11 Days Of Fun Over Holiday Break

I went back to work on Wednesday after eleven days off.  It was a fantastic time off.  Our family did many wonderful things over the holidays.  Honestly, when I walked back in, it felt like I had just left, simply because of the whirlwind of activity.  Here was just some of the fun over holiday break that our family had.

Fun Over Holiday Break

December 22nd – Just Our Family

Downtown Rochester, which is a few miles away, puts lights on all the buildings through the few block stretch.  It’s called the Big Bright Light Show.  It’s really awesome, and we go every year.  We walked around, and had dinner at one of our favorite restaurants.

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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.

3 Money Tips to Keep Married Couples Happy vs. Hostile

Recently, we looked at 8 tips for newlyweds in debt. Indeed, while it’s admittedly not as romantic as talking long walks at dusk, making wise and practical money-related decisions is not just important for a happy marriage.  In fact, it’s essential!

Why essential? Because the number one cause of marital breakdowns isn’t what you think.  The Lack of shared interests, constant arguing, pesky in-laws, lack of intimacy, or even infidelity are bad, but not the worst. According to a study by the American Psychological Association, the most common reason why couples head to marriage counseling — and then in many cases, to divorce court — is money woes.

The bad news is that there is no magic wand (or app) to keep all money problems at bay. It’s something that all couples — including the 1-percenters out there who certainly aren’t immune from marriage-induced financial pain — need to deal with throughout their relationship.

However, the good news is that there are practical and proven tips that go a long, long way to keeping married couples happy vs. hostile. Here they are:

  1. Talk about money.

Couples will talk about all kinds of sensitive and intimate stuff: rashes, phobias, fetishes (you don’t need all 50 shades of grey — just a handful will get the job done!), and the list goes on. But when it comes to money, even the most transparent couples tend to clam up — usually for fear of sparking a fight. The irony is that unless they talk openly about money, then instead of avoiding tension, couples put themselves on a one-way journey toward conflict.

  1. Don’t hide large transactions.

Couples shouldn’t have to report every purchase they make down to the last latte. But they should certainly share the news — preferably ahead of time — when they make large transactions. Otherwise, it’s just a matter of time before thousands of dollars that should be in an account are missing.  Then, the accusations and insults fly, fast and furious. And if you think that hiding transactions is a rarity, think again! A poll by CreditCards.com found that 20% of people in a relationship have spent more than $500 without telling their partner.  Plus, about 1 in 20 spouses maintain secret accounts or credit cards. Yikes!

  1. If you need help: GET IT!

Last but certainly not least, many people think that since they were good with money before marriage (or at the very least, they weren’t obliged to declare bankruptcy), that this acumen will naturally and automatically flow over into their married life. This is not necessarily the case. A marriage is not merely a collection of two individuals.  Nope.  Marriage is an altogether different entity that is far more complex. There is no shame or embarrassment if couples admit they need financial management help from an expert. On the contrary, it is a sign of maturity and responsibility.

If All Else Fails… 

Sometimes, even couples with the most robust spending and savings plan and the best of intentions run into massive and, frankly, un-fixable debt problems. If this is the road that you’re on — or you suspect that it’s where you and your partner will be in the future — then your best move may be to consult a bankruptcy lawyer. This doesn’t mean that you will (or that even you should) file for bankruptcy. But you certainly need to know what your options are, so that you can make choices that protect your long-term financial health and, indeed, your wonderful marriage.

Some Cub Scout Camping Tips To Know

My son is in Cub Scouts.  We just went on our fourth camping trip in the time he’s been a scout.  We always have a great time.  The Cub Scout ranches that our pack visit offer many similar activities.  There are cabins for sleeping. They have areas where you can pitch a tent.  There are scheduled activities such as archery and BB guns.  Some have lakes for swimming when the weather is warmer.  While you’ll find tips on all of these, I thought I’d provide some Cub Scout camping tips that are more practical.  These are tips I’ve learned only from experience.

Plan Your Meals

Your pack should get together and plan meals.  They should be simple yet filling.  You’ll want to keep them simple because many kids have simple tastes.  It’s best to find things that most kids will eat.  We do things like hot dogs for lunch and pasta for dinner.  They’re pretty easy to make and we generally don’t have complaints.

Do The Math On Serving Sizes

One thing our pack has NOT figured out is how to buy the right amount of food.  We estimated 35 people for our most recent trip.  This was pretty accurate.  Yet we bought three times the amount of pasta and sauce that we needed.  Three times!  How?  Because we always forget that of the 35 people, many of them are small people.  They won’t eat a full serving!

Have Backup Plans For Food

With just about every trip, there’s been one meal that didn’t work out according to plan.  One time there was a plan to cook packets of food over the fire.  It took a whole lot of time to get a fire going, and stuff was either getting burned or not cooking.  We had a lot of hungry scouts and a bunch of food that nobody wanted.

This past time we had planned some of the food to be baked in the oven that was listed as in our cabin.  The only problem is that the oven didn’t work.  So, we had to figure out how to cook some items on the stove.

A backup plan would have helped in both of those cases.

Inventory Your Supplies

We found that we didn’t have a few things that would have been helpful.  Among the missing items:

  • Aluminum foil
  • Ziploc bags
  • A strainer (for pasta)
  • A ladel

One of the reasons that we fell short is because, for many, this was the first time camping.  Every year there’s a new group of parents and kids, so things get passed around.  Therefore, many of the people simply don’t know what we have and don’t have.  A master list would have been helpful and is something we will definitely do.

Divvy Out Responsibilities

Both scouts and parents should have clear responsibilities.  On our most recent trip, we sort of forgot about this when it came to cooking.  We didn’t have parents signed up, and two parents ended up making every meal!  As one of those parents, it got exhausting.  We should have had people sign up and share responsibility.

Plan Down Time

As I noted above, there are lots of scheduled activities at many cub scout camping trips.  These are important and can teach great skills.  But, some down time is necessary as well.  Kids need a chance to rest or find other things that they want to do.  During some of our down time, we had some kids sit and play board games.  Other kids found a gaga ball pit and got a game going.

Pack Extra Shoes and Socks

There are a lot of outdoor activities.  Kids need dry shoes.  Kids will inevitably find a way to make their shoes wet.  Have extra shoes and socks.  Trust me on this.

Enjoy The Experience

Parents are busy keeping an eye on everything, and getting the kids to their next activity on time.  If not that, then it seems there’s something going on with regards to eating.  It’s sometimes hard to stand back and enjoy it, but make sure you do.  There were times I just stood back and watched the kids for a few minutes.  I watched kids that didn’t really know each other share in a cool game.  A kid that was not doing well at something would get encouragement from a fellow scout.  Watching the kids interact and form bonds was really cool.  Don’t miss it.

These are just a few cub scout camping tips I’ve come up with.  The biggest tip, though, is to have fun and make sure your scouts are having fun.  That’s really the biggest goal.

Readers, do you have any cub scout camping tips or similar tips you could share?  Please share in the comments below.  Thanks for reading.

8 Tips For Newlyweds In Debt

If you’re a recent or upcoming newlywed, congratulations!  This is an exciting time, of course, and there’s so much ahead!  You’ve got many things to look forward to.  However, if you’re like many newlyweds, debt is a part of your life.  Nobody likes debt, but most of us have it.  Here are some tips for newlyweds in debt.

Be Honest

Hopefully, by now, you know everything there is to know about each others finances.  But, if you don’t, it’s never too late.  Make sure you both come clean about all of your debt.  You have to know where you’re starting from.

Rank Your Debt

Newlyweds in debt should make it a goal to get out of debt, or reduce it as much as possible.  Once you have all of your debts listed, start ranking them.  Figure out which ones you would like to get rid of first.  A variety of factors can tie into these decisions.  Do you have some debts with small balances that you can get out of the way easily? Are there high interest rate debts?  Or, do you owe money to family that you’d like to pay back?  Each couple will rank their debts differently, but it’s important to have a plan.

Create A Budget

Once you’re married, it’s important to create a budget.  If you’ve never done a budget, the first step is to simply track your spending.  Make sure you know where every dollar that you spend is going.  Also, understand every dollar that’s coming in.  Then, you can make a budget based on this information.  Sometimes you’ll have to adjust your budget as seasonal changes can create variances throughout the year.  The idea is to have money left over that you can use to pay down your debt faster.

Cut Spending

After you’re in tune with your budget, look at ways you can cut spending.  Every dollar you don’t spend is money you can allocate toward your debt.  Can you go out to eat less?  What about not having drinks while out for dinner?  Could you make your coffee at home?  A few dollars here and there may not seem like much, but it adds up quickly.

Increase Your Income

While cutting spending can free up money, so can bringing more money home!  Work hard at your job.  Apply for promotions.  Look for new opportunities.  In addition to your regular job, look for side hustles.  Can you tutor? Would you enjoy driving for Uber or Lyft now and then?  Can you house sit or clean a house or two?   When you have extra money, throw it right to accelerating your debt payments.

 Have An Emergency Fund

Before you attack debt, make sure you have $1,000 set aside for unexpected costs.  It may be tempting to put every dollar to debt, but you need a cushion.  Life throws things at you, and if you have an emergency fund there, you won’t have to worry about adding more debt to your life should something unexpected happen.

Don’t Ignore Retirement

You may be tempted to put every dollar you can toward debt, even if you forsake retirement savings.  I would advise against that.  Even if you put just a couple percent of your paycheck toward retirement, it’s building a good habit for a lifetime of savings.  More importantly, if your employer offers a match, make sure you contribute at least the amount necessary to get the full match.  Otherwise, you’re leaving money on the table.

Look Ahead

Newlyweds in debt may find themselves with a great plan if they follow the steps above.  However, it’s important to look ahead.  Make sure you understand where you think you’ll be in a few years time.  If you plan on starting a family, have a plan on how that will impact your finances.  These decisions could alter the priorities you set earlier.  You may find you’ll balance things out differently if your long term and short term goals diverge, which they probably will.

These are just a few tips I have for newlyweds in debt.  Will they get you out of debt instantly? No.  It’s often a long road.  But, the point is to make progress, and these tips will hopefully help.

Kids And Money: Things My Children Have Learned

It is so fun watching kids learn, isn’t it?  Our kids are nine and seven, and they learn new things each day.  Even during the summer, they learn lots of new things.  As a personal finance blogger, seeing kids and money connect is satisfying to watch. My wife talk about money with them and explain many of the basics, but many things they figure out on their own.

We went on a recent camping trip, and it stood out how much they’ve learned. Of course, many of these things they wouldn’t be able to verbalize, but as a parent, it hit me that they are building an understanding.  Here are a few money lesson I have seen our kids figure out.

Work For Your Money

Our kids have enjoyed visiting the park stores this summer.  When camping, many campgrounds have small stores.  They often sell ice cream, candy, and basic supplies.  Our kids love going in their and want to buy small items.  They’ve figured out that if they do some extra work around the campground, they can sometimes earn money.  Picking up sticks for starting fires is a popular activity.  We’ve not run out so far this summer!

Save For Costly Items

Our kids typically earn a dollar apiece for their work around the campsite.  Sometimes this is enough for what they want.  Other times, they want something that costs more.  So, they’ve learned the concept of saving up for bigger items.

Better Items (Sometimes) Cost More

Kids have learned that not all candy costs the same. Sometimes, the premium stuff (or what they consider premium) is more than other stuff.  They learn to make choices.  They’re also learning to differentiate and also to form their own opinions.

Working Together Can Pay Off

The kids went to one store where small bags of candy were a dollar each.  Then, they saw that they were two for $1.50.  They figured out that if they agreed to each get a bag, they would pay less.  Seeing each of them walk away with that extra quarter was pretty cool!

You Have To Make Choices

That first time the kids walked into a store with some money in their hands, their eyes sparkled!  Oh, the possibilities!  But it didn’t take them long to realize that they had to make choices.  They didn’t have enough for the haul they wanted.  It’s amusing to see them walk around and discuss their options.  Picking out the right treat is serious business for kids!

Look For A Sale Sticker

They were pretty excited once when they came back having got an item on sale.  A toy that was normally $2 was on sale for $1.  And, they didn’t have to do anything special like pool their money.  They learn to watch out for sales stickers.  If it’s something they like, they realize they can get more for their money.

You Pay For Convenience

Our kids love candy bars.  Of course they do!  But, they know that their favorite candy bar isn’t always the same price.  It can be $1 in one store, $1.25 in a vending machine, and up to $2 in a park store.  Why?  Much of it has to do with convenience.  Park stores charge more because they’re offering the convenience to buy things without having to leave.  The kids have learned that if they want something there, they may be paying more.  They are figuring out that sometimes waiting and buying their candy ‘in town’ is a more economical option.  Of course, sometimes they choose to pay more, because they want candy now!

Taxes Suck

The first few times that my kids had to pay sales tax was eye opening.  It really didn’t make sense why they would hand over $2 for a $1.50 item, and only get 41 cents back.  Where did the other nine cents go?  Sales tax!  They’re now getting to the point where they expect it.  But, they still don’t like it!  Since nobody likes paying taxes, I guess they’ve figured out that lesson early! Kids and money lessons don’t always leave smiles on their faces!

It’s really cool to see our kids learn about money.  We’ve started making sure to bring them a few dollars on each trip.  To me, it’s an investment in their money education.

Readers, how do your kids learn about money?  Do you have any kids and money learning stories to share?  Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below.  Thanks for reading.