It’s that time of year when—no matter what channel you flip to or platform you stream on—you’re bound to see a Christmas movie.
So let’s celebrate the season and take a look at some classic Christmas movies . . . but with a financial twist. Can they teach you anything about managing money?
Of course they can!
Buddy the Elf is the best. Why? Because he’s always so positive. In a mission to find his dad, Buddy shares his passion for Santa and the North Pole with the cotton-headed ninnymuggins in New York City—all while spreading Christmas cheer for all to hear!
And how about the level of encouragement Buddy had? He walks into a run-of-the-mill coffee shop in NYC and praises them for preparing (as their sign boasts) the “World’s Best Cup of Coffee.” We all know that coffee probably tasted like a lukewarm cup of dirt, but that didn’t faze Buddy’s encouraging spirit!
When it comes to managing our money, we all need a Buddy in our lives. Take a cue from him: Keep a positive spirit when you’re getting out of debt and encourage others who are on the same journey!
2. It’s a Wonderful Life
We won’t get into the fact that George Bailey runs a “savings and loan” bank. Loans are bad, George! But we do love how the community surrounds George and his family during their time of need. When you’re struggling with money and trying to get out of debt, you’ll go a lot further with a support system around you—whether that’s a good friend, your spouse, or a mentor.
When George was at his lowest point, just when he thought he had lost it all, his friends and family rallied to give back to the man who had given them so much. That’s kind of like the role of an FPU coordinator. They’ll stand with you through the hard times and let you know you can do this! And what’s in it for them? Haven’t you heard? Every time a bell rings an angel gets its wings.
3. Christmas Vacation
We all have those family members who (if we’re being honest) annoy the crap out of us. And during the Christmas season, they tend to come out of the woodwork. You know, people like Cousin Eddie from Christmas Vacation. Even though Clark wasn’t a big fan, he still reached out in his own unique way to his slightly homeless relatives. If that isn’t a beaut, we don’t know what is.
4. Home Alone
Oh, Home Alone. There’s so much to learn from Kevin McCallister’s adventures when his parents accidentally leave him behind while going to Paris. If you want to defeat the fumbling Wet Bandits, you need a plan. And if you want to win with money you need a plan too—and that’s called your budget.
Those of us who grew up watching this movie have plenty of questions now. Like how much was the mortgage on the McCallister’s massive house? (The real home in Illinois sold for $1.585 million back in 2012, if you’re curious.(1)) So, were his parents up to their eyeballs in debt with that mortgage? Makes you wonder. . .
And here’s hoping Peter McCallister had an emergency fund in place too. Think of all the damage Kevin inflicted to the floors and stairs of that iconic house while warding off the Wet Bandits! Woof! So, don’t forget to square away your emergency fund. And don’t forget your 8-year-old kid when you go on vacation. Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal!
5. Miracle on 34th Street
When Kris Kringle claims to be the real Santa Claus, few people believe him. He’s called delusional and his boss fires him. In other words, Kris Kringle gets treated like a lot of people when they tell their friends they’re cutting up their credit cards or selling their nice car to get out of debt: “What? You’re crazy!”
No, you’re not losing your mind. You’re just stepping out with a little faith! In the newer version of this flick (and by “new” we mean 1994) Kris Kringle tells Susan’s disbelieving mother, “If you can’t believe, if you can’t accept anything on faith, then you’re doomed for a life dominated by doubt.” The same goes for you and your financial story.
If you’re constantly down on yourself for not accomplishing your goals fast enough and believing you’ll never be rid of debt, then you’re probably not going to get very far. You can and you will, but it all starts with the faith that you can.
6. A Christmas Story
Oh, that infamous Red Ryder BB gun. You could say Ralphie was obsessed with the thought of owning it. He was only a kid, of course! But even though we’re supposedly “mature” adults, a lot of times we obsess over stuff as much as Ralphie did over that gun. And just like Ralphie’s mother worried he would shoot his eye out, you should be worried that overspending on needless stuff will come back to bite you.
Another great lesson from the Parker family is to stop keeping up with the Joneses. Remember the “fra-JEE-lay” leg lamp Ralphie’s dad was so, um . . . oddly proud of? He just had to put that sucker right in the front window for all to see. Why? So the neighbors could be jealous of his “major award.” Don’t flaunt your big bonus or try to keep up with your neighbor’s new, fancy sports car. Learn to be content with what you have. Love your leg lamp, not theirs.
7. A Christmas Carol
A Christmas Carol was a novel first, but a lot of us are more familiar with the many film adaptions—including the truly memorable versions by Disney and the Muppets. Charles Dickens’ wealthy, greedy Ebenezer Scrooge goes through a complete change of heart and begins reaching out to the poor in this classic story of redemption, life-change and legacy.
After being visited by the three spirits, he realizes it isn’t too late to change his money habits to help others. You could say ol’ Scrooge learned the importance of living and giving like no one else. Don’t let the ghost of Christmas past keep you from drawing a line in the sand and making a change. If the likes of a crotchety dude like Scrooge can do it, then God bless us, every one, so can you!
8. Jingle All the Way
Every Christmas it seems like there’s that one toy all the kids just have to have. In Jingle All the Way, it starts when little Jamie wants the “Turbo Man action figure with the arms and legs that move, and the boomerang shooter, and the rock’n roller jet pack, and the realistic voice activator that says five different phrases including, ‘It’s Turbo time!’ Accessories sold separately; batteries not included.” (Are we the only ones who can quote that?)
Of course, the Turbo Man action figure is the hottest toy around that year—think Tickle Me Elmo, Furby, Pink Power Ranger and Cabbage Patch Kids status. Jamie’s dad, aka everyone’s favorite Schwarzenegger, is determined to buy Turbo man for him. And that leads him on a wild goose chase.
Take a lesson from this family favorite and learn to leave all the clawing, thrashing and scheming behind. It’s a little too easy to get caught up in the wave of materialism. Instead of falling into that “got to have it” trap learn to be content with the things you do have and plan ahead to save up for the things you need.
9. The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t
Okay, this is a really obscure movie that a lot people probably haven’t heard of. It’s a little bizarre, a tad unusual, and dare we say . . . a bit creepy. But there’s a very important lesson to be learned from it: Even Santa needs a budget! In the movie, Santa partners with a local, good-natured lawyer who helps him get a job to come up with the money for rent at the North Pole. See, poor Santa and Mrs. Claus are behind on their rent to the evil Mr. Prune.
Santa obviously never made his zero-based budget with EveryDollar. Don’t be like Santa. Make sure you give every dollar a name before the month begins so you’re not stuck trying to come up with rent money on Christmas Eve like Saint Nick.
10. How the Grinch Stole Christmas
When it all comes down to it, Christmas isn’t about ribbons, tags, packages, boxes and bags. And no Christmas movie captures that quite like this movie.
You know how it goes. That bad banana with a greasy black peel sits up at the top of Mount Crumpit hating the Whos down in Whoville year after year. He decides to stop Christmas from coming by swiping all their decorations and stealing their presents. Why? Because he has termites in his soul—and let’s not forget his heart was two sizes too small.
Right before he throws all of their presents off a mountaintop, the Grinch has a change of heart and realizes Christmas is more than “things.” It doesn’t come from a store. And we can all learn a thing or two from that!
If you want to avoid the financial pitfalls some of our favorite Christmas characters have made, grab a Financial Peace University membership. It will give you the tools and hope you need to save money, conquer debt, and give like no one else!