Here’s the $tory: Money Lessons from The Brady Bunch

Parody of The Brady Bunch TV show opening credits with diverse group of people standing-in for the Brady kids.
May 22, 2024 | Bill Jacky

Fifty years ago, the original TV run of “The Brady Bunch” ended. Yet nostalgia for how this ‘70s show could solve any problem in 30 minutes hasn’t faded. Let’s look back at some of the beloved family’s best-remembered money issues, compare their costs in current dollars and look at present-day solutions.

Housing plus housekeeping costs: What was the Brady budget?

Mike Brady must have been highly paid—or a brilliant budgeter. On a California architect’s salary ($13,638/year in 1969 when the show started, the equivalent of around $90,000/year today), he was able to support six kids, a stay-at-home spouse and still afford a live-in maid.

While the sitcom family’s lifestyle was imaginary, the most unrealistic element may have been the ability to afford employing a full-time housekeeper like Alice. In 2024, the average annual salary of a live-in housekeeper in the U.S. is $55,702/year according to ZipRecruiter, with salaries rising with more skills or in larger cities.

Turns out, the family’s greatest asset was the home Mike designed. The median cost for a home in California was $24,300 when the show began and $41,000 in 1974 when the show ended. Fast forward to 2023, the famous house used for all the show’s exterior shots sold for $3.2 million, thanks to an HGTV makeover show.

Build better than a Brady: Leverage your home’s value with a home equity line of credit

If Mike and Carol Brady still owned their TV residence today, they could easily leverage the immense amount of equity they’ve built in their home to tackle any number of home improvement projects. A home equity line of credit (HELOC) could provide ample funds for Mike and Carol to update their 1970s-style kitchen or add a bathroom upstairs so six kids didn’t have to share just one. While architect Mike could have a blast renovating the house top to bottom with the help of a HELOC, Carol might want to split from that split level and use profits from selling their outdated home to buy a more modern residence.


How did the Bradys afford those vacations?

Mike Brady could teach us all a thing or two about affordable vacations. Their family vacations to Hawaii and King’s Island in Ohio were both work trips that Mike’s boss, Mr. Phillips, suggested the family tag along on the firm’s expense. (Curious if Mr. Phillips knew Mike Brady brought the family’s housekeeper along.)

For the trip to Hawaii, it helped that in the 1970s, air travel was cheaper—which played a big role in Hawaii’s popularity as a vacation destination in the 1970s. Between 1960 and 1970 the cost of a plane ticket to Hawaii dropped by nearly half. King’s Island, the theme park the Bradys visited in episode 106, opened in 1972 with just a $5.95 entry cost, meaning the whole family (plus Alice!) could all enter for just $53.55. Today, one single-day admission is around $44.99 if you purchase beforehand online, and would cost a family the size of the Brady’s (plus Alice) around $414.90.

The Bradys may have paid more for their 1971 road trip to the Grand Canyon. Their approximately 960-mile roundtrip drive from Los Angeles to Arizona cost around $29, with gas being around 36 cents a gallon in 1971 (and that’s being very generous by assuming their 1971 Plymouth station wagon got 12 miles per gallon while pulling a camper). In May 2024, with U.S. gas prices averaging $3.76 a gallon, that same drive would cost at least $300. Car travel is comparatively cheap to travel-by-burro: It would cost $1,575 today for all eight Bradys plus Alice to ride burros to the base of the Grand Canyon like they did in episode 51 ($204 in 1971).

In that same episode, the Bradys luckily avoided a huge vacation expense when their station wagon was stolen by a grizzled old prospector while they were trapped in an Arizona ghost town. If the prospector hadn’t returned it, it would cost approximately $5,414 to replace it in 1971, more than $40,000 today.

Vacation better than a Brady: Cashback credit cards and an emergency fund

Expensive mishaps almost always happen to the Bradys on vacation–the station wagon theft, Greg’s surfing accident, Peter’s tarantula encounter, etc. But while the prospector returned their car and Greg and Peter were fine, it is always a good idea to keep a credit card on-hand to cover unexpected vacation costs while earning points or cash back.

It’s also smart to build an emergency fund for unexpected larger expenses. Keep and grow your fund in a high-rate digital savings account so it’s earning interest, but readily available so you won’t be charged a penalty when you need cash fast. (By the way, when Alliant members need cash, they have access to 80,000+ fee-free ATMs around the United States including in Grand Canyon Junction, Hawaii near Pearl Harbor and many beaches.)



For the Brady kids, money lessons weren’t perm-anent (unlike their hair)

Learning financial responsibility was a recurring Brady Bunch plotline from the show’s start. In episode 9, for instance, Mike Brady installs a payphone in the Brady home to teach the kids the value of money. In the 1970s, a typical payphone call was 15 cents. Today a local call will cost you 50 cents on a payphone…if you can find one. New York City removed its last payphone in 2022.

But lessons about saving didn’t seem to stick, because the Brady kids were always in need of extra cash even up to episode 117, the show’s very last. Appropriately titled “Hair-Brained Scheme,” Bobby Brady falls for a get-rich-quick scheme selling Neat & Natural Hair Tonic, which sadly ends up turning Greg’s hair orange, necessitating a trip to the hair salon. (In 1974, a perm cost around $10, compared to up to $200 today.)

Speaking of Greg, the eldest Brady son was often looking for extra cash. He needed $150 to record his song “We Can Make The World A Whole Lot Brighter” in a recording studio in 1972 (that would be more than $1,000 today). He took a job at Sam’s butcher shop to earn the $200 he needed for a new surfboard (surfboards now range up to $2,000). The 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible he had saved $109 to purchase in 1971 turned out to be a lemon (the median auction sale price for that same car today is $48,600).

Middle daughter Jan Brady lacked on-hand cash to pay for her blunders. Jan sells her bike to pay for a new family portrait when she destroys the original while bike riding without her new glasses on. She also didn’t have enough cash to cover the costs of an engraved silver platter engraved for her parents’ anniversary gift: Jan thinks it 85 cents to engrave all the kids’ name on the platter, but she learns its 85 cents per letter when she is handed a bill for $56.23. That would be $372 today, but computerized laser engraving typically isn’t by-the-letter anymore and often not even an added cost. (By the way, the actress who played Jan was smart with her money: Eve Plumb bought a Malibu beach house in 1969 for $55,300 when she was just 11 years old and sold it for $3.9 million in 2016.)

Teach better than a Brady: Kids savings accounts

To teach their kids financial responsibility, Mike and Carol would’ve been better off opening six kids savings accounts instead of relying on multiple end-of-episode lectures. Savings accounts teach children the importance of spending wisely and how bank accounts work. Unlike a piggy bank, they are a secure place for children to keep money and generate interest.



Budget better than a Brady: Supplemental savings accounts

For Greg’s goals, he could use envelopes to save separate supplementary savings accounts for a surfboard, recording studio time and a new car. This technique is very similar to the current TikTok “cash stuffing” trend that helps develop better budgeting habits by sticking cash in envelopes for specific expenses. An online supplementary savings account does an envelope one better by further removing temptation to use that cash for something else and earning interest.



Here’s OUR story: Alliant’s been helping real families save since way before 1974

When the Brady Bunch went off the air in 1974, Alliant Credit Union was already nearly 40 years old, had just surpassed $100 million in assets and only required a 25-cent fee to join. Today Alliant is all-digital to better serve a financially savvy membership that’s a whole bunch bigger: More than 850,000 nationwide members and more than $19 billion in assets. And you’re eligible to apply to join! It only takes a $25 initial deposit to a high-rate checking or high-rate savings account. While that’s more than 25 cents, we’ll make a complimentary $5 deposit for you in your savings account.


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