Halloween is upon us again, so what better way to get in the holiday spirit than by getting together your best money-themed costume, gathering with friends and watching some classic scary movies. As always, though, remember that each movie also brings a little personal finance lesson of its own.
While you’re fighting off goosebumps and chills down your spine, pleading with the lead to not open that door, pay attention to the ways you could also keep your bank account safe from harm. Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees and Michael Meyers (the serial killer, not the actor) may be fictional, but the lessons you can take away from their movies can help you fight the cash-hungry vampires in life from draining your savings and retirement fund.
Here are five scary movie staples that can be just as frightening to your real life savings account as to the script itself and what they teach us about spending and saving wisely.
1. Avoid Cheap Motels
If you’ve ever seen “The Shining,” “Psycho” or, to a lesser extent, the more recent “Vacancy,” you’ll probably be afraid to step into any hotel lobby or motel office. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you can shack up with a non-cannibal friend or family member while on vacation, you could slash your travel expenses by half your budget. This is especially true if you’re going to prime tourist destinations. You’ll probably need the extra savings around this time of year since airfare and lodging prices usually get jacked up for the holidays.
Scary Movie Examples: “The Shining,” “Psycho,” “Vacancy”
Personal Finance Lesson: Maximize your travel savings by staying away from hotels and motels if possible.
2. Children Can Be Expensive
Speaking of “The Shining,” who could forget the Grady twins? Children have always been an effective plot device in scary movies. They can also be pretty scary in real life if you aren’t financially prepared for them. Unless you want them turning into kids like the ones in “Children of the Corn” or Damien from “The Omen,” raising a child can plenty costly. You don’t think taking care of the girl from “The Exorcist” would be expensive? Some costs you can’t avoid, but what helps is teaching them about financial responsibility early.
Scary Movie Examples: “Children of the Corn,” “Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Omen,” “The Exorcist,” “The Ring”
Personal Finance Lessons: Kids don’t come cheap. So, if you’re going to have children, plan early and teach them about money management while they’re young.
3. Check If a House Is Haunted Before Taking Out a Mortgage
There’s nothing worst than being trapped in a terrifying prison you thought was your home. Whether you’re buying a foreclosed house, a brand new home or looking for a mortgage to purchase property, avoid potential haunting nightmares by being thorough with your due diligence. You don’t want to find out that your house was built on an ancient burial grave like in Poltergeist after you buy it, or that your once favorable mortgage rate is turning into its own Amityville Horror.
Scary Movie Examples: “The Amityville Horror,” “Poltergeist,” “The Others,” “The Grudge,” “House on Haunted Hill”
Personal Finance Lesson: Do your homework before signing any mortgage agreement or buying your home. Sometimes you’re better off paying rent over a mortgage.
4. Don’t Let Your Poor Spending Habits Drain Your Accounts
Depending on what you believe, vampires might or might not exist in real life. What do exist, however, are the little blood suckers that feed off your credit card balance and debit accounts, also known as the dreaded small purchases. Just like Dracula and the vampires in “Daybreakers,” small purchases bleed humans dry — only instead of red, they go for the green. But as you’ve probably learned from Let the Right One In, they can only get to you if you invite them into your life.
Scary Movie Examples: Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” “The Lost Boys,” “Daybreakers,” “Let the Right One In,” “30 Days of Night”
Personal Finance Lesson: Use budgets and spending plans to protect yourself against small purchases that add up to large expenses.
5. Less Is Sometimes More
Breaking the fourth wall for a moment, some of the scariest movies of all time were actually done on very low budgets. “The Blair Witch Project” and the more recent “Paranormal Activity” are two of the most profitable movies of all time, bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars on budgets of only $22,000 and $15,000, respectively. Other classics like “Halloween,” “Night of the Living Dead” and even “Friday the 13th” were filmed on very modest budgets of under $350,000 but became bankable iconic franchises. It just goes to show that spending more doesn’t always necessarily mean getting more.
Scary Movie Examples: “The Blair Witch Project,” “Paranormal Activity,” “Halloween,” “Night of the Living Dead,” “Friday the 13th,” “Saw”
Personal Finance Lesson: Always find ways to get more bang for your buck. Whether you’re looking at investments or just shopping smart, a dollar can go a long way.
Photo credit: charamelody