Love seems to get all the attention in songs, movies, books, you name it. And what would we do without our favorite lovestruck and heartbroken protagonists? But some of our favorite pop cultural phenomena address another universal, but more taboo, subject: Money.
Whether it’s a favorite lyric or a snippet from a movie, sometimes life’s biggest lessons come from small moments on the screen, in your playlist, or in that paperback you’ve had since high school.
We credit them with reminding us that money is, indeed, intertwined with all of life and it’s always good to confront it head-on.
Keep reading for some of our favorites below:
Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink
“Molly Ringwald’s character Andie in Pretty In Pink was so inspiring to me growing up, because she was the thriftiest. She was a working-class student and part-time retail worker (like me) who made up for what she lacked in brand names with the best, most ‘volcanic’ outfits her high school had ever seen. She was a gun on the sewing machine, and could turn even the most fugly of prom dresses into an avant garde runway-ready look that Rei Kawakubo would be proud of. Andie taught me that you don’t need money to have great style, and the most fun.”
—Jerico Mandybur, editorial director
J.Lo’s “Love Don’t Cost a Thing”
“Along with being a banger, this J.Lo classic was on Now 6, the only of the Now…That’s What I call Music series I had as a child (it also has 3LW, Everclear, and Shaggy so, yeah, I think it was the best one). The J.Lo bop taught me that to be pure of heart and unaffected by the monetary circumstances of your partners is paramount. J.Lo planted the seed of financial independence and flossing on my own accord. (Or was it being raised by a single mother? We’ll never know.) Great song. Turn it up.”
—Chloe Parks, art director
Nicki Minaj in “The Way Life Goes” Remix
“My favorite song lyric was spoken by the true queen, Nicki Minaj in Lil Uzi Vert’s ‘The Way Life Goes’ remix. She raps, ‘You gotta pay me flat bread, yeah the pita way.’ First off, I love pita. Secondly, I also love other foods. I tend to spend quite a bit of my dough (no pun intended) on that other dough called delivery, Postmates, dinner, second dinner, snacks, Erewhon Market (a grocery store that is too expensive, but I love it anyway), etc. I know this isn’t a good money management moment, but it feels real. If you pay me, pay me with food (OK, maybe J.K. on that one). In all realness, this little line blends my love for food with the currency I use to pay for all that food! We need food to live and we need money to get that food.”
— Maggie Renshaw, executive assistant
The Bonfire of the Vanities and Great Expectations
“Everything I know about how not to treat money, I learned from some combination of Pip in Great Expectations and Sherman McCoy in The Bonfire of the Vanities. Don’t spend more than you have, even if you have a lot (maybe especially if you have a lot, because then you are overspending in amounts very few people can recoup). Not having any money makes you vulnerable. Benefactors always want something sinister. Nothing that seems charitable or free ever really is. The very, very rich are much more prone to eccentricity. And truthfully, Dickens and Wolfe knew what they were doing (and clearly, have been waiting with bated breath for me to arrive at this novel conclusion). Because those lessons are mostly accurate. And they’ve served me well in life, so far.”
—Neha Gandhi, editor-in-chief and chief operating officer
Cher’s sage advice and The Drums’ “Money”
“I have two things that come to mind. ‘Money,’ by The Drums and this quote by Cher, ‘Mama, I am a rich man.’ ‘Money’ is about wanting to do something nice/righting wrongs but not being able to afford it. It’s relatable, because I constantly want to splurge and spoil the people I love with gifts and gestures, but my ideas somehow end up being bigger than my wallet. Cher’s quote, on the other hand, resonated with me on an intense level because it’s such an amazing, confident statement. In an interview, Cher describes a moment when her mother told her to marry a rich man, and this was her response. For some reason, this always makes me feel like a kid again, filled with hope for the future and reassurance that I too could be a rich (wo)man—100% self-reliant with all the resources I need to thrive and free from relying on anyone else’s wallet.”
—Sydney Banta, graphic designer
“From the get-go, Fergie’s ‘Glamorous’ gives us this wonderful life lesson, ‘If you ain’t got no money take yo’broke ass home.’ To be fair, the opening lines are a sample from a 1992 song by Raheem The Dream, but I first heard it when Fergie’s hit was on repeat during my senior year of high school. It’s a line that’s often come to mind whenever I’m tempted to go out with the girls and splurge, splurge, splurge! But, then I’m reminded that—JK!—I’m currently on the livin’ on a budget stage of my life. Maybe it’s because I spent a few years as a freelancer, or maybe it’s because I grew up always looking at the price tag on things, but money has always been front and center in my mind and even more so as I try to save for my future. While I know treating myself occasionally is OK, I try to keep in mind that if I can’t afford it, I should stick to a night at home.
More importantly, though, I also love the song because it’s about Fergie reminiscing on her old dreams of being on MTV and living that G-L-A-M-O-R-O-U-S life. Yet, she’s committed to staying humble and I respect that so much. I mean, still hitting the Taco Bell drive-thru? Some things money can’t change.”
—Theresa Avila, associate editor
Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money” & Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow”
“Kesha’s song ‘Woman‘ is the first song I think of. It has the line, ‘Don’t buy me a drink, I make my money,’ and—I don’t think any 20-something dude in Santa Monica cares, but—I am proud to buy my own drink at a bar. To me, it’s the simplest reminder of how we’re turning societal norms on their heads. Another line in this song goes, ‘I buy my own things/I pay my own bills.’ I love it because it doesn’t matter how much you make, simply being able to support yourself and treat yourself is the most badass feeling in the world.”
—Lauren Black, digital marketing associate