About Clark Griswolds Swimming Pool From Christmas Vacation

One of my favorite Christmas movies is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  I laugh pretty much from start to finish at that movie.  It’s hard to believe that it’s almost thirty years old (which is why this post is full of spoilers).  But then again, it is most definitely a holiday classic!  A major plot point is that Clark wants to surprise his family with a swimming pool.  He has already paid the deposit, but needs his end-of-year bonus to cover the outlay.  A nagging question I’ve always had, as a personal finance blogger, is whether the Griswolds swimming Pool ever got installed.

Let’s run some numbers.

The movie came out around 30 years ago, so all the numbers would be completely different.  So, let’s run some numbers based on today’s numbers.

As this is lighthearted and in good fun, these are just wild estimates.  It’s just a little playing around!

Cost Of A Pool

Clark shows a co-worker a brochure featuring an in-ground pool.  He had to put a deposit down.  I’m estimating that the pool costs around $30,000, and that he had to put 50% down.

So, let’s suppose his outlay is $15,000.

The Eventual Bonus: Pool Or No Pool?

Clark counts on the annual bonus to cover his deposit.  While at first he isn’t going to get a bonus, in the end he gets the bonus he got last year, plus 20%.  Say his bonus last year was $15,000.  That would make this year’s bonus $18,000.

All set, right?

Maybe not so fast.

While he ended up getting his bonus, there was a lot of damage from the happenings that took place during the movie.  Let’s run some (very highly estimated) numbers.

The Griswold Family Christmas Tree

On the way to get the family tree, Clark jumps over a snow bank and lands hard.  This had to cause some front end and suspension damage to the car.    $1,500

After the tree gets home, he opens the oversize tree only to have it break two windows and a lamp.  I’m guessing $750 per window and $50 for the lamp.  $1,550

Outside Christmas Lights

Clark loves his lights. Who doesn’t?  I love putting up lights, and always say that there is no such thing as too many lights.  Still, Clark takes it to the extreme.

I think that stapling the lights to the roof and siding is going to cause some unexpected repair come spring. He might have to repair or replace part of his roof$2,500

During the install, he destroys a decorative reindeer and Santa.  $50

Falling off the roof, he dislodges a gutter from his home that will need to be replaced. $250

Let’s not forget that the electric bill will cost a fortune.  $500

Cousin Eddie’s Contribution

Who doesn’t love Cousin Eddie?  He surprises Clark during the grand lighting.  Unfortunately, his presence means quite a few extra costs for the Griswolds

Clark offers to pay for presents for Eddie and the family when Eddie reveals they have no money.  $500

Eddie destroys Clark’s package of light bulbs by slamming a bag of dog food on top of them in Walmart (this is just such a funny little touch that I had to add it). $2

Eddie empties his RV toilet tank into the storm sewers.  This causes a buildup of gas, and there’s an explosion.  I’m sure there would be costs to repair this.  $2,500

Animals

The animals that are part of the movie are also extremely expensive to the Griswolds.

Aunt Bethany’s cat electrocutes itself eating through a line of Christmas lights.  This will require the purchase of a new easy chair and re-carpeting the living room.  $1,000

Cousin Eddie’s dog Snot yaks up a turkey bone.  From the sounds of it, a complete cleaning of the dining room rugs will be necessary.  $100

Snot and the squirrel also knock down a china cabinet, destroying the furniture itself and all the dishes it holds.  $1,000

The dog also bashes through a wooden door in pursuit of the squirrel.  $100

Uncle Louis’ Cigar

Uncle Louis does love his stogie, doesn’t he.  Unfortunately, he torches the Christmas tree, and the fallout won’t be cheap!

Uncle Louis sets himself on fire, which Clark puts out with the living room drapes$500

All of the decorations on the tree are likely destroyed.  They’ll need new ornaments and lights $250

The fire will surely require the room to be repainted$250

Luckily the carpet that also sustained damage is already accounted for from the cat. $0

To replace the tree, Clark cuts a tree down from the yard.  This will have to be replanted in the spring.  $250
Also, while cutting it down, he breaks the neighbor’s window $750

Other Costs

There are a handful of other events that take place that have some costs as well.

Clark destroys his sled using his companies new non-stick product to help it slide down the hill.  $10

A new newel post will be needed after Clark repairs it by cutting it off. $100

The front door will need a new knocker after the ‘Jelly of the Month’ delivery man accidentally rips it off the door. $10

While hiding presents in the attic, Clark fell through the bedroom ceiling, which will need to be repaired and painted.  $250

There are always unexpected costs for Christmas, no matter what!

Maybe More

There were some other costs I debated on whether to include.  In the end, I decided not to.

I didn’t include the cost of the original tree.  You have to figure they were going to get that no matter what.

I didn’t include any damage that Clark did to other people’s property.  He destroyed a small building during his shed ride, and was responsible for some other damage.  Presumably, he got away with nobody finding out that it was him.Beyond the broken window noted above, he did much more damage to the house of Todd and Margot, his yuppie next door neighbors.  But, I’m not convinced that they can recover the cost of the broken window and destroyed stereo that Clark was responsible for while installing his outdoor lights.

Drum Roll Please

So what’s the final damage?  According to the numbers above, Clark’s good old fashioned family Christmas would result in costs of $13,922.

So, even if the extra 20% of his bonus gave him $3,000 more than he’d been planning on, he’d still be over $10,000 in the whole.

Maybe there’s a reason we never saw the follow up movie with the family at the new pool!  After all, having one of the hap hap happiest Christmases ever doesn’t come cheap!  Still, that would have been a funny movie!

Readers, what do you think?

Is this one of the best Christmas movies ever?  Did I miss any costs?  And most importantly, did the Griswolds ever get their pool?  Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Thoughts On Selling On Facebook Marketplace

In the past, I’ve sold some items on Craigslist.  While I love selling online, it’s no longer my go-to site.  I have started selling on Facebook Marketplace.

Why Facebook Marketplace

Facebook Marketplace was rolled out a couple of years ago.  With so much selling going through Craiglist, eBay and the like, it was natural that Facebook would want to get in on the game.

I like Facebook Marketplace for the following reasons:

  • Familiarity – I use Facebook almost every day.  So do many people.  You don’t need a different login to sell (or buy items).  You don’t need a different app.  It’s all right there.
  • Real People – When you’re buying or selling on Facebook Marketplace, you’re using your regular profile.  So is the other person.  You instantly have a name and a face.  It seems to make things more personal.
  • Size – Facebook is huge as it is.  So right away you’ve got a built in audience.

It’s been a cool experience so far.  But, I have some observations.

Other People Have Lots Of Stuff

Once you start looking around Facebook Marketplace, you realize just how much stuff people have.  There are sales for just about everything.  Shoes.  Clothes.  Toys.  You name it, Marketplace has it.

I subscribe to a couple of local groups.  These are groups you join where people can post things, and they are nearby.  So you don’t have to sort through listings of items that are 100 miles away.  I am in two groups, one for just our city and the next one over, and the other for the county.

You Have Lots Of Stuff

I started using Facebook Marketplace to cut back our number of strollers. We had a regular stroller, a jogging stroller, an umbrella stroller, and a double stroller.  We aren’t using any of them.  The umbrella stroller is something that we are keeping to give to a family member that’s looking to start a family soon.  I wanted the rest of them to go.

We sold two of them in pretty short order.  The third one we want to sell is still sitting in the garage.

But the process was so simple that it made me look around and realize just how much stuff I have.

I found two unopened faucet sets that I never used that I wanted to sell.  I listed them at $20 each, and within a week, they were both sold.

It doesn’t get any easier than that.

Now, I walk through the house and see potential things to sell.

Thanks to Porches, You Don’t Have To Deal With People

If you’re selling cheaper items, most transactions can be done via porch pickup.  You leave the item on your porch.  You also leave a place for someone to put money.  They come and get the item, and leave the money.  The transaction is complete!

selling on facebook marketplace porch pickup
Porch Pickup is easy for selling on Facebook Marketplace

Obviously, this wouldn’t work for expensive items, but for smaller priced items, it’s a simple process.

I know a bunch of people that have sold a bunch of things, and so far nobody has reported getting stiffed.  Maybe that whole idea of being tied to an actual profile keeps people honest!

There Are Acronyms, Including A Really Funny One

People that list things on Facebook mean business.  As such, people don’t have time to type out full sentences.  So, Porch Pickup, which I described above, is shortened to PPU.  FCFS is first come first serve.

The one that gets me every time is POOS.  I started seeing this on multiple listings, and was a bit perplexed.  Were these things that had once touched poo?  Did they smell?  My mind had a million questions.

Nope.  Turns out it’s just another acronym.  It stands for Posted on Other Sites.  Meaning, that someone might be posting it in other groups or apps and such.

I laugh every time I see a listing that has this. Every time.  You can’t tell me that the original person that made this up didn’t know what they were doing.  They couldn’t have used, say POMS, Posted on Multiple Sites?  Nope.  It had to be….POOS.

SMH (that stands for *shaking my head*)

People Sell Crazy Stuff

One day my wife was browsing through her phone and started cracking up.  She showed me a listing of someone that was trying to sell a pair of shoes….that had been mauled by her dog.  I’m not just talking a small hole.  We’re talking that the entire top half of the shoe was shredded.

We couldn’t believe that someone was actually trying to sell this.  There were some comments from some other people that were of the same opinion.  At least the comments were nice.

When we went back to look for the listing a couple of days later, it was gone.  So, I guess we’ll never know, did they actually sell the dog eaten shoes?

Readers, what do you think?

Selling on Facebook Marketplace. What do you think? Do you buy? Sell?  Both?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Are Interest Rates Really Too High?

The stock market has been a mess over the last couple of months.  I guess after almost a decade of solid growth, it was time.  Of course, our President has a different thought.  He blames high interest rates.  The President has been pushing the Federal Reserve to lower interest rates.  They haven’t been listening.  Currently the Fed rate stands at 2.25%.  So, are interest rates too high?

Comparing Interest Rates To Recent History

In a quick answer, no.  Interest rates are not that high at all.  Of course, this takes some comparison.

Since the start of the 1990’s, interest rates have been higher than they are now more often than not.

The entire decade of the 1990’s saw interest rates in the 4-6% range.  I remember that, at the time, this was considered pretty low.  The 1970’s and 1980’s had very high rates.  So a drop to 4-6% was actually a relief for many!

In the early 2000’s, interest rates did drop for about 4 years to levels lower than today.  The 1-2% range followed a pretty bad post-Y2K recession, as well as 9/11.  Lower rates were used to provide a boost to a dragging economy.

Following 2004, the economy ‘recovered’ and interest rates were back up around 5% for the next few years.  In 2008, the bottom fell out of the economy, and they were quickly lowered, all the way down to practically zero.  Come to find out, the economy wasn’t as stable as had been purported.

Interest rates stayed at those non-existent levels for seven whole years!  It wasn’t until 2015 that any increases were seen, and even those were small.  It wasn’t until 2017 that more than one increase per year took place.

That’s nearly ten years of extremely low interest rates.

Perspective On Interest Rates

The president is arguing that the rate increases are hurting the economy.  He has asked for them to be lowered.

The Fed has all but ignored him.

From a historical standpoint, interest rates really don’t look too high at all.  But, we also had the lowest interest rates ever for a very long period of time.  Bottom line, we got complacent.

Right now, a 15 year mortgage is around 4.5%.  This probably is considered high for many who financed at or even below 3%.  Again, looking at how long interest rates were low, a great many people got these rates.

However, they were never meant to be a ‘forever’ thing.  But, nearly ten years of practically no interest did start to feel like forever.  It became the new normal.

Why We Need Higher Interest Rates

I studied Economics in my undergraduate.  So, while I’m no expert, I do remember enough to understand that we do need higher interest rates.  We can’t keep them the levels they were at forever.

Eventually, the economy will go into a recession.  The economic cycle makes this a certainty.  Recessions are good for the economy.  We just don’t want them to the scale of the last one!  But, a common tool to minimize the effect of recessions has been to lower interest rates.  This encourages companies to borrow and spend money.  This leads to jobs.  If it all works out, eventually the recession ends.

But in order to do that, we must first raise them.  These rate increases are done when the economy is doing well.  Like it is now. The idea of this is that a strong economy can withstand the increases.

This system has worked well for quite some time.  But, it’s predicated on having the cushion in interest rates to be able to lower them.

interest rates
Interest rates affect spending.

Why We Can’t Keep Interest Rates Low Forever

Think of what would happen if we had 0.25% interest rates and slipped into a recession.  What could we do?  Well, one thing we wouldn’t be able to do is lower interest rates.  This would end up making it harder to pull out of the recession.  The recession would likely last much longer than normal.  Plus, other less effective measures would have to be taken.  Tax cuts or additional spending would help, but would spur higher deficits and more inflation in comparison to interest rate cuts.

Personally, I thought that the Fed waited too long to start raising rates.  I thought they should have started around 2013 or so.  By that point, the real estate market had stabilized.  Unemployment was near pre-recession levels.  I knew full well that the longer the Fed waited, the more ‘normal’ the ultra-low rates would seem.  And, that’s the thing.  They weren’t normal.

The bottom line is that interest rate cuts are a needed tool to fight recessions.  Building that cushion during times of growth will help us down the line when we need an economic boost.

Do you think rates are too high?

Readers, let me know what you think.  Have we gotten too used to low rates that we now expect them?  Do you think the Fed should lower rates or keep on the current path?  Let me know in the comments below.

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How To Get a Loan When You Have Bad Credit

If finances aren’t your forte, don’t fret—you can still get a loan with a bad credit score. While you should always aim for a credit score between 850 and 700, there are plenty of ways to find funds if your three-digit number dips below that magical range. Whether you need money for an emergency expense or you’re trying to consolidate high-interest debt, there’s a loan option out there for everyone.

Work on Improving Your Credit Score

If you aren’t immediately in need of cash, take the time to understand your credit score and improve it. There are plenty of services that provide free credit reports so you can get a better picture of your repayment history. Correct any inaccurate listings that could be bringing down your score, and then get to work on creating a healthier financial future.

While your score weighs various factors to different degrees, it’s never a bad idea to work on all of them simultaneously. Be sure to:

  • Make all your payments on time. This is always the best way to improve your score! If you can, try to take get your balance to $0 at the end of each pay period instead of just paying the minimum amount. Try using a budgeting app or online tool to help you manage all your various payments.
  • Lower your debt-to-credit ratio: You only want to use about 30% of your credit limit at a time. This shows that you are not constantly overspending and pushing your credit to the max.
  • Keep old accounts open. Having a longer credit history looks good because it indicates that you’ve been responsibly making payments for many years. With age comes wisdom!
  • Have a mix of credit lines. This will most likely happen as you get older and experience major financial events, such as buying a car or paying a mortgage.

Look at Secured Loans

If you need a loan pronto, look into getting a secured loan. This mean providing collateral that the lender can seize if you fail to repay the loan. Cars and real estate are the most common forms of collateral when signing up for a secure loan. Even with terrible credit, lenders will be more likely to take the risk on you because they have a guarantee of being paid.

But be careful to avoid predatory lenders. Never agree to a short-term high-interest loan—it’s likely you won’t be able to pay it back on time and then your property will be seized.

Join a Credit Union

It’s often easier to get a loan through a credit union than through a big bank. Why? They look at more than your credit score when deciding whether to take the risk on you. However, you typically have to be a member to apply. That makes this an excellent option for personal loans because credit unions are invested in the financial health of their members. But if you aren’t already a member, you might have to pull out all the stops to convince your local credit union to give you backstage access.

Find a Co-Signer

Even though you have bad credit, it’s likely someone you know and trust does not. If you get a friend or family member to co-sign on your loan, the interest rate for your loan will be based on their credit score. This can certainly work in your favor, but you want to be confident that you’ll be able to repay the loan. If you don’t, your co-signer will suffer the consequences as well.

Loans to Avoid

Although there are plenty of good options to secure a loan with bad credit, there are many routes you never want to go down. Payday loans, for example, are one of them. Whether it be on TV, signs on the street, or at unassuming office buildings, advertisements for these “quick cash” lenders are everywhere. While it could seem tempting when you need emergency funds, payday loans can have insanely high interest rates. It’s quite common to get a 300% APR—which then traps you in a cycle of debt that’s very hard to shed.

No matter what your credit score may be, there’s plenty of ways to secure a loan that features practical terms and conditions. Keep an eye out for predatory lenders who use the fine print to keep you in debt, and always weigh your options before deciding on a loan. Your f

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