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 Under 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.

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.

Examples of Perpetual Poverty include:


Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • 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 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, on top of it all, Faye is shown to be a gambler. In the entire series, there is exactly one time that they manage to successfully cash in on a bounty (Session 8: Waltz for Venus), but the amount is so little that they're immediately looking for another bounty.
    • Actually, we do see them manage to get paid for a few bounties. Beyond the ones in episode 8, they turn in a bounty in Episode 10 which then ends with Jet capturing another of personal interest. Faye hands in the Teddy Bomber in session 22 and in Knocking On Heaven's Door we see Spike and Jet nab a few criminals robbing a convenience store. Also, while it 'is' true that we rarely see them acquire funding, it has been confirmed through dialog that they DO catch a reasonable amount of bounties. You know, the golden mean of "enough to not die" and "too little to thrive".
    • Ditto for the protagonists of Samurai Champloo. Shinichiro Wantanabe likes his characters broke, I guess.
  • Similarly, the heroes in Outlaw Star continue to get deeper and deeper in debt from the costs of operating, repairing, and re-arming their Cool Ship. Unlike Cowboy Bebop, this never really cuts into their budget for food.
  • In GetBackers 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).
  • 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).
  • In Zoids: New Century Zero, 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.
    • Can you imagine what the payments are on those things?
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • 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.
    • This is actually a depressing example of Truth in Television—some people fill their bellies with water when they don't have anything to eat. Of course, this being Hidamari Sketch, it's more funny and cute than it is sad, especially when Yuno offers to split her lunch, despite losing some of the bread she brought as charcoal erasers to Miyako's hunger.
  • Lack of funds is a main theme in Binbou Shimai Monogatari—no surprise, since the title translates as "the story of the poor sisters".
  • Team Rocket in Pokémon 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 of having no money. This is because they always blow their salary on Humongous Mecha in their schemes to steal Pokemon.
    • 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 then 24 hours.
  • In Pokémon Special, Maylene, the Veilstone Gym Leader, is initially jealous of Platinum's wealth and is usually shown to be hungry. At the battle at Sky Pillar, 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 Makino family in Hana Yori Dango. 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).
  • This is one of Ukraine's biggest woes (other than her Yandere siblings's screw ups, which she often has to fix), in Axis Powers Hetalia.
    • Also Greece. In the CD drama Hetalia Phantasia, he says he suffers from trade deficit and can't play online games because of that.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
    • Of course, they bought those train tickets before losing their money at the casino. And Elie always wins said money back at every casino (she never even loses once in the manga). There are a couple chapters dedicated to looking for someone to sponsor them, or ways to raise funds. And on occaison you'll catch them being self-sufficient.
  • A major point in Niea Under 7 is that Mayuko's troublesome finances get strained even more by Niea's freeloading.
  • Akihisa Yoshii, the lead of Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu, lives in a state of finances that get actively pushed to the limit. He has to eat salt and sugar water for energy, has no hot water in his shower, 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 Mawaru 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.
  • I don't think the Yorozuya in Gintama has ever paid their rent, their main motivation for taking on all those weird jobs. Yet, despite constant nagging and warnings, they're never evicted or in a dire need of money for food.


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • 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 being 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.
  • 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 Perpetual Poverty in mind).
  • 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.
  • In John Kovalic's Dork Tower, Matt and his friends are always short on funds for their hobbies and toys (not to mention the rent), yet somehow manage to stay in the same apartment and drive a car for years.
  • Donald Duck in any of the DuckTales (1987) comics 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, tailor, repairman, etc. in Duckburg. Paying off all his debt seems to be a case of Failure Is the Only Option, and his debtors can get downright brutal. Yet he's hardly ever evicted from his big suburbia house. ... Because his landlord is Scrooge. Donald pays the rent by doing any chore Scrooge has in mind for him, from being recruited to life-threatening adventures to polishing every coin in the Money Bin.
  • 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.


Folklore[edit | hide]

  • Most protagonists of fairy tales start out in Perpetual Poverty (because of an Evil Stepmother or whatever) and eventually work their way up the social ladder. Extra credit goes to the poor schlub who thought it was a good idea to worship the god of poverty.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • Harry Dresden of The Dresden Files is always broke. Magic doesn't pay well.
    • Or at least, the magic he tends to work doesn't pay well. There are members of the White Council that use their magic to make themselves ridiculously wealthy, but Harry's preference for heroism over making himself obscenely rich tends to cost him.
      • It's also implied that he's broke because he's young. Most obscenely rich wizards have a century of compound interests in their bank accounts.
    • This was the case in the first few books, but isn't nearly so bad now. Ever since he became a Warden, he has a moderate, reliable stipend in addition to the money he makes as a wizard-for-hire. It's not a fortune, but it's not as bad as he lets his friends think, either.
    • He's also got enough money and/or connections to get depleted uranium dust in the third book.
  • 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.
  • The Weasley family in Harry Potter, 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 years.
    • The Weasleys' situation never seems to improve, even after the five oldest children move out. Although the Weasley twins are Aversions. Once they receive seed money from Harry at the end of Goblet of Fire, 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. There is no indication that his two very wealthy childhood friends helped him out after graduation, and Sirius doesn't leave him a cent in his will, instead bestowing his family fortune on Harry (who was already more than comfortably well off).
      • Although Harry does comment in Half Blood Prince that he looks thinner and shabbier than ever which could be linked to Sirius no longer helping him out.
      • Word of God does say that James used his family fortune to support both Lily and Remus.
    • The Weasleys did use a lot of the money to buy new things for the family, in addition to the trip. The amount of money they won was a descent amount, but wouldn't have solved their problems.
  • Dirk Gently 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.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Sanford and Son are always trying to scrape together money, but never actually end up bankrupt.
  • 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.
  • Firefly's 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...
  • Even more the case in Farscape, who for long periods had no higher goals other than finding a way to get enough to eat to stay alive and avoiding capture. They knock over a bank in the climax of the second season, however, which eases most (but not all) of their money troubles.
  • Not quite as severe day to day (but with a worse overall situation given the population difference) was Battlestar Galactica, which also included 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. Much like the students' example in the trope explanation.
    • 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.
  • Practically every character living in the neighborhood in El Chavo del Ocho, with the possible exception of Doña Florinda, judging by her house, her solvency, and the little greasy restaurant 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 proeminent example, so much it's a Running Gag having his landlord, Sr. Barriga, charge him from his 14 months due of rent.
  • Married... with Children takes this to ridiculous extremes.
    • Justified by the Bundy Curse, which keeps Al alive only to suffer. No, Really.
      • Al even gets sent to hell in one episode, but he's so thrilled to be away from his family that any torture enacted by Satan is an upgrade to his normal life. Satan eventually figures out the one thing that could bring him eternal anguish: return him to his home and preserve status quo.
  • Private detective Seiji Hayami from Cutie Honey THE LIVE 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.
  • Honestly, how would Magnum survive without the good graces of Robin Masters and the loyalty, gullibility and infinite patience of his friends?
  • A major theme of 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.
  • Maddie in The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. She often mentions being poor, but goes to a Catholic school and always has new clothes.
  • The main family in Malcolm in the Middle. There are several episodes throughout the show that emphasizes how much they are 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 or Lois earn very much (he's an average blue-collar office worker, and she works in convenience store) and providing for 4 (then 5) children and sending Francis to military school costs a lot.
  • The Malloys in Unhappily Ever After.
  • Jim Rockford of The Rockford Files 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 is one of the show's Running Gags.
  • For The Monkees, 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.
  • The main characters of Scrubs often complain about being short on money. Despite being doctors. The only one who never seems to have any money trouble is the janitor.
    • This is more an issue in the early seasons when they're interns and residents (a clear case of Truth in Television). When they finish their residencies, money doesn't seem to be an issue nearly as much.
  • Penny from 'The Big Bang Theory' 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 living in a single bedroom apartment and keeping an impressive collection of clothes, given a new outfit of hers every episode.
    • Maybe she returns them to the shop for full refund after wearing them just the once?
  • The entire gang from 'It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia'. They've 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.
  • The main cast in Only Fools and Horses seem 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 pretty much completely skint. Somehow the Trotters still don't run out of money for food or other essential items, or get thrown out.


Music[edit | hide]

  • 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 and Cher
    • "Living on a Prayer" by Bon Jovi
  • "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.


Radio[edit | hide]

  • The Lives of Harry Lime: If Harry every succeeded in one of his get rich quick schemes, he would lose all of the money by the end of the episode.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • 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...
  • 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 as ship mortgages tend to be a minimum of 150,000 credits a month.


Theater[edit | hide]

RAGUENEAU: No—but—I bore him to his room...
Ah! his room! What a thing to see!—that garret!


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Detective Dick Gumshoe from the Ace Attorney series, although not a private eye, fits the trope and is constantly taking cuts to his police salary. At one point, he mentions that he can no longer afford ramen.
    • Phoenix doesn't do much better, to the point where it's a Running Gag he gets made to foot the bill for everyone else.
    • The whole village of Kurain, once prosperous and in high regard across the country, seems to suffer from this nowdays, to the point of the Fey family keeping a "sacred" scroll entitled "Hundred-and-X ways to save money". ("X" because the list is continously expanding.) It explains how Maya, the daughter of the Master and thus pretty much the Princess of the village, is addicted to Junk Food.
  • 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 and 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.
  • Travis Touchdown, at least at the beginning of No More Heroes, is broke and lives in a hotel 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.
    • It goes so far as to his choice of pet - look up the market price for Scottish Fold kittens one of these days.
    • And in the sequel it's revealed that at one point he commissioned a fully functioning replica of a Humongous Mecha from one of his favorite animes. Granted, it turned out to be useful but still...
  • Reimu Hakurei from Touhou, due to a lack of donations, in most fan interpretations. 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 relatively comfortable life if she actually tried at being a better Miko with the other humans.
    • This is actually averted in canon, though. She still doesn't get donations, but she's never been shown to lack for anything she needs or wants, 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.
  • Gabriel Knight is shown as being rather poor - at least in the first game; where he pretty much 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.


Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • 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 goodly 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 (likely to be nullified by fraud, theft, or having to pay for collateral damage).
  • 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.
  • Squid Row: Randi, starving artist.
  • Harold and Clancy from Plus EV win millions in poker, but shit it all away.


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • 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 and a World of Warcraft subscription.
      • And a brand new PSP!
  • Dr. Zoidberg on Futurama is always poor, hungry, and lonely. Something of a Belated Backstory, as he was none of these things in the first season.
    • When told most doctors are, in fact, rich, he refuses to believe it.
      • Although 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.
  • The Simpsons 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.
    • Of course, there have been some instances where Marge has been shown to secretly be thrifty so that when Homer does do something stupid, they can bail him out. Sub-standard food is apparently the trade off for a happy ending. She also has 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. Sawdust.
      • Their need to scrimp on one occasion became so great that one night of the week became "chub night".
    • 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. That, and Homer steals everything from Flanders.
      • The Two Homeless Orphans are constantly on their last dollar (which they then gave to the Simpsons when they thought the Simpson Christmas had been ruined).
  • Depending on the story in Ren and Stimpy, 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's family in Bob's Burgers seems to always be living paycheck to paycheck. He even tells his daughter he can't afford to get her a dry erase board.