10 money lessons from Christmas films

Image of santa watching a film
Santa kicked back with some Von Trier after his Christmas rounds were over
"The teachings of Macaulay Culkin’s Christmas capers are endless"
  • | by Dave Jenkins

Financial morals have been entrenched in Christmas tales since Dickens foretold the dangers of miserly behaviour in a Christmas Carol exactly 170 years ago.

But besides not being mean and caring for your fellow man, what other financial lessons can we learn from more modern festive tales?

Here are 10 seasonal flicks with a message or two for us all this Yule…

Bad Santa (2003)

Professional criminal Willie (played by Billy Bob Thornton) dresses up as St Nick to rob shopping malls.

Combating his hatred of kids (and his own upbringing issues) with copious amounts of booze, the safe-cracking Santa’s vices begin to catch up with him.

The lesson: Crime never pays, of course.

Die Hard 2 (1990)

Rugged, rule-snubbing cop John Maclean is all set to be reunited with his wife for Christmas at the airport. Things look fraught from the off; he’s just unravelled a terrorists plot to free a devious drug lord and he’s got a parking ticket. Eek!

The lesson: If you feel you’ve been unjustly fined in any way you should seek legal advice and contest it – particularly if it’s from a private parking enforcement firm.

Also pay attention to the terms and conditions of your travel insurance. Not all policies cover for acts of terrorism. If you’re worried a drug lord is going to be extradited to an airport you’re travelling to or from this Christmas, make sure you read the terms and conditions of your policy.

Elf (2003)

Will Ferrell’s naive, elf-raised human Buddy embarks on a parent-finding quest in New York City. Predictable hilarity ensues.

The lesson: The real money moral here is the case of Buddy's hard-working dad, Walter, who eventually has the confidence to set up his own business. The Federation Of Small Businesses reckons small businesses contribute 50% of the UK GDP and employ over half of all private sector workers. So, let’s hear it for the Walters of the word.

Ernest Saves Christmas (1988)

Oh dear, Santa’s reached retirement and needs to convince a wholesome kids’ TV presenter to replace him before 7pm on Christmas Eve or Christmas is cancelled… Forever!

As if that’s not enough trouble, rubber-faced deep south cad Ernest has haplessly driven away with Santa's magic sack.

The lesson: Realising he’d given a child wads of real US dollars instead of ‘Fun Time’ bank notes, Santa reminds us we should take great care of our cash. Frequent flyers like Santa may also like to consider the benefits of credit cards when travelling

Gremlins (1984)

An invasion of slimy killer critters: the perfect scenario for a yuletide tale!

The lesson: Read the small print. If Rand, the central protagonist, was a responsible consumer and asked why Gizmo shouldn’t be fed after midnight or go anywhere near water, a lot of carnage would have been avoided.

Pet insurance wouldn’t have gone amiss, either, although Rand’s disregard of his responsibilities may well have put the kybosh on any public liability pay-out.

Home Alone (1990)

Aftershave stings when you apply it, Micro Machines make great improvised security devices, decorations hurt when you step on them, not all gaunt lonesome old men are dodgy… The teachings of Macaulay Culkin’s Christmas capers are endless.

The lesson: Don’t stash your money in a tin. Big bro Buzz’s loot is crucial to Kevin’s survival, but a junior bank account is much more secure, and a great way to prepare for adult financial responsibilities.

It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)

In this award-winning 1940s Crimbo classic, George Bailey gives up dreams of adventure to fulfil his dad’s legacy at a building society.

The lesson: If you’re interested in banking with a building society, switching your current account couldn’t be easier. And while bank runs appear scary, UK-regulated accounts are covered up to £85,000 per customer.

Finally, don’t let money worries get on top of you.  There are many charities and organisations devoted to finding the best solution, both mentally and financially.

Jingle All The Way (1996) 

It’s Christmas eve and Schwarzenegger finds himself in his most high-stakes quest yet: buy a Turbo Man doll for his son or risk becoming king of bad dads forever.

The tale reaches such farcical proportions that Arnie actually punches a reindeer… Then proceeds to get drunk with it.

The lesson: The financial lesson here is timeless... Plan in advance!

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Cripes! It’s the Christmas parade and Santa’s drunker than a sherry-soaked grandma!

Miraculously, the real Kris Kringle takes his place and does such an excellent job he’s hired as a shop’s in-store Santa. Here he initiates an honesty campaign, sending people to competitor stores if they can’t find what they need.

The lesson: Don’t convince yourself you need stuff that you really don’t.

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

Chevy Chase’s ill-fated Griswold family invite every possible relative to their home for Christmas.

Amid the many catastrophes, Clark Griswold is so convinced he’ll receive a Christmas bonus he puts down a hefty deposit on a swimming pool. No prizes for guessing how this turns out.

The lesson: Never sign up to a credit-based purchase without knowing you can definitely commit to the payments.

What are YOUR favourite pearls of financial wisdom you've gleaned from festive films and telly? Tell us on Twitter.