Everything ‘Married…With Children’ Did That Kept Them Poor

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Does anyone remember that show Married…With Children? I use to watch old reruns of Married…With Children on FOX even though it was a little before my time.

I didn’t always get the jokes back then because I was still picking up English, but I understood the overall plot and tone.

It was a pretty low-brow show with simple vocabulary.

Married…With Children was sarcastic, dark, rude, sad and just downright hilarious in an “I’m going to hell for laughing” way.

Chinese television shows had nothing remotely close to this American classic!


The Bundys are a bitter, hateful and impoverished family.

The entire show series revolved around Al Bundy, a depressed shoe salesman. Peggy Bundy, a do-nothing lazy housewife with a spending problem. Kelly Bundy, the dumb blonde daughter and Bud Bundy, the loser teenage son. The premise repeatedly demonstrates how utterly pathetic all of their lives are: poor, uneducated, dirty, hopeless and…married with children.

Every single 30-minute episode highlighted how awful each character is and they only existed to make each other’s lives a living hell.

Married…With Children was revolutionary at the time of broadcast. Every other family on TV from the Brady Bunch to the Cosbys were seemingly perfect. It was completely unrealistic to the real American family.

I totally agree.

My dad was not an architect or a doctor. He was an Al Bundy. I never cared to watch a full episode of Cosby or Brady. My family was relatable to the Bundys. No Cosby nor Brady was ever being scammed or stabbed on the regular basis to keep my interest.

Can I get a “Wooooooooooah Bundy!” ;D

Financial Bundy Files

On another note, the Bundys of Married…With Children also serves very good examples of very, very bad financial lessons.

Related: 9 Money Mistakes To Avoid For Debt-Free Living

I wrote out a long list of things I observed that I believe continued to keep the Bundys poor. My husband looked over to see what I was writing and said, “Phew boy, that is going to be a loooong list.” Ha!

I didn’t have to dig far or research very hard. I mean if you wanted engineer exactly how to build wealth, just watch a few seasons of Married…With Children from the beginning and do the complete opposite of what they did.


1. Low Income

AL: Sure selling shoes is fun. But behind the glamour, it’s like any other minimum wage slow death.

The only source of income is from the cursed Al Bundy who works at a low-end women’s shoe store inside a cheap mall.

The gravity of which Al’s life has progressed so far downhill from his high school football days haunts him daily. He is a middle-aged, balding man working at what is essentially a Payless Shoe’s store gig meant for teenagers.

The annual salary of a shoe salesman in 2018 dollars is $36,000 (I googled it.)

Related: 3 Signs When Being Frugal Doesn’t Work & What To Do About It

It gets worst…Al is not a good salesman and his annual wage (let’s generously assume it’s $36,000) needs to support a family of 4 + dog. He is not motivated to improve his income or care to learn any in-demand skills.

In fact, his job has been demonstrated that it could be done by a chimpanzee.


2. High Spending

To be fair, it’s not just Al Bundy. Every single adult Bundys represents total financial failure.

The matriarch of the Bundy regime, Peggy Bundy, is a lazy housewife who refuses to cook or clean for her family.

She spends frivolously on her husband’s shoe man income and racks up debt that takes Al years and years to pay off.


Another large portion of her spending goes to her eating out while the rest of her family (especially Al) starves to death.

She has no understanding of personal finance and on the rare occasions she does end up forced to work to her dismay…she ends up tricked into some pyramid scheme and drives her husband into more debt.

Some of her highlighted purchases include a $5,000 statue of a Greek God…which she was able to buy with a down payment of $10.

There was also the self-portrait painting Peg commissioned of herself for $2,500 dollars…which Al upon seeing…fell out of his bedroom window in horror.

Related: How To Afford $800 Shoes When You’re $100k in Debt

Her purchases are so idiotic that when the Bundy’s hosted a yard sale to recoup some dough they failed.

When the Bundys couldn’t sell any of the junk Peggy had bought, Al explained to Kelly and Bud the basis of the Greater Fool’s theory. Peggy is the greatest fool as she is the last idiot to buy junk with no other takers.

KELLY: You know, I can’t understand why we can’t sell of any of this junk.

AL: Well, honey, see, lawn sales are based on the Bigger Idiot Theory. You know, nothing’s so dumb that some bigger idiot won’t come along and buy, but the uh, the flaw on that theory is that eventually you get to the Head Idiot, and uh, you call her “Mom“.


3. Unplanned Pregnancies

AL (to Kelly): Love, hate… look, we’re a family, what’s the difference?

It’s hard to say if Al and Peggy were high school sweethearts from the way they jab at each other. Peggy gave birth to Kelly right after she graduated high school on Al’s shoe man salary. This type of poor planning drove these two newly married people right into the poor house head first. Since money is always tight in the Bundy household, the kids forgo dental insurance and basic needs like heating and food.

Related: Top 5 Financial Mistakes I’ve Made In My Early 20s

4. Car Obsessed

Al purchased a ’65 Mustang with his neighbor and they both spent a fortune repairing it…until the cops showed up and told them that it was a stolen car. Oooopsies.

When Al got tired of pushing his ancient Dodge, he took his secret savings stash of $5,000 to put a downpayment on a brand new car at a fancy car dealership. The dealership overcharged him because…well, they’re car salesmen and he’s…Al Bundy.

But fortunately for pathetic Al…Peggy had already found his secret car stash and spent it a loooong time ago. No new car for Al but he did unknowingly buy back his old broken down car (for more than what he sold it for) thinking it was a trade up.

Related: 5 Big Reasons Why We Choose to Live Without a Car


5. Loans & Dumb Ideas

What happens when you have no money but can’t curb spending? You fall for cheap and easy money! There are plenty of desperate banks who are willing to loan out money. Everything the Bundys “own” come at a much higher interest rate because they are broke.

Related: How To Effectively Overcome Credit Card Addiction

When Al borrowed $50,000 from the bank to start his own…shoe emergency hotline (yes, a shoe emergency hotline) it failed miserably.

Al: I’m getting an idea. I’m going to re-invest in my Shoe Line. Al Bundy is not going into the gutter owing $50,000. I’m going into the gutter owing a $100,000! That’s the man you married!

Now since Al is already $50,000 in the hole, he goes out and gets another $50,000 line of credit and put it back into his shoe hotline with a series of hilariously bad 555-SHOE television commercials advertising his shoe hotline business.

It failed miserably x2.

Peggy (attempts to comfort): After all, you lost $100,000. How many men who make less than a fry cook can say they lost a $100,000?

That’s the Bundy way!


6. Criminal Behavior

We would be here all day if you wanted a full list. Off the top of my head…robbing a dead mall Santa, losing their neighbor’s house (yes – they lost an entire house), stealing from little children, dodging from paying taxes, stealing their dog’s identity to apply for a credit card (yes they really did that). That’s on top of the usual casual shoplifting, pickpocketing, breaking n’ entering, encouraging rioting, scamming, and of course the looting.

I mean the list goes on and on. This only covers the adult Bundys…

Related: Effective But Semi Illegal Ways To Pay Off Student Loans


7. Get Rich Quick Schemes

Every Bundy (with the exception of a relatively clever son Bud) falls for get-rich-quick schemes. Peggy Bundy would be the biggest idiot of course. Their love of lottery scratchers and lotto powerballs come before bills and debtors. Peg loves the lottery. One time, she spent $200 buying a small prayer statue of ‘Tubro’ the Panamanian God of Money to aid her in getting rich.

Related: Is Not Having Financial Literacy An Excuse For Being Broke?


8. Single Income

AL: Peg, you can stab me with knives, you can beat me with clubs, you can make me open my eyes when we’re having sex but there’s no way on earth you can make me get a second job.

During the late 1980s when Married…With Children became popular, dual-income American families were becoming more and more prevalent and accepted. The “New Era of Women” could now choose a career, a family, or both!

Or you can choose either one I guess, like Peggy.


To supplement Al Bundy’s shoe salesman income, Peggy could have helped out by getting a job. Instead, she spent the day watching Oprah on TV and eating bonbons. She could have taken the traditional homemaker role…except she spent the day watching Oprah and ignoring Bud and Kelly.

Related: The Dying Middle Class – “Two American Families” (PBS Frontline Documentary)


9. Taking Advantage of Others

The moral of the story for many entrepreneurs is…there will always be enough suckers willing to hand over their hard earn money as long as you target the correct suckers. The world is crawling with them. Look how well Amway and Herbalife are doing! The Bundys not only fall for these get rich schemes, they are also responsible for starting some of these shady organizations themselves. Al was the kingpin of a psychic hotline where they sell lucky numbers and lucky days to gullible callers. When the money flooded in, Al ignores the advice of staying small. He got greedy and lost it all soon after.

Related: Why I Don’t Think Cheating on Homework Is Wrong


10. Poor Hygiene

Not bathing, brushing, flossing, curbing foot odor…generally this is basically the fastest and easiest way to make anyone who meets you wary of your existence. Since first impressions are a big deal, especially for a sales position, it’s not hard to see why Al makes less than a “fry cook.”


11. Bundy’s “Curse” / No Hope

The Bundy Curse is a crutch or belief told most often by Al Bundy. The curse is responsible for ruining every (especially male) Bundys from being truly happy. No matter what potential skill or talent they may possess, the Bundy curse will ultimately make them into horrible failures.

Al strongly believes Peg is part of the curse that makes his life hell because she “wasn’t truly a Bundy, being so only through marriage.”

The curse seems pretty effective.


It’s hard to imagine robbing a dead Santa, your son as a peeping tom, threatening to call immigration on an innocent Mexican woman, stabbing your husband with a knife fastened to a grocery cart, welcoming prison time because there will be free food…..

To clarify, this show is a COMEDY show 🙂


12. No Education


The Bundys do not believe in education. When Kelly was a first grader, Peggy decided to bleach her hair blonde instead of helping her with her homework.


Since there is no money or food at home, Kelly goes out with other men if she needed clothes or food. The lack of child rearing and general healthcare is how she developed her dumb blonde persona. Kelly has shown hidden intelligence in some instances but they were never developed or discussed to meet her potential.

Bud Bundy, the remaining male Bundy seed, is crafty and smart. But instead of developing his intelligence or building his confidence, the adult Bundys stole Bud’s scholarship money and squandered it on jet skis and big screen TVs dooming their son’s future forever from a debt-free, college experience. He will owe $25,000 dollars – in 1980s dollars – and work for the rest of his life to pay back the debt that his parents caused him.

(Once again, this is a comedy show.)

Related: How I Paid Off $20,000 In Student Loans Working Part-Time


13. Bad “Investments”

The Bundys do not invest. There is no money to invest. Moreover, they don’t have money priorities. Before the electricity bill is paid off, Peg has already spent it at the hair salon. Sometimes the Bundys scam or illegal obtain a windfall. The last windfall they received was scamming their neighbor out of $2,000 for a wedding. Al pocketed the $2,000 and paid off a rental property at Lake Chicamocomico.

Unfortunately, Al learns it was a fake retirement property built on a toxic waste dump. It will be uninhabitable until the year 5 million.

AL: What’s five million years in the scheme of the life of one man?


14. Bad Reputation

The entire neighborhood hates the Bundys. So does lower and upper Uncton England…and every single person who has had to smell them or be near them. They once took out the power of the entire neighborhood during a heatwave and decided to pander in the supermarket. They have a dilapidated house and overall rudeness that lowers the overall property value of the home.

Related: 11 Punchable Financial Crimes According to Me

Al was also caught on camera on the evening news for lying to a librarian. Without a single ounce of support from the overall community, it’s hard for a person to get far.


15. Lawsuits

The countless of times the Bundys have been sued by someone or they are trying to sue someone happens so often on the show series that I use both hands to count it. Even though the Bundys lose lawsuits more often than they win them (which is hardly ever) the winning plaintiffs get nothing.

What could the Bundys possibly have any more to be taken away?

There are no ramifications! WIN!

Related: Top Reasons Why Some People Don’t Save Money


16. Not Eating

Ah, the last thing – bad nutrition I suppose but they don’t really eat period. Since the Bundys do not eat often due to their poverty, when they do get a chance to feast (almost always stealing or scamming) normal spectators are appalled.

To avoid paying for movie snacks, the Bundys wait until the concession clerks turn their back and eat as much as they can so they don’t have to pay.

Have you seen the Bundys eat?



I came from a family similar to the Bundys so I hold solidarity there. I grew up watching this guy and then rewatching this guy.

Despite how different – completely different – my views are today to that of Mr. Bundy…Al is still my favorite All-American TV anti-hero. I’d buy him a beer any day and it would be an honor.

So take it away, Al…

AL: “So you think I’m a loser? Just because I have a stinking job that I hate, a family that doesn’t respect me, a whole city that curses the day I was born?

Well, that may mean loser to you, but let me tell you something. Every morning when I wake up, I know it’s not going to get any better until I go back to sleep again.

So I get up, have my watered down Tang and still-frozen Pop Tart, get in my car with no upholstery, no gas, and six more payments to fight traffic just for the privilege of putting cheap shoes on the cloven hooves of people like you.

I’ll never play football like I thought I would, I’ll never know the touch of a beautiful woman, and I’ll never again know the joy of driving without a bag on my head. But I’m not a loser. ‘Cause despite it all, me and every other guy who’ll never be what he wanted to be, are still out there, being what we don’t wanna be, forty hours a week, for life.

And the fact that I haven’t put a gun to my mouth, you pudding of a woman, makes me a winner!”



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45 thoughts on “Everything ‘Married…With Children’ Did That Kept Them Poor”

  • Wow, what a blast from the past Lily! Love it. I remember watching that show too and it is an all time classic.

    Great point by point summary of some of the things that destined the Bundy’s to never climb out of their social status. Sadly it is still a reality today with some people living paycheck to paycheck and financing their life no matter what income level they are (from shoe salesman to doc even).

  • Oh Lily, you’re the best. This show was “my generation” and I watched it all the time. This is hilarious, and I forgot how crazy-silly the show was.

    Although one could argue aspects of my family were like the Bundy’s (low income, wasted money on cars etc), my experience was different in many ways. Which is why it was so fun to watch, they were kind of similar to us but WAY off the rails!

  • Great show! Polk Higher Football and No MAAM! Love the old Dodge and most of all, I loved the dogs comments about the family! Many great lessons taught that many people missed. Great write up and I loved going down memory lane.

  • Haha whoa, I never watched this show growing up and I gotta say it seems … sad? Maybe a little depressing, haha. But, some of the best comedy is just an honest reflection of depressing stuff in a way that highlights the absurdity of it all — and so I guess they mastered that!

    It’s crazy how much of this is relatable (OK, not the knife thing…), like the unwillingness to try and advance to a higher income but complaining anyway. Fun read!

  • I loved this show when I was a kid. It was hilarious to see families worse off than we were. They were funny as heck.
    The Bundy was the lowest common denominator of American families and everyone could laugh at them. Unfortunately, it seems many families are in dire financial trouble today. I guess it’s not as funny now…
    Joe @ Retire by 40 recently posted…Summer is Over & School is On!!!

  • Yes, Al Bundy was hilarious! His one-liners were the best!
    However, how ’bout Who’s the Boss and Growing Pains? They were way better.

  • I used to watch this show plenty of times growing up. Whenever I see Ed O’Neil on TV nowadays on Modern Family I still picture him as Al Bundy and not anything else. That’s how he played that role of Al so well.
    Even though it was a sitcom, the show reflects on how some families really deal with their money…by not really taking care of it. Although in debt, some would rather spend more and more and thus dig deeper into debt rather than trying to take care of it.
    Kris recently posted…How Much Did We Spend On Our First Family Road Trip

  • I really like that shows like this are out there, actually. Sure, it’s morbid and trashy at times, but the lessons are really good. It’s like how we all have that Hot Mess Friend that we love, but use as a lesson of what not to do. Sometimes you need an “opposite example” to remember to stay on the straight and narrow.
    Mrs. Picky Pincher recently posted…What A Frugal Weekend! August 26

  • Loved the show and thanks for the post. I’m not sold on the premise however , think the Bundy’s problems have little in the way of financial lessons for the rest of us.

    Like a lot of long running shows they took a few years to go whole hog – kinda started as bundy lite. Then at the end they kinda lost it. Somewhere in season 3-8 or so the show was better than any comedy I’ve ever seen. Never understood the appeal of friends or seinfield really.
    Thanks again!

    Peggy: What if he is cheating on me?
    Marcy: Stand by your man – in court! Take him for everything and get yourself another man. A real man.
    Peggy: I don’t want a real man. I want Al!
    Marcy: Why?
    Peggy: Oh I don’t know . Have you ever had a pair of old shoes? They’re boring and ugly and stink to high heaven. But they’re yours, you know? They’re worn down and broken in and… and when you put ’em on it feels like there’s nothing there, hahaha. That’s my Al.

    • Oh yes I remember that episode! Pffft I love how they’re sweet and mean at the same time. I think this show impacted the way I learned and used English too. I think season 3 and on until at least season 7 was beautifully written. Too many good episodes to mention!

  • I remember that show very well! We used to watch it as a family when I was a kid My life was nothing like the Bundy’s, however.

    I still remember the opening scene with Peggy Bundy smoking a cigarette while tossing a salad with the ash and embers of the cigarette landing in the salad.

    Dr. McFrugal recently posted…Weekend Reflections: 8/19/2018

  • I just remember the cackle in the background every 5 secs. When I was a little kid, I didn’t understand how people in the 80s could support a family on a shoe salesman salary. Hail to Ed O’Neil!

    Speaking of shows, a while back I watched a documentary called Up Series https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Up_Series
    It was a study that followed the lives of children who grew up rich vs poor over their lifetime. Also showed how differently they were brought up and how their careers and marriages went afterwards as adults.

    That show definitely cemented some of my beliefs

  • Lily,

    Wonderfully done. I always saw “Married…With Children” as the great zig to contemporary television’s zag. You make a great point about shows like “Full House”, “The Cosby Show”, “The Brady Bunch”, and many others like them being the norm while “Married…With Children” couldn’t be much farther on the other end of the spectrum. The anti-hero Bundy family delivered many great lessons on how NOT to behave with money, family, friends, life, and essentially any decision of consequence. 99 times out of 100, you could look at how they made their decisions and if you did the opposite, you’d be in a much better place.

    I think the list you cataloged just scratches the surface of what not to do with your money. I haven’t seen the show in a while (I never made room for cable TV in my budget after leaving home) and don’t know where to look for reruns. The two lessons I learned most after watching the show were (1) there are no shortcuts to success and (2) if you want something enough, you need to work hard to get it. I think if the Bundys had learned this at an early age, their lives would be dramatically different. Then again, if they had learned those two lessons, the show wouldn’t be anywhere near as entertaining. Who wants to watch a show where a family makes smart, well-balanced decisions, respect each other, and works hard to get ahead? Well, I guess a lot of folks given the success of the shows I mentioned earlier in the post. Regardless, the Bundys will forever serve as the archetype for how not to make wise financial decisions or raise a family. Great write up!


    • I think Al’s mother was an alcoholic – in a flashback she told Al she could be anything he wanted to be when he grew up and he replied: “Yeah right, try saying that when you’re sober Mom.” Hahahaha….yeah it gets depressing if you look at the details! Poor Bundys.

  • When I first moved to the States, the Bundys and the Simpsons were my adopted American family. I loved illicitly watching both of them on a “portable” 8-inch screen that I had snuck into my room, so I can relate to your experience with Married…

    They are the blueprint for wage slavery. A lot of the same financial mistakes made by the Bundys are also made by the Simpsons. I still get a kick out of watching both, but doesn’t it feel good to no longer relate to their financial woes?

    Great post, as usual, Lily!
    Moose recently posted…How to Negotiate and Win!

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