available when the previous tenants were murdered, as does Annie, a perennial dancer in Cats, who lives in a similar single-room apartment and leeches almost everything off Caroline.
- Cucumber Banana Tofu: Dean and Freddie only pay £400 a month for an entire industrial building! Justified in that it's not 100% legal and their landlord is a gangster.
Karen Page: [looking at the billboard] Holy shit!Matt Murdock: Went up a year ago. I'm told that co-op there nearly rioted. Some oversight from the developer's agreement. [shrugs] Upside is, nobody wanted it and I got a corner apartment at a helluva discount.
- Matt Murdock lives in a pretty large apartment in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan, which has some of the highest rent prices in the United States. As a recent law school graduate who's only just starting his own practice, this place should be well outside Matt's budget. But, it's mentioned in the first episode that Hell's Kitchen saw property values drop due to damage sustained during "The Incident". Making Matt's apartment even cheaper is its generally run-down aesthetic (hell, the minibar is made of unfinished plywood), and the bright electronic billboard across the street that shines brightly through the living room window - an eyesore for anyone with functioning eyes, but not a problem for a blind man.
- Matt's living situation gets a bit more complicated in The Defenders, since he's still living out of the apartment but is now an independent pro bono attorney, and probably earns less than he earned at Nelson & Murdock. While it's never said out loud, it is heavily implied that Matt received a large inheritance from Elektra upon her death at the end of season 2. Lampshaded in "Ashes, Ashes" when Matt and Jessica Jones drop by the apartment so Matt can change into civilian clothes before they go to interview John Raymond's daughter, and Jessica asks Matt, "So you wanna tell me how a pro bono lawyer can afford a loft like this in New York City?" Matt responds by telling her about the billboard, and jokes that he sometimes helps his landlord with tenants that are late with their rent.
- Karen Page also averts it. To show that she actually makes less money working at Nelson & Murdock than she did at her Union Allied job, she's shown as having had to move to a somewhat cheaper apartment in between season 1 and 2.
- Burn Notice.
- Justified thanks to the titular notice, Michael Westen has no job history, no credit, no bank accounts, and a decidedly irregular income. But he lives in a very large multi-level apartment in Miami, overlooking a river, that only costs him $200 a month. But it's explained in the pilot episode the apartment is actually a converted storage space above a nightclub that is not technically zoned as an apartment. Westen had to agree he was a squatter should the authorities question him and he doesn't mind the noise level because he's slept through worse over the years. Just about anyone else would. The pilot episode shows the loft in its bare-bones condition, and over the course of the first season makes some changes so that it looks halfway livable, with a fridge, kitchen counter, furniture...
- Inverted in the pilot episode, where the loft had a normal floor to ceiling height, and looked like it was little more than a converted storage space. After it went to series, the ceiling double in height and the room gained a raised platform on one end. Still looks like converted storage, as there are still club items stacked against the back wall and the place is never painted, and while we never see the bathroom, there is clearly no other separate room as Michael treats it as studio with his mattress right in the open between the door and the kitchenette area.
- Monk himself is downplayed or an odd variant of this trope. For a private investigator and consultant to the San Francisco Police Department, his apartment (1 bed, 2 bath, kitchen, dining and living rooms) is very nice for notoriously expensive San Francisco (AKA home to some of the highest rent prices on the West Coast). While Monk's personal expenses are somewhat reduced (he doesn't own or drive a car, rarely travels, does not own any high-end electronics, and has an iconic Limited Wardrobe, etc.) his OCD brings about a number of other expenses many people don't have (frequent psychiatrist sessions with Dr. Kroger or Dr. Bell, a personal assistant, etc.) and others most people would find unnecessary (he only uses an umbrella only once, runs his dishwasher and washing machine too often, etc.).
- Monk's assistant Natalie Teeger plays it straight. She has money troubles from time to time due to Monk sometimes not being able to pay her in a timely fashion, she does not take money from her wealthy parents, but still, her Noe Valley housenote is much too large for herself and her daughter Julie (not to mention that the interior set doesn't look like something you might find in that part of San Francisco).
- Done in "Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants," where a murder victim is a shoe salesman who lives in a converted loft apartment (also pretty expensive real estate). It's lampshaded as the characters wonder how a lowly shoe salesman is able to afford such a place.
- In "Mr. Monk and the Marathon Man," the murder victim Gwen Zaleski is an out-of-work actress who lives in a pretty nice 21st floor apartment. It's explained here that her lover Trevor McDowell, furniture showroom magnate, was paying her bills.
- Girls: Hannah's and Marnie's Brooklyn apartment, which is in the most expensive part (India Street) of Greenpoint, would have rented for about $1,500 to $1,800 per month before the series started; now the rent would probably be even higher. Marnie is forced to pay the full rent after Hannah loses her parental funding. While paying half would be possible, it's way too much of a stretch for Marnie to pay the full amount given that her art gallery job would pay no more than $30,000 per year and she gets only limited family support. Played up even more in the final two seasons when Hannah and Elijah occupy it, one episode reveals Hannah only earns $24,000 a year, while it's ambiguous if Elijah has a job, he last worked as a barista for Ray and would leave work early on whims.
- The short-lived The Dresden Files TV adaptation justified Harry's surprisingly nice home in Chicago as the only thing on which he spent any of his inheritance from his well-off Evil Uncle.
- Brooklyn Nine-Nine:
- Lampshaded in Season 1, Jake lives in a large, pleasant apartment despite being terrible with money (to the point where he's implied to have declared bankruptcy at least once) - it's quickly explained that it was his grandmother's apartment, and that he still benefits from the rent control she negotiated decades earlier (Jake and Gina both refer to having spent time in the apartment during childhood; they're now in their early thirties). Furthermore, almost as soon as the apartment appears on-screen it's revealed that he's about to lose it because the building is about to become a co-op and he can't afford to purchase the place. In the end, Gina puts a down payment on the apartment for herself, but this time it's justified by the fact that she's been renting the same one-room studio for over ten years and saving up until a nicer place came along.
- And when you actually see Gina's old apartment (which becomes Jake's new place), the set is actually about as small as they could make it while still allowing space to actually film the scene. For bonus points, you never see more than three actors in a scene in Gina's/Jake's apartment, presumably because there's no more floor space for them all to stand up at once without obstructing the camera.
- Amy's apartment is also larger than might be expected for a single person living on a detective's salary: though none of the rooms are large it has a separate dining room and is implied to have a spare bedroom (since the squad mistakenly believe she lives with her grandmother). However, Amy is explicitly stated to be Jake's exact opposite in her attitude to money, and it's completely in-character for her to be so good at budgeting that she's able to afford a nice place for herself.
- Rosa also lives in a very nice and spacious apartment that is well-furnished and fully decorated. Complicating matters is the fact that she's so paranoid about her personal information being revealed that she's set up an intricate financial maze under false identities and shell corporations, which adds to the cost of the already-expensive NYC rent.
- In Just the Ten of Us, the Lubbocks live in a house in Eureka, California that's big enough to comfortably house ten people. The parents are a Catholic school coach and a homemaker. Especially bad as a running theme is that the family is struggling financially. It's indicated that the school provided the family with the house. And even if not, it's also implied that it isn't the nicest of places—the four oldest sisters share an attic bedroom, son JR shares with his baby brother, youngest daughter Sherry shares with her baby sister.
- Tony DiNozzo of NCIS lives in a very nice apartment for a guy living on a cop's salary. Late in season 13 McGee does some digging and learns that not only does Tony own the apartment outright but he bought it back when he was still a probationary agent and thus was not making much money. It turns out that Tony paid well below market price for the apartment since it was once the site of a gruesome triple homicide, after which nobody wanted to live there anymore. Tony was able to get the place cheap and put a grand piano on top of a large bloodstain that couldn't be completely cleaned. Tim then informs Tony that if Tony wanted to sell the apartment, enough time has passed since the murders that he is no longer legally required to inform potential buyers of its sordid history and thus could get full market value for it. In the following season, a subplot of one episode is the team quarreling over who gets to lease that apartment from Tony's dad after Tony leaves the team and the country. Tim ends up with it, partially because he and his fiancee Deliah need the extra space. A season later, new agent Nick Torres laments that back when he did undercover work in South America, he could get a gorgeous apartment for $400 US a month. The cost of living in the DC Metro area is much higher.
- As this New York Times article highlights, a number of new TV programs in the 2010s have been making some level of effort to avert this.
- The Good Place: Michael says that after he watched all ten seasons of Friends, he simply can't understand how they can afford the apartment they have. Eleanor agrees that always puzzled people.
- Sabrina the Teenage Witch lampshades this in one episode, where Zelda alludes to the fact that the neighbours are suspicious that she and Hilda are able to afford such a fancy Victorian house in Massachusets - when Hilda is a struggling violinist and Zelda doesn't actually work until the fifth season. The aunts can afford whatever they want by having held onto various things over the centuries until they turn valuable.
- On the Soap Opera The City (a reworking of the Soap Opera Loving), the survivors of the Corinth Serial Killer move to an apartment building in New York City's So Ho neighborhood. Aside from this building implausibly being able to house a bar, medical clinic, fashion studio, and several apartments, there is no way anyof the people living there (with the exception of the woman who owned the building) could have afforded to, even with a roommate, as several tenants were shown to have.
- The number of characters on Eastenders who could afford to live anywhere in London is almost microscopic. Possibly averted with Dot, who lives in a council flat.
- Narrowly averted on rival soap opera Coronation Street, according to a Digital Spy report, though they wouldn't have much left over to spend at the Rovers.
- The Gifford family in Cold Feet live in a large, well-appointed (if slightly run-down) house in London which they apparently own, despite their low income. Averted to varying extents by the other characters, whose vaguely defined careers are implied to be well-paid.
- Referenced and lampshaded in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Early in Season 4, when Fitz and Simmons were looking for an apartment together, Daisy, having gone off the grid to protect fellow Inhumans, lured Simmons into helping her by emailing her an ad for a rather nice apartment, commenting that Simmons was "always a sucker for a breakfast nook." As Daisy was always the lead Shipper on Deck for Fitz and Simmons, she did promise Simmons that the apartment was theirs if they wanted it, adding "And it's rent-controlled."
- Big Little Lies:
- Nathan and Bonnie have a pretty nice house, even though it's not stated what Nathan's job is. Bonnie likewise only works as a fitness instructor.
- Madeline and Ed likewise live in a very nice place, when Madeline has been a stay-at-home mother most of her life, and only has a part time job at the community theatre.
- Elsewhere averted with Celeste and Perry, whose house is justified by the latter's corporate job and the former's savings from her years as a lawyer. Renata and Gordon's nice house is also justified by the two of them being workaholics in very prominent positions.
- The Flash (2014): Star Labs is a massive privately-owned scientific laboratory that was disgraced when its particle accelerator exploded. While most of the staff quit, the building itself should still cost quite a lot just to keep the lights on, but they are still producing a number of inventions to help the Flash, and Harrison Wells is shown to still maintain a lavish home outside the lab, all without any high-profile contracts. Apparently the lab is still generating money somehow. Fans have theorized that they are receiving consulting fees from the police, royalties when the police use their technology, and perhaps more royalties on other existing patents, but it's never explained outright. When Barry inherits the lab, his own lifestyle immediately improves, and he takes his girlfriend to an expensive restaurant and later buys a very nice apartment.
- In The Odd Couple, it's not clear why Oscar Madison expects to maintain a family-sized apartment in New York for himself and his friends, since the start of play finds him running painfully short on alimony payments.
- Indigo Prophecy has several examples, being set in New York City and featuring many elegant apartments, but Lucas Kane's is the most egregious. He has an almost ludicrously-sized apartment in the middle of Manhattan, made even more ridiculous by the tiny, run-down appearance of the access hallway inside his building. Either Lucas has the only penthouse apartment in the building, or parts of his kitchen and bedroom reside in alternate dimensions, because the doors in the hallway are set far too close together to accommodate Lucas' luxurious living room. All this, on a mid-level IT manager's salary.
- Spiritual Sequel Heavy Rain has the same problem with the apartments that are owned by Ethan (who's supposed to be a divorce dad falling on hard times) and Madison (a reporter who doesn't even seem to be working for one particular newspaper)—they're both absurdly spacious, though at least Ethan's apartment is bare.
- Ethan lives in a house even after he's divorced. Except in his happier endings, when he's living on the aforementioned Lucas Kane's apartment.
- All of the safehouses used by Mike in Alpha Protocol are fairly expansive penthouses, save for the one in Taipei, which is a tiny, crappy apartment - until Mike uses the shower, which takes him downstairs into an Elaborate Underground Base that looks more like an intelligence command center than a safehouse, complete with a secret tunnel leading aboveground for his motorcycle. This is explained as part of the Alpha Protocol program, where agents establish safehouses using their own money and established bank accounts (and most of the resources used are not actually known by the agency to avoid tracing it back to Alpha Protocol - yay compartmentalizing!) Mike tends to lampshade this, pointing out in Moscow how he appreciates where government spending is going while chilling in his massive, chic and ultramodern penthouse.
- In Dragon Age II Merrill is a newcomer to Kirkwall, having come from a society of nomadic druids who don't really deal with money. The city is already overflowing with refugees, plus being an elf means that she is forced to live in the slums in the worst part of town. By all rights she should be living in a shoebox, but somehow she's situated in what amounts to a reasonably-sized apartment (albeit one with a vermin problem).
- Though given Varric's underworld ties, it's not unlikely to believe that he smoothed things over to get her a place of her own. He does at one point mention that he pays off thugs in Lowtown to not give her trouble...
- What makes it especially odd is that her place is still treated like a tiny hole in the wall where guests have to sit on the bed to have room, but Gamlen's entire house (which houses four people with minimal crowding) could fit in her living room.
- Fate/stay night: The Emiya residence surprises quite a lot of characters who visit it, as it's a rather large, traditional Japanese-style house, with at least four spare bedrooms, a spacious yard, detached dojo, and two-story storage shed in the middle of the city. Shirou is an orphaned high school student who works several part-time jobs; and he certainly didn't have enough of an inheritance to afford such a place. The VN explains that the house is actually owned by the local Yakuza syndicate; Shirou's father Kiritsugu had rented it from them, and after his passing they allow Shirou to stay there as a favor to Kiritsugu. In one of the visual novel's endings, Sakura Matou purchases the residence, and it takes nearly all of the Matou family's finances (which is not a small amount) as well as selling her own Big Fancy House in order to afford it.
- Living with Insanity was like this for a while until it was eventually commented on..
- Subverted in City Under The Hill. Seamus works full-time for the Border Police, and yet still only affords a small sized flat above a grocery store.
- Occurs (but is lampshaded at least once) in Questionable Content — Martin, Dora, and Faye live in an enormous and gorgeous apartment, despite the fact that Marten works at a library for a small college, Dora owns a coffee shop she continuously has trouble keeping afloat, and Faye works for Dora as a barista at the coffee shop.
Faye: C'mon, at least lemme break one of (Dora's) arms...
Marten: No, because then she'd fire you and I'd have to pay the rent on this place all on my own.
- Housing in Western Massachusetts is rather less expensive than in urban East Coast areas like Boston or New York, even if it still comes across as expensive compared to the South, Midwest or Western part of the country. Three people working, even at low-wage jobs, and budgeting carefully or scoring lots of their stuff for free off what college kids throw away (easy to do in Amherst or Northampton) can and have afforded pretty decent apartments there before.
- Later strips explain that the coffee shop isn't nearly as bad off as it seems; Dora purposefully under staffs the shop (and picks up the slack herself) so she can take home more of the store's profit for spending money.
- Played with when Marten's mom moves there from San Francisco. She rents a place in the most expensive part of town, which is laughably cheap to her.
- Subverted in Rhapsodies. Kate, Paul and Brian live in an apartment across the street from a popular park, owned by Brian's parents. However, the three units surrounding Brian's apartment are almost unrentable so his parents are virtually giving them away at slum rates.
- Justified in S.S.D.D as Richard is actually the landlord and willing to give his friends a lot of leeway when it comes to rent (Norman helps him shake up the tenants in his other properties, Kingston often pays in dope, and Anne sleeps with him). Neither is he above threatening to chuck Kingston or even Norman out if they really try his patience.
- Lampshaded in Metacarpolis when Emiko admits that she can't afford her apartment solely on her income as a cleaning service maid. It's just one of many hints that she is more than she appears.
- Ménage ŕ 3:
- The lead trio are a call center worker who spends most of his spare cash on geeky collectibles, a comics shop assistant (hired without negotiation as "counter candy"), and a waitress. The apartment they share looks pretty nice, though, even if the landlady is a serious hard case, and the lease apparently permits her to enter the place any time she wishes, and apply surcharges to the rent for arbitrary reasons.
- Waitress Sonya can afford an apartment of her own, in a building with its own swimming pool.
- Possibly slightly justified in that the series takes place in Montreal, which is a better city for rents than some owing to a large supply of older rental buildings and thirty-odd years of political uncertainty.
- Wilde Life. Oscar was working as a journalist in Chicago before quitting the job, and it's implied that he'd been living with his sister (and her husband) for a while after that. But one day he found on Craigslist a nice house for rent in Podunk, Oklahoma and just went and moved there. Sure, the house is haunted so it has a lower-than-market price, and some of the previous owners had left their furniture and even TV there, but still he doesn't seem to be doing anything to pay the rent.
- John's father from Homestuck is able to afford a massive house, despite being "just a businessman". Compare the other parents in the comic, who are all explicitly filthy rich with similar house sizes. Averted with the post-Scratch version of "Dad", who's now raising the heiress to a multinational baking corporation.
- Deconstructed by The Nostalgia Critic (with a guest appearance from '90s Kid) in his Bio-Dome review, which he points out was one of numerous movies from the '90s featuring stupid young people with no steady jobs but had decent places to live.
- Lampshaded in Smosh:If TV Shows Were Real 3.
WHY DID NOBODY TELL US IT COSTS THIS MUCH TO RENT A ROOM IN MANHATTAN?!
Nobody told that you that this life would be such gruck!~
You're living in a dumpster and you're broke as fuuuck!~
- Cracked discusses this trope in its article 5 Insane Things You Believe About Money (Thanks to Movies).
- Good Game: In the first episode, the two main characters live in a large, well-furnished house in Southern California despite apparently having no job between the two of them. Their landlord tries to evict them in the same episode, saying that they're six months late on their rent, but how they got the house to begin with is still suspect.
- The Simpsons live in a very large, four or five bedroom house despite Homer being the only breadwinner (and being somewhat, ahem, unreliable when it comes to spending money), though it was once explained by Grandpa Simpson selling his house to help Homer and Marge buy theirs. Some episodes draw attention to it though.
- Lampshaded in "Homer's Enemy":
Frank Grimes: (in awe) Good Heavens! This is a palace! H-How can, how in the world can you afford to live in a house like this, Simpson?
Homer: I dunno. Don't ask me how the economy works.
- Further lampshaded in "Kill Gil: Volumes 1 and 2", where Homer says, "I make six [thousand dollars] a year"; and in "Father Knows Worst," where he says, "[One thousand dollars is] how much my house is worth!"
- Of course, a safety inspector at a Real Life nuclear power plant working for someone other than Montgomery Burns would be earning serious money (easily hitting six digits with only a decade's experience). Plus, Springfield is considered in-universe to be a crappy place to live, which could drive down prices.
- The creators have also been known to state that they've deliberately kept the precise layout of the Simpsons' home vague and inconsistent, so it's hard to tell how big it really is.
- Furthermore, the house is large but not exactly that good, as it has pretty thin walls among other problems.
- Flanders has a very nice house with a very spacious and lavish rumpus room in the basement, but in an early episode is stated to only make $27 a week more than Homer does before going into business for himself. Flanders also admitted to buying his RV on credit; for all we know the house is mortgaged to the hilt too.
- Lampshaded in "Homer's Enemy":
- Rocko's Modern Life: Rocko works as a cashier in a comic book shop but is somehow able to afford to live by himself in a relatively large, two-story house with a spacious living room, full kitchen, basement, front and backyard, attached garage, and, in one episode, a grand ballroom.
- Parodied in Futurama. Leela is watching "Real World: The Sun" (which apparently consists of footage of people screaming as they immolate), and is disgusted by how expensive the set would be.
"Do you know how much an apartment that big would cost on the sun?"
- In Family Guy, Peter is the only one employed in the family, as a below management level employee at a toy factory (at least until the later seasons, where he worked briefly as a fisherman, and then got a decent paying job at the Pawtucket Brewery) yet they live in a nice house. In addition he manages to spend all kinds of money on stuff, which was lampshaded in Peter's use of the "Peter-Copter" and the "Hindenpeter" which damage Joe's house and property, prompting Joe to wail incredulously, "How can you afford these things?!!" The episode "Emission Impossible" explained how: Lois and Peter won a lawsuit against a condom company after Lois' pregnancy with Chris due to a broken condom. That lawsuit allowed the Griffins to buy their lovable, size-changing house on Spooner Street. Lois is also not above the occasional Five-Finger Discount or accepting money from her obscenely rich father. It is also revealed how in The Cleveland Show when Junior offhandedly mentions all of the random jobs Peter had to get to pay for the incident that killed his mother. So he pretty much stated that all of the Cutaway Gags shown in the series is how he pays off for all the damages his stupid actions cause.
- Darkwing Duck lived in a two story home despite not even having any sort of job outside of his crime fighting. This was finally explained in the 2010 comics, where it's revealed that SHUSH paid him for his services.
- Meanwhile, Drake's next door neighbor Herb Muddlefoot was somehow able to afford an equally sized house and support a family of four as a door-to-door Quackerware (expy of Tupperware) salesman. Even if he is apparently one of the best salesmen in the company, the fact remains that leftover containers aren't very expensive, and last for years before needing replacement, so there's not much of a market for his product, and the commissions are probably pitiful.
- Likewise, the eponymous character on Jimmy Two-Shoes lives on his own without a job. One episode centered around him having to take a job to pay for some frivolous purchases, but he never has problems with basic living.
- Parodied in The Critic. Doris owns a huge, spartan apartment in New York City — and only pays $150 thanks to rent control. She tells Jay - without turning around — to put the candlestick down, knowing he wanted to club her to take over her rent controlled apartment.
- Truth in Television: There are some apartments in Manhattan with ridiculously low rents, even as low as $150, thanks to rent control. A good chunk of them are in upper Manhattan, though, and often date back to the 1940's.
- It's also inverted in Alice's introductory episode. She's a divorced mother with a child to support on meager earnings, her apartment is run down and in a bad neighborhood with mentally-unstable neighbors and she's in the process of being evicted.
- Dexter's Laboratory: The Justice Friends (Major Glory, Val Hallen and Krunk) live at an apartment they rent. It's revealed in one episode that Val Hallen got the largest room (well, less "room" and more "pocket dimension containing the full glory and splendor of VALHALLA ITSELF") and pays a bigger share of the rent than the others because of this (which isn't a problem for him as he is not only a superhero and "Norse God of rock," but also the world's most famous rock star). It's never stated how much each Justice Friend pays (although Major Glory probably has a cushy government contract). They also seem to destroy it (both the apartment and the building), frequently, yet never have to answer for it.
- Subverted in Mission Hill: Andy is working at a water mattress store at (presumably) just above minimum wage, Posey is just...there, and no one knew what Jim did for a living until Kevin came along, yet they live in a very spacious apartment (with a second floor!) in a decent building with neighbours they like, in a part of town that doesn't seem run down or depressed. Then Jim is revealed to be a highly paid corporate executive with tons of clout for basically being a computer whiz. This isn't revealed until Andy loses his job and a tooth, and Jim lets him use his health insurance to have it fixed, because Andy never asked - even though he's Jim's best and oldest friend.
- Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends: Mac's apartment is fairly spacious, despite the fact that he lives with his single mother who's supporting him and his brother. His father is presumed dead (as opposed to divorced or separated), so she probably doesn't get child support or alimony. It's also revealed that the enormous, titular Foster's Home gets donations (in reference to a house that feeds and provides room & board for hundreds of imaginary friends). Although when Mac fibs about there being no hot water, his mom passes it off as one of the problems with their home. She doesn't object to him turning on the AC though shortly afterward.
- Sym-Bionic Titan: The alien trio move into a large house outside downtown Sherman (similar to Chicago). How do they afford it? Why Octus is able to createnote money to pay for it as opposed to applying for a home loan. ("Fine. Everyone pays for houses in cash.")
- The Looney Tunes Show
- Played with: Bugs and Daffy live in a very nice house in a neighborhood where almost everyone (excluding Yosemite Sam) appear to be rather pleasant, if a bit eccentric. While Daffy is stated to have no job and very poor credit, Bugs, however, is revealed to have invented the carrot peeler and most, if not all of his money stems from the royalties.
- In the episode "Peel of Fortune," Daffy bought the house (based on royalties from an automatic carrot peeler he stole from Bugs) and lets Bugs live with him. However, Daffy's demands causes Bugs to lose it and he storms out. He is forced to move back into his old rabbit hole from the classic Looney Tunes cartoons. He finds the experience unpleasant, after years of suburban lifestyle. Status Quo is restored when the schematic Daffy stole and mass-produced turns out to have an irreparable defect: overnight, Daffy's once again a freeloader and Bugs' manual-carrot-peeler royalties are rolling in again.
- In SpongeBob SquarePants, both SpongeBob and Squidward live in nice two-storey houses and are able to furnish them while still affording food and everything they need for their hobbies. This is despite the fact that they work for a fast food joint run by Mr. Krabs, who would make them pay him if he could get away with it, and SpongeBob had his house even before he was employed at all. The most logical conclusion is that they don't pay for their homes at all; "Home Sweet Pineapple" shows SpongeBob's house simply grows (complete with furniture and everything...) while Squidward perhaps, like most sea creatures in real life, simply found an abandoned Easter Island Head and made it his home.
- We Bare Bears: Played with. The bears live in a renovated cave they paid nothing for, at least some of their furniture is hand-made, they either walk (often in "bearstack" mode) or use public transportation, and numerous episodes show they make very little money. That said, this doesn't stop them from getting an Internet connection, cell phones, laptops, television, a fridge, and they still have plenty of free time to do whatever the plot requires.
- Ruby Gloom: Ruby and her friends live in a large mansion on a large amount of property, despite having no visible source of income whatsoever.
- Super Noobs: Alien warriors Memnock and Zenblock move into a house in the second episode, which is a two story house that is fairly spacious and well kept. However, Memnock and Zenblock apparently have no job besides being virus warriors so its unknown how they are able to afford to keep living in it, let alone being able to buy other things. Ironically this spacious house turned out to be too small for them due to their large size and this problem caused them to have a Feud Episode until the Noobs decide to add more spacious high tech rooms underneath the house in order to end the feud. Its speculated that the Benevolent Alliance supplies Memnock and Zenblock with the funds they need to afford the house smother can continue staying in it and be able to train the noobs.
- An article in The New York Post profiled two tenants in Manhattan's trendy SoHo neighborhood with insanely low rents - $55 and $71 a month - the result of decades of rent control in a neighborhood where the average rent for a one bedroom apartment is over $2,500.