In many series (most notably sitcoms), Status Quo Is God. Therefore, any time a character gains something valuable enough to change the status quo, they must lose it by the end of the episode.
If the character gets a financial windfall, then it'll turn out to be depreciated by Ridiculous Exchange Rates, expenses will eat up the earnings of whatever get rich quick scheme they pulled, or the Taxman Takes the Winnings. If they get the supermodel's phone number, then they'll lose it. If they gain a seat of power, then they'll be forced to give it up. Family oriented series can have the variant of the parents putting the money away for the kids' post-secondary education, which means it will not be touched again until the kids are enrolled.
As these plots repeatedly happen to characters over a long period of time, it creates a world in which some people seem to experience insane amounts of good fortune, only to squander it every single time. Easy Come, Easy Go.
In a variation of this trope, a handicapped character is temporarily cured, but is re-handicapped soon after. Usually used for comedy.
- Commonly used in TV commercials: a chronic loser is about to inexplicably score, until his target realizes he's been using an inferior version, and not the product being advertised.
- Lupin III doesn't have to worry about Status Quo when it comes to their financial situation, they can be living in an expensive hotel one episode, and living in a trailer the next. But Lupin and his crew still have the uncanny tendency to lose every big score minutes after they get it, or have it turn out to be something they're better off not getting their hands on. As Lupin is a kleptomaniac of titanic proportions, all he does is shrug it off and seek the next heist.
- Cowboy Bebop gives this kind of feeling throughout the series; the expensive bounty heads they try to capture normally end up dying right before they reach them, often ending the plot or starting it. In fact, one of the songs from the series, "Don't Bother None," portrays a similar air of easy come, easy go.
- In episode 3, the ending text, normally "See you Space Cowboy," is replaced with "Easy Come, Easy Go."
- The bounties they do manage to catch are usually never big scores either or they're swindled out of it by some form or another.
- Similarly to the two above, Outlaw Star tends to have the crew not really keep the reward money and the like due to having a state-of-the-art spacecraft that requires weaponry reloads and parking. And sadly, this means being indebted to the eccentric Fred Luo.
- Heavy Object:
- In the first volume Qwenthur and Havia are awarded with everything they need to achieve their dreams after defeating Water Strider. However their actions after that point end up getting their awards stripped, leaving them right where they started.
- A Running Gag is the duo discovering some method for making a quick buck only to lose it within the volume, if not the same chapter. They have managed to lose a bag of uncut diamonds, a truckload of rare earth metals, stolen drug money, and a gameshow jackpot.
- Qwenthur refuses Capulet's offer of a new life with all the money, power, and respect he could hope for due to this trope. Knowing just how easily it was given to him, he would always be afraid that it would be taken away just as easily.
- Secret Wars II: Spider-Man got a notebook from a building that the Beyonder changed to gold. His angst about "stealing" it left him unable to cash it in and Black Cat wound up stealing it and fashioning it into decorative trim for her jacket.
- X-Men: Big Good Professor Xavier has repeatedly been healed of the spinal cord injury that keeps him in his wheelchair. It never seems to take; the entire universe is conspiring against that poor man's legs.
- Fantastic Four: The Thing has repeatedly been restored to his human form over the years, but, either due to the cure not taking, or him needing to regain his powers for some reason, the poor guy always reverts back to the old rockskin.
- Unlike his buddy Domino who's always filthy rich, Comic Book/Deadpool rarely holds on to wealth for a long time. In the series, where he discovers he has a daughter he did get $10 million for a good while but with his insane spending habits, he eventually lost that fortune. When he started his own mercenary outfit, his entire company got hit with this - they're superpowered mercenaries and quite a few had solid reputations including Deadpool himself at the time, money came in. But Wade is a lousy businessman and even worse intelligence gatherer, so his company's reputation soon plummeted and contracts were drying up.
- Happened to Pinocchio at the end of Shrek 2, when he is turned into a real boy by a stray magic blast and back by another one.
- In the parody Robin Hood: Men in Tights, blind character Blinkin falls off a tower and proclaims "I can see!" Then he walks into a tree (which he apparently didn't see) and is blind again.
- The trope name is said verbatim by Harry in Condorman, as the expensive diplomatic car he just successfully stole falls off the end of a boat ramp into the water. Hilariously set up with the line: "Oh, Russ, if you could see me now!"
- Also said verbatim in a Laurel and Hardy film. Laurel and Hardy are standing under a street lamp, with Hardy holding a small bag, which he explains is full of money. They skimped, scraped, and saved, but now they have enough money to retire. A man appears from the darkness, with a knife in one hand, and takes the money. Hardy looks downcast and unbelieving, while Laurel simply shrugs and says "Ah, well. Easy come, easy go."
- The variant is played for laughs in Johnny Dangerously. Ray Walston plays a blind news stand attendant who continually gets hit in the head with stacks of papers. Each time he gets hit, it cures him but gives him some other problem.
"My God. My God! I can see. I can see!""Oh no. Son-of-a-bitch, Now I'm deaf.""I can hear again and I can see. I can hear again and I can see! But who am I?"
- Octopussy: Bond won a lot of money beating Kamal Khan at backgammon, but then lost it all during a car chase. In the first instance, an enormous wad of rupees in his jacket pocket protected him from a large dagger, and in the second, he had to throw the winnings at a throng of people to make them crowd and block his pursuers' path. He quotes the trope name verbatim.
- Conan the Barbarian lives his life like this. He may find great riches in one book, but he'll spend or lose them quickly and be broke again by the time the plot calls for the next tomb to be robbed. (Unlike the RPG heroes who followed in his footsteps, he didn't spend his loot on better gear that he could use to loot bigger tombs, ad nauseam.)
- This is not uncommon with Robert E. Howard's barbarian heroes. Consider Bran Mak Morn in "Worms of the Earth":
He had drunk deeply and gambled recklessly, after the manner of barbarians, and he had had a remarkable run of luck, due possibly to the indifference with which he won or lost. Gold to the Pict was so much dust, flowing through his fingers. In his land there was no need of it. But he had learned its power in the boundaries of civilization.
- This is not uncommon with Robert E. Howard's barbarian heroes. Consider Bran Mak Morn in "Worms of the Earth":
- Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser also cheerfully piss away fortunes.
- In Discworld Rincewind has come to recognise that any good fortune or material gain he gets will be lost in some sort of cruel and ironic way. By later books he has started to actively try and avoid rewards in an attempt to thwart this trope (needless to say it never works).
- In One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Tzezar, a film director from a relatively high-class background who was sent to The Gulag for his non-conforming theories of film, ensures that he gets regular care packages. However, much of the contents of the package are directed to paying off favors owed to other inmates, as well as surreptitious taxes taken by guards, and he usually spends a while subsisting on ordinary camp rations before the next package arrives. Shukhov regards the substantial time Tzezar spends on rations, plus his generosity with "favors," as more than enough reason to see him sympathetically.
- Our Miss Brooks: Happens to Miss Brooks in "Principal for a Day" where she becomes principal, but only for a day.
- On M*A*S*H, Klinger is deafened when landmines start exploding due to cold contracting the soil they are buried in. Klinger's hearing quickly recovers, but his elation is instantly deflated when he is told that he would have been invalided out of the Army for being deaf. True to form, Klinger then attempts to fake it, but Col. Potter doesn't buy it.
- Micro Men: Chris Curry and Clive Sinclair build huge personal fortunes on the back of the personal computer boom of the early eighties, only for it to all be wiped out again when the market comes crashing down in '84
- iCarly: Carly, Sam and Freddie resolve a potential lawsuit with Spencer's intervention, winning thousands of dollars in a settlement. They waste it all by the end of the episode. In another episode Sam ends up with $500 to pay back Carly and Freddie, then wastes it on an trampoline that is never seen again.
- Even the Only Fools and Horses "upper" ending of the 1996 Christmas special, where they finally become millionaires because of a lucky find, and end the episode in a mansion was overturned when the next special episode showed them back in the flat in Peckham.
- Played with in Desperate Housewives. In between season four and five Bree went from being an unemployed housewife to a nationally renowned celebrity chef and cook book author, and owned her own well off catering company. Though by the end of season six she loses the company, but is not too bothered by it, as she says she can simply build a new empire all over again.
- In the classic The Honeymooners series, Ralph finds a bag of cash on his bus. Convinced he's rich, he sets out to buy various things including a boat with three propellers (only three propellers will do). In the end of course the cash turns out to be counterfeit.
- In an episode of Seinfeld, Kramer gets Uma Thurman's number offscreen, but then sold the suit he was wearing to Kenny Bania (leaving him stuck in a clothing store changing room in his underwear for hours) and remembered too late that the number was in his pocket. At the end of the episode, Bania angrily returns the suit to Kramer, saying that Kramer's moisturizer which was also in the pocket had leaked out of the tube and ruined the suit. Kramer retrieves Uma's number from the pocket, only to find that the moisturizer had smudged it beyond recognition. And to add insult to injury, Bania had found the number before it was ruined and called it, getting a date with Uma himself. And he hasn't even heard of her before!
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Willow is venting her frustration over not being good at witchcraft, unaware she's unconsciously casting spells right and left, comparing herself to the superior Amy, who is now a pet rat in her dorm room:
Willow: She's got access to forces I can't even invoke! I mean she's a perfectly normal girl...[Amy, behind her, becomes human again and looks overjoyed]...then POOF! — She's a rat. [Amy's a rat again] I could never do something like that.
- Get Smart - Max is fighting a mad scientist's bent-over hunchbacked assistant who recoils when socked in the jaw and is straightened upright. He delightedly shows himself to his boss, who congratulates him with a healthy slap on the back - which reverts him back.
- The Supernatural episode "Bad Day At Black Rock" has a Rabbit's Foot which automatically gives the person holding it a bunch of good luck. Dean, while using it, buys several scratch tickets, with the intent of winning the jackpot. However, by the end of the episode, when he no longer has the Rabbit's Foot, the scratch tickets have been stolen by Bela Talbot.
Dean: SON OF A BITCH!
- Any time somebody wins a title, then loses it again the same night.
- Yokozuna beat Bret Hart in the main event of WrestleMania 9 to become the WWF World Champion. Hulk Hogan came out, Mr. Fuji (Yokozuna's manager) issued an impromptu challenge, Hogan accepted and beat Yokozuna in a couple of minutes to win the title. This has since gone down as one of the worst moments in Wrestlemania history.
- Dean Douglas gets handed the WWF Intercontinental title after Shawn Michaels has to give up the title (in real life, Shawn was beat up by a group of Marines in Syracuse and was not medically cleared to wrestle), only to lose it the same night to Razor Ramon.
- Chigusa Nagayo won back AJW's IWA Women's Title belt within a day after being upset by Madusa.
- "Stunning" Steve Austin won the WCW US title in 1995, and lost it again to "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan.
- Promising rookie Starla Saxton lost the New Dimension Wrestling Women's Title belt no later than a day after winning it to Malia Hosaka.
- The first NWA World Tag Team Title run of Team Extreme in 1999 didn't last a day before Kit Carson and Kris Germany lost it back to The Brotherhood (Knuckles Nelson and Rick Fuller).
- This was pretty much the entire point of the WWF Hardcore Championship, mainly for comic relief as the belt stipulated that it could be won by anyone who pinned the championship with a referee present, 24-7. The vast majority of the reigns were for less than a day.
- The spirit of the Hardcore title 24/7 rule (but without the hardcore violence and use of weapons) has been revived with WWE's new 24/7 Championship.
- Tommy Dreamer defeated Taz in 2000 to become the ECW Champion, but Justin Credible challenged him to an impromptu match. Dreamer accepted and lost the title.
- At CZW This Time It's Personal, The Ballard Brothers won the Tag Team Titles from The Backseat Boyz only to lose it back to them right then and there.
- Eddie Guerrero won the IWA Mid-South Heavyweight Title belt only to immediately lose it to CM Punk.
- The Prophecy defeated The Second City Saints for the tag team titles at Ring of Honor's Round Robin Challenge III only to lose them to the Briscoes at the same event. Then the Briscoes lost the belts at the same event to... The Second City Saints.
- Jillian Hall finally beat Mickie James to become Divas Champion, only to have the guest hosts force her to defend the title immediately afterwards against Melina, who had just come back from an injury.
- Many times in IWA Texas/ACW. Regarding the Anarchy Tag Team Titles alone, we have The Submission Squad dropping the titles to Jerry Lynn and Scot Summers the date they won them (November 16th, 2008), The Lost Boys dropping them the day they won them (July 22nd, 2012) to Matthew Palmer and Davey Vega, Dressed To Kill (October 12th, 2014) to The Hole F'n Team.
- Jefferson Saint is awarded the women's title belt at AIW It's Absolution 5 when the previous champion is unable to answer his challenge, only to immediately lose it to Angel Dust (who actually is a woman).
- As the Soul Sisters were celebrating the WSU Tag Team Title victory, the Midwest Militia came out, challenged them for the belts and took them.
- After Sassy Stephie took Remix Pro Wrestling's Women's title from the departing Sara Del Rey, she quickly lost it to Hailey Hatred.
- Daniel Bryan defeated John Cena in the main event of SummerSlam 2013, only to have Randy Orton cash in his Money In The Bank briefcase and take the title from him immediately afterwards. (The briefcase is nearly always used to Kick Them While They Are Down immediately after someone else's title match or other beatdown.)
- After beating Maria Kanellis for Family Wrestling Entertainment's Women's Title, Ivelisse Vélez was defeated for the belt by Candice LeRae on the same show.
- Rik Luxury won the Vendetta Pro Heavyweight Title belt from Billy Blade at Vendettaversery, but his reign only lasted ten minutes before he lost it to Lil Cholo.
- February 2015, Mr. 450 defeated Phenomeno BJ for the World Wrestling League Americas Title with help from Escobar and Joe Bravo, only for them to turn on him while Negrín brought out a referee and demanded he count Joe Bravo's cover after they were done with 450.
- One of the teams that entered the DDT4 in May were Pro Wrestling Guerilla title holders The World's Cutest Tag Team, who lost the titles in the quarter finals to the Monster Mafia, who lost them in the semi finals to the Beaver Boys, who lost them in the last match to Andrew Everett and Trevor Lee.
- Charlotte Flair won the Raw women's championship from Rhea Ripley at Money in the Bank 2021, only for MitB winner Nikki Cross to cash in and take it immediately after Flair and Ripley's rematch the next night.
- Any time Harry actually struck it rich in The Lives of Harry Lime, circumstances would cause him to lose the cash almost immediately (the sudden arrival of the police means he has to flee before he can collect the loot; a group of drunken bandits spill the gold dust he has just found into the surf; etc.)
- Barbarians of Lemuria enforces this by making creative spending of the treasures acquired in the course of a given scenario the game's source of experience points. Since the game fully intends for the player characters to follow in the footsteps of Conan and similar fantasy heroes (see above under Literature), this is entirely genre-appropriate.
- Reign has an optional rule allowing player characters to squander their personal Wealth scores in exchange for Experience Points. The game is also about player-run Companies - governments, businesses, or other institutions - which have their own Treasure score. Thanks to the abstract and nonlinear nature of money in the game, you can withdraw fairly sizable amounts of Wealth from even a moderate Treasure score without decreasing the Company's Treasure... once or twice, precluding endless Company-funded benders.
- Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies has two kinds of temporary forte (character attributes): Ephemera and, er, Temporary Fortes. Grand treasures, favors, and other rewards often become these as making them permanent would give a character a significant extra boost for free. As such, these temporary fortes are going to go away no matter what the character does, so players are strongly advised to find some way to blow them that advances the plot or is at least entertaining, often providing the GM with story hooks for later in the process.
- In the fourth edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, money gained from adventuring or career work needs to be banked by the players (either literally in a bank, or stowed away in a hiding spot) between adventures, or else any un-spent money is lost during the downtime, whether it be blown on drinks and fine living, stolen by thieves, used to pay taxes, etc. Furthermore, the protected money has the risk of being lost anyway, due to failed investments or hidden stashes being discovered and looted. Players are therefore encouraged to spend their gains quickly rather than try to accumulate wealth.
- In Radiata Stories, Jack meets an old man who turns out to be the fire dragon that pays him one million dagols to find a member of the castle hierarchy. But, by the time the old man is gone, Jack discovers it's fake money. He even falls for the same trick again later in the game!
- In the opening scene of Zero Sum Game the main character's mother chides him/her for being a Kleptomaniac Hero and commands them to spend the entire rest of the game putting all those little hard-won trinkets back.
- As part of the Running Gag about Bob's roof repeatedly getting destroyed in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, Bob will frequently wind up, through some Deus ex Machina, with a sum of money that is just enough to cover the expense of repairing the roof and whatever other collateral damage happened during the story.
- In Sluggy Freelance, Aylee and Torg's web design business is shut down after legal charges are filed against their Parent Company, Hereti Corp. Six years later, however, the charges are dropped, their accounts unfrozen, and suddenly Torg and Aylee are millionaires.
- In Nineteen-Ninety-Something, Alpha Bitch Lindsay, while appearing on Star Search, manages to procure a lucrative contract with A&M Records. She immediately loses said contract when she violently refuses to quit smoking.
- In an episode of Spongebob Squarepants, Mr. Krabs acquires a novelty hat worth a million dollars, but when he tries to sell it he discovers it has become worthless.
- An earlier episode has Spongebob and Patrick end up in possession of a magic pencil, with the latter promptly asking to have a magic mustache drawn on him, so that his dreams could come true (no, we don't know what they are). When said mustache flies away, Patrick says the trope name word-for-word.
- Family Guy
- In one episode, Joe Swanson falls down a hill and temporarily regains the use of his legs. He loses them again a second later when his son plows into him.
- Not to mention the episode "Believe It or Not, Joe's Walkin' on Air." Joe gets donor legs, but after they went to his head his friends and family plot to re-cripple him.
- May be an inversion: In American Dad! Stan Smith is put in a wheelchair by a bullet only to be later be brought out of it - by a bullet.
- Another episode had Klaus get a new human body (that of a black man) and he flushes his goldfish body down the toilet. Later, his human body is injured so the Smiths buy a new fish looking exactly like Klaus' old body for him to be in.
- In The Simpsons, Jasper had his cataracts removed by a laser home defense system, only to be re-blinded by the laser's second pass. He even says the trope's name before walking away like nothing happened.
- Also in an early episode when Homer was able to grow hair from a miracle hair formula which allowed him to be promoted to executive. At the end of the episode, Homer lost his hair and demoted back to his old position all because Bart messed around with the hair formula and wasted all of it.
- Additionally, there was an episode where Homer became the sanitation commissioner of Springfield. Naturally, he lost the position in a matter of days, and even got horse-whipped for doing such a bad job.
- The Flintstones - a variant example is used where Fred and Barney earn a cash reward for capturing some crooks. Instead of losing the money, Wilma announces that the money will be saved for Pebbles' and Bam-Bam's post-secondary education which means that the money would not be mentioned again, while serving to explain how the kids get into college without the expense being a major issue.
- In an episode of Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends Bloo becomes a millionaire by selling Madame Foster's cookies, but spends all his money on frivolous things like a pudding moat, ends up going out of business when he stops putting love in the cookies, and ends up $20,000 in debt to Madame Foster when he blows the roof off the house trying to make the cookies himself.
- In The Amazing World of Gumball, Gumball and Darwin became rich on at least two occasions, such as when they worked their way up to being CEOs of a burger chain or made a million dollars from selling pirate hooks through infomercials, but then immediately gave up the money.
- A lot of episodes of Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers have this happen, and it's usually the villain of the episode who has it happen to them. Typically, they steal something and by the end of the episode the Rescue Rangers will have either returned the item themselves or left it somewhere for the police to find.
- Not to mention the number of times they've turned Professor Nimnul's inventions against him, often leading to his arrest.
- An episode of Goof Troop takes the "worthless currency" variant up a notch. Pete acquires a chest full of valuable-looking coins, only to be informed that they are Pestoozas, which happen to be worth less than nothing.
- Happens on one episode of Earthworm Jim. Jim has lost his super suit, and tries to gain super powers in order to fight evil, using ideas from comic books. One of his attempts involves flying into a cosmic storm, but according to Peter Puppy that's actually how the hero met his untimely end. Luckily, Jim and Peter not only survive, but become Wonder Worm and the Dog of Destiny.
Narrator: However, our heroes are oppositely charged and their handshake dissipates their powers.Peter: Oh well. Easy come, easy go. At least we didn't get hurt.They get struck by lightning
- Used often enough in Danny Phantom that it seems like a stock plot point. There's Tucker's ghost powers in What You Want, Danny getting Paulina as a girlfriends in Lucky In Love, the Fentons getting rich in Livin' Large, etc. This isn't helped by the fact that the "good luck" is usually part of some nefarious plot, either.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Just for Sidekicks", Spike offers to babysit the pets of the Mane Six in exchange for jewels. He slowly but surely gives up the jewels one by one to cover his shoddy job/pay for things he broke, predictably losing them all by the end of the episode.
Easy come, easy go, will you let me go?