Could Your Fave TV Characters Afford Their Fictional Lifestyles?

We conducted a very serious investigation into the lifestyles of TV characters to see what their spending would look like in reality.

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We’ve been crunching some numbers, and the results aren’t pretty. Some of our much-loved TV characters are either flat broke or heading dangerously towards two-minute-noodles-for-every-meal territory – except for Don Draper. He’s fine.

Here, we put aside our suspension of disbelief for a very serious investigation into the lifestyles of the rich and famous, to see just who could really afford to live out their TV lives.

Carrie Bradshaw, Sex And The City

Monthly income: $3000-$4000, but probably more realistically like $1000

Biggest expense: Shoes, duh

Likelihood they could afford their lifestyle: 10%

To all the Carrie wannabes out there, we have four little words for you: Four. Articles. Per. Month. Sure, it was the ‘90s and the per word rate was likely higher than it is these days, but there’s no way four little columns about sex, love and Mr Big in the Big Apple could possibly support a dangerous Manolo Blahnik addiction and a decent-sized apartment.

Let’s say for argument’s sake that Carrie was earning $1000 per column (let’s be real here –she wasn’t), and filing two stories for Vogue per month at her very chill freelance rate of $4 per word. Is that really enough to cover expensive dinners, parties, designer clothes and rent (even if –by some miracle—she’s in a rent-controlled apartment?) We couldn’t help but wonder: Just how did she do it?

Ilana Wexler, Broad City

Monthly income: $1300

Biggest expense: General hedonism, and making sure her best friend, Abbi, is happy, safe and living her best life

Likelihood they could afford their lifestyle: 50%

Ilana is under no pretences about her treading-water situation – she spends most of her time coming up with wily get-rich-quick schemes or ways to duck out of financial obligations. Some of them are truly inspired: listing her apartment on Airbnb for a weekend while she camps on the roof of her building; becoming heavily embroiled in the counterfeit handbag market.

But the great thing about Ilana is how her lust for life takes precedence over almost everything material. She’d much rather walk around the city with Abbi than go out for lavish dinners and pretentious parties. She only opts for sparkling water if it’s on the house, and knows how to sniff out a sale. Plus, Ilana shares her apartment with Jamié Castro, her gay Guatemalan ex-boyfriend, which means her rent is likely affordable.

Nikki Swango, Fargo

Monthly income: $0-$500

Biggest expense: outerwear; revenge

Likelihood they could afford their lifestyle: 20%

Nikki Swango: ex-con, bridge champion, total badass. As a parolee, Nikki never seems to work, so we’re thinking her monthly income is close to zero, but those outstanding coats of hers are not paying for themselves. Luckily for her, she’s able to always look extra without spending big – then again, she’s well versed in the art of shoplifting. While we’re on the topic of appearances, Swango’s haircut is one of the best things about Fargo season three and would likely be costly to maintain. Do parolees get free haircuts?

From the outset, it appears Swango is motivated almost entirely by money; Her craftiness and relationship with Ray Stussy mean she’s perpetually on the cusp of becoming very, very rich. But when the money finally materialises, she gives most of it up because love and revenge are far more important than material wealth, right? Fur coats may cost the world, but realising your full potential as a cold-hearted killer is priceless, probably.

Don Draper, Mad Men

Monthly income: $1000

Biggest expense: mortgage payments; gifts for his mistresses

Likelihood they could afford their lifestyle: 90%

Ahh, Don Draper, man of questionable moral character and excellent suits. Just because you can afford to live like a total playboy, doesn’t mean you necessarily should.

Ignore for a moment the fact that Mr Draper appears to get paid far too much for the amount of work he actually does, he seems to have mastered the traditional gender role, sole breadwinner game. Of course, $1000 per month by today’s standards is peanuts, but in 1964, it was enough to cover mortgage payments on Don and Betty’s suburban home, food for two children and stocking the office bar, which was probably the most expensive thing of all, tbh.

Fun fact: If Don Draper were working today, he’d easily earn $300K per year (or $25K per month).

Issa Dee, Insecure

Monthly income: $2900

Biggest expense: rent and utilities

Likelihood they could afford their lifestyle: 60%

If Lawrence, Issa Dee’s unemployed, live-in boyfriend were able to contribute a single dime to rent, groceries, bills or anything, really, she’d likely be rolling in disposable income.

Issa doesn’t live lavishly – her LA apartment is appealing but modest – and her take-home salary for her senior-ish role at a non-profit is reasonable enough. As it stands, she can afford to live the life she wants and has leftover cash every month to spend on dates, both good and bad. But a second salary sure would help. Just sayin’.

(Feature image: Insecure/HBO)

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