Beyond Bells & Baubles: 4 valuable money lessons hidden in your favourite Christmas movies

But when you’re walking about the neighbourhood – just to get away from the crazy aunt – and some stranger offers you the best plum cake you’ve ever had, and suddenly fairy lights are switched on, something inside you lights up too… You step into the super crowded wine shop and buy the best wine they have, and come home just brimming with something inexplicable.

The season of such holiday magic is here and we would be amiss if we don’t share money lessons learnt from holidays that make you spend, spend, and spend some more!

Don’t let the Grinch steal your Christmas! Stay informed!

The Grinch doesn’t like Christmas, so he decides to steal everyone’s presents. Whoville becomes as unhappy as the Grinch himself. It takes a village to bring Christmas back. Dr Seuss got it right when he created this character in 1957! Joyless and friendless, he is so irritated by everything residents of Whoville do to celebrate Christmas with joyful sounds.

A refrain from a Bollywood song comes to mind: ‘Aunty police bula legi!’ when you watch the Grinch grudge the people’s happiness.

Looks like a bear market, no? A smart investor knows when the market first dips, then corrects (You must never take your eye off the news, be informed!) and by the time stocks are down and others are panicking, you know you can deal with it because you have a well-diversified stock portfolio. Having higher-quality stocks will help you curb bear market risks and give you long-term returns. Defensive stocks like consumer essentials, utilities and healthcare tend to do better in real bear markets.

Jim Carrey (in the live-action version in 2000) as well as Benedict Cumberbatch (voice, 2018) have played the Grinch. These are fun films, watch!

There’s romance in the air! Invest in something different!

In the movies, snow and Christmas seem to go hand in hand. And if you are sitting in warmer climes, these heartwarming movies make you wish, ‘Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!’

Romances pop up like stalls selling tinsel and fairy lights in your neighbourhood markets. And you’re wondering why every story that has a paint-by-numbers plot makes you want to watch?

The son/daughter of the house who chooses to drown in work instead of dating, is not even expected to come home for Christmas. Something happens to them at work which makes them drive/take a flight with a stranger. Of course, that stranger is gorgeous. The two realise that both are in the same situation and make a pact to show up as each other’s plus one. Once they come home, the warmth of the family and the magic of Christmas make for a happy ending!

Whether you are watching Catering For Christmas, The Holiday Calendar, Single All The Way, The Knight Before Christmas (amazing how many corny titles will be given to romances every year!) or one of the best holiday romances simply called The Holiday, you will notice one thing: The families are enviably terrific. Even though the characters are as generic as the Bollywood maa who cooks, and an aunt who gossips, a grouchy grandpa and more, you wish for that kind of warmth at home.

A smart investor will recognise the value of an alert that pops up on their market tracker. The more you read about the company the more you like it. But your manager warns you about adding this stock to your family. How much do you know about it? Sometimes, you can allow gut instinct to put your money into a different kind of investment opportunity. And chances are, that might turn out to be the best thing ever. A Miracle for Christmas!

Christmas Sweaters are scarier than Batman’s villains. Be prepared!

Remember when Michael Keaton played Batman? Now that strictly isn’t a Christmas movie, and yet it is! The Penguin (played by a scary Danny De Vito) is a little bit like the Grinch. He plots and plans the takeover of Gotham by storming the metropolis with his army of demented penguins, and then makes an explosive appearance at the Christmas party for the city elites.

Christmas sweaters are a bit like the Penguin. Grandma and the aunt who lives in craft stores have knitted and embellished them with the ghastliest of ribbons and doohickeys. How will you survive the family Christmas sweater?

A smart investor is always prepared for every and any scare that shows up on a holiday. In India, the exchange of gifts, just like at Christmas, is a given. You purchase thoughtful gifts (including for picky aunties and grouchy uncles) but get ghastly sweaters in return (even though they know you live in a hot city where even shawls look strange!). There are smarter ways to gift things to your family. Find out about return policies when you buy during those enticing Christmas sales, and discover alternate gifting (cash or store gift cards work!). And for all this to be possible? Start a fresh holiday account well in advance so you can plan for every contingency that may happen. Your friendly banker has this solution because everyone knows flight and hotel bookings cost more if you decide to travel at the last minute, even if weather-related contingencies happen.

So be prepared for Christmas sweaters (they’re our equivalent of receiving Soan Papdi at Diwali), they will happen, but you can smile for that family photo!

No Christmas is complete without Santa! Believe!

There are no Christmas movies without Santa! Whether they are the Christmas Chronicles, The Miracle on 34th Street, A Boy Called Christmas, Klaus, or The Claus Family, each movie has one lesson: If there is good in your heart, good things will happen to you. It will take a miracle, but these miracles need you to believe that there is good in the world.

Most investors who try to go at it all alone will discover that it cannot be Christmas without Santa. You need help. Whether it is an able money manager or an app that helps you manage your portfolio, you need your personal Santa Claus who can help you work a miracle that will last you longer than just the holiday season!

There are only two more weeks to go before you have to learn to write 2024 instead of 2023 on cheques. But remember your money should not sleep. Have a wonderful holiday and make this season a season to be jolly so you can fa-la-la-la all the way to the bank!

Manisha Lakhe is a poet, film critic, traveller, founder of Caferati — an online writer’s forum, hosts Mumbai’s oldest open mic, and teaches advertising, films and communication. She can be reached on Twitter at @manishalakhe.

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Published: 25 Dec 2023, 11:54 AM IST

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