Managing Your Mental Health When Money's Tight
Some practical ideas to help you through the low spots. 🌈
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Because you shouldn’t have to be thinking about money constantly 💸
Finishing a long day of stage-stage capitalism, engaging smooth brain mode and binging your favorite sitcom. If you had a time machine, how would you explain this pleasure to a small Victorian child? Impossible.
New Girl is having something of a renaissance in the hearts of Gen Z right now. Actor Jake Johnson explained in an interview that at the time the show was given its notice for a final season, he was aware it had a massive fan base of teenage girls who – despite being deciders of good taste from The Beatles to Harry Styles – did not have the power to affect the industry’s decision.
Overwhelming, occasionally viral TikTok love for Nick and Schmidt has since revealed this to be true.
Elsewhere on SitComTok, two users were united over the fact that Bob’s Burgers and Seinfeld got them through the death of close loved ones, and others spoke about how The Office got them through the hardest time of their lives.
Why do we adore sitcoms so much? What’s the secret sauce that makes these programs so soothing? And the question on everyone’s minds: what does any of this have to do with a budgeting app called Cleo? 👉👈
Prepare yourselves for today’s hot take…
Let us explain.
Take New Girl. It’s not that they never mention money. Nick - sweet, sweet grumpy Nick - is renowned for keeping his cash in a paper bag and his unpaid bills in a cardboard box.
When he does have money, he spends it compulsively (sry if you’re feeling particularly seen right now). He could probs do with a budgeting app if only he was open to the idea of moving on from a burner phone.
A bartender and a middle school teacher living together IRL could go years without seeing each other. Instead, Jess and Nick form a rich relationship filled with romantic frisson, and the gang has plenty of time for quirky loft activities. They regularly hang out together, despite some of them working in hospitality.
Friends is the mother of all of the bullshit sitcom fantasies. The show starts when they’re 24. The apartment - chef’s kiss. The furniture. Their art is framed. Rachael lives there on waitressing wages. They all regularly hang out together, despite some of them working in hospitality.
Then there’s Gilmore Girls, where again money is mentioned, but in a cute way.💖
Ah, the classic fantasy. Work your way up from being a hotel maid in a sleepy town where it’s constantly Autumn. Buy a disheveled cottage with a deck.
Lorelai and Rory, with their perfect skin and lack of migraines, live on black coffee and takeout pizza. Lorelai talks about working loads, but miraculously has time to drop everything and help Luke buy his gf a birthday present if needed, and she never misses a school event of Rory’s (they regularly hang out together, despite her Mom working in hospitality).
There’s an added dimension to this one: Lorelai gets the glamor of being a single mom who works two jobs who loves her kids and never stops with gentle hands and a heart of a fighter – buuut, she also has parents who will pay for things if she really needs it.
She just needs to subjugate herself to a delicious three-course meal at her parents every Friday night and roll her eyes at her mother occasionally being rude to the maid.
Even in the British comedy Fleabag (although arguably not a sitcom) the main character is able to get up to her chaotic self-destructive sexual antics whilst also apparently running a café that relies on money borrowed from her rich sister.
Comedies have followed a basic blueprint since Shakespearean times: unlike tragedies, where everyone ends up dead, in comedies, everyone ends up married.
In modern times, this means the main characters in situation comedies usually end up shoehorned into happy relationships by the final season (ahem, New Girl, Friends), but they also have wider desires fulfilled – they get their dream career, too. #feminism
A brutal, Marxist reading of this could suggest that this fantasy keeps us placated and buying into the idea of the American dream. Is it… sitcoms that are the opiate of the masses?
But there’s another school of thought: ‘I have a proposition for the communisths’, sitcoms are also about escapism, and constantly analyzing media from a Marxist perspective is kind of yawn when you’ve just finished a long day of surviving in the last gasps of our capitalist hellscape yourself.
What happens when shows take away this fantasy? Few comedies challenge this norm, with Broad City being one of the good ones.
The opposite end of the spectrum are dramas like Maid, where you feel the crushing reality of every payment, the looming paralysis before running out of money.
Maid portrayed a lot of hardcore issues very well, from domestic violence to the grinding anxiety of living paycheck to paycheck. Incredible, cathartic, and very much close to the bone. You might not want to consume this kind of content every day.
The financial fantasy of sitcoms allows us to rest our brains. For a moment no longer required to be interesting, just into resting. Which is the definition of financial health.
Our collective love of sitcoms, and particularly that of Gen Z, tells us a lot about what our human brains really hunger for: a nice home, friends, time to hang out and get up to some silly antics.
Time for relationships, to fall in love. To have our modest desires fulfilled – whether in our relationships or careers - without it being a complete fantasy.
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Big love. Cleo 💙
Some practical ideas to help you through the low spots. 🌈