Art imitates life, as the saying goes. And nowhere is that more evident than on the small (and big) screen. Women who’ve played the role of the sage mother on TV and in the movies have offered memorable and often hilarious quotes on life, love, and many times, money. Here are some of our favorites.
Violet Crawley, Downton Abbey
Mom wisdom: Sometimes it’s OK—wise even—to flaunt your wealth.
Many mothers tell their kids about how important it is to be practical, humble, and understated. Not so with the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith). When American relations come to visit, she observes that it never hurts to attempt to win over guests with an extravagant dinner party. “Nothing succeeds like excess,” she declares.
Elaine Miller, Almost Famous
Claire Dunphy, Modern Family
Mom wisdom: Your money will go further if you manage expectations.
Claire Dunphy (Julie Bowen) is another TV mom with a clear-eyed—some might say jaded—perspective on life and her family. In one episode, she explains why her kids didn’t attend prestigious, expensive preschools: “Yeah, well, my kids are middle management material, at best. I didn’t want to waste a lot of money.”
Rainbow Johnson, Black-ish
Mom wisdom: Make sure you get paid.
Rainbow Johnson (Tracee Ellis Ross, a.k.a. daughter of famous mom Diana Ross) keeps it real in an episode in which her husband gets a promotion at work. “Breaking down barriers; equally important to money,” she tells him. “But just so that I’m clear, there is a salary increase, right?”
Marie Barone, Everybody Loves Raymond
Mom wisdom: Don’t spoil your kids with too much praise.
Raymond’s famously overbearing mother was never short on passive-aggressive digs, as well as old-school advice on how to raise kids. “This ‘new psychology’ that children are always right, that they’re being rewarded for every little thing they do with the stickers,” she said. “I mean, these kids are coming home full of stickers for doing nothing! ‘Ooh, I went to the potty.’ ‘Here’s a sticker.’ In my day, you had to earn a reward, and even then, you didn’t get it.”
Leigh Anne Tuohy, The Blind Side
Mom wisdom: Sometimes you need to let go.
When it comes to career advice, Leigh Anne Touhy (Sandra Bullock) encourages her adoptive son Michael Oher to go with his gut when it comes to earning his future paycheck. “I want you to do whatever you want,” she tells him. “It is your decision, Michael. It’s your life.”
Lorelai Gilmore, Gilmore Girls
Mom wisdom: To cut costs, get creative.
Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham) devised multiple ways to finance her lifestyle, including making her own clothes, staying in, and even trimming down bills from Luke’s Diner. “In fact,” she tells daughter Rory, “[Luke] actually owes us a lot of money because we weren’t supposed to be tipping him all these years.”
Sophia Petrillo, Golden Girls
Mom wisdom: Be wary of money schemes that sound too good to be true.
While warning her daughter Dorothy (Bea Arthur) about avoiding financial scams, Sophia Petrillo (Estelle Getty) recalls how she blew a bundle of money back in the old country. “I fell for their slick advertising campaign: Buy Italian war bonds. The quickest, surest, Fascist way to double your money.”
Clara Thornhill, North By Northwest
Mom wisdom: Don’t be penny wise but pound foolish.
“Roger… pay the two dollars,” Clara Thornhill (Jessie Royce Landis) advises her son Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) in this 1959 Alfred Hitchcock classic. The phrase comes off as a joke in the film, a throwback to an old vaudeville sketch that essentially had the message: “Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.” At the time, Roger is trying to exonerate himself on a DWI charge, and his mother was saying it just wasn’t worth the trouble.
Lucy Ricardo, I Love Lucy
Mom wisdom: Don’t fool around when it comes to paying the bills.
OK, so this one is more like what not to do. In Season 1 of the 1950s sitcom, Lucy describes her unique bookkeeping routine: “This is my system for paying bills. See, I throw ’em all up in the air, and those that land face-up are the winners!”