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
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
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!
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.