When the TV show Roseanne began in 1988 I didn’t like it very much. The kids were brats, the parents were rude and gross, Roseanne had an annoying voice, and the little boy who played the son really bugged me.
It probably took me a couple of years before I began watching Roseanne regularly and appreciating it for what it was – a working class family struggling just to get by. Eventually I got Roseanne’s humor and the real-life situations hit the nail on the head much better than other family TV shows. The audience could relate to money issues, failing businesses, shuffling around from one low paying dead-end job to another, and worrying about paying the bills.
Fast forward 20 years and Roseanne was revived in 2018! It was like they’d never been away. The parents are still struggling to pay the mortgage and now they’re dealing with medical issues associated with aging. Many seniors have to decide whether to buy prescription drugs for what ails them or buy groceries, and that reality was shown in the first episode. Toss in a divorced adult kid who’s lost her job, and needs to move back home – with two kids in tow.
Shortly after the network announced it had ordered another season of shows, the series star, Roseanne Barr, sends out a racist tweet and is promptly fired from her show.
A few more months later the cast is back with a new name, The Conners, and the TV family is mourning the death of their matriarch. Poor old Roseanne died from an accidental drug overdose.
Live within your means
Forget about keeping up with the Joneses or keeping up with the Kardashians. We all need to aim lower and keep up with the Conners.
Roseanne and The Conners are good examples of how we need to prepare ourselves for everything that can go wrong financially.
Over and over we watched Dan and Roseanne Conner count their money and struggle to pay the bills.
The Conners didn’t buy fancy appliances or furniture. They didn’t buy cars for their kids when they were old enough to drive, or pay for their education after they graduated from high school.
They just couldn’t afford to do those things.
The Conners lived frugally and bought inexpensive food. Roseanne once pointed out a box of a name brand cereal on the shelf and said she buys the no name brand at the grocery store to keep refilling it so the kids aren’t any wiser.
And speaking of cereal, here’s a Roseanne cooking tip: cereal helps make the meat loaf go farther!
Take whatever job you can get
When Roseanne first aired, Roseanne, her sister Jackie, and a few of their friends worked at Wellman Plastics.
Who remembers George Clooney as their supervisor and Jackie’s sometimes love interest?
This was a no-brainer factory assembly job. The ladies worked there to pay pay their bills and put food on the table.
One dead end job to another
Roseanne worked a number of jobs: cashier in a fast food chicken restaurant, swept floors in a beauty salon, and a waitress in the restaurant of the Rodbell’s department store.
Most of us have cycled through a list of menial jobs. They’re usually crap pay with miserable supervisors. Roseanne’s supervisor at the fast food restaurant, aka “the little weasel”, was still in high school and gave her a lot of grief.
These are the type of jobs where we don’t stick around too long. Either due to the crap pay or nasty bosses! When another slightly better paying job comes along or one that has better hours, we move along.
It’s all about doing what you have to do to survive and provide for your family.
Is your job worth it?
Right now with the pandemic, people are making choices to stay healthy and stay away from others, especially if they’re older or have compromised immune systems.
Pandemic or not, your job is not worth dying over.
Is it worth the stress?
When Roseanne was working at the fast food joint, her shifts were during the week while the kids were in school. Then her boss, a teenage boy, switches her to weekend shifts because she’s the best worker and he needed her for the busy times. She invited him home for dinner so he could see how important her family is to her. Dan even pitched in and did the kid’s homework for him – rebuilding a carburetor – because the kid was failing shop class at school.
The kid wouldn’t budge on letting Roseanne take weekends off, and fired her.
Dan got the last word by taking the carburetor apart and dropping it on the floor.
You don’t have to buy the latest fashion trends.
Most of the clothes the Conners wore were bought at discount department stores or second hand shops.
They’re just clothes. As long as they’re easy to clean and the price is right, who cares about fashion trends?
Of course, it’s a little tougher when you have teenagers who want designer clothes like the other kids in the class are wearing.
Find new experiences that don’t cost a lot of money
The Conners occasionally went out to movies and concerts, but generally they stuck pretty close to home.
Pandemic or not, here are 13 things to do when you’re stuck at home.
Whether or not it’s a stat holiday weekend, pandemic or not, here are 11 things to do that are also don’t cost a lot of money.
You don’t have to spend money to have fun
The Conners had a lot of fun without spending a lot of money.
A simple backyard BBQ with friends and Dan playing his guitar and leading everyone in a singalong was their idea of fun.
Enjoy the simple things in life!
There’s a lot of things you can do outside like discover a new park or hiking trail. Just about everybody owns a bike, so it’s already free to jump on it for a ride. Everyone owns a cell phone. Download the geocaching app and take up a new hobby. All you need is a car and gas money to get you to the starting points.
Here are 6 easy ways to make time to get outside, most of them low to no cost.
Figure out ways to save money
The Conners might not have a lot of money, but they spent a lot of time – and money – drinking at the Lobo Lounge.
There was always had beer in the fridge.
In the current installation of The Conners, oldest daughter Becky accepted she’s an alcoholic and quit drinking while she was pregnant.
Many of the Conners could have saved a lot of money by cutting back on the booze.
If you need inspiration figuring out ways to save money, see 12 Things I quit Buying to Help Save Money.
Save for an emergency fund
Saving for an emergency fund is an excellent lesson we’ve learned from Roseanne and The Conners – because they never did it.
When I say aim low and keep up with the Conner’s instead of the Joneses, this is your opportunity to kick it up a notch and do better than the Conners.
We’ve watched this family struggle many times due to unemployment and illness and stressing out how to pay the mortgage, buy groceries, and keep the lights turned on. An emergency fund would help relieve some of that stress.
Click the banner below to learn more about emergency funds.
Not everyone has what it takes to run a business
When Roseanne began, Dan owned a drywall business and hired a small crew.
Later on in the series he bought a motorbike sales and repair shop. His dream business!
A fixed location shop is a whole other story with many overhead expenses. There was a lack of customers and motorbike sales.
Income versus expenses.
Businesses need to be profitable. Losing money isn’t sustainable.
After struggling for a couple of years, Dan had to close down the motorbike business.
Invest in yourself
Roseanne is tired of working one minimum wage job after another, and she and her sister Jackie open a restaurant.
The Lunch Box specialized in loose meat sandwiches. I suppose that’s some kind of copycat Sloppy Joe. Their mother, Bev, became the majority shareholder in the business.
The restaurant seemed to do fairly well. I’m unsure why this business venture ended. I’ve either forgotten or it was never explained in either Roseanne or The Conners.
Invest in yourself Part 2
Twenty years later on The Conners, the ladies find out that Bev still owns the building, and the Chinese restaurant operating there has closed down.
Darlene has power of attorney over Bev’s business and financial affairs and Jackie and Becky beg her to let them take over the restaurant and bring The Lunch Box back to life.
Fast forward to the Covid-19 pandemic and the Lunch Box restaurant is hurting. Jackie is delivering sandwiches on her bicycle.
Business owners, especially in the hospitality industry, have had to be very creative and adapt to keep their businesses running.
You do what you have to do.
Unemployed adult children move back home
When Roseanne was resurrected, a divorced and unemployed Darlene moved back to the family home with her two kids.
She tried to convince anyone who’d listen that she’d moved back home to help out her aging parents.
Becky also moves back to the Conner house with her newborn baby.
The reality for many single women, whether or not they’re recently divorced, is that they’re unemployed or underemployed. They can’t survive on low or no income. Struggling in low paying jobs, it’s very difficult to pay the rent, buy groceries, and keep on top of all the other bills.
If your adult children have become unemployed due to the coronavirus pandemic, you might have a full house again.
You do what you have to do
In the original series, we saw Roseanne go through a series of dead-end jobs to contribute to the household. She worked hard at low paying jobs and never seemed to get ahead.
Fast forward to The Conners dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic and unemployment.
They’re grasping any jobs they can get to survive.
Coming full circle, Becky and Darlene are now working at Wellman Plastics.
We never saw the Conners going skiing or taking vacations. On one episode they take a trip to California, courtesy of their next door neighbor’s RV after convincing him Disneyland would be a better destination than Branson.
Too many people decide to take an expensive vacation courtesy of their credit card. Then they struggle to repay it for a very long time. Months turn into years and that credit card debt still isn’t paid off.
Fortunately credit card companies were smart enough not to sign up Roseanne and Dan Conner!
A better plan is to put money aside into a specific vacation fund account at your financial institution. Choose a destination and ballpark how much your travel expenses will cost. Then add more money just to be safe.
And away you go!
Buy life insurance
If you’re married and/or have dependents, buy life insurance.
That came up in an episode of The Conners when Dan says he should have listened to Roseanne and bought life insurance. If he had, the family wouldn’t be struggling to save their house.
Sign up if your company has a benefits plan that includes life insurance.
If you have a house with a mortgage, buy enough life insurance to cover the amount due if you pass away. Calculate in the amounts owing on other debt, like car loans and credit cards.
Make life less of a burden for the loved ones you leave behind.
Save money and bust debt
One thing the Conners never got a handle on was saving money and paying off their debt.
Thirty plus years later they, or at least Dan, are still paying a mortgage on a house. You’d think that sucker would have been paid off by now! I guess that second mortgage on the failed motorbike shop really set them back in paying off the mortgage on their house.
One thing the Conners never seemed to understand is figuring out that there are things they can live without, at least for a little while, in order to save money to pay down debt or start an emergency fund.
They always had beer in the fridge and cable.
But they never had the peace of mind that comes from getting their finances under control.