Christmas movies are more than entertainment — they can offer financial lessons, too. The Grinch reminds us that expensive things aren’t everything, while Ebenezer Scrooge proves spending and sharing money is often a good thing. And if you learn anything from Home Alone, it’s the importance of security and insurance.

Ahh, the holidays.

There’s nothing better when it’s snowing outside than having a cozy night in, re-watching countless reruns of your favorite holiday movies. 🎥🎄

You love them all — the classics, the rom-coms, the are-they-even-Christmas-movies. (And yes, they are). There’s something undeniably nostalgic and magical about seeing these holiday stories brought to life — even for the hundredth time.

Yes, there are lots of jingle bells, mistletoe kisses, and sparkly snowfalls. But along with the holiday clichés, these Christmas movies might even offer some practical financial lessons. 🤑

Not sure what we’re talking about? Grab your bowl of popcorn and your coziest blanket — and let’s dive into 10 of our favorite holiday movies and the financial lessons you can learn from each. 🍿

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1. How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Let’s start with a classic: a story about the grouchy green monster who lives on Mt. Crumpit. Annoyed by the holiday cheer, the Grinch attempts to “steal” Christmas from the residents of Whoville. You know the rest — after sneaking into all the Who’s houses to take every Christmas gift in sight, the Grinch expects the town to mourn the loss of their beloved holiday.

Instead, he hears them singing and celebrating the next morning — even without their presents. The Grinch learns that it isn’t expensive gifts that matter at Christmas. Instead, it’s the people and community you celebrate with.

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💸 Financial lesson: You don’t have to give or receive expensive gifts to celebrate the holidays.

Read more: Holiday budget tips: 7 ways to reduce seasonal spending

2. A Christmas Carol

Old Ebenezer Scrooge has come to life many times through countless film adaptations of Charles Dickens’ story — because it truly never gets old.

Scrooge is a grumpy, greedy, and selfish old man with a reputation for his tight-fisted ways. He refuses holiday invitations and unwillingly gives his employee, Bob Cratchit, a single day off for the Christmas holiday.

It’s not until being visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve that he understands the tragic reality of the life he’s been living — and the dark future that awaits if he doesn’t change his ways.

With a new perspective, greedy Scrooge finally loosens the purse strings. He wakes up Christmas morning and immediately sends an expensive Christmas turkey to the Cratchit family, later offering the hardworking Mr. Cratchit a raise. He also celebrates the holiday with his long-neglected nephew, who’s grateful to have his uncle around at last.

💸 Financial lesson: Saving is important, but so is spending money on experiences, things, and gifts that bring value to your life and others’.

Read more: When it’s okay to spend money

3. It’s a Wonderful Life

It’s a Wonderful Life depicts the selfless life of George Bailey — from the time he was a kid until he takes over the family Building and Loan business. Soon after their wedding, George and his wife Mary witness a run on the bank. The couple loans out their honeymoon money to keep their customers afloat.

Over the years, George continues to give himself to his community, sacrificing his goals and dreams to serve his neighbors and friends. But when a misplaced check leads George to fear his arrest and his business’s downfall, he loses all hope and contemplates ending his life.

With the help of the angel Clarence, George soon realizes he’s got a family and community who love him. Meanwhile, Mary makes up the lost money through generous donations from friends and neighbors. Try to make it through the final scene without crying, I dare you. 😢

💸 Financial lesson: If you’re struggling financially, there are resources and people who can help.

4. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

What’s the holiday season without the Griswold family’s hijinks?

Determined to have a wonderful Christmas, Clark Griswold takes the holiday spirit seriously, harvesting an enormous Christmas tree and decking out his house in a blinding display of lights. But as you might expect, things don’t go as planned — especially when the inlaws show up.

With the financial pressure of giving his family an incredible Christmas — plus the added burden of hosting his relatives — Clark desperately awaits the arrival of his Christmas bonus check. To Clark’s dismay, the bonus doesn’t arrive. Until, that is — in a state of fury — Clark confronts his boss about it. In the end, it’s a happy, if unconventional, Christmas.

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💸 Financial lesson: Don’t spend beyond your means, even with the stress and pressure of the holidays.

5. The Holiday

The Holiday is a good old rom-com with a holiday twist. Two women on opposite sides of the world are equally unhappy with their love lives as the holidays approach. Trying to escape their respective lives for Christmas, the women meet on a house-swapping website and decide to trade homes for the holidays.

You can guess the rest: In her new surroundings, each woman meets the perfect guy and lives happily ever after-ish — all thanks to a holiday abroad.

💸 Financial lesson: House swapping is a fantastic way to make vacations more affordable.

Read more: Travel hacking 101: A beginner’s guide to travel hacking like a pro

6. Elf

Likely one of the funniest Christmas movies of all time, Elf tells the story of Buddy, a misfit human — raised by elves — as he searches for his biological father in New York City. Hilarity ensues as soon as Buddy reaches the Big Apple, but the financial lessons start in the North Pole.

Surrounded by handy, hard working elves, Buddy grows up doing exactly what’s expected from him: making toys. But it quickly becomes obvious — to Buddy and the elves — that he’s no natural toymaker.

Eventually, Buddy realizes making toys isn’t the right job for him, and he needs to set off in search of something different. First lesson: your initial career may not be the best fit.

Toward the end of the movie, Buddy’s biological dad has to make a tough choice between work and family. He chooses family (it’s a Christmas movie, after all 🧑‍🎄), and this choice eventually leads him to starting his own business.

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💸 Financial lesson: You don’t need to keep a job that makes you unhappy — and you can always strike off on your own.

Read more: How to start your own business — a complete step-by-step guide

7. Die Hard

The only action movie on this classic Christmas list, Die Hard isn’t your typical holiday flick.

On Christmas Eve, New York City Detective John McClane heads to a holiday party at his estranged wife’s Los Angeles office. Instead of holiday festivities and reconciliation, the evening turns into a hostage situation. A group of German radicals seizes the building, and a battle between McClane and the terrorists breaks out.

Where’s the holiday cheer, you ask? Well — *spoiler alert* — the good guys win. It’s Christmas Eve, remember?

And what about the financial lesson? Turns out the bad guys were after bearer bonds — a fixed-income security in the form of a physical certificate. Without registration, bearer bonds belong to whoever has them in their possession. This makes them vulnerable to theft, ideal for money laundering, and the perfect subject of this thrilling holiday film.

💸 Financial lesson: Secure your valuables, and keep your money somewhere safe.

8. Four Christmases

Along with the fun decorations, seasonal treats, and general festivity of the holiday season, this time of year can bring plenty of chores, too. For some, spending your holiday vacation making appearances at numerous parents’ and inlaws’ homes is more of an obligation than a choice.

Some people, like Brad and Kate in Four Christmases, opt to spend Christmas their way by traveling to a faraway, sunny destination. And if you’ve seen this movie and met their families, you know it’s an understandable — even necessary — thing to do.

But Kate and Brad make one big mistake that costs them their trip and instead forces them to spend Christmas day visiting family at four different (and very dysfunctional) households.

Their mistake? Not buying travel insurance.

Yep — after a canceled flight shuts down Kate and Brad’s plans, they spend the holiday making four unpleasant visits instead of relaxing on the beach. Yikes.

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💸 Financial lesson: Travel insurance is often worth the cost.

Read more: Is travel insurance worth it?

9. The Preacher’s Wife

The Preacher’s Wife follows the story of Henry, a struggling pastor, trying to make it through the Christmas season. Not only are members of Henry’s congregation coming to him with their own monetary and personal struggles, but the church itself is on rocky financial footing.

With the stress of keeping his congregation afloat, Henry’s marriage starts to disintegrate. It’s not until the arrival of the mysterious angel Dudley that Henry has a change in heart. He starts to understand he can’t do everything — but one thing he must do is be there for his family.

Ultimately, Christmas arrives with a happy ending for both Henry’s congregation and his family.

💸 Financial lesson: Financial stability is important, but don’t let money distract you from other important values.

10. Home Alone

In the original Home Alone, 8-year old Kevin McCallister has to defend his (very large and beautiful) home from burglars after his family accidentally leaves town without him.

Parental mistakes aside, Kevin not only survives — he thrives, booby-trapping his home for the ultimate bad guy takedown. It’s the stuff of (8-year-old) dreams. By the time the police arrive, Kevin has thoroughly destroyed much of his home with tar, glue, feathers, fire, and so much more.

We can learn a lot from Home Alone — aside from not leaving 8-year-olds behind when traveling. But how about taking better measures to secure your gigantic house? Not to mention the importance of buying the right insurance.

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💸 Financial lesson: Secure — and insure — your home and valuables.

Summary

That’s a wrap on 10 financial lessons from your favorite Christmas movies. From It’s a Wonderful Life to Home Alone, these stories can teach us valuable lessons about money, such as the importance of investing wisely, saving for a rainy day, and securing our valuables.

We can also learn from the mistakes of others, like not buying travel insurance or taking the right measures to protect our homes. So this holiday season, take a few minutes to give your finances a tune-up with these timeless lessons. Happy holidays!

About the author

Cassidy Horton
Total Articles: 52
Cassidy Horton is a finance writer who specializes in banking and insurance. She earned her MBA and bachelor’s degree in public relations from Georgia Southern University — and has since published hundreds of finance articles online for Forbes Advisor, The Balance, Money, Finder.com, and more. When she's not helping Millennials and Gen Zers gain control of their finances, you can find Cassidy hiking around the Pacific Northwest, cuddling her two cats, and eating way too much fried chicken. Connect with her on cassidyhorton.com or LinkedIn to see what she’s up to next.