10 Free Things To Do On A Day Off

If you have a day off, you might be looking for something to do.  But, not everything has to cost money.  Sometimes you can find free things to do that give you as much satisfaction as things that cost money.  That’s a bonus, plus you have money in your pocket.  Who doesn’t love that!

Here are some free things to do on a day off.

popcorn movie free things
Watching a favorite movie is one of many free things to do.

Watch An Old Movie

If the weather doesn’t present you the opportunity to leave the house, find some entertainment.  Nothing is better than an old movie that you haven’t watched for awhile.  Pop it in, grab a snack, and enjoy some comfort time!

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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.

Build-A-Bear Did Literally Everything Wrong

By now, any parent has likely heard about the Build-A-Bear fiasco that unfolded earlier today. They were offering a Pay Your Age day where any kid up to the age of 14 could build a bear and would only pay their age.  Pretty cool!   Except the whole thing went belly up before it even started.

My wife told me about it because she went.  As did, it seems, half the entire world.  My kids didn’t get bears.  As was the case for a majority of the people that showed up.  You had a lot of angry parents, disappointed kids, and overwhelmed workers.  It’s all over the news.  Social media coverage is everywhere, and most is very negative.

So, what went wrong? Well, it was really everything, but here’s a few highlights.

Too Good Of A Deal

Build-A-Bear is pretty expensive.  You can pay upwards of $100 for a fully outfitted customized bear.  So, the Pay Your Age is a fantastic deal.  You’re getting probably anywhere between 50-95% off the base price.  It’s a fantastic deal.

But that’s the problem, it was too fantastic of a deal.  When you offer that great of a deal, everyone wants to come.  My wife talked to people that had driven 90 minutes from their home.  The deal was that good.

Way Overpublicized

I’ve been seeing this deal all over the place for the last few days.  I saw it on Facebook.  News articles promoted it.  The deal was on the local news.  It was literally everywhere.

Normally, getting the word out is a great move except when it cause chaos.  Like what happened at every mall that has a Build-A-Bear location hours ago.

Misunderstanding Their Own Product

Here’s the thing.  These promos can sometimes work.  Deals like this come up on Black Friday at every store everywhere.  And, rarely do they lead to the chaos that you had today.  But this deal was doomed from the start at Build-A-Bear.  Why?  Because the product itself can’t support it.

Have you ever gone in and built one of these bears?  They take time.  It’s not like when a customer wants a TV that’s half off and can just grab one, pay for it, and leave, even if they have to wait in line.  This promo involved kids having to stay there and build the bear.  This process can take a long time.

Now, they did seem to anticipate this and offered that people could buy an unstuffed bear, and come back and do the rest later.  But, this was not a well thought out alternative.  Kids want things now.  It’s just how kids are.  So, I’m sure most kids wanted to build their bears today.  Plus, remember all those people that drove 90 minutes.  Do you think they wanted to trek out another time to stuff the bear?  Probably not.

The head honchos that planned this seemed to ignore the intricacies of their own product.

Big miss.

Long Term Fallout

It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Build-A-Bear.  When promotions with good intentions go wrong, it can hurt a company long term.  This promotion looks like it was an utter fiasco.  Their Public Relations staff will likely be putting in some long hours over the next few days.  It’ll be interesting to see what they come up with.

Readers, did you stand in line for the Build-A-Bear promo?  What was your experience?  Do you think that Build-A-Bear can just shrug it off? Or will they have to deal with long term fallout?  Let me know what you think in the comments below.

18 Items To Take To The Beach For A Great Day

Summer is in full swing.  If you haven’t been to the beach, now’s the time!  The water is still cold here in Michigan due to a late start to spring.  Still, that doesn’t stop people from heading out and having fun.  Here are some items to take to the beach for a fantastic day!

Clothing And Gear

  • Swimsuits.   Wear them or take them.  Just make sure you have them.
  • Towels.  These are definitely an essential for drying off or laying on.
  • Sunscreen. The sun is hot.  Make sure you don’t end up with a burn.  Take plenty of sunscreen.  We like both lotion and spray.
  • Bug spray.  Every once in a while, the bugs like to enjoy the beach, too.  Keep this and use only if needed.
  • Sunglasses.  Protect your eyes and avoid squinting with a nice pair of shades.
  • Blanket.  The sand is great but it gets in places you don’t want it to get.  Protect yourself with a beach blanket.
  • Flip Flops.  The sand gets hot.  Make your walk up and down easy on the feet with a pair of flip flops.
  • Shirt / Cover-Up.  You might need something to throw on without changing.
  • Change of Clothes.  The day at the beach must end eventually.  Nobody likes getting into a car sopping wet. Have some clothes available to change into.

Relaxing Time

  • Beach chairs.  We’ve got a couple of beach chairs that are easy to carry and don’t weigh much. These are a must have.
  • Sun umbrella.  You can get an umbrella to clip onto your chair or one to stick in the sand. Make sure it’s within reach, though, in case those winds off the water kick up.
  • Cooler / Drinks.  Bring plenty to drink, including water to stay hydrated in the hot sun.
  • Snacks.  Grab some stuff that’s easy to access and won’t make a mess.  Nothing that melts!
  • Something to read.  Have some fun on the beach but take some time to relax.  Bring a book, magazine, or Kindle.

Water and Fun

  • Toys.  Kids and adults like digging in the sand, right? Some shovels, buckets, and balls to toss are always a great find.
  • Floaties. There are few things more relaxing than floating around in the water.
  • Water Shoes.  If the beach is rocky, a pair of water shoes is a must-have to keep your feet happy.
  •  Money.  To go to the snack stand and purchase ice cream, of course!

If you’re heading to the beach this summer, have fun.  Remember, be safe and bring along the right stuff to make it the best trip ever!  Readers, are you heading to the beach this year?  What’s your favorite beach memory?

The Importance of Small Wins

My son enjoys playing sports, but he isn’t a top athlete.  He likes playing more for the fun and the experience.  The teamwork helps as well.  He’s been in a few leagues with a few different sports.  Unfortunately, most of the teams haven’t done that well.  Still, I’m here to tell you that the small wins are important.

Past Leagues

The past couple of teams that he played on haven’t done so well.  Last summer, he played baseball and I think they won one game for the year.  They were mostly players who had just gotten started, and a lot of the other teams had been in place for a couple of years.

Over the winter he played basketball and they never won a game.  Unfortunately, they played in a league where, again, a lot of the teams had played together for a couple of years.  He seemed to be stuck on the ‘new player’ team.  They tried hard and did their best.  Still, you could tell that the losing was a bit discouraging, for my son as well as the other players.

A New Start

This year, my son asked to play baseball again.  He’s now old enough where it’s a kid pitch league.  Last year, the coaches did the pitching.

This has been a game changer.

When the kids started practicing, none of the kids had prior pitching experience.  However, one of the kids turned out to be a natural.  Right away, you could just tell he had the control to pitch well.

The teams we’ve played have all struggled to find a similar quality pitcher.  Our team has taken a lot of walks.  That’s one thing about the first year of a kid pitch league, hitting is scarce.  But, our pitcher gets it over the plate most of the time so there are a lot of strikeouts.

As a result, our pitcher has helped lead the team to a 3-1 record!

Three wins in a row followed by a loss where they still cut a nine run deficit down to three!

The kids love it.

Keeping Expectations In Check

Now, as adults, we are helping the kids celebrate.  But, we’re also keeping things in perspective.  Things are probably going to change, because the pitcher will be going on vacation and is going to miss four games.

I have a feeling those are going to be a lot tougher games!  That will definitely test the kids resolve and make them play.

Five Benefits Of Small Wins

Either way, these small wins that they’ve gotten in these first games are huge.  And, I realize that they’re very important.

  • A taste of victory.  Kids shouldn’t win all the time, but I think that having a taste of victory is important.  It makes kids feel good to win.
  • Confidence.  Our first few practices were tough.  Most of the kids hadn’t played together.  Some were pretty new to baseball.  But, these wins have made the kids believe more in themselves.  That leads to them trying harder and taking that extra step.
  • Teamwork.  The pitcher is definitely the glue that holds the team together.  But, even outside of that, you see the kids work better as a team.  They’ve won so they believe in each other.  There’s less hesitation and more trust.  It’s great to see.
  • Leadership.  Our pitcher has grown into the leader of the team.  He knows that people look up to him, and the kids have somewhat of a role model.  I think that kids around that age (mostly 9-10) need this.
  • Memories.  Kids are going to remember winning.  When memories of childhood fade away and only certain ones remain, these will have a chance to stick.  That’s pretty awesome.

This has been a fun season so far.  The kids still have seven more games to play.  No matter how many wins they end up with, having these three in hand has been great for all of them.  And, I won’t lie, it’s pretty awesome for the parents, as well.

Readers, what small victories have you or your kids celebrated lately?