10 Money Lessons from ‘2 Broke Girls’

Hollywood doesn’t necessarily have a reputation for accurately displaying financial struggles. On the popular television show Friends, for example, the size of the New York City apartment Monica and Rachel live in is not realistic, especially on their entry-level job salaries. However, there are some shows that do a much better job of showcasing the financial struggles of the average consumer. One such show was 2 Broke Girls.

If you’re not familiar with the premise of the CBS sitcom 2 Broke Girls, let’s take a minute to review the show’s plot. Set in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York City, 2 Broke Girls follows the lives of two waitresses who become friends despite having very different perspectives on life and money, largely due to their upbringing. 

The two main characters, or two broke girls, featured in the show are Max Black and Caroline Channing. Max, raised by a single working-class mom, grew up in poverty, whereas Caroline was raised as the daughter of a billionaire but now finds herself penniless, homeless, and friendless after her father was caught operating a Bernie Madoff-esque Ponzi scheme. 

Max and Caroline both work as waitresses at a Brooklyn diner, and after discovering that Max is a talented baker, the two decide to start a homemade cupcake business putting together Max’s skills as a baker with Caroline’s business-savvy know-how. While one would possibly expect Hollywood magic to come into play in this plot line and turn their cupcake business into an overnight sensation, the show actually shows the challenges, many of which are unexpected, not only of starting a business but living on a tight budget.  

To really drive home the point that these two friends are financially struggling, each episode ends by literally displaying Max and Caroline’s current bank account balance. Sometimes the balance would increase, for example, after the two found an investor in their cupcake balance, it went up. But most of the time, the balance would decrease at the end of the episode due to some unforeseen challenge or expense the duo experienced in the episode.

While not all of us are attempting to raise $250,000 in order to start a homemade cupcake business, 2 Broke Girls was filled with money lessons that apply to anyone looking to improve their financial situation or relationship with money.

10 Money Lessons from ‘2 Broke Girls’

1. Coupons are Your Friend, Use Them

For some reason, some people believe there is a stigma about using coupons in order to save money. Because of her wealthy upbringing, Caroline is embarrassed to use coupons until Max convinces her to use them, and Caroline’s grocery bill decreases from $70 to $12 thanks to the magic of coupons. From this point onward, Caroline becomes obsessed with coupons once she realizes she still gets the same amount of groceries but just pays significantly less for the same product. 

The lesson learned here is that it’s to your financial advantage to use coupons, and the only one judging you for using coupons in the first place is likely yourself. If you subscribe to your local newspaper, be on the lookout for coupon inserts that could help you save on a variety of goods and services in your area. Also, be sure to look online for massive coupon databases where you can print out coupons at home to use in-store and/or online. Don’t be afraid to use discount codes either, as the money you save in the end will add up quickly!

2. Set Money Goals

When it comes to setting goals for ourselves, many of us think about places we want to travel and things we want to do, such as buying a home, having a family, etc., but we don’t always consider the financial component related to our goals. Sometimes we even forget that we have specific money goals, such as paying off student loan debt or retiring early.

On 2 Broke Girls Caroline teaches Max the importance of setting specific money goals, as well as how to create an inspiration board to help remind you of why you want to reach this goal. Knowing Max wants to open her own cupcake business, Caroline helps Max determine the amount needed to get the business started, $250,000, and creates an inspiration board with pictures of a bakery and other-related images to help Max remember why she’s working so hard to achieve this particular goal. 

The lesson learned here is that we not only need to get specific and clear about our financial goals, but we need to write them down, figure out our target date of when we want to achieve this money goal, and add some inspirational imagery to help motivate us to keep working toward these goals. So, for example, if your goal is to own a home in two years or less, figure out how much you need to save for a downpayment, open an account specifically for a home, and create a vision board with images of your dream home so that on those days when it feels like you’ll never reach your goal, you remember your dream is worth fighting for. 

3. Limit The Use Of Your Credit Card

Credit cards are not inherently bad, but when we rely on credit cards to make ends meet, it can get us into financial trouble. While Caroline is familiar with using credit cards, Max is used to paying for items in cash. In fact, when a guest at the diner pays for a side salad with a credit card, Max makes a comment along the lines of “I hope those three airline miles are worth it.”

In other words, while we recognize the perks of using a rewards credit card and how responsible use of a credit card can help us increase our credit, it’s really easy to become dependent on credit cards. And as studies have shown, when we pay with cash, we experience more of a physical response than when we pay with credit cards. Essentially paying in cash makes us aware that the money is gone, whereas paying with plastic doesn’t always feel like a real transaction to our mind. 

Max and Caroline are constantly tracking how much cash they have and limiting their daily purchases, like a cup of coffee, simply because the pain of paying $6 is too much for them. 

If you find yourself over-relying on credit cards, or perhaps you tend to blow your budget at happy hour when paying with plastic, consider experimenting by paying with cash for a few weeks or a few months and notice how your spending patterns change. 

4. Work Out at Home

We’re not saying you have to quit your gym membership permanently, but many Americans with gym memberships are not getting their money’s worth. If you’re on a debt payoff journey or working toward saving for a financial goal, consider canceling your gym membership and working out at home instead. The money you save can go a long way. 

If the idea of not going to the gym is too painful to swallow, consider getting a side hustle or a part-time job at your local gym. Max and Caroline got jobs working at the local gym’s juice bar, and as employees of the gym, they had free access to the gym equipment and showers. 

For at-home workout inspiration, check out our blog on Free and Affordable Workouts.

5. Thrift Shopping

Like using coupons, there can be a stigma with shopping at thrift or secondhand stores, especially for fashionistas. But oftentimes, these stores are where you can find the best deals on gently used apparel and accessories, including luxury items. It may not come as a surprise that Caroline was kind of a brand-snob fashionista, but once she discovered brand-name items at the thrift store for a fraction of the cost, her entire opinion on thrift shopping changed. In other words, she became a fashionista on a budget.

It’s not just clothing where thrift shopping can score you big savings. There are also secondhand stores that sell furniture, artwork, and even kitchenware at significant discounts. And you can always shop your local dollar store for items like shampoo, chapstick, and party or seasonal decor. Check out what’s available in your local area before paying full price.

6. Bring Your Own Lunch (BYOL)

Max and Caroline work at a diner and are often snacking on food from the restaurant, but not all of us are gifted a free lunch. Going out for lunch every day during the week can add up quickly, even if you have a diner employee discount. You may think it’s only $10 or $15, but that $10 or $15 adds up to $50 – $75 per week. Multiply that by 52 weeks, and you’re spending $2,600 – $2,900 each year just on lunch. To save money to apply to either your debt or your savings fund, consider saving money on lunch by bringing lunch from home. 

7. DIY Manicures 

Getting pampered is nice, but when it costs around $60 or more for a mani-pedi, that can have a negative impact on our financial goals. While Caroline, in particular, was very concerned with her outward experience, the truth is she didn’t have the financial means to get her nails done professionally. 

If you want to keep your paws and claws looking fresh and painted, consider picking up a bottle of nail polish at the store for around $8, and painting your nails yourself. Although you’ll have to shell out some money for the nail polish, having an entire bottle of nail polish for $8 will last longer than just one $60+ manicure and pedicure. If you’re not sure how to do your own at-home manicure and pedicure, check out how-to videos on YouTube. 

8. Library Card

Just because you cut streaming services in order to save on your monthly expenses doesn’t mean you can’t read the latest bestseller or watch the latest blockbuster hit. Libraries often have digital and print versions of books, magazines, DVDs, and music albums you can check out or download for free. 

Not only does borrowing from the library save you money from buying items from Amazon each month, but maybe you’ll actually be inspired to read that book that’s been on your must-read list for months now that you only have two-to-three weeks before you have to return it. 

9. Side Hustles

There’s only so much one can cut from their budget in order to save more money. At some point, the way to make a bigger dent in your debt payoff journey or your savings goal progress is to increase your income. One way to increase your income, at least temporarily, is by taking on a side hustle. The beauty of a side hustle is that they come in all shapes and sizes and commitment levels. 

Max and Caroline predominantly work at the diner while trying to get their cupcake business up and running, but in order to reach their goal faster, they both take on extra side gigs. Max works as a part-time nanny, Caroline takes a job at a pastry school, they both work at a juice bar at the local gym, and they even work a booth at a comic convention. While none of these side hustles were dream jobs of either Max or Caroline, they both knew that this temporary work would help them reach their goal of opening up their cupcake shop sooner than later, so it was worth it to them to pursue these side gigs.

10. Budget-Friendly Fun

Just because Max and Caroline are essentially living paycheck-to-paycheck, using stolen napkins from the diner as coffee filters, and taking on side gigs to reach their goal of opening their cupcake business, doesn’t mean they never make time for any fun. 

Even if you’re on a debt payoff journey or working hard toward a savings goal, it’s essential to reward yourself every once in a while to prevent yourself from getting burned out working toward your financial goals. That being said, there are ways to treat yourself without backsliding on your financial progress. 

For example:

  • If you want to host a party but have a limited budget to spend on food and drinks, ask your guests to bring a dish to share and to bring their own beverages. 
  • If you’re going out to dinner with a friend or a significant other, you can either split an entree or, if you prefer to get your own entree, eat half and save the rest for lunch tomorrow.
  • If you’re going out for drinks with friends, consider pre-gaming with a bottle of wine at home, and switch to water or a more affordable soft drink when you go out to save yourself not only money but from being hungover in the morning. 

Can you think of other money lessons from ‘2 Broke Girls’? Share with us in the comments below!

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