Ah, Gilmore Girls. A show about love, life, relationships and…money? The hit series is full of fast-talking banter, plenty of coffee and some interesting financial issues that to a 20-something personal finance writer watching years later are a little baffling. With the revival, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, coming to Netflix this week, we decided to hash out the numbers to abate (or rather, aid in) the confusion.
To recap, Lorelai Gilmore grew up in an extremely wealthy family led by insurance guy Richard Gilmore and his wife (and Lorelai’s mother) Emily Gilmore. Lorelai, a rebellious free spirit, and her uptight Old Money parents, didn’t quite get along. She wasn’t much attached to her wealth either, and soon after she gave birth to her daughter at 16, she fled, giving up a life of luxury to start a new life from scratch. She worked as a maid at an inn in Connecticut and over the years climbed the ladder to become the manager.
Lorelai refused help from her parents and somehow raised her daughter, Rory in Stars Hollow on a single-income, in quite a large home, owned a Jeep and managed to buy coffee, burgers and take-out food nearly every single day (with the occasional pop-tart to supplement here and there). How on earth did she manage it?!
Let’s have a look at the numbers.
Let’s say that the fictional town of Stars Hollow is somewhere in the vicinity of Hartford, where Lorelai grew up. For the majority of the series she worked as a manager at the Independence Inn. According to SalaryExpert.com, an Inn Manager in Hartford, Connecticut earns an average salary of about $47,000. And remember, she’s raising her daughter and paying for a house on a single-income.
Speaking of which, what about her house? Real estate website Zillow, the median listing price in Hartford, Connecticut is US$139,900. Now, this may seem relatively affordable, especially because that’s a current day number but let’s remember that Lorelai’s house is impressively large. In fact, Trulia, another U.S. real estate website, pegs her home to be worth around $2.8 million.
Let’s look deeper at that multi-million dollar home. She likely had to pay a down payment of 15%, which ends up being $420,000. It seems pretty wild that she’d have that much saved up on an inn manager’s salary so early in her working life—not to mention the monthly mortgage payments that had to be paid on a giant house. If we assume she had a 30-year amortization period at a rate of 3.99%, she’d be paying more than $11,000 a month. (Yes, a month!)
Couple that with the insane amount of take-out those girls ate and the coffee they bought each day and you’ve got a completely unsustainable lifestyle. For reference, let’s look at Dunkin’ Donut coffee prices in the United States. A large coffee, (because Lorelai was one to go big or go home with her caffeine) costs $2.09. If she had four coffees a day, that’s $8.36 a day and $58.52 a week! That means in a year, she’d have spent $3,043 a year on caffeinated beverages. Whoa. And if they had Chinese takeout four times a week (a meal for two would cost about $36, or about $144 a week) it would add an extra cost $7,488 a year! That’s a total of more than $10,500 spent in a year just on food and coffee. (And, to be quite honest, it’s a modest estimate.)
No wonder Lorelai had to ask her parents for help to pay for Rory’s Chilton fees. Although, to be fair, private school is extremely expensive in Hartford, CT ($19,448 according to this website.)
So, let’s not sugarcoat it, guys. Unless she had best friend Sookie, who’s a chef, cook her meals every day, or had a secret massive savings account, her current lifestyle makes little sense. Lorelai should be extremely broke as of right now. Although, I guess it’s possible that there was some behind-the-scenes financial planning happening that the directors of the show didn’t think we’d be interested in. I wonder why!
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