The Honeymooners is my all-time favorite television show. I’ve seen each episode dozens of times and yet I still laugh out loud when I watch it. The misadventures of the Kramdens and the Nortons is classic television at its best.
But if you look past all the jokes and gags there are some valuable lessons to be learned…
1. Get rich quick schemes don’t work. Ralph Kramden is always looking for a way to improve his station in life. But instead of saving up his money and making smart investment choices, he simply bounces from one get rich quick scheme to the next. He always goes for the quick fix thinking, “This is an opportunity that can’t miss!” Unfortunately, Ralph soon discovers that he has blown his savings on another “sure thing” that went bust.
2. Never rely on an inheritance. In one episode Ralph finds out that an elderly woman who used to ride his bus had named him in her will. It turns out she wasn’t the poor, old lady he assumed she was…she was actually a millionaire. Despite his wife’s advice not to jump to conclusions, Ralph assumes he will be set for life when he inherits the old lady’s fortune. He even brings an empty suitcase to the reading of the will so he can carry home all the money. Just imagine his surprise when he learns that his “fortune” is in fact the old lady’s parrot.
3. Never stop trying to improve yourself. In another episode Ralph laments that he was never able to stick with anything long enough to be successful at it. After an encounter with a businessman who shares some of his secrets, Ralph vows not to rest until he is a success. He takes stock of himself, listing all his strengths and weaknesses. Then he goes about trying to eliminate his weaknesses while building up his strengths. It may not happen overnight, but with that determination I know someday Ralph will reach his goals.
4. Live below your means. Ok, if you take one look at the Kramden’s apartment you’ll see that they aren’t exactly living like the rich and famous. They have no tv, no telephone, not even a fridge (they have an icebox).
But in one episode Ralph finds a suitcase full of money and immediately goes on a spending spree. He quits his job and buys fancy clothes, new furniture, and a motorboat. Unfortunately it turns out to be too good to be true. The money is counterfeit. Ralph then has to return everything and go begging to get his job back.
5. The Joneses aren’t necessarily doing as well as you think. In “Mind Your Own Business” Ralph gives Norton some bad advice that gets him fired from his job at the sewer. Feeling responsible, the Kramdens do what they can to financially support the Nortons but Ed and Trixie begin to feel like they’re mooching off their friends.
Eventually, Norton gets a new job selling irons door to door. But when Ed learns that Ralph is going to have the Nortons move in with him if the job doesn’t work out, he embellishes his number of sales so Ralph won’t worry about him.
Ralph gets so excited at Norton’s astounding new income that he’s ready to quit his own job and start selling irons too. The problem is Norton only sold one iron all day long…and that was to his mother.
6. Don’t buy what you can’t afford. In one episode Ralph and Alice get into a huge fight because she wants him to buy a television set. She complains that the Nortons have so many things she doesn’t (a vacuum cleaner, refrigerator, telephone, electric stove, etc) and she calls him cheap.
But Ralph argues that he isn’t cheap and that he just has different priorities, saying “I’d rather have money in my wallet than all the things in the world.” While Norton has 19 open lines of credit, Ralph is socking money away into their bank account. Instead of buying his wife all the latest and greatest gadgets, he is giving her financial security.
7. Never give up! If there’s one thing I admire about Ralph Kramden it’s his determination. He’s not the smartest guy in the world and he’s had a lot of bad luck. But no matter what life throws at him he always bounces back. He never stops trying to reach his goals.
Someday he’ll make it.