The TV show Shameless mainly centers around two characters: a hard-working daughter, Fiona Gallagher, and her hardly working father, Frank. The 20-something Fiona juggles a million things — raising her siblings, working a couple of low-paying jobs, caring for a wasteful father… The family isn’t just poor — they’re dirt poor. Their story is about survival, and it's inspiring.
If you’re looking for a feel-good, you-can-do-anything-you-set-your-mind-to kind of TV show, Shameless isn’t for you. But if you’re broke or have a dysfunctional family, the series speaks to you directly. It always has me laughing, nodding, and sometimes even welling up with tears. It’s just that real. Here’s what Shameless has taught me about dealing with being broke:
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1. You Get Creative
There are many times when the Gallaghers, facing a bill that they can’t pay, resort to stealing or some other illegal activity to get by. Instead of feeling uneasy, I am forced to admire their creativity.
When you’re broke, you do whatever it takes to survive. You use less toilet paper (or steal it from your workplace — whoops). You’ll eat ramen all week.
‘Shameless' shows the raw, but real side of what it’s like living day-to-day when you’re broke.
There are lessons to be learned in every episode. When the bathroom is occupied, brush your teeth at the kitchen sink. When someone’s in the shower, and there are five siblings who need to get to school, out comes the water hose!
2. You Hustle
The Gallaghers hustle hard. Fiona works at least two jobs, and her younger brothers Lip and Ian work long shifts just to chip in, even though both of them are still in school. The family is constantly hustling — sometimes even scheming — to get the money that they need to survive.
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You won’t see the Gallaghers waste a bunch of money on stuff they don’t need. But you see them work hard to keep what’s important to them, like a roof over their heads and food in their stomachs.
3. You Do What You Gotta Do
When Fiona is arrested for drug use and child endangerment, Lip — the second-oldest — steps up. Instead of whining that his life isn’t fair, he travels between his dorm, school, and home just to make sure that his family is okay. Lip isn’t perfect, but he still does his best to make everything work.
He should be able to be a “normal” teenager in college, but he can’t afford that luxury — and neither can his family.
When you’re broke, you can’t wallow in self-pity. Instead, you work hard, do what you gotta do, and do the best you can until things get better.
4. Stable is Better Than Unstable
When things are good for the Gallaghers, everyone feels a little freer. They’ll splurge on the good deli meat, put some money away for a rainy day, and fix things that they’ve had to neglect due to lack of funds.
The Gallaghers don’t want to be broke. In fact, we see how they all try to better their lives and make more money as the show progresses. This statement rings true for a lot of people who are living under the poverty line.
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The Gallaghers are the first to admit that having money at the end of the month feels good, and that’s okay. No one wants to be broke forever — it’s just how it is sometimes. But being stable — even just for a little while — is often a liberating experience.
5. Always Take Care of Your Family
This is the biggest lesson that Shameless taught me about being broke. Even in a dysfunctional, crazy, broke family, the Gallaghers know that they need to take care of each other.
As someone who has experienced this first-hand, I love how Fiona puts herself last so that her siblings can have a decent home. It may not be perfect, but they’re together, and that’s all that really matters.
In the Gallagher family, if someone comes into extra money, they don’t keep it for themselves. Instead, they help their family out because they know that their family will have their back when they need it.
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Everybody works as a team. After all, who else do they really have to rely on? When you’re broke, you may not have many people there to help you; but for the most part, your family will be there for you.
Featured image courtesy of HBO. Shamless is a trademarked television show airing on HBO Sunday, Nov 5, 2017.