Financial Lessons from Clark W. Griswold

“We’ll have the hap-hap-happiest Christmas this side of the nuthouse”

Since it’s Christmas Eve, I hope you are enjoying your time rather than last minute shopping. One of our favorite things to do during the holiday season is to watch  Christmas movies. At the top of the list is Christmas Vacation, one of my all time favorites. If you grew up in an Amish family and haven’t seen it, this movie is a comedy starring Chevy Chase,and it is about his misadventures in trying to achieve the perfect family Christmas. I’ve probably seen it 50 times, but still laugh at all the classic scenes. Although the movie is all in good fun, for us finance geeks out there, we can learn some financial lessons from Clark W. Griswold.

Don’t Overspend on Christmas Decorations

One of the most memorable scenes in the movie is when Clark lights up his house for Christmas. It has inspired many terms of endearment toward those who tend to over decorate. In reality, you don’t need that many lights, and Clark runs up a huge electric bill. Switching to LED lights might also be a good option, but those weren’t available in the 80’s.

Clark does make up for his electric bill by cutting his own Christmas trees. The first one he obtained legally in the forest, but it got destroyed by Uncle Lewis’s cigar. Ever the solution master, Clark got a free replacement when he chopped down a tree from the neighbor’s yard. While it didn’t cost anything, I wouldn’t recommend taking a chainsaw to the neighbor’s evergreens.

Take Your Relatives in Stride

Clark’s desire for the prefect family Christmas causes all kinds of problems when he puts up his parents, in-laws, and Cousin Eddie in his own home. Granted Eddie had an RV out in the driveway, but his emptying of the chemical toilet into Clark’s sewer caused all sorts of friction. Maybe to ease stress, Clark could have used some reward points to put some of them in a hotel.

Frugal vs Cheap

Clark’s elderly Aunt Bethany didn’t have much money so she wrapped up her cat and lime Jello mold as gifts. Giving used pets as Christmas gifts isn’t really a great way to save money. Bethany should have just told the family she wouldn’t be doing gifts that year.

Have a Holiday Spending Plan

Clark found out that Eddie had no money in his budget for gifts and offered to buy presents for his family. Eddie could have avoided having to take a handout if he’d saved some money each month to use for gifts. The fact that Eddie had a metal plate in his head, hadn’t been employed in years, and ate lots of roadkill could also have contributed to his lack of planning, but I’m just pointing out an obvious solution.

Don’t Spend Money You Don’t Have

The crux of the movie centers around Clark’s frustration that his company decided to suspend Christmas bonuses. Clark had already committed his bonus to building a swimming pool and goes a bit postal when he finds out that he isn’t getting the money. You should never spend money that isn’t a guarantee. Also, Clark might also want to analyze the costs that come with having a pool and determine if it makes financial sense for his family. This also leads Eddie to kidnap Clark’s boss, which turns out great in the movie, but would score you some serious jail time in real life.

Obviously this list is all in fun. If Christmas Vacation was really like this, it would be the most boring movie ever made, and we wouldn’t be watching it 20+ years later. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday and have enjoyed these financial lessons from Clark W. Griswold.

Have you ever had a Clark Griswold moment? What is your favorite scene from Christmas Vacation?

Written By
Sydney White is a Texas-born stay at home mom who enjoys spending time with her family, bargain hunting and, hiking.


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