8 Money Tips I Learned from Clark Griswold and Christmas Vacation

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Clark Griswold embodies the American dad. A caring family man who wants nothing more than to host the perfect Christmas for his family and leave everyone smiling. As we know, there were some wrinkles in the process but in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Clark manages to carve out the perfect Christmas for his family.

Here are 10 money tips I learned from Clark Griswold and Christmas Vacation. I also included a quote with each money tip to get you in the Christmas Vacation mood.

Happy holidays!

1) Don’t buy what you can’t afford

Buying on credit is a risk you should avoid at all costs. Clark put a down payment of $7,500 (almost $13,000 in today’s money!) on a new pool for his family when he didn’t have enough in his checking account to cover the cost.  He was expecting a Christmas bonus to come his way, but this risky financial move nearly left him and his family in a money nightmare on Christmas Eve.

Instead, save up for big purchases, like a pool or a vacation, by taking a percentage of each paycheck and automatically transferring it to a sub-savings account named for the savings goal. This way you can properly save for the goal and avoid any risky purchases that could put you and your family into a money hole.

Ruby Sue: “Uncle Clark, are you sure you ain’t Santa Claus?”
Clark: “I’m sure… I can’t even afford to be an elf.”

2) Everyone needs an emergency fund

If Clark couldn’t afford a pool, he was probably living paycheck to paycheck with no real savings. If his Christmas bonus wouldn’t have come, he would’ve been in deep debt. His poor money habits almost ruined Christmas for not only him, but his entire family.

An emergency fund is vital for everyone’s finances. At first, start by putting a percentage of each paycheck aside in a separate savings account. Eventually, this fund should hold anywhere from 6-12 months worth of expenses to starve off a job loss or major financial crisis. At first it may be difficult to build up this fund, but your financial life will become much less stressful as soon as you get this fund to a comfortable place.

Clark: “It’s a membership to the Jelly of the Month Club.”
Eddie: “Clark, that’s the gift that keeps on giving throughout the entire year.”

3) Spend money on the things you loveclarks houe

Personal finance isn’t about sitting at home with your lights out and eating rice to save money. It’s about making smart money choices so you can spend on what you love.

Clark loved the holidays and his favorite part was going all out to decorate his home. He probably spent a lot of money on the 25,000 Christmas lights which covered every square inch of his home. But Clark took pride in decorating his house and it was a Griswold family tradition that he was sharing with his son. This was money well spent because it was what Clark truly enjoyed.

Aunt Bethany: “Is your house on fire, Clark?”
Clark: “No, Aunt Bethany, those are the Christmas lights.”

4) Be a smart holiday shopper

Stores break out all kinds of tricks to get consumers to purchase unexpected items during the holidays. Clark fell for one of these tricks: the attractive cashier. Although you don’t see it, would you be surprised if Clark left with four expensive necklaces that he didn’t plan on purchasing? Recognize, that stores try to manipulate you into spending on items you don’t need. Go shopping with a list and stick to it in order to save this holiday season and beyond.

Clark: “Oh, I was just smelling – smiling. I was just blouse – browsing.”

5) Treat others with respect because it may help with money, too

Treat others with respect and dignity and your actions may help you financially some day. Clark welcomed – although hesitantly – an uninvited Cousin Eddie and his family into his already packed home for Christmas. As a thank you for Clark’s hospitality, Cousin Eddie kidnapped Clark’s boss when he found out Clark wouldn’t be receiving his Christmas bonus. This wouldn’t have happened if Clark wasn’t inviting to Eddy’s family and his actions saved Christmas for the Griswold family.

Remember, you never know where help will come from so treat everyone the way you’d want to be treated.

Clark: “My cousin-in-law, whose heart is bigger than his brain…”
Eddie: “I appreciate that, Clark.”

6) Money allows you to do what you wantcousineddie

We all love Cousin Eddie, but he’s not doing himself or his family any favors by being unemployed for 7 years. I’m all for following dreams, but sometimes you have to suck it up and get a paycheck. With two kids (my reader Joanne points out in the comments that Eddie has 4 kids, thanks!), a wife, and a dog that eats more than the family combined, he needs to be more rational about his employment situation. Any sort of income from a job would provide at least something for his family to live off.

This is why smart money decisions when you’re young are so important. They allow your finances to breathe so you can make the decisions you want instead of freeloading off your extended family for dog food at the local supermarket.

Clark: “Seven years and he can’t find a job?”
Ellen: “Catherine says he’s holding out for a management position.”

7) Money isn’t the end word

Clark’s boss thought he was saving the company and himself some money by cutting the Christmas bonuses from the budget. What he ended up realizing was that he was lowering morale of his workers and this would hurt his business even more in the long run.

Not every decision comes down to the numbers. Debt, buying a home, and education are just some of the financial situations we come across in life that have more weight to them than just the numbers. Make sure to take into account personal well-being and how a decision will effect you over the long haul. Thanks to Cousin Eddie, Clark’s boss ended up making the right money decision, and this ends up helping not only his workers, but his business.

Clark’s boss: “I guess a healthy bottom line doesn’t mean much if to get it you have to hurt the one’s you depend on. It’s people that make the difference. Little people like you.”

8) Quality time with family is the best and most affordable entertainment

No matter how many TVs, cars, or Xbox 360s you buy, there’s nothing like sitting with family around a Christmas tree as you exchange presents. This is something you can never buy and this is what Clark holds closest to his heart. All he wants is for his family to get along and have a wonderful Christmas under his roof, and that’s what he ends up delivering.

So remember, if you can’t afford presents or a huge turkey dinner, hold your family and friends close because they’re your most valuable gift this holiday season.

Clark: “The most enduring traditions of the season are best enjoyed in the warm embrace of kith and kin. Thith tree is a thymbol of the the thspirit of the Griswold family Chrithmath.”


Have a wonderful holiday with your family and friends!

Merry Christmas from Foreigner’s Finances!

Photos courtesy of Warner Brothers


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