Tuesday, December 25, 2007

5 Personal Finance Lessons from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

Merry Christmas everybody! I hope you had a great day filled with fun, family and food. And, of course Christmas traditions.

One of our traditions is to watch watch National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation when we put up our tree. Although our tree has been up for weeks now, I wanted to divulge the secret financial lessons hidden like little presents within this hilarious movie. It's much deeper than what it seems.

5. Get your Christmas tree for free. While I wouldn't recommend trekking out in the middle of the woods and pulling the perfect tree up by its roots, Clark was on to something when he dragged his frozen family deep into the forest. Why pay $30 or more for a temporary decoration? In the past, my parents have chopped down a tree on their property and used that as our tree - a fun experience and free. The King and Queen of Debt at We're in Debt reuse the same tree every December and keep it in a pot outside the other 11 months of the year. Great way to make it last!

4. Help out others who have less. Clark and Ellen offered to buy some Christmas gifts for Rocky and Ruby Sue when Eddie and Catherine were unable to get them anything. There is always someone who has less than you and, though it's easy to feel bad about being in debt and not having any money, it's important to remember that there are others worse off. So shovel your elderly neighbor's driveway, donate some canned goods to the food bank or spend some time with a sick relative. It's easy to get a little caught up in the gift frenzy, but at the end of the day, it feels much better to have made a difference in someone's Christmas.

3. Don't let pride stand in your way. When Cousin Eddie confesses that his family has had to sell their house and live in the trailer, it's easy to feel bad for him. Until they mention that he hasn't worked in 9 years because he's "holding out for a management position." There's really no excuse for not finding some way to generate income to support your family when it's needed to pay the bills. Work a part time job, sell things on eBay, work freelance. It can be tough to swallow your pride, but much much better than losing your house.

2. Give what you can afford. Aunt Bethany shows up at the house on Christmas Eve with a Jell-O mold and her cat wrapped up to put under the tree. A little extreme, but on the right track for someone who is trying to save money. Re-gifting is a tricky business, but there are plenty of gifts you can give for very little cash. It all boils down to...

1. Spend only the money you have. In the grand mother of all financial lessons, Clark puts down a deposit on a new in ground pool - before he gets his Christmas bonus necessary to cover the deposit check. Then, of course, when the bonus doesn't come in as expected, he panics. Although the desire is strong to spend spend spend and pack under the tree with gifts, it's just. not. worth. it. to go through that kind of torture.

Merry Christmas! And if you find that you made some of these mistakes, well, there's always New Year's Resolutions. :)


Sharon said...

We absolutely LOVE this movie and you have put it into an interesting financial lesson...our family watches this movie on Thanksgiving day to get us in the spirit. Congrats on an all cash Christmas, we failed miserably and ended up putting tons of stuff on credit. And you are right, there is always the new year! - Sharon

JvW said...

Thanks - this is our second year all cash, and I love it. I've gotten so pf geeky that I see lessons everywhere I go.