What Friends taught us about money

Cartoon image of the cast of Friends
They'll be there for you... (Image: Dominic Mayer)
"If Friends has taught us anything, it’s that money can’t buy happiness – but it sure does make the business of living that bit easier"
  • | by Rachel England

It’s been 20 years since Friends first burst onto our TVs and into our hearts, and a whole decade since we bid our six BFFs farewell forever (save for the seemingly endless repeats, of course).

The gang taught us a lot about life and love – and the finer points of ‘being on a break’ – but they had their fair share of money misery, too.

Here’s what we learned...

Tax is a horrible inevitability

Cartoon image of rachel from friends

Just four episodes into the first season - in ‘The One with George Stephanopoulos’ - former daddy’s girl Rachel gets a nasty surprise when most of her very first pay cheque goes to the tax man, which is probably the most realistic storyline ever written into a Friends episode.

Don’t spend beyond your means

After Joey finally hits it big on Days of Our Lives he goes on a spending bender, amassing an impressive collection of animal sculptures and other inexplicable paraphernalia he feels suits his new showbiz lifestyle.

But in ‘The One Where Eddie Won’t Go’, his credit card bill arrives and he’s forced to face up to his debts.

Luckily, Ross is on hand to save the life-size ceramic dog.

Pay attention to the small print


After being discovered by a record producer who wants to turn her infamous Smelly Cat track into a music video, the hapless Phoebe signs a bunch of paperwork without reading the terms and conditions, and then finds her performance dubbed over with the voice of a much more talented singer.

Pheebs was also responsible for running up an enormous phone bill at Monica’s place while on hold to a premium rate number. Again, she wasn’t paying attention to the small print.

It sucks when your mates are minted (and you’re not)

 Cartoon image of Monica from Friends

Nobody likes being the ‘tap water and side salad guy’ when you’re out with mates.

But after a spate of particularly expensive social plans (Hootie & the Blowfish tickets aren’t cheap, after all) in ‘The One With Five Steaks and an Eggplant’, the poorer half of the Friends gang can’t contain their skint seethings any longer, and the group divides into the well-offs and the not-so-well-offs.

Then, fate steps in and Monica loses her job, reminding everyone to be a little more considerate towards their mates' money ‘mares.

Know your consumer rights

After Monica gets lumped with a novelty racecar bed because Phoebe drops the ball again (come on, Pheebs...), she finds the customer service at her local bed emporium to be less than stellar – an important reminder about knowing your rights when it comes to splashing the cash. Or, at the very least, a warning about who you trust to take delivery of important stuff.

Don’t be dazzled by offers and jargon (or babes in bikinis)


Chandler wants to quit the gym, but can't because the overwhelmingly attractive gym staff render him incapable of independent thought.

Ross tries to help him out but is sold a gym membership as well, and then – inexplicably – the pair end up with a joint bank account.

It’s pretty unlikely that the salespeople you encounter on a foray down the high street will be as hot as the girls Ross and Chandler find themselves dumbstruck over, but they may still wield attractive introductory deals or bewitching jargon that can be hard to resist.

Money changes people

In ‘The One with the Lottery’ the gang haven’t won the lottery, but they’re fighting like cats and dogs over the possibility that they just might.

Insurance is important

Cartoon image of Joey from Friends

Thanks to the good ol’ NHS we needn’t worry about forking out to fix a hernia, but ‘The One Where Joey Loses His Insurance’ does teach us a valuable lesson about being prepared for the worst. Likewise, in ‘The One With The Cat’, Joey and Chandler get burgled and, quelle surprise, they don’t have contents insurance.

Lending money to mates is complicated

Chandler is pretty good natured about essentially subsidising Joey’s entire existence, but things get a little fraught in 'The One with the Boob Job', when both Chandler and Monica ask Joey for a loan behind each other’s back.

Because we don’t all live in a world where even the trickiest situations can be diffused by a sarcastic quip, lending money to mates is a potential minefield that must be navigated carefully.

Money shouldn’t – but usually does – influence major life decisions

Cartoon image of Ross from Friends

Chandler worries about pursuing his career ambitions because of the pay cut involved, Phoebe feels pressured into moving in with Gary because they’ll save money on stamps, and Monica and Chandler have to choose between the wedding of their dreams and their future financial security.

If Friends has taught us anything, it’s that money can’t buy happiness – but it sure does make the business of living that bit easier.

Images: Dominic Mayer