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10 Financial Lessons From Classic Christmas Movies

It’s that time of year when, no matter what channel you flip to or what platform you stream on, you’re bound to see a Christmas movie or two . . . or 10. The true classics are the ones that not only celebrate the joy of the Christmas season but also touch on truths about life that we can all relate to.

So, let’s get into the spirit and look at some classic Christmas movies with a little twist. That’s right—we’re going to look at how these timeless stories mirror the fundamentals of winning with money.

You may get a hearty “ho ho ho” out of reading that, but trust us. Even Christmas movies can teach you about managing money the Ramsey way.


“I just like to smile. Smiling’s my favorite.”

Buddy the elf is the best. Why? Because he’s always so positive, especially when it comes to Christmas. Journeying to New York City to find his birth father, Buddy shares his passion for Santa and the North Pole with every cynical cotton-headed ninny muggins he comes across (and there are lots of ‘em!)—all while spreading Christmas cheer for everyone 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 (as his girl Jovie eventually found out), 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. And singing is always a plus!

It’s a Wonderful Life

“Remember, no man is a failure who has friends.”

So, we’re not getting into the fact that George Bailey runs a savings and loan bank. Loans are bad, George!

But we do love how the people of Bedford Falls surround George and his family during their time of crisis. 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 nothing to live for, his friends and family rallied to show generosity to the man who had been so generous with them. That’s kind of like the role of a Financial Peace University coordinator. They’ll stand with you through the hard times and let you know you can do this!

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

“Can I refill your eggnog for you? Get you something to eat? Drive you out to the middle of nowhere and leave you for dead?”

Clark Griswold is someone we can all relate to. In National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, he wants to have the perfect family Christmas . . . but things just don’t go as planned. That could make anyone want to lash out, kick some plastic reindeer, and say something snotty to their boss. But as Clark learns, it’s not good to lose your cool.

Just like the holidays, getting on the right track with money can be difficult. If you’re just starting out in the Baby Steps or creating your first budget, it’s downright frustrating because it’s probably a huge change in lifestyle and perspective for you. But you have to keep at it, make the necessary sacrifices, and roll with the punches. It’ll suck for a while, but the future’s going to be brighter than the Griswolds’ house on Christmas Eve!

Home Alone

“Bless this highly nutritious microwavable macaroni and cheese dinner and the people who sold it on sale. Amen.”


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Oh, Home Alone. Even though there’ve been four sequels and one remake, there’s really nothing like the original. Kevin McCallister’s adventure of accidentally flying solo for Christmas can teach us so much (aside from the obvious—home defense). Because Kevin was on his own and only had his older brother Buzz’s life savings to survive, he had to be smart about spending his money. That meant buying only what he needed and clipping coupons to keep costs down. The kid got all his groceries for $19.83. What a saver!

By the way, inflation would make Kevin’s total around $70 today. Ah, the good ol’ days . . .

Those of us who grew up watching this movie have plenty of questions now. Like how much was the mortgage on the McCallisters’ 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 Kevin’s dad, Peter, had an emergency fund in place too. Think of all the damage Kevin inflicted on the floors, walls and stairs while pulling those unsupervised stunts (like sledding down the stairs) and laying down some hilarious pain on the fumbling Wet Bandits! At the very least, their family’s homeowners insurance probably went way up. Woof!

Miracle on 34th Street

“If you can’t believe, if you can’t accept anything on faith, then you’re doomed for a life dominated by doubt.”

Whether you prefer the 1947 original or the 1994 remake, Miracle on 34th Street is a great Christmas story. 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!

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 become debt-free, but it all starts with the faith that you can.

A Christmas Story

“I want an official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle!”

You could say Ralphie Parker was obsessed with the thought of owning that infamous Red Ryder BB gun. 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 . . . 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.

A Christmas Carol

“God bless us every one!”

Originally published in 1843, A Christmas Carol is one of the greatest Christmas stories ever written. Charles Dickens’ wealthy, greedy protagonist Ebenezer Scrooge goes through a complete spiritual change of heart and begins reaching out to the poor in this classic story of redemption, life-change and legacy. But a lot of us are more familiar with the story’s many, many, many film adaptions—with everyone from Mickey Mouse to Bill Murray, Mr. Magoo and the Muppets giving their own spins.

No matter which version you watch, all the good ones still contain that core redemption story. After being visited by the three spirits, Scrooge realizes it’s not too late to change his ways and become outrageously generous with his money. 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 you can too!

Jingle All the Way

“It’s just a doll. It’s just a stupid little plastic doll!”

Every Christmas, it seems like there’s that one toy all the kids just have to have. In Jingle All the Way, little Jamie Langston wants the “Turbo Man action figure with the arms and legs that move and the boomerang shooter and his 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 and Cabbage Patch Kids status. Jamie’s dad, Howard, is determined to buy Turbo Man for him. And that leads Howard on a wild goose chase filled with maniacal store clerks, package bombs, crooked Santas and angry reindeer.

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. It’s okay to get your kids Christmas presents. But instead of falling into that “got to have it” trap, teach your kids to be content with the things they have and plan ahead to save up for the things they need.

Christmas with the Kranks

“Free Frosty! Free Frosty! Free Frosty!”

With their only daughter off on a Peace Corps mission and not coming home for Christmas, Luther and Nora Krank decide to skip their traditional Christmas celebrations and hightail it to the Caribbean. The problem is that their nosy neighbors are expecting their usual Christmas extravaganza and put the pressure on the Kranks to conform to their way of doing things.

When trying to right your family’s financial ship, you might get some grief from people you know who want you to do things the “normal” way. They might want you to go out to eat with them even though you’re throwing all your extra money at your debt and you’ve decided the only time you’ll see the inside of a restaurant is if you’re working there as a second job. It can be really tempting to just give in and blow your money like everyone else.

But stick to your guns. If you don’t want to break out your 7-foot-tall Frosty, you don’t have to. And if you don’t want to spend that money to eat out and buy a bunch of stuff because people told you to or because everyone else is doing it, you don’t have to. Your money is yours, and it’s your responsibility to secure your family’s financial future. Don’t be normal. Be weird.

Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

“Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, is a little bit more.”

When it all comes down to it, Christmas isn’t about ribbons, tags, packages, boxes or bags. And no Christmas movie captures that fact quite like this story by the legendary Dr. Seuss—a story adapted into an animated TV special in 1966, a live-action film in 2000, and a computer-animated film in 2018. So there are lots of versions to choose from.

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 for their over-the-top Christmas celebration. He decides to stop their Christmas from coming by swiping all the 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 their presents off the mountaintop, the Grinch has a change of heart and realizes Christmas is more than just stuff and things. It doesn’t come from a store. And that’s a lesson we should all remember.

Change Your Financial Story

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without sitting on the couch curled up next to the ones you love and enjoying some (or all) of the Christmas classics mentioned above and more. Stories like those are so good at touching our hearts and making the season brighter.

And if you want to avoid the pitfalls some of our favorite Christmas characters have made and instead change your financial story, sign up for Financial Peace University—the number one finance class in America that’s helped nearly 10 million people. It’s everything you need to start taking control of your money. For real. For good.

Now that sounds like a Christmas gift you should give that special someone on your list this year: you!

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Ramsey Solutions

About the author


Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners. Learn More.

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