Jim comes home after a bad day at work. Wanting to tell the family about his day, he is miffed when they ignore him. He starts complaining about everyone and everything around the house. Then he finds out Kathy broke a neighbor's window.
While Kathy is proud of her big sister Betty, Bud has to always follow her in her footsteps at school and he finds it hard to do. Everyone expects more of Bud because Betty always gave so much. Bud starts to do worse in his classes.
It seems like only bills are coming in the mail, and everyone is asking for money. When Betty asks for money to buy a dress for a country club dance, Jim tells her to earn the money herself. She gets a job but no one knows where.
The Andersons hire someone to paint the house. Jim and Margaret have a discussion about whether someone does the job for the money or for the sense of accomplishment. They make a bet to see who is right, and then ask the painter why.
Bud is upset that none of the girls asked him to the Sadie Hawkins Dance. He feels he has become unpopular. Bud decides to plan a camping trip the same day as the dance as a way to show he does not care.
Betty is depressed and finds every day events dull. She is not sure what she is looking for. Betty finds a paper written by Bud about a bus that goes nowhere. This is how she feels. She reads the paper and finds her answer.
Bus has to write a paper on a historical figure from the Independence War. Jim suggests an ancestor - Major Nathaniel Anderson, and says he must be important if he was a major. Bud researches, and finds the major was a minor in the war.
Jim is excited to tell his family that his college friend Charlie is being interviewed on television. Charlie is quite successful. The more Jim talks about Charlie's success, the more Jim feels he is not a success.
The Andersons face a dilemma when Betty promises a wealthy friend that they will attend an exclusive charity dinner on the same night that Bud needs the family to eat at the modest drugstore counter where he has just gotten his first job.
Bud tries to avoid a bully at school, but Jim tells Bud he cannot avoid his problems forever. Jim suggests the boys get in a boxing ring to be sportsmen. Bud wins, and joins the boxing team. Soon, Bud starts to become a bully.
Betty's school hosts a career day where the students can sign up to intern at a job to see what the business world is like. The counselor assumes she wants a secretary job, but Betty says she wants the engineer position.
Jim has an argument with a customer about his insurance which was cancelled. Jim and Mr Tyler decide they no longer need to contact each other. However, Betty is dating Mr Tyler's son. The situation is awkward.
A cowboy Betty met on a dude range over the summer is stopping in Springfield on his way to Chicago. "Utah" is everything Betty dreamed about, but can her love last when he lives a different life? A Flashback is used to show how they met.
Jim & Margaret take Betty to see the State University for when she enrolls in college. They have been saving money for this day since Betty was born. Betty announces she wants to stay in town and go to the junior college with her friends.
Bud's friend has a cousin coming to town. Marissa is older than Bud, but he wants to go out with her. He pretends to be older so he seems more sophisticated. When Marissa wants to go to a fancy restaurant, Bud does not have enough money.
After several test runs with his pigeon, Bud sends him on a 500 mile trip and waits for him to return home. Meanwhile, Betty announces she is moving into an apartment with her friends. Will Betty and the pigeon both return home?
Margaret wins a raffle: free spaghetti dinner once a week for a year. Also, Jim's friend Harper visits. Harper never finished high school, determined to start enjoying the good life. He has interesting stories to tell but never had success.
Bud feels he is being underpaid in his allowance, and he has to work to earn it. Jim decides to teach him a lesson by giving him $10 a week and the stipulation he has to only use it on himself. Bud finds having money does not buy friends.
Jim & Margaret plan to go to the PTA costume party. When they argue with the children to dress better, they decide to wear the clothes kids wear now-days, and their children wear the clothes of Jim & Margaret's youth stored in the attic.
Jim is hesitant to let Betty go to New York alone, but Margaret convinces him to let her go. Betty goes to NY to help her friend on her wedding day. Imagine their surprise when a picture of Betty and the best man show up in the newspaper.
At college, Betty is enjoying the social life and is going steady with a casual acquaintance. Bud works on the school paper and brings home Mr. Beekman, the paper's adviser. Mr. Beekman tells Betty there is more to life than parties.
Jim meets Aldus Lydum while visiting his friend, and thinks this might lead to a new insurance client. He invites Jim & Betty to visit he and his wife that night. Mr Lydum acts as if everyone is a long-standing friend.
Kathy is certain that the Andersons' Christmas Eve will be ruined by the visit of spinsterish Aunt Neva, but she learns a valuable lesson when she stops pouting long enough to listen to a Christmas story told by an elderly repairman.