smart spending

6 classic movies about holidays and money

'Christmas With the Kranks'
'Christmas With the Kranks'

Based on the John Grisham novel "Skipping Christmas," two empty nesters decide to forgo the holiday craziness and spend the thousands of dollars they'll save on a Caribbean cruise for themselves. Chided and chastised by their small-town friends and neighbors, they stick to their guns right up to Christmas Eve. But a call from their daughter -- announcing she's returning from her Peace Corps posting with her intended in tow -- changes everything.

The couple, along with their friends and neighbors, turn themselves inside out to put on a celebration with all the trimmings.

What it reveals: A lot of holiday spending is on automatic pilot. And, as the season progresses, it takes on a momentum of its own -- like a snowball rolling downhill.

"If you have that conversation and realize that you have higher priorities than a pile of presents under the tree or a big ham or turkey," that doesn't make you a bad person, Mark says. Instead, look for ways to share gifts of time, love and expertise.

Revelation for cynics: If you're bucking "tradition" (yours or anyone else's), keep it on the down-low. And skip the tanning booth.

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