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Perpetual Poverty

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"April is in the red. May was in the red. June, again, in the red. July, in the red. The whole book — red, red. Red!"
Kotomi Hiyama, Niea_7

Despite always being desperate for cash, food or other supplies, some people never seem to actually run out: They might always be desperate for money, but somehow manage to live in the same house for the duration of their show, never getting kicked out once. Or they might always complain about being hungry but never starve. This is even common in works where the characters own a Cool Starship or Humongous Mecha, and somewhat justifiable given that the maintenance, repair and fuel bills on those things have gotta be huge. Despite the lack of finances, they tend to have "Friends" Rent Control for their living space.

Stereotypically, any Private Detective is always broke.

A subtrope of Failure Is the Only Option: Most plots are driven by the characters making a living doing something entertaining to audiences such as catching criminals for money (or maybe being criminals), and if they ever had a windfall they might actually choose to do something less troublesome and therefore less entertaining.

Contrast with Infinite Supplies. Compare Broke Episode. See also Pottery Barn Poor.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Cowboy Bebop crew spend every single episode complaining about their lack of food, fuel and money — to the point where they end up eating dog food and ages-old rations. Despite usually failing to capture a bounty in almost every episode, they never actually starve — although one episode does show them not only out of both money and food but out of fuel as well, a situation which gets remedied mostly by accident. And when they actually do get a bounty head, either some circumstance will conspire to ensure that they don't get anything for it, or the repair, medical and other bills from the massive destruction they caused going after bounties will cancel out whatever money they made (and when the payout comes at the end of an episode, it's somehow always gone by the next). And, on top of it all, Faye is shown to be a gambler and an occasional thief.
  • In The Demon Girl Next Door, as a result of a curse put on the Yoshida household, they have to subsist on 40,000 yen a month. On the day Yuko's mother revealed their demonic origins to her daughters, they had run out of their rice supply for the month, and it is implied they intended to subsist on miso soup for the rest of the month. This is also why Yuko lacks knowledge on common grocery items and is Hopeless with Tech.
  • Dante from Devil May Cry: The Animated Series also has problems staying financially afloat because of the collateral damage he racks up during his Demon Slaying jobs. It doesn't help that he's also in debt to various people, or that Trish and Lady like to stick him with their shopping bills.
  • The protagonists of Samurai Champloo. Shinichiro Wantanabe likes his characters broke.
  • Continued with the crew in Space☆Dandy. Occasionally they do get money, but Negative Continuity prevents them from keeping it.
  • Outlaw Star: The crew sinks deeper and deeper in debt from the costs of operating, repairing, and re-arming the XGP. Unlike Cowboy Bebop, this never really cuts into their budget for food, because they have a financier who's sweet on Gene and will offer them a job any time they're genuinely strapped. Though they are seen eating better after getting a payout or when the bill is being footed by someone else. In those instances they tend to have large seafood feasts, while in other episodes they're generally seen eating cheaply made stew or eggs and toast.
  • In Get Backers the title characters are always starving and are frequently denied credit at the Honky Tonk. That still doesn't stop them from being incredibly powerful fighters.
  • In Urusei Yatsura, Ataru's parents are always struggling to make ends meet, even though Ataru's "wife" is a princess from a highly advanced alien planet (at one point, she casually pays an intergalactic taxi fare which amounts to the value of all the oil on planet Earth). Ataru's dad regularly worries about how many more payments he needs to make on the house. Not once does the word "foreclosure" ever come up, and at the end of the series he and his family still have their home (despite it being completely destroyed several times).
  • Lucy in Fairy Tail is always worrying about making the month's rent, despite being the daughter of one of the wealthiest men in the country (she ran away from home) and taking on the most high-paying jobs available (most of the reward money gets swallowed up by the bills for her teammates' property damage, or her team refuses the reward for one reason or another).
  • In Zoids: New Century, the protagonists have a huge mobile base shaped like a giant robot snail, from which they launch their Humongous Mecha, but have trouble scraping together money for repairs. Most of the blame probably lies with Leena and her attack spamming tactics. Paying for all of the rounds in just one Weasel Unit Total Assault must be ridiculously expensive. This is said outright in one episode, where an off-the-books scuffle leads to the team withdrawing from the next day's tournament, as replacing enough ammo for Leena to compete with the team would put them below the break-even point even if they got top prize. Considering that even the design of the thing was ludicrous (More Dakka to the point where Bit was wondering why she didn't stick a few nuclear missiles on it), all those weapons were probaby really expensive, too.
  • A regular theme in the manga series Lucu Lucu is that the characters are genuinely, and realistically living in poverty for most of the series.
  • Hell Teacher Nube: Meisuke "Nube-sensei" Nueno often doesn't have enough money even to eat properly, as he is often seen eating a single ramen for one (or two) days. He was outright haunted by the actual God of Poverty once. It's explained that he could make more riches, but that would involve leaving his work post as a teacher and/or doing either illegal or shady things, which he refuses out of principles. As much, he'll use once or twice his demon hand to cheat at the Pachinko games, where his students can't see him. Lampshaded by the principal in one episode, when he asked Nube where all his salary went.
  • Yusuke and his mother Atsuko in YuYu Hakusho. In fact, it's not clear how they pay for the small apartment they live in, since neither of them seems to have a job. The only real hint is an offhanded joke in the seventh chapter that seems to imply that Atsuko moonlights as a prostitute, and late in the manga Yusuke's father briefly appears, suggesting he might help.
  • In Excel♡Saga, various individuals fit this trope since the manga was poking fun at the recession Japan was going through. But the heroines in particular are always starving since they cannot hold down a temp job. However, their "emergency food ration" survives to the last episode. This trend is broken in the manga after Hyatt and Elgala become executives of ILL (Il Palazzo's current and most successful world conquest vehicle). Menchi (the aforementioned ration) gains quite a bit of weight because of this. This development led to brief poverty for Dr. Kabapu and his employees as Il Palazzo revealed his embezzlement and general corruption, but he bounced right back since his secretary Momochi managed to hide most of the money even from himself.
  • Miyako in Hidamari Sketch fits in this trope. She is generally low on cash, to the level that in one strip, since she didn't even have the 300 yen for lunch, she decided to drink water instead.
  • Lack of funds is a main theme in Binbou Shimai Monogatari—no surprise, since the title translates as "the story of the poor sisters".
  • The titular character in Maris the Chojo is constantly struggling to keep ahead of the debts she accrues due to her Power Incontinence, living in a galaxy literally not built to handle somebody with her level of Super-Strength.
  • Parodied in Ouran High School Host Club. The absurdly rich club members envision Haruhi's life to be like this, when in reality she lives a fairly typical working-class lifestyle. Money is indeed tight in the Fujioka household, but they're hardly destitute.
  • Team Rocket in Pokémon: The Series are constantly hungry, to the point that they'll offer temporary loyalty to anyone who'll feed them, even Ash and the gang, yet they never seem to starve. They also very often complain about having no money. This is because they always blow their salary on Humongous Mecha in their schemes to steal Pokémon. On occasion, they have taken regular jobs. But only until they have enough money to pull off whatever scheme they've been concocting. In one episode they even comment that they never keep any cash more than 24 hours. And in "Dues and Don'ts", it's revealed that the three had been unknowingly kicked out of Team Rocket at an unspecified point for never paying their dues and constantly taking out loans. They're allowed back in by the end of the episode due to labor shortages resulting from members getting arrested, but a Team Rocket Delibird chasing after them to collect their debt becomes a Running Gag for the remainder of the Johto saga. It gets worse for them in Pokémon Journeys: The Series thanks to James' Morpeko and its bottomless stomach.
  • In Pokémon Adventures, Maylene, the Veilstone Gym Leader, is initially jealous of Platinum's wealth and is usually shown to be hungry. At the battle at Mt. Coronet, she outright states that she is poor. This is probably due to the fact that she has a deadbeat dad who does nothing but play slots at the Game Corner all day, much to her chagrin.
  • The Red Ranger Becomes an Adventurer in Another World: Because of his Destructive Savior tendencies, Red is always broke since he scorches all the valuable drop items, turning them into useless lumps of charcoal that he can't exchange for money.
  • The Makino family in Boys over Flowers. They started out as just comparatively poor, which made sense given that 99.5% of the main cast were ridiculously wealthy, but by the end of the series they were living in a shack, drying seaweed for money.
  • Train's group in Black Cat are almost always strapped for money, constantly having to take on new sweeps despite managing to catch several bounties worth millions. Apparently their debt tends to be caused by Train breaking things or eating too much.
  • Ryo-san, the main character of Kochikame, spends all of his money on video games, models, and gambling and is in debt to most of Katsushika (in stark contrast to his two companions at the police station who each have more money than God).
  • Hetalia: Axis Powers:
    • This is one of Ukraine's biggest woes (other than her Yandere siblings' screw-ups, which she often has to fix).
    • Greece. In the CD drama Hetalia Phantasia, he says he suffers from trade deficit and can't play online games because of that.
    • Moldova takes the cake, as one strip reveals that his economy is only 1/30th the size of Greece's. All he wears is an oversized, shabby and patchy coat, and he apparently can't even afford underwear.
  • Claire in Red Garden has trouble with her job and rent, even to the point of her phone line and gas getting shut off, but still manages to make it through.
  • Most of the cast of The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service have a problem with this, being university students fresh out of a Buddhist college with no real skills apart from the ones that come in handy in corpse-collecting.
  • Kobato from Kobato. seems to only possess her clothing, her futon and the magical bottle where she stores the suffering of others.
  • Abel Nightroad in Trinity Blood generally gets very little to eat, to the point of sometimes subsisting on 13 scoops of sugar in his tea. Justified by the fact that he's a priest and has taken a vow of poverty. Presumably he takes that vow so seriously that he won't access Vatican expense accounts unless it's absolutely necessary.
  • Apparently there is no need for money in the Rave Master universe as you never see the main characters working, and tend to spend all their money at the casino. This is very obvious in one episode when they lose ALL their money at the casino and are complaining about being broke while sitting in a first class cabin on a train before going to the food cart for lunch.
  • A major point in Niea_7 is that Mayuko's troublesome finances get strained even more by Niea's freeloading.
  • Akihisa Yoshii, the lead of Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts, lives in a state of constant financial woe. It's noted that he frequently prioritizes new video games over his food budget, so it's mostly self-inflicted. He has to eat salt and sugar water for energy, has no hot water, and divides up his meals into 1/64ths so he can survive. His situation improves somewhat after his big sister moves in, but not by much.
  • The basic premise of Nerima Daikon Brothers is that the eponymous band needs money to build their concert dome, so of course they're always broke to keep the plot going. Ichiro is the most popular host at a host club and does make a good bit of money but saves most of it for the concert dome, Mako is extremely materialistic and tends to blow whatever money she gets, and Hideki is usually the one she gets money from in the first place.
  • Despite most of the cast being Ojou, Hayate the Combat Butler's Hayate Ayasaki and Yukiji Katsura are pressed to the limits of their pocketbooks continually. Hayate for his selfless giving to his harem, Yukiji for her love of drinking.
  • The manga series Dai-Tokyo Binbo Sekatsu Manyaru ("Tokyo Poverty Daily Life Manual") revolves around a laid-back main character, Kosuke, who has deliberately chosen to adopt a life of poverty. It's easier that way: you don't need to take care as much stuff, you have less responsibilities, and you can focus on the things that matter like friends and spiritual wholeness. (This could in some ways be a kind of manga manifesto for the freecycle culture.)
  • Kanba, Shoma and Himari Takakura from Penguindrum live in a run-down house with their penguins and are almost always short of cash. Episode 5 has Kanba discussing matters related to their lack of money with their uncle Ikebe, who is worried about their well-being and how their parents have been gone already for a while; he tells Kanba that he should sell the house and move with his siblings to a smaller apartment, but Kanba refuses to do so. By the end of the episode, however, Kanba has somehow gotten a hold on enough money for the month. This is very important, plot-wise, as we later learn that he's in cahoots with a certain terrorist cell...
  • The Kunisaki troupe in Kunisaki Izumo no Jijou, despite being a relatively well-respected kabuki house, somehow always seems to be one failed show away from bankruptcy.
  • The Yorozuya in Gintama are motivated to take all sorts of weird jobs to pay the rent and afford food. Despite constant warnings, they are never evicted.
  • In The Pet Girl of Sakurasou, Nanami's parents objects to her aspiration to become a voice actress, and refused to pay her way through it. So she has to pay her living expenses plus the cost of training by working several jobs— and even so she was behind her board and has to withstand hunger. Her moving into Sakura Hall was partly motivated by this trope.
  • In A Certain Magical Index, Touma often complains about being low on cash, since he has to pay for Index's meals and for the hospital bills of his battles.
  • Much to his army's dismay, Eita Touga of 12 Beast cannot resist helping the needy and broke. They are almost always in the red, and considering the size of the army and their composition, it's miraculous he can actually feed them and maintain their gear. Still no victory feasts, though.
  • Deconstructed in Ramen Fighter Miki: Miki has little money, no TV or video games... because she is The Slacker sponging out her mother. Kayahara-sensei tries to be a Save Our Students teacher who is so depressed that only manages to be The Dreaded among her students... her room is completely empty except for a calendar and a TV she won at a contest. Maybe she has a Limited Wardrobe because her jumpsuit is her only clothes.
  • Lucky Star: In the Spin-Off Miyakawa-ke no Kuufuku, the titular sisters are perpetually in poverty because of Otaku older sister Hinata's constant spending and wasteful habits. The end credits song even has them singing about how poor they are. Said ending song is repeatedly cut off during the opening few episodes because Hinata couldn't pay the production company to finish it.
  • Variable Geo: Satomi's had to support herself and her Delicate and Sickly brother, Daisuke, ever since their parents died in a car accident. But, because of Daisuke's condition and the cost of his medical expenses, she's had to work two jobs and barely makes enough for them to live on. Which is how The Jahana Group manipulates her into joining the VG tournament.
  • Phantom Quest Corp.: No matter how many cases Phantom Quest manages to solve, they stay up to their ears in debt thanks to Ayaka's reckless behavior and excessive spending habits. Each episode ends with Mamoru going over their commisions while deducting the costs of expenses and damage claims filed against them; which always ends with them being worse off than they started.
  • Durarara!! has Shizuo Heiwajima, who has been fired from several jobs as a result of his Super-Strength and (unfortunately) Hair-Trigger Temper. His current job has more toleration for his destructive tendencies, simply taking monetary compensation by deducting his pay (which is presumably a lot considering Shizuo gets angry so easily), yet Shizuo doesn't really seem strapped for cash at any rate. He doesn't even mind the deductions from his pay — if anything, he's surprised that he's paid at all.
  • The only main character of Ranma ½ with a stable wage is Genma — a janitor. Soun's family lives off occasionally renting their dojo for various parties, festivals and such. Many episodes focus either on being hired to vanquish some monster — and being paid with food. Or just on an opportunity for some free food. Or not having enough food to last till tomorrow. And then there's the constant need to repair the broken walls — Saotomes had to abandon Nodoka's house and move back to Tendo Dojo, because they could not afford fixing both.
  • Josuke in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable is a teenager with a rich father, but due to a mixture of reckless spending on frivolous luxuries and his mother taking away access to whatever large quantities of money he comes across to prevent said reckless spending, Josuke is less poor and more barred from spending as much cash as he'd like. Even after winning the equivalent of $10,000 dollars in the lottery he still finds himself gambling for more spending money.
  • In Noragami, Yato lives like this, because all he asks for the various odd-jobs he does is 5 yen, and he isn't always in high demand. He's also not a very well-known god, so he doesn't have his own shrine or temple, and he doesn't have a house, either.
  • Ryo Saeba and Kaori Makimura in City Hunter are this in spite of their job as sweepers (that is, they do bodyguard works, investigations both legal and illegal, and even assassinations, provided the committent has a good reason) due a combination of them spending a lot in weapons and munitions, Ryo sometimes having more or less justified enormous expenses (he once surprised Kaori by just spending 100 million yen in a week by giving it to a rehabiliation clinic for drug users after bringing there a dozen addicts in dire need of help without telling her), and enemy attacks on their home and their own shenaningans causing great damage to their place and apparently scaring away the people that were renting the other apartments of their building in the first chapters.
  • Misaki Ayuzawa and her family from Maid-Sama! resort to unconventional methods in order to cope with poverty: like her working in a maid cafe, and her sister constantly winning the lottery.
  • Glenn in Akashic Records of Bastard Magic Instructor. Despite receiving a decent salary as a magic teacher and not having to pay rent due to living in his foster parent's house, he still routinely finds himself short on money to even buy food (said foster parent refuses to help him on any other expenses). This is his own fault as he wastes money on things like gambling.
  • Shigure of Kemono Michi oftentimes complains about how often Genzo's pet shop is in the red, thanks to Genzo's luxurious pampering of his increasingly large menagerie of animals, Hanako's bottomless stomach, and Carmilla being utterly useless on her best days. In spite of this, the shop is never repossesed, they are never forced to release any animals back into the wild, and they almost always find some way to get back in the black or settle their most pertinent debts and afford food for themselves and the animals. It should be noted that while Genzo brags about how high quality their pet food is, Shigure often complains about consuming soup that's just heated salt water.
  • Three of the schools of Girls und Panzer exhibit this, as a shout out to the resource situation of the countries they're taking after in World War II:
    • Anzio High School is this, though it's less because they're a parody of Fascist Italy with its resource scarcity and industrial paucity and more because they're a bunch of Big Eaters. They have food stalls and parties all the time (like after every sensha-do match, regardless of who wins) and it's shown that they could actually buy some new equipment if they scaled back their considerable food budget a bit.
    • Jatkosota High School, in a parallel to Finland's lack of a dedicated tank program and reliance on captured enemy equipment. This is shown in series by having them regularly plunder the other schools for equipment and supplies (a Freeze-Frame Bonus in the film shows that they stole a KV-1 from Pravda and they apparently left the match as soon as their tank got knocked out to loot the University Team's stuff) and, as a result, have a tank force as mixed as Oarai's.
    • Chi-Ha-Tan Academy, hearkening to Imperial Japan's extreme resource shortage. Supplemental materials show that they strictly ration everything they have to the extent that, the girls of Jatkosota refuse to steal from them (the first time around, at least). In fact, they left their wheelbarrow behind because they really felt sorry for the IJA-themed school.
  • The titular character from The Great Jahy Will Not Be Defeated! used to be the second-in-command of the Demon Realm; powerful, surrounded by luxuries and minions catering to her every whims. Now she's reduced to living in an old apartment complex, eats meager meals and take part-time jobs just to survive while she tries to restore the Demon Realm.
  • Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro: Yako, to the point there are several chapters dedicated to her trying (and failing) to win some money to pay off some crippling debt. The work never clears up how much she and Neuro get paid for the cases they solve, specially the ones the duo happens to stumble across but it seems to imply it's a just a combination of Neuro wasting all the money in some inconsequential stuff and then footing the bill to Yako and Yako herself ordering the occasional 12 course banquet at some fancy restaurant what seems to deplete their funds.
  • The Quintessential Quintuplets: The Uesugi family lives in a very small apartment and barely make ends meet (in fact, part of the reason Fuutarou accepts the job as a tutor is because they need that money). Even the Flash Forwards to his wedding imply their economical situation hasn't improved that much five years later.
  • Cafe Kichijoji De has Toku, a Starving Student who lives in a rundown apartment with no heating nor air conditioning and could rarely afford to eat meat. He works part time at the titular Cafe to support himself, but his habit of breaking the store's dishes due to his clumsiness means that he earns very little to improve his living conditions.
  • Great Teacher Onizuka: Onizuka may have a steady job, but he's still living paycheck to paycheck, and often tries a Get-Rich-Quick Scheme or two to get money fast. In GTO: The Early Years, it was impossible for him to hold down a job because he kept beating up rude customers.
  • All incarnations of Rio Kinezono in Burn Up! W, Excess and Scramble have in common that they're struggling to get to the months end. It doesn't help that she loves to blow off her money in luxuries, parties or otherwise unimportant stuff.
  • Engage Kiss: Shu and Kisara seems to be fine without any income or external support, either only having bean sprouts for the whole month or not eating for days in Shu's case.
  • My Hero Academia: Ochaco Uraraka has shades of this. Her family owns a construction company that isn't exactly thriving and her motivation for pursuing a Pro Hero career is mostly tied to bringing monetary stability for her parents. Additional material portray her as a penny pinching pro (her stat chart lists a 6/6 in Frugality), to the point of sleeping to stave off hunger and save food.

    Comic Books 
  • Part of the charm of Alan Ford: as a parody of the spy fiction genre, the T.N.T. Group is constantly penniless and forced to live in a dilapidated flower shop, using straw bales as mattresses and being forced to subsist on meager soups and the occasional sandwich/hamburger/hotdog. Apparently is because the leader and founder, the Number One, is an extremely stingy old man, but also because, as he himself points out some times, the agents themselves aren't accustomed to being rich, and when they do receive some money as a reward they end up wasting it in record time. The trope is eventually broken after the apparent disappearance of the T.N.T. Group and Alan opening an investigation agency with his girlfriend and eventually wife Minuette Macon.
  • Spider-Man is the premier example of this. Despite being a super-genius inventor who created a revolutionary new super-strong bio-degradable adhesive, friends with several billionaires, married to a model/actress, and a member of the world's greatest superhero team (the Avengers), he still seems to be utterly broke in most storylines, to the point where he just put up with a dislocated shoulder until it healed to avoid paying the medical bills. Many fans feared that the fallout of Superior Spider-Man (2013) would put him back into this, which eventually came to pass when he has to destroy Parker Industries to keep Hydra from getting its hands on it. And to add insult to injury, he even loses the Ph.D. Doc Ock got him due to plagiarism allegations, although he does enroll in Empire State University to earn one himself.
  • In the Marvel NOW! Avengers relaunch, Tony Stark lures Wolverine, The Falcon, and Spidey back to the team by each offering them something. His offers are respectively: beer, birdseed (sarcastically), and in Peter's case, money. Peter is then shown dramatically hugging Tony while sighing "Oh, thank God."
  • This is part of José Carioca's character in his Brazilian comic series. He's avoided paying for things so much, his debt collectors have formed their own group known as the A.N.A.C.O.Z.E.C.A. He is not above bathing in a public fountain, or pulling a dine and dash. Some of his earlier stories have him balancing this out while also trying to put on the appearance that he's rich (mostly to justify the suit he wore; José wasn't designed with this characterization in mind).
  • In John Kovalic's Dork Tower, Matt and his friends are always short on funds for their hobbies and toys (and the rent), yet somehow manage to stay in the same apartment and drive a car for years.
  • Donald Duck is an even older example than The Simpsons. Somehow, circumstances always conspire to keep him from any riches he may find in the course of the stories.
    • A running joke, at least in Italian stories, is that Donald puts everything on the tab, and now has an enormous debt to every grocer, vendor, repairman, etc. in Duckburg. Paying off all his debt seems to be a case of Failure Is the Only Option, and his creditors can get downright brutal. Yet he's hardly ever evicted from his big suburbia house... Because his landlord is Scrooge. In lieu of rent, Donald does any task Scrooge asks of him, from life-threatening adventures to polishing every coin in the money bin.
    • Italian stories also provide justifications on just why his creditors are still willing to do business with him and haven't sued him off everything he owns: on one hand, Donald is known to be friends with the local Unscrupulous Hero Paperinik (alias himself), so they don't usually cross certain lines out of fear of him coming after them (as it actually happened in some stories, as Donald does use his alter ego to settle scores, and being forced to sign contracts saying he'll pay them tenfold once he inherits from Scrooge or them outright laying siege to his house and devastating his garden is enough for him to grab the costume); on the other hand, whenever Donald brings home some riches he immediately pays off his tab (that's a frequent reason for him not keeping his riches), so they know they will get the money... Someday.
  • Dylan Dog and his assistant Groucho live in a state of Perpetual Poverty.
  • This seems to be status quo for Old Master Q, where the protagonist of the same name is often seen living on less than meager means. This is doubly true of the first animated film, where he lives in a tiny wooden shack on top of a high rise and running water appears to be his only amenity.
  • Chester and Deck in Havoc Inc, in part due to Chester's spending habits. When their daughter (something of an economics prodigy apparently) gets into the company books she finds a bill adorned with little skulls.
  • The Godinez family from Los miserables, ever since the comic started they are shown living (or as the author said, surviving) below the poverty line: They live in a shack on a landfill and they get their income from re-selling bootleg items they buy from the Chinese. In some story arcs they manage to obtain a large sum of money... only to lose it by some Diabolus ex Machina, or in another they manage to start a business that will lift them from poverty only to be out-competed by the Chinese.
  • In the All-New, All-Different Marvel universe, The Avengers are struck with this. The current incarnation of the Avengers Unity Squad has its funding from Deadpool, which his title reveals is from selling merchandising and outsourcing his name for other uses, while the All-New, All-Different Avengers have been given the nickname "Broke-Ass Avengers" as despite having Tony Stark on their team, he isn't the financial juggernaut he once was. They're even forced to operate out of an abandoned aircraft hangar in New Jersey because Tony had to sell Avengers Tower.
  • The Runaways are constantly on hard times, owing to the fact that they are actual runaways and technically wanted criminals. This is slightly alleviated in the third season when Chase gets a job, but his boss turns out to be an aspiring supervillain and thus the job evaporates after he tries to turn the whole population of Los Angeles into zombies, and since the Runaways blew most of Chase's paycheck on a Nintendo Wii, they soon end up broke again.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics): The Chaotix, post-cosmic reboot. Even saying they don't have the money to keep the lights on would be generous, since they can't afford lights at all. No matter what they do or who hires them, they barely break even.
      • After Espio loses to Bean in the Championship arc, Vector uses a collect call message to yell at Espio, telling him not to accept the charges cause they can't afford it.
      • In the final issue of Sonic Universe, they are tasked with finding and rescuing a princess, which does end with them getting paid. Unfortunately, they find that the foreign currency they're paid in has an awful exchange rate, meaning all they can buy is a package of lightbulbs for the office while Charmy decides to keep his share.
    • Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW): The Chaotix in this incarnation retain this element of being flat-out broke, where they always ask to get paid. When Knuckles hires them in the Misadventures arc, the crocodile is the quick to ask what the Echidna is paying them after the trouble they went through. Knuckles however doesn't have any money, being a recluse who lives on an island in the sky, which he instead offers to forage them some seasonal fruits. Espio consoles a crying Vector to accept the offer since it would be free groceries for them.
  • Spider-Boy is a homeless, penniless kid with a Missing Mom and a Disappeared Dad. Even if he were old enough to get a job, all documentation of his existence has been erased, making it impossible to get working papers. His lack of money becomes a sore spot for him by Issue #3 of his comic, as his phone, his last worldly possession, was stolen just before Christmas. He then mutters that he wants twenty bucks after a woman asks how he can repay her for saving her and her cat. Unfortunately, Heroism Won't Pay the Bills, and the expectation that superheroes work for free means that she doesn't even entertain the thought while Christina tries to sweep Bailey's remark under the rug by saying he was just kidding.

    Comic Strips 
  • Andy Capp lives off his wife's wages and is usually behind on the rent. He is occasionally evicted, but always gets his home back so that the neighbours (Chalky and Ruby) and rent collector (Percy) are always the same.
  • Agnes plays this for realism. The titular character's Gran'ma works at factory and doesn't get paid very much, so, they live paycheck to paycheck but, while they are "poor", they're not too worse off. Part of this plays into why Agnes' schemes tend to be get-rich types.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Miraculous Ladybug prequel fic The Legend of Royal Blue and La Sylphide, Gabriel and anyone else living at Hôtel Camélia face this. It's established in the first chapter the once luxurious property is all but a slum, yet still the best its tenants can afford. Gabriel is quite money-minded, and irked by the landlord, his grandfather Alphonse, being irresponsible with finances or too easygoing about late payment.
  • Fate/Harem Antics: Archer/Francis Drake frequently goes shopping with Rin Tohsaka's money, causing Rin to complain that she doesn't have a lot left.
  • While Dante gets plenty of lucrative jobs in Son of Sparda D×D, he tends to blow away what money he gets as soon as he receives it and is often on the precipice of eviction if his arguments with his landlady are anything to go by. Despite this, he never gets evicted and always has enough to get by.
  • Metal Gear: Green:
    • Throughout the MSF's liberation of Africa, many of the locals who have been freed and later joined the MSF were forced to live in poverty as the warlords controlled the food market, and the heroes did nothing to help them. When they were freed, they were offered more from the MSF, and for many of them, being treated like actual human beings is better than being deemed expendable.
    • Much like MHA canon, Ochako suffers from this. Akatani (a disguised Izuku) was quick to realize that Ochako wanted food, but didn't want it to be viewed as charity, as charity means she can't handle her situation.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Ghostbusters:
    • The Ghostbusters are never shown to have gained any material benefit from their work. In the first film they start out desperately broke as their business gets off the ground. Even after business starts booming, we never see them spending any money. In the second film, Snap Back causes them to be broke again, as a result of New York City suing them for damages caused by ghosts in the first film.
    • At least the 2009 video game (which is canon) shows them in better shape, as the city has agreed to cover any future damages they accrue and they are about to launch franchise opportunities... but they are still working out of the same fire house and driving the same car, both of which were established as utterly inadequate in the first movie.
  • Justified in the case of the Franciscans in The Flowers of St. Francis. Poverty is actually part of the Franciscans' spirituality and rule. Notably, Francis and Leone encountered a man who gave them some gold coins, but they leave the coins behind.
  • The Dude in The Big Lebowski is unemployed with no indication he has held a job anytime recently. While his standard of living is fairly low, he still is able to afford to bowl a lot, drink a fair amount of White Russians, smoke pot on occasion, and drive a car (albeit an old one, which gets more and more beaten up through the events of the movie). There's no explanation as to his source of income.
  • Crooklyn: The family is down, but not out. But barely not out. Carolyn is a teacher who is overworked and underpaid, and Woody is a classical pianist and composer who doesn't want to compromise his artistry and play more marketable music. This causes a lot of friction between Carolyn and Woody.

  • The Dresden Files:
    • Harry Dresden is always broke in the first several books. Magic doesn't pay well. Even later on, when he gets a job with the Wardens that makes a decent amount of money, he stays in the same grotty little apartment and keeps the same run-down car - both because he's still far from rich, and because magic's tendency to mess with technology means that he doesn't get along too well with electricity (e.g.: icebox rather than freezer) much less anything more complex. And because his landlady is remarkably understanding about things like zombies trying to break down his doors, and because Harry's not that big on change. It's never outright stated, but it seems that Harry plows down a pretty big chunk of his disposable income into paraphernalia for his magical research. For example, he has significant amounts of uranium dust and rhino horn lying around his lab (neither of which is exactly cheap, even if depleted uranium is legal and pretty harmless), paid someone to forge a ten-feet-in-diameter circle of copper and laid it into his lab floor (unless he did it himself, but that seems unlikely), is always improving his focus items (over the course of fifteen books, he's gone from one kinetic battery ring to seventy-seven kinetic batteries integrated into his staff), and at one point constructed an accurate scale model of Chicago to make it easier to track things.
    • In Skin Game, Harry takes part in a heist, where he is promised two million dollars upon completion, plus whatever he can grab from the vault and stuff in a bag (which is estimated to be about twenty million, if he's smart and grabs gems). He doesn't get paid or even get a bag, but one of the other survivors was smart enough to fill her backpack with diamonds. Harry gets one-fifth, which, assuming the estimate was correct, is four million dollars. Though he gives half of it to Murphy.
  • Source and Shield Pairs in the Hero Series are subsidized by the government. They aren't paid for their work, but get free housing, and by law all merchants are supposed to give them whatever they want when they ask for it. On a social level, this isn't nearly as good as it sounds when everyone resents you for walking into their bar and getting free drinks.
  • In The Name of the Wind, a major part of the story is Kvothe's constant struggling with his complete lack of money. The close narration makes it possible to follow exactly how much money he has at any point in time. Any time he pulls off some ridiculous feat to scrounge a few extra coins, they go straight to paying off his debt to the friendly neighborhood Loan Shark. His money problems are mostly resolved after he returns from his trip in The Wise Man's Fear.
  • Harry Potter:
    • The Weasley family, whose wands, books and robes have been handed down through seven children in order to save money. Despite this, the Weasleys have no problem letting Harry and Hermione (both well-off) stay with them for all or part of the summer. They even manage to hold on to their Perpetual Poverty despite winning the lottery in Prisoner of Azkaban. Rather than buy new robes, they opted to blow the lot on a trip to Egypt. This could be simply because the Weasleys feel that a family trip is more important than material possessions, though; and it was the first time they'd seen Bill, who worked there as a curse-breaker, in some time. The money wasn't all blown through with the trip, as some of the galleons were then used to buy Ron a new wand. The Weasleys' situation never seems to improve, even after the five oldest children move out. Although once the Weasley twins receive seed money from Harry at the end of Goblet of Fire and start their business in the following book, they become wealthy in short order (and all the Weasley siblings become very successful in their chosen fields, even if those fields don't always pay well.)
    • Remus Lupin is always described as thin and shabby looking, because no wizard will employ a werewolf and between transformations he's often ill or injured. Pottermore revealed that James and Lily financially supported Lupin before their deaths- so he wasn't all alone. Similarly Remus's father is also still alive, certainly better off financially than Remus, and loves him, and Remus loves him too, who refuses to burden his father with his problems as an adult.
  • In the Dirk Gently series, Dirk lives the stereotypically broke life of the Private Detective, all the more so because karma has apparently latched on to him and decided that no matter how many mysteries he successfully solves, none of his clients will ever pay him. In the second book, he is genuinely bewildered as to why the various people and companies he owes money to are wasting even more money by even bothering to keep sending him bills. He then immediately splurges his first sizable payment from a client on a new fridge, because neither he nor his cleaning lady are prepared to clean the old one.
  • Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser tend to go on epic benders whenever they come into any loot, and most of their stories begin with them flat broke and either monumentally hungover, on the run from creditors, or both.
  • This is the Bucket family's situation in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, similar to the above-mentioned Folklore examples: Out of 7 family members living in one shack, only Mr. Bucket works a poor-paying job at a toothpaste factory. (The grandparents are too old and weak, the mother is a Housewife, and Charlie is a schoolboy.) Only the grandparents get to sleep in a bed, and food is limited to cabbage/cabbage soup, boiled potatoes, and bread and margarine. This situation has been established for years as the novel begins, and then hits Broke Episode territory in Chapter 10 when Mr. Bucket loses his job — it's aptly titled "The Family Begins to Starve". The good news is that the family ends up Wealthy Ever After thanks to Charlie's luck and virtue.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Battlestar Galactica: It's not quite as severe as being a day-to-day struggle but is an overall worse situation given the population difference. To showcase it, the series includes several episodes attempting to get enough food, water, and fuel to keep surviving. The ships were constantly getting more damaged and even the clothes getting worn out, and even when they had enough supplies to get by it was still eking out a miserable existence in rooms the size of closets (if you were lucky enough to get a room —very few did even among the senior crew, Admiral Adama being a notable exception) with nothing much to relieve the crushing monotony and basic nature of their lives, eating algae processed muck as a staple. It comes as no surprise they always made sure they had plenty of booze around. This was also the case, though less emphasized, in the original; at least two episodes revolved entirely around getting new seed, or supplies of fuel, and a segment of "War of the Gods" showed just how low living standards are for most of the Fleet's population.
  • The Big Bang Theory:
    • Penny is a waitress who is struggling to be an actress, but only getting in a few plays. She complains about being poor, yet somehow can afford to live in a single-bedroom apartment and keep an impressive collection of clothes, given a new outfit of hers every episode. She also freeloads off her neighbors. However, it's strongly implied that she buys most of her clothes on credit and that she's rarely up to date on her rent. When she quit waitressing and started work as a pharmaceutical representative this turned around for her. She's stated that, in a good month, she can make more than Leonard. But she does seem to have a lot of credit card debt.
    • Stuart, a Starving Artist who owns the comic book store the main male scientists frequent. How little profit the comic book store makes has become Stuart's Running Gag. Among other things, he's mentioned having to sleep in the store, going without meat, and having to shower at Leonard and Sheldon's apartment. Like Penny, he stops being financially insecure late in the series' run, in his case due to the sudden popularity towards his comic book store thanks to Neil Gaiman making a random visit to the place and tweeting about it afterwards.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Xander Harris, until he gets promoted at work.
  • El Chavo del ocho:
    • Practically every character living in the neighborhood, with the possible exception of Doña Florinda, judging by her house, her solvency, and the little Greasy Spoon she owns later in the series. Still, one could ask why, given her snobbishness, she couldn't move to a better place.
    • Don Ramón being the most prominent example, so much it's a Running Gag having his landlord, Sr. Barriga, charge him from his 14 months due of rent.
  • Cheers: It's mentioned several times, especially in the Rebecca years, that the bar, despite an apparent steady flow of customers, barely makes any money. Though some of this is because it's hinted several times that Sam and Rebecca have no idea how to actually run a bar (Rebecca at least has Flanderization to blame for that —by the final season, she's supposed to be the manager, but figures lottery tickets are the only way to make a financial gain). Others instances also suggest the bar would probably be doing a lot better if Sam actually made Norm pay back some of that decades-long tab of his.
  • Cutie Honey: THE LIVE: Private detective Seiji Hayami fits this trope to a tee. He claims to be living in poverty as a way to infiltrate the underworld of Japan... whether or not that can be believed when you consider his luck with clients and general ineptness at his job is up to the viewer.
  • Farscape: For long periods, the main characters have no higher goals other than finding a way to get enough to eat, stay alive, and avoid capture. They knock over a bank in the climax of the second season, however, which eases most (but not all) of their money troubles.
  • Firefly:
    • The crew is usually struggling to make ends meet, even keep their ship flying, on top of their higher goals. At one point, Mal actually manages to sell something without shenanigans going down... and then you see the laser sight on his buyer's forehead...
    • The tabletop game based on the series actually added a negative character trait that enabled players to roleplay this; taking it meant that there was something like a one-in-four chance that the character would lose all the money they were supposed to be getting paid at the end of a quest. It was named after Mal's catchphrase, "It Never Runs Smooth".
    • There were a few episodes following a heist where they stole a few hundred pounds of pharmaceuticals in which they could afford fresh fruit. But they spent it all, quite a bit of it on ransom in the episode mentioned above.
  • Flight of the Conchords: Many of the jokes on this HBO series revolve around the band's permanently dire financial situation.
    Jemaine: We're poor and we've got no gigs.
    Bret: We're slightly poorer.
    Murray: Are you really?
    Jemaine: Yeah, Bret's only got one shoe.
  • Friends: Joey would fall squarely into the trope if it wasn't for his friend and roommate, Chandler. Joey is an actor that goes from gig to gig, so the pay isn't very high or stable, while Chandler has a steady and well-paying job in an office. Despite how desperate for money Joey is to get by, he refuses to accept money from Chandler directly, believing that he shouldn't borrow money from a friend. One episode makes a point that with Joey as a struggling actor, Rachel as a struggling waitress, and Phoebe as a masseuse they don't have the disposable income Ross, Monica, and Chandler have with more stable jobs, which becomes an issue because they like going to pricey restaurants to celebrate events.
  • Happy Endings: Max, The Slacker, switches between jobs frequently, though most of the time he doesn't have one at all. He inadvertently reveals that Dave, who had moved in with him, was deceived into paying all of the rent while he believed he was only paying half. One episode revealed he did things like go to various support groups for free food.
  • The Honeymooners: Both Ralph and Norton have steady blue-collar jobs, but Ralph is constantly throwing away their wages on foolish get-rich-quick schemes. And there's an infamous episode where he quits, and the situation isn't rectified by the end of the show.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: The entire gang has lost everything they own multiple times over, yet they are somehow keeping their bar afloat. Frank, however, is explicitly very well off and is stated or implied to have bailed Dennis and Dee out of trouble on more than one occasion, but he lives in relative squalor (by choice) and only lets any appreciable amounts of money go when it comes to funding whatever schemes the Gang wants to get up to.
  • Liebling Kreuzberg: Liebling's daughter, Sara, is always strapped for some cash because she doesn't know how to manage well her money. Despite that, she can afford to wear nice outfits and worry herself more with romance than with how is she going to make ends meet.
  • Magnum, P.I.: Honestly, how would Magnum survive without the good graces of Robin Masters and the loyalty, gullibility, and infinite patience of his friends?
  • Malcolm in the Middle: There are several episodes throughout the show that emphasize how much the Malcolm family is struggling to make money and support their four dysfunctional children. The fifth and oldest goes through this as well but subverted in that he constantly travels around trying to make ends meet. Justified as neither Hal nor Lois earns very much (he's an average blue-collar office worker, and she works in a convenience store), and providing for 4 (then 5) children and sending Francis to military school costs a lot. The Grand Finale has Malcolm and Reese working as janitors after graduating high school and moving out (although Malcolm's attending Harvard at the same time), and Lois realizing in horror that she's pregnant with a sixth child just when they had two fewer mouths to feed. The parents frequently engaged in actively destructive behavior that kept them in poverty. The father admitted as they sabotaged Malcolm's attempts to get away to a school in Europe that the financial benefit of his being gone didn't matter to them as much as keeping him around to fix the problems that their own self-destructive behavior caused.
  • Married... with Children: The Bundys live only on Al's mediocre salary as a salesman at a mall shoe store. This gets increasingly exaggerated over time, to the point that the family is constantly short on money and basic necessities.
  • The Monkees: For the eponymous characters, there's often a threat of running out of food or being kicked out of the beach house for non-payment of rent, but the status quo is maintained.
  • Nikki: A recurring conflict in the sitcom. Nikki and Dwight live off meagre salaries as a showgirl in Las Vegas' crappiest hotel and a semi-pro wrestler respectively, which isn't helped by bad choices in pursuit of stardom. Their situation gets so bad in the third season, that they briefly live in an RV.
  • Only Fools and Horses: The main cast seems to be just a few days/weeks from failing to pay rent and ending up evicted. The episodes with the poker game and the psychic reading one come to mind here, since it's mentioned In-Universe how everyone's completely skint. Somehow the Trotters still don't run out of money for food or other essential items, or get thrown out.
  • Only Fools and Horses: The main cast seems to be just a few days/weeks from failing to pay rent and ending up evicted. The episodes with the poker game and the psychic reading one come to mind here, since it's mentioned in universe how everyone's completely skint. Somehow the Trotters still don't run out of money for food or other essential items, or get thrown out.
  • The Rockford Files: Jim Rockford fits the stereotype of the perpetually broke Private Detective. While he does have many successful cases, the various methods that his clients use to avoid paying him are one of the show's Running Gags.
  • Sanford and Son are always trying to scrape together money, but never actually end up bankrupt.
  • Scrubs: The main characters often complain about being short on money, the episode "My Fruit Cups" explores this in detail where JD says that they barely make more than a waiter and had to pick up shifts and work at a free clinic to make ends meet. This is a case of Truth in Television; any real-life doctor has spent their education and the early years of their careers as the hospital's Butt-Monkey. When they finish their residencies and become fully autonomous doctors in the fourth season, money ceases to be as big an issue excepting big expenses. By the later season as they become part of the hospital leadership they are explicitly making good money as doctors do.
  • Shameless (UK); One of the main plot points in both the US and the UK versions is that the Gallagher family is always living in poverty due to Frank, the alcoholic father, spending all their money on drugs and booze (and paying for the damages he does while drunk). If someone in the family manages to save some money, sooner or later Frank will find it and steal it.
  • The Suite Life of Zack & Cody: Maddie often mentions being poor, but goes to a Catholic school and always has new clothes. While not impoverished, one can understand why she may feel she is, since she's best friends with a hotel heiress, one who constantly remarks how poor she is, at that.
  • Tenspeed and Brown Shoe: The series has made this trope a Running Gag. Quite a few episodes have Reformed Criminal E.L. slipping back into his old con artist ways to counteract this, often with results that either help or hinder solving the case of the week.
  • Trailer Park Boys: Basically everyone. The main goal of Ricky, Julian, and Bubbles is to get enough money to retire (even though they don't actually work). Because they're criminals and not very bright, they never succeed. In the rare case that they actually do get a decent sum of money, they will always lose it through one means or another.
  • Unhappily Ever After: The Malloys.
  • Vecinos: The López-Pérez family are struck with this, not helped by Magdalena's attempts to cover it up, be it by lying about being the richest people in the neighborhood, refusing to pay for bought expensive goods, or stealing them.
  • The Young Ones are prey to the oddest swings of fortune: they complain of hunger, but never run out of lentils (which, admittedly, only one of them actually likes); they wind up burning all their furniture for fuel at one point, but suffer an unlikely windfall shortly thereafter; and, indeed, they never get kicked out of their lodgings until the last episode of the series.

  • Many songs are about families or couples who struggle to survive but never go completely broke, mainly because they depend on each other. Examples:
    • "Coal Miner's Daughter" by Loretta Lynn
    • "Coat of Many Colors" by Dolly Parton
    • "I Got You, Babe" by Sonny & Cher
    • "Living on a Prayer" by Bon Jovi
    • "Uptight" by Stevie Wonder
  • Invoked in Swedish group Jauvet's song In the Trade of Jester: "To die without a nickel/is scare for everyone/So we work until our last day/and die like a common man".
  • "Still Fly" by the Big Tymers is about a guy who can't even afford everyday stuff because he wasted all his money on fancy cars, clothes, jewelry, and entertaining (married) women.
  • Implied in Beck's "Black Tambourine" from Guero:
    My baby run to me
    She lives in broken down buildings
    Can't pay the rent again
    These spider webs are my home now.

  • Wooden Overcoats: The Funns are always broke, and often struggle to keep the lights on at Funn Funerals. This is a fairly new situation; before Eric Chapman showed up, they were the only funeral home on the island, but now that they have actual competition, who is much better at what he does than they are, they're floundering. They manage to get by because Rudyard's a total cheapskate, and because the funeral home has been in the family for centuries, so it's not like they have to worry about rent or mortgage payments.


    Tabletop Games 
  • Genius: The Transgression has this as a rapidly increasing problem for Geniuses: mad science is expensive, time-consuming and difficult to make a profit on. One of the few remaining advantages Lemuria has is a lot of money and weird science supplies. Fortunately for most Geniuses, there are workarounds: a Merit that makes mad science cheaper, working in sane technical fields or education, building giant robots and robbing banks with them...
  • This is usually the flavor of most Shadow Run groups. The Runners are either completely broke or are cheated out of their money by the corporation they're hired by, or blow all of their money buying guns, cybernetics, and the like.
  • In GURPS characters with the Dead Broke disadvantage will always lose any money they get.
  • An unlucky crew in Traveller can easily end up in this situation despite transporting cargoes that can be worth millions of credits considering mortgage payments on the ship, plus maintenance, life support, and the necessity of having enough left over to buy the next cargo.
  • Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th edition enforces this trope: When characters return from an adventure, they're first allowed to sell off any loot they found and buy whatever items they can get with the money. Next, they can perform the 'banking' endeavour to stash away whatever is left (be it in an actual bank or by burying it, leaving it with a trusted friend, or similar). Any money not spent or banked is automatically lost before the start of the next adventure, with the players expected to come up with a roleplaying reason for how it was spent (paying down debts, sent back to the family, wasted on wine, women and amateur theatre, etc). If given a week, characters are allowed to make skill rolls to earn money using their class skill, but for the most part it's little more than a cover for living expenses unless you're of a very high social status. This ensures that financial incentives will be able to drag the players back on the road.
  • Reign encourages players to do this to themselves by offering bonus Experience Points for squandering your wealth, in the style of the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories mentioned above. The effect is somewhat diminished once your Company has much of any Treasure score (which might be right at the start) and you can easily meet all your personal needs out of the petty cash, though. Then again, Game Masters are advised to keep note of that practice and penalize the Treasure score if done too much, meaning you could potentially set a whole town, business, or kingdom into this trope through overindulgence in frivolities.
  • In Rocket Age the Impoverished bad trait causes characters to constantly lack funds and resources, no matter how much their fellows have, although the trait can eventually be bought off.
  • The One Ring: Player characters from cultures with a Frugal standard of living, like Woodmen of Wilderland, can generally see to their needs as traveling adventurers, but can't afford amenities like upscale inn rooms without a more affluent comrade's support. They can invest Treasure to raise their standard of living temporarily, but this requires a precious Downtime phase to do.
  • In the New World of Darkness, player characters are assumed to have the means to meet their basic needs. The "Resources" Merit represents disposable income and assets, so a PC without any points in Resources isn't necessarily destitute, just unable to make any narratively significant expenses.
  • The Dresden Files: One disadvantage makes poverty a part of the character, not just a circumstance or temporary state, so fate stymies any chance of financial success. Since the game is written from an in-universe perspective, Harry Dresden comments that this explains why he is perpetually broke.

  • Cyrano de Bergerac: Exaggerated with Cyrano: Through the five acts of the play (fifteen years), we see (and various characters lampshade) that he rarely eats well, and at act V his friends Le Bret and Raguenau lampshade that he lives in a room that is falling apart. It's also justified because Cyrano always indulged in Conspicuous Consumption combined with A Fool and His New Money Are Soon Parted.
    Ragueneau: No — but — I bore him to his room...
    Ah! his room! What a thing to see! — that garret!

    Video Games 
  • Robot Alchemic Drive features Nanao, an impoverished Japanese high school student. One "episode" of the game gives you her delicious recipe for "water soup": Water, oil, and bread.
  • Sam & Max are shown as living in perpetual poverty conditions despite Max becoming the President of the United States, explicitly moving the Oval Office to their familiar squalor.
  • Devil May Cry:
  • No More Heroes: Travis Touchdown, at least at the beginning of the game, is broke and lives in a motel room, despite owning a gigantic X-Wing styled motorscooter, an insane amount of anime and wresting merchandise, and buying a beam katana from Ebay. Possibly the reason he's broke is that he spends all of his money on this stuff.
  • No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle: Travis still lives in a motel despite all the money he gathered in his previous adventure; since three years passed between the events of both games, he likely spent on anime merchandise and games once again. It's also revealed that at one point he commissioned a full-scale and fully functional replica of a Humongous Mecha from one of his favorite animes. Granted, it turned out to be useful but still...
  • No More Heroes III: Compared to the previous games, the trope is downplayed. Travis still lives in the No More Heroes Motel, but with the help of Naomi he has installed a highly-advanced laboratory, where he can practice, enhance his current skills and earn new ones, even relive boss battles against the defeated assassins via a time machine. He has likely embraced living a moderately modest lifestyle, especially in comparison to the assassination missions where his life is always at risk.
  • Touhou Project:
    • Reimu Hakurei is, due to a lack of donations, portrayed like this in most fan works. Some doujins show her eating grass and either pestering for or extorting donations from other characters. If it wasn't for the Youkai that show up at her shrine, she could probably live a relatively comfortable life if she actually tried being a better Miko for the other humans.
    • This is actually zig-zagged in canon, though. On one hand, she still doesn't get donations, Touhou Ibarakasen ~ Wild and Horned Hermit demonstrates that she gets herself into a lot of get-rich-quick schemes and the plot of one chapter kicks off when she almost dies from food poisoning after eating a mouldy, fuzzy riceball. On the other hand, she is seldom shown to lack for anything she wants or needs, and she's only gone as far as unsubtly hinting at people to donate once or twice. Supposedly she gets some income from youkai hunting and incident resolution. It's also demonstrated that if Reimu actually put in the effort, she could easily get out of and stay out of poverty. For the most part, she seems to only have just enough to manage, but no more, and is generally fine with that.
    • With Touhou Hyouibana ~ Antinomy of Common Flowers comes Shion Yorigami, the goddess of poverty and misfortune. In lieu of patches on her clothes, she uses debt papers. She's unable to make any money, and she converts good luck into bad, which she stores inside herself, making her perpetually unlucky. She's hated by most people as well, and likely does not receive any donations or worship for that reason.
  • Hunger becomes a key part of the plot in Episode 2 of The Walking Dead (Telltale), but that episode is the only one where the characters get a decent amount of food, which they lose by the next episode. Despite hunger often being mentioned, the only food the characters ever find throughout the rest of the series are nothing more than snacks. One character in the whole game has starved to death, and he was a minor walker, who died offscreen.
  • Gabriel Knight is shown as being rather poor — at least in the first game; where he sells a family heirloom to make $100 and get past a specific plot point. He does manage to afford flights to Germany, West Africa, and back mostly because he charged them all to Mosley's credit card. In the sequel, a book deal and some loot from the Voodoo syndicate base has given him the means to move to Germany and live in the family castle.
  • Thief:
    • In the first game, Garrett, despite looting ludicrous amounts of gold, trinkets, and artifacts, seems to still be dirt poor and is constantly worried about paying the rent. His fence must be stiffing him.
    • Thief 2 zig-zags on this, revealing that he has a hidden room in his apartment full of luxury goods. While he gets plenty of money from his occupation, he can't live it up too openly or people will get suspicious. However, his apartment is eventually raided by town guards partway through the game and he's forced to abandon it, starting from square one again.
  • Team Fortress 2's Soldier has always suffered some form of this trope. He was first shown to be a sort of Crazy Survivalist, living in a run-down, windowless, unlit apartment, surviving on army-surplus soup and ribs. While he later gains a roommate (in the form of the wizard that caused the events of Monoculus and DeGroot Keep), he has a hilariously 'real' cheap children's-style Halloween costume made of discarded trash, while the other eight classes all have high-quality outfits (in-universe). He is then apparently kicked out of his apartment by his wizard roommate, as the Pyromania update has cast the Soldier as a crazy hobo who is reduced to cobbling his armor and weapons out of junk and garbage. He also believes that his Tinfoil Hat will keep people from stealing his thoughts and is reduced eating expired army-surplus soup from dented, rusty cans he wears as grenades. Given the nature of Team Fortress 2's setting and the Soldier's notably deranged, moronic personality, this is all Played for Laughs.
  • In The Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road, coins are mainly found lying around the areas you explore, and are very rarely found when defeating enemies. Buying equipment will decrease your coin supply fast.
  • Ragna from BlazBlue tends to be this. So long as the meal is free, he won't refuse. Then again, he is a wanted man. His opportunities for making money are limited, establishments that would take it without calling authorities even more so, and people and places sympathetic enough to harbor him generally have the goodwill to feed him as well.
  • Yayoi Takatsuki from The iDOLM@STER is easily the least well-off of all the idols. This is due to her parents' insufficient income combined with the amount of children they must support (Yayoi is the oldest out of six). The status of 765Pro as a relatively small agency also means that Yayoi's income isn't all that big either, and she is perpetually doing domestic jobs in the office for chump change. She even borrows small amounts of money off the Producer occasionally.
  • The Chaotix Detective Agency in the Sonic the Hedgehog series is stuck like this. They take up the mysterious client in Sonic Heroes only to find out is Dr. Eggman in the end, who promises to pay them when he takes over the world, which doesn't end well for the poor dope. The ending of Espio's campaign in Sonic Rivals 2 has Vector chew out the chameleon for not finishing the job their client paid them in advance for, and mentions that the money was already spent on the rent since the agency was behind on rent payments.
  • Marshall Law from Tekken went from a successful businessman into someone so broke that his only chance to recover financially was to win the tournament, which canonically never happened (the most he received was some "financial assistance" from Yoshimitsu and the Manji Party after they looted Ganryu during the events of the first game), and we're instead treated with hilarity with how he could never escape his poverty. Even in his non-canon endings where he does win the tournament, something happens that causes him to lose all his money. For example, in Tekken 4, he started a successful chain of Chinese restaurants, but then when a customer insulted his cooking he beat up everyone in the restaraunt in a blind rage and got hit with so many lawsuits he went bankrupt again.
  • Because they were fielded when the Japanese was losing the battle of attrition in the World War II, the Akizuki-class destroyers in KanColle are all amazed that their naval base has enough resource to make real beef meals and not just from canned meat. Fan art often exaggerates it by depicting the Akizuki-class as being so poor, that they ration a normal-sized meal for several days, to the point the other shipgirls and the Admiral take them out for fancy banquets out of sheer pity for their rationing.
  • In Ensemble Stars!, Hajime is always portrayed as a poor kid who works part-time for money and relies heavily on coupons when buying groceries, despite also being part of a successful idol unit with a lot of fans. This extends to Ra*bits as a whole — even though they manage a lot of pretty cool achievements, they're always treated as underdogs who are just scraping by and need to do non-idol work for funding.
  • In Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings, the Malen family (family of Lydie and Suelle) is extremely poor, and the game makes a point of this; they're apparently barely making do at a rent of a measly 500 cole a month for rent, and even after the twins start ranking up their atelier and producing natural law-shattering objects, the furthest they get is a possibility of having a more profitable shop in some of the endings. Tellingly, while in the last game to feature such an ending, Atelier Totori, unlocking a "rich" ending required half a million cole, Lydie & Suelle requires only a fifth of that amount (total 100,000) for the twins to consider themselves rich. (Of course, there's nothing stopping a savvy player from going far beyond that, but the family will still be portrayed like they're in the dumps.)
  • In Persona 5, Yusuke is left penniless after leaving his guardian's atelier to say in his school's dorms on his own. He frequently complains about hunger, walks instead of paying Tokyo train fare, and takes as many opportunities to mooch meals off the rest of the group as he can, though it's almost entirely Played for Laughs. It's implied he still manages to make a decent amount of cash from his scholarship, various art contests, and presumably the cast's Dungeon Crawling escapades, but he's more focused on buying expensive art supplies to fuel his obsession than he is with food. In Dancing in Starlight, he's seen growing daikons in a pitiful makeshift garden in his dorm room, and apparently takes cold showers to avoid paying for hot water.
  • Gerolt, an Ultimate Blacksmith in Final Fantasy XIV, is always in debt to Rowena. Despite being in perpetual debt, he uses whatever money he scrounges up to get himself alcohol. Several people point out that if Gerolt had used his talent to his full potential and simply drank less, he could have easily paid off his debts and stay out of trouble. Even in the rare occasions where Gerolt does pay off his debts, he incurs a new debt and starts back at square one.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Detective Dick Gumshoe, although not a private eye, fits the trope and is constantly taking cuts to his police salary. He admits in the third game that he can't always pay his electric bill, his diet consists entirely of instant ramen, at one point he claims to be so broke he can't even afford that, and his idea of splurging on a special treat to celebrate a big event is adding extra salt to it. It is hinted though, that Edgeworth rewards his moments of competence handsomely and would never let him become too broke.
    • Phoenix doesn't do much better. Every other client of his is wealthy to some degree and probably rewards him generously, so you'd think he'd be pretty well off. The problem is that he always ends up being forced to foot the entire bill for the post-trial victory celebration, so all of that money disappears pretty quickly. Especially since his friends tend to invite as many people as possible, seemingly because it's all on his dime (at the very least, they tend to use it as a selling point). The anime shows that he doesn't even have a car (or a license for that matter) and has to rely on taxis and cycling to get from place to place, while Edgeworth drifts up to the courthouse in his red sports car.
    • The whole village of Kurain, once prosperous and in high regard across the country, seems to suffer from this nowadays, to the point of the Fey family keeping a "sacred" scroll entitled "Hundred-and-X ways to save money." ("X" because the list is continuously expanding.) It explains how Maya, the daughter of the Master and thus the Princess of the village, is addicted to junk food.
    • Phoenix and Trucy live on very little in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney after Phoenix gets disbarred. Although Trucy has apparently been the major breadwinner for years, there are hints that this isn't quite so.

    Web Animation 
  • The Courier in Courier's Mind: Rise of New Vegas ends up constantly doing sidequests for the first four seasons of his adventures without getting paid for any of it. One of the first people who actually gives him money for his troubles, Ranger Milo, kind of screws him out of his first payment by stuffing his caps into ED-E, where they'll be stuck until he can git him to a workbench. Finally subverted in season seven, after practically turning the war with Fiends around single-handedly, scavenging the Sunset Sarsaparilla bottling factory, and looting the late Van Graff's energy weapon store, The Courier and his companions have enough caps to walk into New Vegas like big shots, before being given their own luxury suite to serve as the team's base.

  • The cast of Sluggy Freelance are broke almost enough to be in perpetual poverty.
    • Around 2003, this poverty was maintained in part because (a) more than half the cast refused to seek jobs and (b) Gwynn, who had actually made a godly amount of money last Halloween, kept the profits secret from the rest of the gang.
    • As of December 2008, Torg's and Aylee's funds gained by the collapse of HeretiCorp were unfrozen. They are now millionaires (quickly nullified by going undercover in fear for their lives).
    • Come 2014, and the main characters, having cut ties with their supervillain allies but still targeted by both a MegaCorp and an Apocalypse Cult, are squatting in a radioactive ghost town and subsisting on what they can forage from the woods.
  • In Koan of the Day, despite his get-rich-quick schemes, the guru is perpetually broke.
  • Even the space mercenaries of Schlock Mercenary often find themselves struggling to make payroll. Like with many people, there's nothing they love more than getting paid multiple times. Frequently the only thing keeping them in business at all is Petey pulling strings from the shadows. Subverted later on; by the book Big Dumb Objects they're on the payrolls of two major galactic powers and flying some of the most powerful ships in the setting. Then played straight again when the original owners of most of their assets, thought dead for millions of years, come out of hiding, causing the mercenaries to be declared thieves. They are then ordered to devote their careers to paying them back, a process they fear will take millions of years.
  • Squid Row: Randi, starving artist.
  • Harold and Clancy from +EV win millions in poker, but shit it all away.
  • In Three Jaguars, Business Manager is afraid of this, ending in starvation.
  • Everyone in Dork Tower save Ken is generally short on funds, what with Matt being a semi-unemployed cartoonist, Igor being a tabletop shopaholic, and Carson being a talking muskrat, although they're usually able to salvage the rent from somewhere (usually via procedures that may or may not involve selling blood plasma) after Igor steals it. Ken, at least, has a steady job and has occasionally offered to spot Matt the rent money in an emergency.
  • The crew of the Savage Chicken in Freefall run mostly hand-to-mouth, mostly (okay, entirely) because of Sam's patented approach to his creditors (avoid them) and work (ditto). They do start making some money when Florence gets the ship up and running, at least, helped by her mouth full of razor-sharp teeth and Sam's desire to not be the first sqid eaten by a humanoid wolf.
  • The Khorusya Brimia crew in Runners, much like the Firefly example. Sometimes they have to survive on root beetles.
  • Justified via Rule of Funny in 8-Bit Theater since the elaborate network of contractual obligations and incidental fines that Thief inflicts on his party members means that Thief technically has the rights to at least 107% of their money, so not only do Fighter, Red Mage and Black Mage not get any of the loot, they technically owe Thief money on top of him taking all of it. And Thief charges interest on that debt because of course he does. And Thief isn't going to pay for anything the group actually needs because he's Thief and the notion of letting go of money has been known to render him physically ill.

    Web Original 
  • Jade Sinclair of the Whateley Universe runs away from an abusive father, is staying at school on a scholarship, and cleans the school sewers (amongst other maintenance tasks) for the little money she can scrape together — and then spends it on weaponry, defense systems, upgrading her "sister", and maintaining her cover story. She is regularly unable to afford things like more or better clothes, and refuses anything which smacks of charity. Her obscenely rich teammate has to resort to all kinds of subterfuge to reduce Jade's costs and/or get her to accept the occasional gift. It also doesn't help that she's dating someone who has several dozen million dollars to throw around, but she will still only accept very personal and at least psuedo-romantic tokens of affection. As a result, she owns at least two nearly priceless mithril-based artifacts, several (dozen?) thousand dollars in custom precision-worked superhero devices, materials, and uniforms, and a casual-wear selection of clothes that hobos would consider sparse.
  • Noka: The Diresoldiers guild have to constantly freelance work just to get by with their pathetic budget. It doesn't help that they can't steal electricity from a zoo anymore to power their HQ, but the polar bear habitat was starting to look like an exhibit on global warming.
  • Viciously deconstructed in John Cheese's Cracked article "5 Things Nobody Tells You About Being Poor" in which he outlines just how insanely hard escaping from poverty is and how there are almost endless landmines in the process that prevents people from ever escaping it.

    Web Videos 
  • Vork of The Guild is able to keep his house only by continuing to recieve his dead grandfather's Social Security check. He steals his Wi-Fi connection from a senile neighbor and raises pigeons (excuse me, squab!) for food.
  • In Noob:
    • The player behind Gaea and the Noob guild itself. Gaea has a few schemes going on to make extra money, but she loops back into being a Starving Student between her investements into the MMORPG everyone is playing and Crack is Cheaper (just check out that bookcase in her living room). The Noob guild is in that situation partly due to Gaea (who is The Scrooge in-game) always finding a excuse to not contribute to its common fund.
    • In the webseries, when they do have game currency to spare, their Psycho for Hire Honorary True Companion suddenly remembers that she's a mercenary and wants to get payed for that dungeon run she joined on her own initiative (unsuprisingly, she's Gaea's best friend and roommate).
    • In the novels and comic, it turns out that Omega Zell and Sparadrap aren't contributing that much either. Sparadrap uses his spare income on his pet collection and Omega Zell got Arthéon to delay the arrival of a potential new recruit he didn't like for a year in exchange for a steady contribution to the guild's common fund during said year.
  • Oxventure: In the Dungeons & Dragons campaign, the group never has any money because, for some godsforsaken reason, they keep leaving it in the charge of Dob, the mildly unhinged half-orc bard, who does things like vastly overpay for goods and services, donate large sums to random animals, and throw all his money in lakes as a tribute to nature. Corazón, the rogue, used to crash-tackle him on a regular basis to stop this, but at this point Andy seems to have just given up and moved to trying to work around it.
    Egbert: We only walked from the ship to the tavern, what did you do?
    Dob: I saw a friendly bird and it looked like it needed cash!
  • Schlatt & Co. in TekkitLive are allegedly tens of thousands of dollars in debt, but never really face significant downsides from this.

    Western Animation 
  • Kenny McCormick of South Park is impoverished to the point of eating frozen waffles and bread sandwiches on a regular basis. Yet somehow, they are able to afford a halfway decent computer with a World of Warcraft subscription, a brand new PSP, the makings for an extremely elaborate ED-209 costume, and a freaking Xbox One during Black Friday.
  • Dr. Zoidberg on Futurama is always poor, hungry, and lonely. Something of a Characterization Marches On, as he was none of these things in the first season. When told most doctors are, in fact, rich, he refuses to believe it. His poverty is at least partly because he is very bad with money, and he doesn't have too much trouble with food as he can eat practically anything. That and he's a particularly bad doctor who doesn't know human biology despite them making up nearly all his patients. He's paid about as well as he performs.
  • The Simpsons:
    • The eponymous family's members are repeatedly said to be always strapped for cash and having to use sub-standard food. They also have a giant house, two cars, and always seem to have money in their savings for Homer to spend to get the family into trouble. There have also been instances where Marge has been shown to secretly be thrifty so that when Homer does do something stupid, they can bail him out. She has also been shown to secretly buy regular meat instead of Veggie Meat for Lisa and trick her into eating it, as the Veggie Meat is more expensive.
    • Apparently, Marge also pads Homer's meatloaf out with sawdust.
    • Their need to scrimp on one occasion became so great that one night of the week became "chub night".note 
    • And they (usually Homer) manage to suddenly get rich and poor again at such a regularity that it's lampshaded, surely they have some money left over.
    • Homer constantly stealing things from Ned Flanders may be motivated in part by this.
    • Played straight in "Homer's Enemy" when Frank Grimes is shown to be incensed that a buffoon like Homer can skate by in life and still afford better food, a bigger house and two cars, whereas the hard-working Grimes has nothing to show for it except "this briefcase and this haircut!". Though, according to Grimes' son, "he liked hookers."
    • The Two Homeless Orphans are constantly on their last dollar (which they then gave to the Simpsons when they thought The Simpsons' Christmas had been ruined).
  • Depending on the story in The Ren & Stimpy Show, the duo are usually portrayed as poor and homeless trying to find a home or food, while other episodes depict them as living together in a house and are relatively well off. Other episodes depicted them as married to Slavic ladies and living in Yugoslavia, so take that as you will.
  • Chester McBadbat on The Fairly Oddparents is shown to live in a trailer, has to reuse paper plates, and has mentioned eating out of the garbage. Despite this, he seems to afford a few frivolities. It seems most of his money goes to his dentist who in turn gives him free passes to the local skateboard grounds where he injures his teeth severely.
  • Bob of Bob's Burgers never seems to make any money off his business, and has stated that he's never actually paid his landlord rent on time. The fact that they continue to be forgiven on missing payments is odd considering their landlord is so greedy he tears nuts and bolts out of roller coasters while people are still on them. It was explained away in a season one episode: Mister Fischeoder is incredibly eccentric, and he is much more lenient with Bob's rent because he reminds him of his father, and because he considers Bob more interested in creating food than making money; "A Beef-artist! A Befartist! You're like a greasy, heterosexual Walt Whitman!" Outside of rent, they only have three phones, both of which are at least a decade old, one working laptop that's also just as old, and no videogames. A good chunk of why the family's financial stability, or lack of stability, could come from Linda letting her sister "borrow" money, or Bob's belief that his burgers' quality is more important than actual business skills.
  • Family Guy:
    • The series shows the family occasionally cutting back on spending and have at least lost their house to their debt once (Peter had gone through several jobs before finally landing a stable job as a shipping clerk at a brewery, which doesn't pay too well), but the family is seen with two cars, a nice sized house with a backyard and four bedrooms, despite whatever money problems that hound them from time to time. While Peter's job doesn't pay a lot, it's implied that Lois may borrow money from her rich parents whenever things get tough. Earlier episodes established that the house was paid off. The only reason they nearly lost it was because Peter had put it up as collateral when he bought the fishing boat.
    • At one point in "Hanna Banana" when Chris is showing a video to try and prove the Evil Monkey's existence, among other things shown is Lois stealing from Chris' wallet, showing that the Griffins might not be able to really financially support each other.
    • On another occasion, it's shown that Lois has been counterfeiting money which her kids then steal from her...which might explain why they aren't completely destitute.
  • Hanna-Barbera's Lippy the Lion and Hardy Har Har seek their fortune time and again, and never attain it.
  • Top Cat uses conniving and hucksterism to keep his gang fed in an otherwise impoverished organization.
  • J. Michael Straczynski claimed that this was part of why The Real Ghostbusters is so funny—they're a world-famous ghost-hunting team, yet they're always just teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. (Egon's research budget must take more than the lion's share of the profits.)
  • The crew of the Ghost in Star Wars Rebels just barely manage to scrape by, often taking side jobs just to pay for fuel and parts. This was toned down considerably once they got involved in the wider Rebellion which had actual funding after the first season.
  • The Wattersons from The Amazing World of Gumball have a coin-operated fridge, no air conditioning, and can't even afford their own Wi-Fi since Richard lost all the family's money to an internet scam when Gumball was a baby, yet they have a decently sized house, at least two cars and enough food to feed a family of five. They mostly seems to get by thanks Nicole's absurd penny-pinching skills (she once bought groceries with so many coupons that the store ended up paying her).
  • The main four from Kaeloo are always tight on cash if not completely broke. Lampshaded in the episode "Let's Play Gangster Poker", where Mr. Cat finds out that Quack Quack is broke and wonders how he's able to afford all the yogurt he eats.
  • The titular trio in Legend of the Three Caballeros have this problem, which is no surprise given that they have the aforementioned Donald Duck (who's recently lost his job, house, and girlfriend) and Jose Carioca. They live in a run-down cabana that they inherited from Donald's grandfather Clinton Coot, they have to share it with each other (Donald in particular isn't happy about this), and they can't fire the groundskeeper, Ari. In fact, they only ever agreed to become adventurers to get money! They get better by the ending, as Donald becomes the new president of the Quackmore Institute.
  • Count Duckula is the quintessential Impoverished Patrician. A teleporting castle and a title of nobility is all he has left. Every episode is dedicated to whatever scatter-brained Get-Rich-Quick Scheme he comes up with that's doomed to crash and burn.
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force: The trio live in a rented house for the cheap, which has two bedrooms, one of which has no furniture, and no bathroom. While Frylock seems to do occasional tasks for what little cash they can get, Shake and Meatwad clearly cannot keep a job. As the series went on, they're forced to rely on eating petfood.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Perpetually Broke


Usahara's money problems

Usahara tries to get help with his rent problems from his colleagues. Uramichi provides an aesop for this, but Usahara's wondering if the help is really coming.

How well does it match the trope?

4.8 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / PerpetualPoverty

Media sources: