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"This scary black bar is what you spend on things that no one ever, ever needs, like multiple magic sets, professional fishing equipment..."
Oscar, The Office (US)

Managing money in the modern capitalist society is a skill. An important one for anyone who has money flowing in and out, which is basically every adult person in the world. However, not everybody has this skill. This trope is for this kind of characters.

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A character that is this trope isn't necessarily broke all the time, they mostly make unnecessary, frivolous spends without any idea of how much they're wasting in comparison to the amount they earn or have. In fact, very often the characters that exhibit this trait are in fact extremely wealthy (usually due to family money), and have simply never needed to learn to manage that money because they can burn as much as they want, and never run out. When this is the case, the characters are meant to come off as Idle Rich or Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense. Across the board, though, this trope is usually meant to further a character's depiction as a Manchild, naive, untrustworthy, delusional about their goals and/or incapable (or unwilling) to deal with the challenges of adult life.

One common situation where this occurs is when someone discovers a Home Shopping Network style TV show and starts wildly ordering all sorts of products, whether they need them or not. This trope is usually used as a means for comedy, but can quickly become dramatic, especially if they rely on spending money to lift their mood.

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Compare A Fool and His New Money Are Soon Parted, which is when a person gets a huge amount of money, they are to soon lose it. Compare also Fiction 500, which usually involves absurdly wealthy people spending their money on outrageous things.

Broke Episode, Shockingly Expensive Bill, and Credit Card Plot is what happens when a person's excessive spending comes back to bite them. When women are stereotypically portrayed as being dumb with money, that's Ms. Red Ink.


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Examples

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    Anime And Manga 
  • Bungou Stray Dogs: Fitzgerald has been filthy rich for so long that his sense of expenditure is atrocious. After the Guild arc, he loses all his fortune and requires Louisa's financial support until he can stand on his own two feet again, yet he buys expensive cooking utensils only because they were on special sale and despite the fact he doesn't even know how to cook. When Louisa expresses concern over this, Fitzgerald fails to see the problem since he used to buy a whole store when he wanted a single product from it.
  • Overlord (2012): Arche's parents are disgraced nobles who either have no idea of their no-longer-rich status or are desperately shielding themselves from it, spending enormous amounts of money on Conspicuous Consumption despite the fact that their daughter is the only thing keeping them fed. The reason she became a Worker (adventurers who take on illegal but higher-paying jobs) is to get enough money to take her two younger sisters away from her irresponsible parents. In the light novel, Arche is dismembered and her sisters are sold into slavery by their parents and eventually die from overwork; in the web novel, Arche is still alive, albeit kept as a Sex Slave by Shalltear, but is reunited with her sisters. Her parents face no onscreen repercussions.

    Comic Books 
  • The Runaways, being teenagers who grew up in wealthy families, are terrible at saving money. The only reason they're still afloat is because Karolina still receives royalties from her parents' old movies.

    Film — Animated 
  • Shark Tale has Oscar didn't pay his dues at the Whale Wash.

    Fan Works 
  • Downplayed for Rainbow in the Triptych Continuum. She's horrible at budgeting, prone to impulse purchases, and has been known to fly around borrowing money from friends because she didn't remember the need to pick up groceries until after sending the payment for that original Wonderbolts advertising broadside. (She also eats many of her meals while visiting, which incidentally saves her from having to cook.) Everypony knows she can't save any money — but she's been proven as equally incapable of going into long-term debt: as soon as the next pay voucher comes in, the first flight circuit is used to repay everypony. Which leaves her short on cash — and the cycle starts all over again.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Castle has the second son, Steve Kerrigan, whose main hobby is said to be browsing the trading post. Throughout the movie he announces a number of odd things he's found for sale and wants to buy, such as jousting sticks, a pulpit, and a chicken coop.

    Literature 
  • In Meg Cabot's How to be Popular, Stephanie's best friend Jason is quite rich, but is well-known to be absolutely atrocious at handling money, to the extent that the only way he was able to save up enough to buy his first car was to give his allowance directly to Stephanie for safekeeping. (She, by contrast, is extremely good with money, almost to Teen Genius levels, at least in that one specific area.)
  • Shopaholic follows a woman that has severe compulsion for buying clothes and luxury items, leading her to be entirely in debt for the most part of her adult life. All of her purchases are frivolous and/or unnecessary (though she always rationalizes for what she needed to buy it). It crosses into Ambiguous Disorder as she shows symptoms of having Compulsive Buying Disorder, especially in the movie, where the mannequins actually talk her into buying stuff.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, King Robert Baratheon is a careless spendthrift who manages to plunge the kingdom deeply into debt despite beginning his reign with a full treasury, something that has major implications for the plot. Half his debt is owed to his wife's family, the Lannisters, meaning they have tremendous influence at court because he literally cannot afford to upset them. After his death, his widow Cersei Lannister refuses to pay the portion of the debt owed to the Iron Bank of Braavos. In response, the Iron Bank begins financially supporting Stannis Baratheon, who the Lannisters are at war against, because he promised to pay them back the whole sum once he took the throne.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Arrested Development: Having been rich for their entire lives, the Bluth family is terrible with money, since they have so much to burn that they don't necessarily need to manage it. The family burns a lot of money sustaining Lindsay and Gob, two members of the family that bring in no money at all and don't even believe they need or should work for it; Lindsay being a liberal activist that spends her time jumping from one cause to another, while Gob is virtually useless in every job he takes and spends his time trying and failing to make it as a magician and spending the family money in expensive but unimpressive tricks. When the patriarch of the family is arrested and they lose much of their access to money during the investigation, the family is still incapable of taking care of money, simply demanding that the protagonist Michael make money appear out of thin air. A line from Lucille stating that she thinks each banana costs 10 dollars and shows how disconnected they are from reality.
  • On Ballers Spencer Strasmore is a former NFL football player who was hit by this trope during his days as a sports star. He earned a lot of money but he put most of it into stupid investments and had the rest embezzled by crooked managers. When an injury forced him to retire from football he found himself with very little money. Learning from his mistakes, he got a job at a financial management company that handles money for sports stars. As a financial manager it is his job to avert this trope on behalf of his clients who are earning millions but are prone to spending their money as fast as they receive it. Spencer has to go to great lengths to convince them to invest for the future so they do not repeat his mistakes.
  • In The Big Bang Theory, Raj is cushioned from the realities of life in the USA - until his rich father withdraws the financial cushion that has been bankrolling him. Straight away Raj runs into serious trouble - maxed-out credit cards are only part of it - and his friends question all manner of extravagances and fripperies when they attempt to balance his budget.
  • Blackish: In one episode, Bow admits she let's Dre take control of the family's finances, as she finds it confusing and intimidating. It turns out, Dre is just as confused by finances as she is. The episode ends with Dre and Bow agreeing to work together to help understand the family's finances.
  • In Brooklyn Nine-Nine, one of Jake's (many, many) problems with living as an adult is that he loves to spend money on all kinds of unnecessary things such as multiple massage chairs, a DJ table, etc. He also has no idea of how in debt he is because he throws away letters containing that information.
  • Charmed, the episode "Sin Francisco" saw the main characters become cursed with the Seven Deadly Sins. Piper is cursed with Gluttony and orders at least thousands of dollars of things she clearly didn't need.
  • Community: Brita is in huge debt during the second season, which is lampshaded when she meets Troy's childhood hero. She tries to convince him to stay to spend time with Troy by paying him all she has in her bank account, less than 300 dollars. He refuses, saying that she is a nice girl, but is very stupid with her money, which she happily agrees with.
  • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Rebecca is hinted to be one through the early episodes, wasting money without thinking about it, then it's confirmed in the Broke Episode of the first season. She was earning so much money in her previous job she never had to worry about managing it, and when she accepted a job with a much lesser pay, she soon went broke.
  • How I Met Your Mother: Lily and Marshall through season 2 and 3. Lily turns out to have been secretly collecting a huge debt in credit cards due to compulsive shopping whenever she is stressed. Marshall is ignorant of this debt, but he actively worsen their situation in season 3 when he decides that they should buy a house instead of renting (as Ted narrates, it was neither a good investment nor was the market any good, as he believed to be). When they have a fallout due to Lily's debt, they still decide to buy the house anyway. Ted mentions in his narration that Marshall says he committed three great mistakes in his life and buying that house was the worst one. Through the following episodes they fall in deep debt fixing one thing after the other and making financial mistakes, it's not until late in season 3 when things start getting better as Ted sells his car to pay part of their debt.
  • In Lodge 49, Dud is thousands of dollars in debt as a consequence of his bad decisions and inability to plan ahead or live within his means. The fact that he keeps trying to clear his debts by pawning anything of value to his loan shark doesn't help things.
  • Parks and Recreation:
    • Jean-Ralphio and Mona Lisa are a pair of siblings that descend from a rich family. Both have the terrible habit of making frivolous purchases or burning money in terrible business ideas. They eventually have to resort to faking their own deaths for insurance money. Jean-Ralphio also mentions that his parents made the (probably wise) decision to not give him access to his trust fund until he's fifty.
    • Tom, at least on the beginning and due to influence from Jean-Ralphio, has a tendency of trying to live a luxury lifestyle without the budget for one, which includes buying things he can't afford with the full intention of returning by pretending that those things harmed him. When he and Jean-Ralphio open a business, they burn all their money in decorations, a large warehouse, overpaying their employees (who have nothing to do), and hiring professional basketball players to play for them, all to keep appearances. He eventually gets better when his business fails and he starts another, smaller one, by himself.
  • The Office (US): Michael was mentioned to be in debt before, but in Season 4's "Money", he is shown to be having to take a second job to pay for his debts, not helped by his live-in girlfriend Jan wasting their money and having no idea of the debt issue. When Oscar analyzes his spends, he realizes that Michael's issues come from unnecessary purchases.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • In The Rise and Fall of ECW (the documentary and the book), it is revealed that part of the ECW's demise was because the bad financial management of Paul Heyman, which eventually resulted in the bankruptcy of the company in 2001.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Taken to an extreme by male Aslan in Traveller. Math of any sort, including finance, is consider to be a skill for females, and high-class male Aslan typically have no idea how money works at all.

    Theater 
  • The formerly wealthy Bassanio's absolute inability to manage his own money is what kick-starts the plot of The Merchant of Venice. He has frittered away all of his inheritance and is forced to take out a loan.

    Video Games 
  • Devil May Cry: Dante is revealed to be exceptionally bad with money, to the degree that his utilities and rent are constantly late (the events of Devil May Cry 5 begin with Dante's business having no electricity or running water). His character profile also states that he often needs to borrow money from Lady, which is something she considers a massive turn-off and a prequel novel states that the reason he doesn't start with the weapons he's earned from previous games is because he's had to sell them to make rent.
  • Zhongli from Genshin Impact, an otherwise intelligent and learned man, has absolutely no concept of budgeting. He would just 'buy them all' when asked to choose between goods, and always 'forgets' to bring his own wallet, necessitating others to cover for him. As it turns out, he's the Geo Archon, Rex Lapis Morax, who had the power to generate money out of thin air, so he never needed to worry about money. Unfortunately, it severely warped his economic senses, so when he decides to give up his godhood, he's penniless and forced to mooch off other people's money.
  • Most missions in Grand Theft Auto IV are caused by Roman, Niko Bellic's cousin, squandering his money on gambling.
  • The Wolf Among Us: Beauty and The Beast try desperately to maintain their royalty lifestyle after moving to the real world, leading them to quickly stack up debt. When this receives focus, it doubles as Honor Before Reason, as apparently, The Beast had been making their situation harder by forbidding Beauty to work because as the man, he feels like he should provide by himself. Subverted with Beauty, who is still trying to fix things by getting a job behind his back and takes a loan from The Crooked Man to help pay the bills.
  • King Reinhold from Shop Titans is a filthy rich monarch who loves to spend money whenever possible, much to the consternation of his advisor, Sia. Sometimes this works in the player's favor, as he'll occasionally visit a shop and buy an upgraded item for five times its standard sale value.

    Web Comics 
  • The Order of the Stick: Haley knows to pad the adventuring party's budget to account for The Ditz Elan's poor financial sense, which includes a completely backwards understanding of how haggling works.
Haley: ...Though I did expect him to spend most of it purchasing local bridges.
  • Team Fortress 2: In Issue #2, the Scout turns out to have invested all his money (and judging by MvM games, it'd be a lot) in Tom Jones memorabilia, thinking it'll explode in value once the singer dies. The Spy, needing all the cash he can get to flee arrest, points out how absurd it is to invest so much in a singer who isn't likely to die soon... unaware that the Soldier actually did kill Tom Jones a few days earlier.

    Western Animation 
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: Richard is shown to be this, to the point that his wife doesn't trust him with money at all. This trait leads to the Broke Episode "The Money", where he understands depositing money in an offshore account as throwing money in the sea.
  • Bob's Burgers: Linda Belcher zigzaggs this trope. On one hand, she is the one to actually manage the expenses of the restaurant, she has an extremely complex system through which she controls bounces with the bank and manages to keep their heads above the water. However, whenever something she, or someone she likes, really wants shows up, she has a terrible time controlling herself with what little money her family has. This is best exemplified in "The Unnatural", where she pawns off Bob's espresso machine to pay for baseball lessons for Gene that everyone warns her to be an obvious scam, and "Yurty Rotten Scoundrels", where she freely loans her unhinged sister, Gayle, money to rent a yurt and make an art workshop, even though she is a terrible artist and even Linda herself admits that it's unlikely they'll ever see a return on that money; Bob even says that this is a recurring occurrence when Gayle is involved.
  • Bojack Horseman:
    • Mr. Peanutbutter ends up hosting Hollywoo Stars: What Do They Know! Do They Know Things? Let's Find Out! when it's discovered that he's broke from throwing his money at all kinds of dumb ideas that never sold, such as catcher's mitts to catch bagels out of the toaster.
    • Bojack himself is only narrowly better than Mr. Peanutbutter, being prone to having sufficient money he doesn't has to work since his late 20's, he is prone to waste money without thinking of it twice. One of his most frivolous purchases is buying an entire restaurant just because, later seasons show that he has even forgot to manage said restaurant and the staff has been taking care of itself.
    • In a flashback in Season 4, Princess Carolyn reveals that her family was this. Wealthy in Europe, her family moved to America and quickly lost all the money they had by trying to hold on to their high-class European lifestyle, while being simply working class in America.
  • A Running Gag in Futurama is that Dr. Zoidberg's Perpetual Poverty at least partly stems from him being terrible with money. For example, impulsively buying several records he sees on an infomercial (and doing the same with a late edition newspaper from a street vendor later in the same episode). Despite the fact they're records by Fry, and he could have presumably got them for free by asking.
  • Krusty the Clown is routinely shown to be careless with his expenses in The Simpsons, relying on a ridiculous amount of cheap merchandising keeping him afloat. This becomes a plot device in "Homie the Clown", where wasteful spending and incompetent gambling (as in, betting AGAINST the Harlem Globetrotters, an exhibition basketball team whose entire gimmick is to win every time by blatantly breaking the rules in amusing ways and showing off) get him in trouble with the mafia.
    • Homer himself is constantly throwing away his money due to a combination of impulse buying, his many Zany Schemes and overall stupidity.
    Financial Officer: You throw over one thousand dollars a month into local wishing wells.
    Homer: Of course, you idiot. I'm wishing for more money.
    Financial Officer: (...)Three subscriptions to Vanity Fair?
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • "Porous Pockets" features Spongebob getting extremely rich after stumbling upon a large diamond. He spends the episode giving away free money to the greedy crowd that attaches themselves to him and ignores Patrick's attempt to make him stop. He eventually runs out of money and everyone abandons him.
    • Subverted in "Squid's Day Off": Squidward leaves Spongebob in charge of the Krusty Krab (Mr. Krabs was in the hospital and Squidward wanted a day off). He has an Imagine Spot where Patrick asks for change for a cent, and Spongebob gives away all the money on the till. Squidward runs to check that everything is okay, and tests Spongebob by asking him for change of a dollar; Spongebob proceeds to recite every possible combination of coins that he could get for it until Squidward simply goes away.
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