5 Funny Ladies Who Brought Frugality to the Silver Screen

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For those of us who only occasionally take a trip to the cinema, nothing is more disappointing than paying $10 to catch the latest comedy only to be disappointed by a very rich actress’s attempt to look like a real-life working girl.

Once in a while, though, we’re caught off guard by a sincere performance that exposes all the nuances of living life on a shoestring budget. Here, we salute five hilarious (albeit, rich) femmes that taught us a thing or two about embracing broke-ness with a smile.

1. Jennifer Aniston, ‘Friends With Money’

Jennifer Aniston’s trademark low-key vibe and approachable demeanor is perfectly exemplified in her “Friends With Money” role as Olivia, a character who unapologetically goes about her low-income life amidst a social circle bursting at the seams with money.

Olivia cleans houses for a living; that doesn’t exactly leave her with cash to spend on luxury indulgences. She’s savvy, though, and manages to expose a major consumer loophole: the free sample.

Olivia stops by the same high-end beauty counter in multiple department stores to procure a small bottle of expensive face cream, and one need not be a mathematician to realize that her haul would probably compare nicely to a full-size bottle.

Thanks, Jen, for reminding us that living on the cheap doesn’t always have to mean settling for cheap.

2. 

Cameron Diaz, ‘Bad Teacher’

Cameron Diaz struts the hallways of John Adams Middle School with some serious sashay as Elizabeth Halsey in “Bad Teacher.”

After getting dropped like a bad habit by her rich fiance, Halsey returns to the classroom one fall with about the same level of excitement as her students—until she learns that a lucrative bonus awaits the teacher whose class scores highest on the end-of-year state exams. Halsey thinks a breast enhancement will help her hook a colleague with sugar daddy potential; so, she stores away every spare dollar and hones in on teachers that pose a threat to her hefty bonus by lying, cheating, skirting the rules and using short skirts to get her way.

Though her actions lack ethics, there’s something to be said for a woman who knows what she wants and stops at nothing to get it (especially if her ultimate reward is more fulfilling than a bigger cup size).

3. Lena Dunham, ‘Tiny Furniture’

Few actresses capture the confusion that comes with being a jobless college graduate more accurately than Lena Dunham in “Tiny Furniture.”

In just 98 minutes, Dunham’s heroine, Aura, moves back home to her family’s TriBeCa loft, takes a hostess job, gets caught sneaking her mother’s wine and makes questionable decisions with a male co-worker in a vacant construction site. Dunham’s image of family life is honest and earnest; it doesn’t gloss over petty arguments with her sister and screaming matches with her mother. Still, it’s clear by the end of the film that Aura needed the time at home, and not just to save money on NYC rent (although saving that kind of cash isn’t a bad move for any girl, fictional or otherwise).

4. Tina Fey, ‘Mean Girls’

Tina Fey taught the girls of North Shore High School a few things about independence as Ms. Norbury in “Mean Girls.”

Fresh from both summer vacation and a divorce, Ms. Norbury possesses a can-do attitude that is devoid of any over-the-top campiness. To pay for her hefty attorney bill, Ms. Norbury quietly takes on a part-time job as a bartender at a kitschy restaurant in the local mall. She eventually crosses paths with three of her students in full bartender regalia, complete with obnoxious buttons and pins. Embarrassing? You bet. But Fey smartly acknowledges the awkwardness of the situation, puts on a smile and politely makes her exit.

And that, ladies, is how you handle an unexpected run-in en route to the side job that keeps your bills paid.

5. Kristen Wiig, ‘Bridesmaids’

Annie Walker, the “Bridesmaids” heroine played by Kristen Wiig, is not just pennies-to-payday broke: She drives a car that barely starts, her bakery went under in the recession, and she listens in on group fitness classes from afar because she can’t afford to pay the instructor.

All of that pales in comparison to the indignity she faces at the hands of Helen, a pretentious bombshell that Annie’s recently engaged best friend, Lillian, ushers into her bridal party. Annie’s practical suggestions for a modest lake house bachelorette weekend and a simple Parisian bridal shower are upstaged by Helen’s couture recommendations throughout the whole film.

Still, we commend Wiig for reminding us that the best things about friendship—namely, belting Wilson Phillips at the top of your lungs—don’t cost a thing.

Natalie Wearstler currently lives in sunny Florida, where she works as an editor at Jacksonville Magazine and freelance writer who covers travel, early-career issues and life as a Millennial. Keep up with her at @JaxMagNatalie.
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