The cryogenically frozen head of Walt Disney will some day, when thawed, be thrilled to know that I have learned a helluva lot from the Disney princesses.
I’ve learned how to dance like only freakishly friendly woodland creatures are watching. To ignore unworthy suitors. To pout prettily until some magical older woman with questionable motives offers to give me all my nearsighted heart desires.
Most importantly, I have learned from the Disney princesses’ various economic strategies. And it’s time I shared those lessons with you.
So here it is! A breakdown of the various financial lessons you can learn from each of the princesses’ personal finance decisions. For the purposes of this study, I’m assuming that every princess’s main goal is financial independence, not something trivial like finding true love or saving her village/family/culture from destruction. The metrics by which we judge them are merely how and if their in-story choices contributed to their fiscal future. Choices about contracts, marriage alliances, careers, trade deals, purchases, and investing all factor into this highly scientific examination.
Some of these Disney princesses are decent economic role models. Others are excellent examples of what not to do. Let’s read them for filth, shall we?
Ariel: Read contracts before signing them
Triton’s daughter fell victim to predatory lending.
In her defense, her primary education seemed to consist of choir practice. But still—when you have limited assets to use as collateral, maybe consider putting up your grotto full of sunken treasure rather than the one skill your education afforded you. You won’t need all that stuff later. Trust me: opening up a junk shop called Isn’t It Neat? is not a particularly lucrative career move.
But I digress.
Like many a desperate borrower who found their way to a Payday Loan, Ariel ends up agreeing to completely unfavorable terms—and without even reading the contract! Look at this shit!
This ignorant, sheltered little twit could’ve saved us all a whole animated musical worth of trouble if she’d just read the fine print, determined this to be a supremely risky deal, and gone looking for more favorable terms. There’s more than one way to become part of his world, girl! Make like every rich girl ever and ask daddy for help first!
Snow White: Don’t listen to door-to-door salespeople
While joining a hippie commune and paying your rent with household chores might sound like a particularly liberating way to pursue financial freedom, it proved to be a dead end for our girl Snow, complete with literal death.
If ever there were an instance in which you should not open the door to creepy strangers peddling mysterious wares purported to solve all your problems, it’s when that creepy stranger looks cartoonishly evil. Don’t let that witchy salesperson part you from your savings! Just say “I’m not interested,” and close the door, girl!
But suppose her sociopathic, narcissistic stepmother didn’t come to hunt her down. Where was all the whistling-whilst-working going to lead Snow? Pretty much nowhere. Her strategy lacked ambition, and while she could certainly learn about a strong work ethic from the dwarves, they weren’t exactly in the position to boost her out of a working class lifestyle. Rich folks are always talking about how you should surround yourself with successful friends to emulate, after all.
Jasmine: Sign a prenuptial agreement
Girl. GIRL. Have you even HEARD OF A PRENUP, GIRL?
I’ve seen Return of Jafar. Just what the fuck were you doing while waiting to “finally” get married if not protecting your assets from your notorious player of a fiancé and his monkey too?
While this hottie street rat con man was busy showing Jasmine a whole new world (if you know what I mean), he wasn’t showing her the money. And she was so relieved to find someone who wasn’t a literal facial-hair-twirling perfumed seneschal that she took no action to protect her considerable assets.
What happens when Prince Ali Handsome Is He Ali Ababwa decides there’s “so much more” for him and files for divorce? Who takes custody of Raja then, huh? HUH?
Tiana: Keep up with inflation, don’t let your money depreciate
Literally the only aspiring businesswoman on this list, Tiana has big goals and the work ethic to make them happen. She’s practically drowning in bootstraps… not to mention swamp water but let’s move on.
She’s got two things working against her. For one, she’s up against the racism of 1920s New Orleans, in which lenders could discriminate against women of her “background” by unilaterally denying them business loans. NOT COOL.
For another: girl have you learned nothing about the power of compounding interest?! Put those waitressing tips in a high yield savings account and you won’t need to rely so much on those racist bankers in the first place! Don’t let your dough rot and depreciate in a bunch of chicory coffee cans! You’ll just have that much longer to serve beignets to John Goodman!
Tiana chose entrepreneurship as a path to financial freedom, and it paid dividends even without her amphibious detour. But let us raise a toast of cajun swamp still moonshine to the compounded interest that never was.
Rapunzel: Don’t give all your wealth to a cult leader
Barefoot? Check. Uncut hair? Check. A reclusive rural upbringing? Check. A charismatic yet abusive guardian who claims mystical powers? Check.
Rapunzel is fucking cult fodder.
And like many victims of a cultish upbringing, she finds herself completely unequipped to deal with the real world. Girl is a literal babe in the woods, without the sense Walt Disney gave a hyper-intelligent chameleon. (No seriously, why the fuck is there a chameleon in this fucking film?)
So we won’t hold her biggest financial sin against her. She gave her greatest treasure—her hair—to the selfsame messianic psychopath keeping her captive. It’s a classic cult leader move: “Give me all your worldly assets and follow me into paradise!” Only baby girl was smart enough to get out and move to the big city in search of all kinds of better career opportunities. And she took the sum total of her net worth—again, her motherfucking hair—with her.
Belle: Take a risk… and use the goddamn library
Selling oneself into a weird kind of indentured-servitude-cum-concubinage is a pretty drastic measure. But remarkably, inexplicably, this wild gambit paid off for our bookish heroine. She got a great house out of the arrangement, at the very least. (Not sure how I feel about her outsourcing all the housekeeping, though. Servants’ salaries can get expensive.)
It was certainly a better decision than continuing to support her father’s failing mad inventor business (I’m… assuming that was his “business” in any case). And at least with access to her new beau’s world class library she won’t be spending all her money at the bookshop anymore. The… “bookshop” that let her… borrow books and return them multiple times… I dunno man. I just don’t know anymore. Maybe it was a mistake to dissect the economics of a movie that features a lounge act by a womanizing candelabrum.
Pocahontas: Don’t trust whitey
Pocahontas’s biggest mistake was saving John Smith’s life.
In fact, she really fucked up by letting any of the Virginia Company live. Imagine the economic opportunities that would have been available to the Powhatans and all their continental neighbors if Europeans hadn’t arrived to cock it all up! Their societies could have developed successful modern economic systems all on their own, without the intervention of European imperialism nor its associated shitfuckery.
Instead of gazing soulfully through a waterfall at John Smith, if Pocahontas had drowned him in his armor perhaps one in four Native Americans wouldn’t be living in poverty. Perhaps if she’d let the drums of war drown out the dumb platitudes of Grandmother Willow, the indigenous peoples of America wouldn’t be plagued with high rates of diabetes, heart disease, childhood illiteracy, low life expectancy, sexual assault, suicide, cancer, and addiction.
Yeah. Kind of makes you wonder why Disney thought it was at all ok to frame this story around the theme of “Let’s all just get along!”
This soft-hearted, completely historically inaccurate naif ruined the financial future of an entire continent. One thing we can do to fix her catastrophic error is promote native artists and businesses. So here you go, kids.
Merida: Don’t buy into scams
Merida has let herself be taken in by the classic financial con of the magic beans/cake. But get-rich-quick schemes don’t work, girl! You need to get rich (or achieve a harmonious relationship with your mother) sloooowly. Don’t just fall all over yourself to join the forest witch’s MLM! Run the numbers on that shit!
But what do we expect from a girl who doesn’t see the tax advantages in pooling her resources with a boy from a rich family? I’m not saying you have to stay with him, you arrow-shooting banshee you. Have you never heard of a divorce settlement?
All I’m saying is Merida chose the absolute worst way to achieve her financial and familial goals. By buying into the witch’s fucking scam, not only did she not hasten along her path to FIRE, but she actively moved backwards… and probably traumatized her little brothers for life. My god they were bear cubs for a day!
Mulan: Tell the gender wage gap to suck it
Mulan’s path to FIRE can be broken down into two pretty smart choices.
First, she joined the army. Military service can come with all kinds of financial benefits: free healthcare, free housing, career training, etc. Risking life and limb to cut down Mongol hordes isn’t for everyone though, so factor in the risk of death when emulating Mulan’s financial strategy.
Then of course, she pretended to be a man. This was a great decision, given that the wage gap probably affected women in the Tang Dynasty even more than it currently affects American women.
By posing as a man and becoming a literal war hero, she was able to set her mother, disabled veteran of a father, and elderly grandmother up for a nice retirement without the help of a profitable marriage. Suck on that, matchmaker!
Aurora: Take advantage of your insurance
Home girl literally slept her way to the top! If there were an award for achieving the greatest return on a minimal investment, Aurora would take home the blue ribbon for literally making money in her sleep.
In other words, she just succeeded in a dope insurance scam by winning a legendary personal injury settlement.
She got a whole castle, a cushy government job (“princess” counts as a diplomatic position, right?), and a magical color-changing wardrobe all in one fell swoop. Hard to beat that return on investment, since despite my completely irrational fear of needles even I have to admit that a spindle prick ain’t no thang.
Either way, I’m in awe of her savvy financial acumen.
Cinderella: Marry for money
Ah, the tried and true strategy of marrying for money. Cindy saw the writing on the wall: her abusive family was going to work her to the brink of death and then leave her without so much as a pension to sustain herself through her arthritic old age (scrubbing floors does a number on your knees, y’all) and pay for her hantavirus medical treatment.
Her back-breaking labor was getting her nowhere unless she changed her familial alliances right quick. So she snagged herself a rich man with a foot fetish and leaped up several income tax brackets before the clock struck midnight. YEAH MONEYGRABBER.
Bonus points to Cindy for her thrifty DIY creativity. A whole carriage out of a single pumpkin? I’mma need to Pinterest that shit.