Country music has evolved greatly throughout the years, but at the heart of it are themes about regular people trying to make it in an often-challenging world. Uniquely American, country music songs range from love and relationships, to life and death, to yes, money.
Believe it or not, there are quite a few country songs about money, and they aren’t just about spending it (although there is plenty of that too). In fact, some of the greatest country songs about money seek to teach valuable life lessons. And those that don’t speak to the lives of millions of Americans who are struggling to get by and may only have a night out once in awhile to look forward to.
If you didn’t grow up with country, like I did, you probably think all country songs are about losing things. Losing your girlfriend or wife, truck, or your dog.
While regret and loss are common country music themes, there is often much more to a country song than meets the eye.
So, sit back, relax, and give these 20 country music songs about money a chance. You might even like a few of them, and you might learn a thing or two.
“9 to 5” – Dolly Parton (1980)
“9 to 5” is a song that most Americans, and people for that matter, can relate to.
Written and performed by Dolly Parton for the 1980 movie of the same name (which she also starred in), both song and film were inspired by the 9to5 organization founded in 1973 that sought fair pay and treatment for women in the workplace. The song has since become somewhat of an anthem for 9 to 5ers in the U.S.
The song begins by outlining the daily struggle of getting out of bed and ready to face a job you don’t love. Further lyrics discuss the struggles faced by many workers in dead-end jobs, including bad bosses, lack of compensation, and dreams of something better.
“Tumble outta bed
And I stumble to the kitchen
Pour myself a cup of ambition
And yawn and stretch and try to come to life.”
“It’s a rich man’s game
No matter what they call it
And you spend your life
Putting money in his wallet.”
“Daddy Never Was the Cadillac Kind” – Confederate Railroad (1994)
Yes, I know, the band name is outdated but you can bet the theme of this song isn’t.
“Daddy Never Was the Cadillac Kind” tells the story of a young man growing up and coming to understand his father’s lessons about what really matters in life. The young man goes from being young and jealous of others and their material things, to buying material things of his own, to finally realizing that none of those things really matter.
Take the lesson of this song to heart and remember that some things “just glitter and shine.”
“He asked me how I bought it, I told him on credit
Daddy just smiled, I’ll never forget it.”
“It took a while but now I’m grown
I’ve settled down with kids of my own
The more I give them
The more they want.”
“(This Thing Called) Wantin’ and Havin’ it All” – Sawyer Brown (1995)
“Rich man grew old, owned a mansion on the top of the hill” starts off Sawyer Brown’s “(This Thing Called) Wantin’ and Havin’ it All.” Although not one of their most popular songs, it is probably their most meaningful.
The song tells the story of an old rich man who is preparing for end of his life. His children don’t come around because they’re just waiting for him to die. He realizes that money may have given him power, but it hasn’t given him what he really wants and how wanting for nothing has shaped his children.
Money is a tool, but make sure you do things the right way so you don’t fall into the “well called wantin’ and havin’ it all.”
“The poor man has everything that the rich man wants.
He’s got love in his life and his heart
He’s got a house he calls home.
The rich man owns everything from miles around
But what he needs can’t be bought it has to be found.”
“His rich kids think that they’re better ’cause they’re better off.
That’s how they grew up thinkin’ and now
He thinks that’s all his fault.
So while there’s still time, the daddy that they nickel and dime
Is gonna make ’em learn to take a turn
And stand in line.”
“Goin’ Through the Big D (and Don’t Mean Dallas)” – Mark Chesnut (1994)
This song has a serious message set to an upbeat and carefree tune.
It warns of the dangers of jumping into things too soon without planning and forethought. This mantra is true of almost everything: relationships, careers, businesses, money. You will need to take risks but it’s also important to shield yourself against setbacks.
You may not be able to avoid goin’ through the big D (aka, divorce) but try not to jump into things without planning for the worst-case scenario.
“Things like this are never final.
I’m still paying on the vinyl
flooring in the laundry room;
it’s multi-colored, and water-proof.”
“Ka-Ching!” – Shania Twain (2003)
Shania Twain was one of the first to get a little more pop with her country. The same is true of “Ka-Ching.”
“Ka-Ching” deals with the consumerist culture in the U.S., with the recurring line “all we ever want is more” as the central theme. The message here is clear: the goal has become to make as much money as possible, then go spend it all thinking that “lots of money and things” will make you happy.
Clearly, Shania doesn’t agree and neither do we. Consumerism to frugalism.
“All we ever want is more
A lot more than we had before
So take me to the nearest store.”
“When you’re broke, go and get a loan
Take out another mortgage on your home.
Consolidate so you can afford
To go and spend some more when you get bored.”
“People Are Crazy” – Billy Currington (2009)
“People Are Crazy,” like many country songs, is in story form. It follows the conversation between the singer and an old man he meets in a bar. They range from women to their younger days to life and death. At closing time, they part ways, never to see one another again. Little does the singer know that the man he talked to was a millionaire and that he would leave his fortune to him.
It just goes to show you can never judge a book by its cover, and you never know how much you can touch someone with just a simple conversation.
“Then one sunny day
I saw the old man’s face
Front page obituary,
He was a millionairey.
He left his fortune to me,
Some guy he barely knew.
His kids were mad as hell
But me, I’m doing well.”
“Fancy” – Reba McEntire (1990)
Often referred to as the Queen of Country, Reba is known for her edgy style, but no song is edgier than “Fancy.” A cover of the Bobbie Gentry song of the same name, this is the song Reba is most known for. And if you haven’t heard it, you should listen to it at the first opportunity.
“Fancy” tells the story of a young women named Fancy who uses prostitution to escape poverty at the urging of her mother. While not the path anyone wants to follow, Reba’s soulful performance speaks to people everywhere who go to desperate lengths for a better life and of the systems that hold us back.
“She said, “here’s your one chance, Fancy, don’t let me down
Here’s your one chance, Fancy, don’t let me down.
Lord, forgive me for what I do
But if you want out, well, it’s up to you.
Now don’t let me down now
Your mama’s gonna move you uptown.”
“But though I ain’t had to worry ’bout nothin’
For nigh on fifteen years
Well, I can still hear the desperation
In my poor mama’s voice ringin’ in my ears.”
“Cost of Livin’” – Ronnie Dunn (2011)
We all know what cost of living (COL) is, but Ronnie Dunn’s “Cost of Livin’” is about so much more.
Written after the Recession in 2008, the song tells the story of a man presenting his skills and qualifications to a potential employer. It’s clear that the man has lost his previous job due to closure and that his family is struggling. The song speaks to the precarious situation most American’s find themselves in when they lose a job and how many are willing to do almost anything to pay the bills. Unfortunately, this is a situation all too many American’s are finding themselves in today.
For those without the “cost of livin’s high and goin’ up.”
“I gave my last job everythin’
Before it headed south.
Took the shoes off of my children’s feet
Food out of their mouths.”
“I work sunup to sundown
Ain’t too proud to sweep the floors.
The bank has started callin’
And the wolves are at my door.”
“Shuttin’ Detroit Down” – John Rich (2009)
In a similar vein to the song described above, “Shuttin’ Detroit Down” was also written in response to the Recession and the corporate bailouts that saved companies but left many American’s struggling.
The song specifically criticizes the bailout of financial institutions and the auto industry crisis, speaking to how the government response benefited the wealthy while front-line workers lost their jobs.
Whatever your thoughts on the current political climate and voting trends among various groups of people, it’s true that blue-collar workers and laborers are often hit the hardest during an economic downturn. Most of them don’t have FU money and cannot afford to be let go.
“Because in the real world they’re shuttin’ Detroit down,
While the boss man takes his bonus paid jets on out of town.
DC’s bailing out them bankers as the farmers auction ground.
Yeah while they’re living up on Wall Street in that New York City town,
Here in the real world they’re shuttin’ Detroit down.”
“Rich and Miserable” – Kenny Chesney (2016)
Kenny Chesney likes to have a good ol’ time, and his songs generally reflect that attitude. “Rich and Miserable” takes a decidedly different tone, and like Twain’s “Ka-Ching!,” serves as a critique of Americans culture of consumerism.
The song challenges the listener to consider what really makes them happy, and to look beyond the “rich and miserable” habits and beliefs that we are fed growing up.
“We’re too young until we’re too old,
We’re all lost on the yellow brick road.
We climb the ladder but the ladder just grows.
We’re born, we work, we die, it’s spiritual,
Enough is never enough.
American dream never wakes up,
Too much is never too much.
We won’t be happy ’til we’re rich and miserable.”
“Go to school to get a job
Don’t make enough to pay it off
And on and on it goes.
Right wing blue jean, gotta get the new thing.
Whatever it takes to make the world look at you, think.”
“Money Isn’t What Really Matters” – Kenny Rogers (1998)
The legendary “The Gambler” singer, Kenny Rogers is known for his unique vocals and powerful lyrics. While not one of his more popular songs, “Money Isn’t What Really Matters” still delivers a great message.
This song steers the listener away from the pursuit of money and toward the pursuit of love as the thing that matters the most in life. Of course, you need enough money to live comfortably, but you shouldn’t live for money.
“Money isn’t what really matters,
Fat cats just getting fatter.
All the money in the world means nothing,
Keep looking for only one thing.”
“Money isn’t a good or bad thing,
Not enough can be a sad thing.
Just remember the friends who loved you,
They really know the value of you.”
“A Good Run of Bad Luck” – Clint Black (1994)
“A high roller, even when the chips are down” begins this hit song by Clint Black that was featured in the Mel Gibson movie “Maverick.” The movie, which also featured Black in a minor role, is a western about a gambler and gambling.
While the song compares gambling to love using metaphors, the lyrics can be applied to money and life as well. While we wouldn’t encourage gambling to the point of going broke, having persistence and a never give up attitude is essential for success. The trick is to know when to give up on a specific venture and move on to something else.
“I’ve been to the table, and I’ve lost it all before.
I’m willin’ and able, always comin’ back for more.
Squeezin’ out a thin dime ’til there’s no one hanging on my arm.
I’ve gambled on a third time, a fool will tell you it’s a charm.
If I’m bettin’ on a loser, I’m gonna have a devil to pay
But it’s the only game I know to play, it doesn’t matter anyway.”
“Hard Workin’ Man” – Brooks and Dunn (1993)
“Hard Workin’ Man” is an upbeat song with very typical country themes. As the title suggests, it’s about a hard-working man and the struggles and fun that often comes with that blue collar lifestyle. This song also marks our transition to less serious country songs about money.
This song is a snapshot of the lives of many Americans. They work hard with their hands and backs all week, but when the weekend comes they have a good time. While the work-life balance is something to strive for, the lower wages of blue-collar jobs often don’t allow people to get ahead easily.
“I can’t get ahead no matter how hard I try
I’m gettin’ really good at barely gettin’ by.”
“Got everything I own
By the sweat of my brow.
From my four-wheel drive to my cowboy boots,
I owe it all to my blue-collar roots.
I feel like I’m workin’ overtime on a runaway train
I’ve got to bust loose from this ball and chain.”
“Lifestyles of the Not so Rich and Famous” – Tracy Byrd (1994)
This song is somewhat of a satire that pokes fun at the more tradition song and show “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” Full of stereotypes about country people, and song essentially seeks to make fun of Americas fascination with the wealthy and their lives.
Would people be interested in lifestyles of the not so rich and famous? Probably not.
“Yeah! Our idea of high class livin’ is sitting on the porch on a cool night.
Our champagne and caviar is an RC Cola and a Moon Pie.
I’m talkin’ bout lifestyles of the not so rich and famous.”
“Money in the Bank” – John Anderson (1993)
Another feel-good country song about money, John Anderson’s “Money in the Bank” is about a man taking his girl out for a night on the town after getting his paycheck. On first appearance this seems to be a song about spending all your money having a good time, but in reality, it has a pretty good subtle message. Anderson sings about some things he’d like to have, but that he’d rather save for the things that help him further develop his relationship.
In this case, he’d rather spend his money on the things he needs to help make his relationship grow rather than save it all or spend it on material things he’d like to have. He’s chosen his relationship over “money in the bank.”
“I wish I had a bass boat and a Z-28.
But I guess that stuff’ll have to wait.
‘Cause I’m saving on a washer and a wedding ring,
I want this love to be a lasting thing.
Right at the top, that’s where you rank:
Honey, your love’s better than money in the bank.”
“Workin’ for a Livin’” – Garth Brooks with Huey Lewis (2007)
You may know this song from the original by Huey Lewis and the News, but the cover duet by Garth Brooks and Huey Lewis is also pretty darn good.
Like “9 to 5,” this song is a familiar story for many Americans who put up with a lot of things from their employer because they need the money. Like the song says, most of us are just working for a living because we have to, not because we’re fulfilled by our work.
If you’re able, see if you can start to break that cycle of just working for a living by living within your means, saving more, and investing more. At the very least, focus on what really matters to you and see if you can’t make strides at getting closer to it.
“Somedays won’t end ever and somedays pass on by,
I’ll be working here forever, at least until I die.
Dammed if you do, dammed if you don’t.
I’m supposed to get a raise next week, you know damn well I won’t.”
“Hey. I’m not complaining ’cause I really need the work.
We’re hitting up my buddy’s got me feeling like a jerk.
Car payment, insurance, alimony, rent.
I get a check on Friday, but it’s already spent.”
“If I Could Make a Livin’” – Clay Walker (1994)
Another feel-good country song about money, “If I Could Make a Livin’” is about a man who breaks his back at his day job but fantasizes about making a living loving his girlfriend. The rest of the song talks about all the benefits of both he and his girl would see if he could make a living loving her, including that he’d be a millionaire in a week or two.
While kind of a silly song, the message is a good one. Whether you’re breaking your back in your day job or not, you should devote as much time and dedication to your relationship as most do their jobs.
“If I could make a livin’ out of lovin’ you
I’d be a millionaire in a week or two.
I’d be doin’ what I love and lovin’ what I do
If I could make a livin’ out of lovin’ you.”
“All My Ex’s Live in Texas” – George Strait (1987)
This is actually a pretty ridiculous song, but there is a lesson to be learned. The song is about a man who wishes he could be in Texas, but unfortunately, he’s left a long line of broken hearts across the state and so must now reside in Tennessee.
The message is simple: don’t burn all your bridges or you may find yourself on an island. This can be applied to relationships, employment, and money. Plus, having that many ex’s could get pretty expensive.
“All my ex’s live in Texas
And Texas is the place I’d dearly love to be.
But all my ex’s live in Texas
And that’s why I hang my hat in Tennessee.”
“Buy Me a Boat” – Chris Janson (2015)
“Buy Me a Boat” is the debut single of new country singer Chris Janson, and like most newer country songs, has a pop/old-school country feel to it.
Like most of us, the singer talks about how he wishes he had more money and all the things he would buy with it. This is a bit of a different take on the topic of money and consumerism, as this song contends that there are some material things you can buy that will make you happy.
At least for a little while.
“I ain’t rich, but I damn sure wanna be.
Workin’ like a dog all day ain’t workin’ for me.
I wish I had a rich uncle that’d kick the bucket
And I was sittin’ on a pile like Warren Buffett.
I know everybody says money can’t buy happiness
But it could buy me a boat.
It could buy me a truck to pull it.
It could buy me a Yeti 110 iced down with some silver bullets.
Yeah, and I know what they say, money can’t buy everything.
Well, maybe so
But it could buy me a boat.”
“Beer Money” – Kip Moore (2012)
Like other songs on this list, “Beer Money” talks about the ordinary lives of many Americans who work hard and still struggle. Also like other songs, this one talks about what many spend their money on in order to cope with the struggle.
For country folk, spending a night out with your girl or guy is the most common way to kick back and relax. For some, that beer money may be all they have to look forward to.
“When the lights go down
When you’re stuck here in this town
With nowhere to go
So you escape through the radio.
And you worked all week
To barely make ends meet.”
Moral of the Story
Love it, hate it, or somewhere in between, there is no doubt that country music tells a story. You may not think that these stories are relatable to you, but often they are. Especially with older country, it’s all about the lyrics and the lessons they tell. Plus, it’s nice to get money perspectives from genres other than rap and hip hop.
You just listened to 20 of the best country songs about money. Can you relate?
Talk about Money Learned.
Tawnya is an elementary special education teacher by day and co-blogger at Money Saved is Money Earned by night.
She holds an Honors BS in Psychology from Oregon State University and an MS in Special Education from Portland State University. She has had a pretty successful writing career, first as a writing tutor at the Oregon State University Writing Center, and in recent years, as a freelance writer.
Tawnya and co-blogger Sebastian have a wealth of knowledge and information about personal finance, retirement, student loans, credit cards, and many other financial topics. They teach people how to save money, make money, and understand money.