How Sex And The City Warped Women’s Relationship With Money
Samantha…Charlotte…Miranda…Carrie…we all had a favourite. But I think it’s safe to say that a lot of the episodes have not aged well (think of those episodes with Samantha dating a woman, or someone of a different race and how that was tackled…yikes!), but the point that sticks out to me the most is how toxic most of the character’s relationship is with money, particularly Carrie’s. So here is my deep-dive into this sticky topic of this show’s glorification of bad money habits.
Carrie’s Unrealistic Salary
This one really irks me. In the show, especially at the beginning, Carrie is a columnist who hasn’t really hit the peak of her career yet; she lives in a beautiful apartment in Manhattan, wears designer clothes, brunches and buys designer shoes on a regular basis. This is in no sense realistic for a woman on a freelance journalist’s salary. For people watching in the 90’s, it painted an improbable picture for those wanting to go in a creative line of work. Sex and the City was debuted in 1998. It was reported that females in the US that year were earning $591 per week (US Dept. of Labour). After taxes, that’s not much over $30,000…doesn’t really sound enough to live on in central NY. Not only that, most freelancers I know have more than one stream of income. I find it very hard to believe that Carrie only had one stream of income of only a few hundred bucks per article…
Carrie’s Problem with Spending
“I like my money right where I can see it- hanging in my closet.” Oh Carrie, what a terrible mindset to have. And it wasn’t hidden in the show that Carrie, and the rest of the girls for that matter, had a spending problem, and didn’t really care when it came to saving her money. This was definitely a major plot hole throughout the show, especially after dissecting Carrie’s salary above. How did Carrie manage to brunch with the girls on a weekly basis, order takeout all the time (it was a weird point the show was trying to make, that working women should focus on their career and needn’t bother learning to cook), take taxis everywhere (erm hello! Cabs in NY are so expensive and inconvenient!), go to cool and exclusive clubs in the city and buy all the clothes she wanted on that low-income salary?! It is baffling to me that the show continued for as long as it did without ever getting pulled up on this massive flaw.
Carrie’s Credit Card Issues
Uh oh, this is how Carrie spent so much, she had massive credit card bills. An article was published in 2016 by The Financial Diet (which, by the way, I highly recommend, I love their articles and videos), that calculated Carrie Bradshaw spent about $3,600 a month on non-essential expenses. This is astounding for someone earning $2,364 a month! Leaving Miss Bradshaw in a deficit of $1,236 per month! No wonder she had to take out credit cards to fund her lifestyle! Don’t get me wrong, credit cards are not a bad thing and definitely can be used in a financially healthy lifestyle, but only if you can pay off the bill before accruing any interest. This responsible usage of credit cards is not portrayed in Sex and the City. The show taught viewers to be reckless with their credit card spending, because at least you can buy the things you want. In one episode, Carrie is declined a bank loan because of her financial track record. She admits that she paid off over $40,000 in credit card loans- oh my. Credit card debt is mentioned a few times in the show but it’s definitely just brushed off as a bit of a joke. Also can we just remember when Carrie was left $1,000 on the nightstand because the guy thought she was an escort and she uses that money to pay off a bill! Which brings me onto my next topic..
The Girls’ Relationship with Money and Men
For me, this is the most problematic message that the show portrayed. Throughout the show, the girls express the need for finding a rich, affluent man, to where it’s pretty much a goal for them. Take Charlotte for example, her quest for love was always paired with a pursuit of finding a wealthy husband. When she finally divorces her 1st husband Trey, he left her a very expensive apartment and a ring worth a few tens of thousands of dollars, so that she can still live comfortably. Interesting to note that she sells this ring to pay for Carrie’s house deposit, just as an aside. But it perpetuated the very dangerous and abysmal message that women will always need men to provide for them financially, because women simply cannot plan their finances by themselves. Another example of this is when Carrie lets her boyfriend Aiden buy her apartment (???) and then approaches another ex to pay for her down-payment?! The whole thing is farcical and a bit psychotic if you ask me. And this is a theme throughout the show, where Miranda seems to be the only woman who doesn’t really care how much her husband is earning or expecting him to pay for her. All the other girls crave a man buying them things and spoiling them. Even less-problematic scenes perpetuate this, like Carrie walking into the walk-in closet Big made for her and there’s a pair of shoes waiting for her, or when Samantha continues to date that guy in his 70s, just because he’s wealthy.
Glorifying Frivolous Lifestyles
While I do enjoy the show and think it is great for easy viewing, it’s mindful to note that this show glorifies living beyond your means. The girls are obsessed with brands and labels, and will happily spend a few thousand on a Birkin, even though they definitely cannot afford it. The show insinuates that looking the part is much better than actually being the part, and if you want to make it in the Big City, you got to spend the dough. Its light-hearted outlook on very serious matters such as debt, not having savings and relying on others for money, downplays the harsh reality of how detrimental these money mistakes can be. Not only that, it encourages women in their early to mid-30s to spend all their paycheque on fancy bars and dining, instead of setting some money aside for the future. Not only that, the picture it paints of living in an expensive city is definitely through rose-tinted glasses, and we should be mindful that city life may not always be as fun as the show portrays.
I know this is an old show but those watching (i.e., me) are now adults trying to build their careers and be smart with their finances, and shows like Sex and the City, Emily in Paris and 90210 do not portray sensible spending habits. I’m not bashing these shows, or telling you to avoid them, just merely pointing out their flaws and how to look at them objectively.