Two of my favorite episodes of Friends are ones about money, who has it and how it’s going to be used.
“The One With Five Steaks and an Eggplant”:
Chandler plans a birthday party for Ross at an expensive restaurant. Phoebe, Joey, and Rachel don’t have very much money, but
they grudgingly go along with the plans. Once there, they order the cheapest things they can find. When the bills comes, and
Ross wants to split it equally, they rebel.
ROSS: So five of us is, $33.50 apiece.
PHOEBE: No, huh uh, no way, I’m sorry, not gonna happen.
CHANDLER: Whoa, whoa, prom night flashback.
PHOEBE: I’m sorry, Monica, I’m really happy you got promoted, but cold cucumber mush for thirty-something bucks? No! Rachel just
had that, that, that salad, and, and Joey with his like teeny pizza! It’s just…
ROSS: Ok, Pheebs! How ’bout we’ll each just pay for what we had. It’s no big deal.
PHOEBE: Not for you.
MONICA: All right, what’s goin’ on?
RACHEL: Ok, look you guys, I really don’t want to get into this right now. I think it’ll just make everyone uncomfortable.
PHOEBE: Fine. All right, fine.
CHANDLER: You can tell us.
ROSS: Hello, it’s us, all right? It’ll be fine.
JOEY: Ok, um, uh, we three feel like, that uh, sometimes you guys don’t get that uh, we don’t have as much money as you.
ROSS: I hear ya.
CHANDLER: We can talk about that.
PHOEBE: Well, then…Let’s.
ROSS: I, I just never think of money as an issue.
RACHEL: That’s ’cause you have it.
ROSS: That’s a good point.
So for the next event, they make sure to include everyone…
ROSS: But wait, there’s more. Hey, Chandler, what is in the envelope?
CHANDLER: By the way, this didn’t seem so dorky in the hall.
ROSS: Come on.
CHANDLER: Why, it’s six tickets to Hootie and the Blowfish! The Blowfish!
MONICA: It’s on us, all right, so don’t worry. It’s our treat.
PHOEBE: So…Thank you.
ROSS: Could you be less enthused?
JOEY: Look, it’s a nice gesture, it is. But it just feels like–
ROSS: We’re just tryin’ to do a nice thing here.
RACHEL: Ross, you have to understand that your nice thing makes us feel this big.
PHOEBE: Actually, it makes us feel that big.
ROSS: I don’t, I don’t understand. I mean, you, it’s like we can’t win with you guys.
And that’s what I like about the episode. There is no easy answer to this problem. For instance, we have a bunch of friends
who you could describe as “starving grad students”. At least that’s how I describe them when I think I’m being funny. We have
them over to dinner a lot. It’s really not a big expense, but I think sometimes it bothers them because they feel like they’re
not “evenâ€. Social tradition is that if you treat one time, you get treated the next. And they could treat us (they aren’t
really starving of course), but it would be a much bigger expense for them â€“ it would be ridiculous. How do you resolve a
situation like this? Can you?
“The One With Rachel’s Book”:
Monica and Chandler are preparing to get married. Monica’s parents spent her wedding money on their beach house, claiming they
thought she’d finance it herself when she turned thirty. Outraged, Monica points out that they bought the beach house when she
was twenty-three. Her parents confess they didn’t think she would ever get married. Especially not to Chandler.
Chandler has money he has been saving from his job. Monica wants to use all of it on their wedding, Chandler doesn’t.
Monica: This is the most special day of our lives.
Chandler: I realize that, but I’m not going to spend all the money on one party.
Monica: Honey, um, I love you, but um, if you call our wedding a party one more time, you might not get invited!
Poor Moncia! She has always been dreaming of her wedding day. And just when it seemed like it was never going to happen, here
is her shining knight of a husband who has saved up for such an occasion.
Poor Chandler! He’s been saving money for six years. He somehow landed the girl way above his class, but the nutjob wants to
blow all his money in one day.
This one’s easy to judge. Chandler’s right, and Monica’s wrong. A wedding is about the biggest waste of money there could ever
be. I say this as someone who didn’t have to pay for his own. Sure, you would like a nice wedding, who wouldn’t? And I’m not
saying you should grab a stranger and get Mailboxes etc. to notarize your marriage certificate. But when you look at what that
money could get you later in life, the choices are clear. $20,000 weddings are common. $20,000 invested at age 25, with 6%
appreciation turns into over $200,000 at
Chandler folds (of course), but when Monica finallys sees the choice being made, she relents.
Chandler: Eh, forget about the future and stuff! So we only have two kids, y’know? We’ll pick our favorite and that
one will get to go to college.
Monica: You thought about that?
Monica: How many kids were we gonna have?
Chandler: Uh, four, a boy, twin girls and another boy.
Monica: What else did you think about?
Chandler: Well, stuff like where’d we live, y’know? Like a small place outside the city, where our kids could learn to ride
their bikes and stuff. Y’know, we could have a cat that had a bell on it’s collar and we could hear it every time it ran through
the little kitty door. Of course, we’d have an apartment over the garage where Joey could grow old.
Monica: (laughs) Y’know what? I-I don’t want a big, fancy wedding.
Chandler: Sure you do.
Monica: No, I want everything you just said. I want a marriage.
Chandler: You sure?
Chandler: I love you so much.
Monica: I love you. (They kiss.) Hey listen umm, when, when you were talkin’ about our future you said cat, but you meant dog
Chandler: Oh yeah, totally!
This is a great lesson in personal finance. If there’s only one rule for finance and life planning, it’s that sacrificing in
the short-term will give you a huge payoff in the long-term. Many people can’t think in the long term. Who knows what the
future will hold in 40 years. It’s hard to picture, and it’s hard to give up something you want now for some vague amorphous
dream of an uncertain future. Visualizing what those dreams are is a great tool to see why it’s worth it to invest now. High
schools could do worse than show these few minutes of footage to all their students. (Of course, they’ll probably just say
things like, “Isn’t that the chick from those Scream movies? And Brad’s Pitt’s ex?, but that’s another problem.)