Money rules the world, so, of course, it would end up as the subject of many of our favorite stories, even in animation. Cartoons are full of episodes about generating wealth, entrepreneurship, investing, and other money-related topics. That goes for both adult cartoons and kids’ shows. So, let's all take a moment to count the Benjamins and look at some of our favorite cartoon episodes about money.
1.“The Economics of Recess” (Recess)
TJ returns to school after a sick leave only to discover that the school has changed. Things that were formerly public goods (water fountains, playground equipment, etc.) have been converted to private commodities purchased through stickers.
Sick and tired of being so poor he needs to sell his signature hat to survive, TJ works his way up the capitalist ladder through rent-seeking activities and monopolization. Ultimately, so much of the playground’s wealth becomes concentrated in his hands that he alienates his friends and falls victim to an economic coup.
2.“G-String Circus” (American Dad)
When Hayley doesn’t take Stan’s advice to open up a dry-cleaning business, he decides to adopt a group of strippers who do listen to what he has to say. But Stan isn’t as smart as he thinks, so his company fails. To save his business (and to stop selling things around the house), he makes up for the money by becoming a male stripper.
3.“Rich Hank, Poor Hank” (King of the Hill)
Hank’s modest, traditional upbringing is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, he’s very frugal and responsible with his money. On the other hand, he’s so squeamish about his finances that Bobby picks up some strange ideas.
Bobby manages to convince himself that Hank is secretly a miserly millionaire. To save his dad from becoming Howard Hughes (and also to get himself some cool stuff), Bobby goes on a massive shopping spree on Hank’s emergency credit card.
4.“Arthur Bounces Back” (Arthur)
Arthur has to have Moon Boots, a new pair of boots that let the wearer bounce like they’re on the moon. The only problem is that they cost $10, and he’s dead broke. After some failures, he gets the money by selling a necklace he found in the garage. But after he finds out that the necklace was supposed to be his mom’s birthday present, Arthur does everything he can to make things right.
5.“Rocko’s Happy Sack” (Rocko’s Modern Life)
“We’ve got nothing to eat… and I only have $3 til payday.”
Kids’ cartoons rarely get as down to earth about being a broke young adult as Rocko’s Modern Life does. In this episode, Rocko’s house is so empty of food that even the bugs are starving. Luckily, he finds a newspaper ad that says the local grocery store has a 99% off sale for the next 15 minutes.
He has to fight his way through the battlefield of the modern supermarket in time, or else he won’t eat for the next week. Talk about high stakes!
6.“Money” (Mike, Lu & Og)
Tired of using live pigs and crabs as money, Mike convinces the island to switch to printed currency. While it seems like a big convenience initially, the island economy is struck with massive inflation and an obsession with the newly-minted money.
7.“Three Hundred Big Boys” (Futurama)
2020 wasn’t the first time Americans got stimulus checks from the government. In 2001, George W. Bush signed a tax rebate bill that inspired one of the best episodes of Futurama. When Earth loots $1 trillion from the Spiderians of Tarantulon 6, Earth President Richard Nixon uses the money to give $300 to every taxpayer.
The episode details how each member of the Planet Express crew spends their windfall. Bender gets burglar tools, Professor Farnsworth makes himself look younger, and Amy gets a talking tattoo. But the best purchase is Fry’s 100 cups of coffee that give him the transcendent power to save the day when everything goes wrong.
8.“Mother-in-Law's Visit” (The Flintstones)
New babies come with wild costs, so to buy a crib for the soon-to-be-arriving Pebbles, Fred Flintstone moonlights as a taxi driver. To his surprise, his first customer is his mother-in-law. The two have never liked each other, so he takes pleasure in milking the cost of a crib out of her by driving her all over Bedrock and gambling over bowling and pool.
9.“Three Men and a Comic Book” (The Simpsons)
This episode of The Simpsons captures what it feels like to be a kid and desperately want to buy that hot ticket item. A mint condition Radioactive Man #1 steals Bart’s heart, and he’d do anything to get the $100 he needs to buy it.
But even after days of tearing his body to shreds, he still doesn’t have enough to buy it. That’s when he decides to pool his money with Milhouse and Martin so they can share the book between them. Unfortunately, they didn’t consider how the three of them would share one book. Their greed and paranoia tear them (and the comic book) apart, but in the end, they all learn a powerful lesson about friendship and the value of a dollar.
10.“One False Movie” (Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends)
This is the classic story of what happens when a project’s budget goes out of control. Mac gets assigned by his school principal to make a home movie for a local film festival on a budget of $500. But the movie immediately goes off the rails, thanks to Bloo's advice. What should have been a simple movie about friendship becomes T-Rexatron Alienwolf III, A Prequel In Time: The Unrelenting. The budget becomes so monstrous that poor Mac has to sell his mint-condition action figures to keep production afloat.
11.“Rent-a-Ed” (Ed, Edd n’ Eddy)
No other show presents the struggle of entrepreneurship (or “scams,” as Eddy likes to call it) like Ed, Edd n’ Eddy. Most episodes are about them coming up with some scheme to separate the neighborhood kids from their money, but they go overboard in this one with three. They hop from running a circus to a repair business and finally land on a sauna. Ultimately, they end up with no profit and a bill for a total house reconstruction.
12.“Blood of the Father, Heart of Steel” (The Venture Bros.)
Another comic book-related entry on this list. That should come as no surprise since comics have been an alternative form of investing for decades. Following the death of Henchman 24, Henchman 21 (Gary) commissions Dr. Venture to revive his dead best friend through cloning. Instead of cash, he offers a copy of Marvel Comics #1 as payment.
This plot plays out in reverse chronological order with a graphic on screen showing the comic’s value as it changes. We see how, thanks to Dr. Venture’s carelessness, the comic went from being a $500,000 mint condition collectible to worthless junk full of bullet holes.
13.“Megablades of Grass” (Pepper Ann)
Pepper Ann needs a pair of Megablade 3000 rollerblades more than anything. Luckily, her friend Milo’s talent at artistic landscaping is her ticket to new skates. The two make a killing, with Milo handling the labor and Pepper Ann taking care of the logistics. But when Milo’s creative juices become drained from all the work, Pepper Ann learns never to put business before friendship.
14.“Moral Decay” (The Powerpuff Girls)
Put a tooth under a pillow and get money from the Tooth Fairy. But whoever said it had to be your tooth? In this episode, Buttercup takes advantage of this loophole. What starts as cashing in on an accident turns into Buttercup hunting down the villains of Townsville and mugging them for their pearly whites. But don’t worry, Buttercup learns her lesson in the end. All the villains gang up and knock out her teeth, leading to all her ill-gotten gains being spent on dental bills.
15.“Two Bumble Bees and a Wasp” (Teen Titans Go!)
It’s payday at Titans Tower, but when Beast Boy and Robin argue about money being the root of all evil, Robin cuts the team off from his funds. Beast Boy decides the solution is to replace regular money with bees. Soon, the new bee currency overtakes the traditional one, and Robin has to get back in Beast Boy’s good graces and save him from his newfound greed.
16.“The Fundraiser” (The Boondocks)
Riley Freeman always made big talk about being a gangster, and in “The Fundraiser,” he finally put his money where his mouth is. In a parody of the gangster movie genre, Riley and his crew build an empire out of selling chocolate bars for their school fundraiser—keeping a healthy cut for themselves.
But it doesn't take long before they run afoul of World Ultimate Chocolates, the Italian Mafia, and the FBI. That’s when things get a little too real for Riley.
17.“Unemployment: Part 1” (Mission Hill)
Mission Hill is a cult classic adult animated series about the classic millennial slacker Andy and his nerdy teenage brother Kevin, who moves in with him in the big city. Andy blows all the money the boys’ parents sent him to cover Kevin’s expenses, thinking he can replace it with his next paycheck. Unfortunately, the next day, the government seizes his workplace, and his boss is arrested for tax evasion.
Kevin manages to get Andy’s boss to sign the forms needed for Andy to get unemployment on the condition that Kevin takes care of his supercar. The rest of the episode is full of anxiety as Kevin’s new ridiculous vehicle burns through the only money the boys have.
18.“Blind Ambition” (Brandy & Mr. Whiskers)
Brandy introduces the concept of money to the jungle because she misses her rich girl lifestyle. Too bad for her, she didn’t consider that she’d have to work for her cash. She starts selling beauty products to the other animals to escape the working life. But her ambition to become rich is cut short when Gaspar convinces her employees to strike.
19.“Don't Leave Home Without It” (The Proud Family)
Penny falls under the seductive spell of her first credit card in this episode. Her parents give her a credit card, hoping she would be responsible enough only to use it to buy a couple of outfits for school. But the 14-year-old Penny isn’t strong enough to resist the siren song of the credit card. When it starts literally speaking to her, she ends up racking up an enormous bill that she’s desperate to hide from her parents.
20.”Caffeinated Concert Tickets” (Regular Show)
Mordecai and Rigby are no strangers to money trouble. In “Free Cake,” they couldn’t afford a $1.50 box of cake mix. This time, the goal is to buy VIP tickets to the Fist Pump concert. The duo are typically huge slackers, but the show motivates them to pick up all the extra work around the park to make the extra cash they need.
And because this is Regular Show, they end up making a deal with a giant talking coffee bean who supplies them with caffeine straight from his body so they can have the energy to keep working.
21.“A Bill Full of Dollars” (King of the Hill)
It turns out that Bill was the secret to playing the stock market. Peggy, Dale, and Minh discover that Bill is such a perfect model of the typical American consumer that his shopping habits clue them into winning stocks. That is, until Bill finds out he’s being watched, and his stock picks become worthless.
22.“Clarence’s Millions” (Clarence) cartoon episodes about money
Clarence is dissatisfied with how his teacher rewards classroom behavior with Buddy Stars, so he decides to make his own: Clarence Dollars. At first, Clarence Dollars are his way of making him and his classmates feel appreciated. But soon, they become a real currency, with kids exchanging them for goods. Unfortunately, the symbol of goodwill starts to tear the school apart as the kids are overtaken with greed. Clarence has to solve the problem by flooding the school with even more Clarence Dollars until inflation makes them worthless.
Norbert was born in Detroit, MI but has recently located to Long Beach, CA. He got his start writing on his own personal video game blog before writing in publications such as IGN, Otaku USA Magazine, Anime News Network, Nerdist, and Black Detroit Magazine. He also researched and wrote several videos for Channel Frederator Network's 107 Facts series with the most-successful video reaching 6.5 million views.