Finance,  Life$tyle,  Personal Finance

17 Times Clark Griswold Overspent During Christmas Vacation

Its that time of year again Sparky!  Decorations appear, snow covers the leaves that I was too lazy to rake, and overspending is in full swing.  

The media creates a ton of pressure to provide extravagant meals, host lavish parties, and give out the nicest gifts. 

Tis the season, after all.

Then expenses crop up that you didn’t even see coming!

The other night while watching “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” I noticed Clark Griswold overspends quite a bit due to unexpected expenses.

And I got an idea.  An awful idea.  A wonderful, awful idea.

Being a movie/personal finance nerd I decided to keep a list of all the unforeseen costs and then publish it in a blog post for your enjoyment.

SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!  Do not read any further if you have not seen this movie and plan on watching it.


  • This post is meant to be fun.  Some prices were researched and others were guesstimated.  They may not be entirely accurate.  Don’t be a grinch and enjoy!
  • All Prices are calculated using today’s dollars.  I’m not figuring out the conversion from 1989.
  • Not all items in the film made the final cut.  The neighbor’s window/stereo system, personal injury by Snot, and the car wrecks caused by the sled incident were never proven in a court of law as Clark’s fault.  It is for this reason that I left them off the list.

1) Body Damage to the Family Vehicle: $1,600

In the opening scene, Clark Griswold is driving with his family to obtain the “perfect” Christmas tree.

While en-route he angers some other drivers, engages in road rage, and launches the car over a snowbank into the tree-lot.

The station wagon lands hard and incurs minor body damage.  I imagine the car would also need a realignment.

All things considered, I’m probably being generous with this estimate.  Anytime you have a car worked on it’s expensive!

2) Fine from the National Park Service: $500

Instead of using the tree lot, where he parked, Clark marches his family out into the wilderness.

As someone who has endured many of these sappy family outings, let me just say that we always had to pay for the tree.

You can’t just walk out onto someone’s property and start lumberjacking it up.  Griswold owes either the park service or a property owner some cash.

3) Two Windows & A Lamp: $254

For those who may not be aware, live Christmas tree branches are often tied up with a string to make transporting them easier.

A common sight in the Midwest during Christmas time.

When cutting the string to release the tree Clark overestimates the girth and as a result, two windows and a lamp are destroyed when the branches come down.

Off to the home improvement store…

4) New Gutters with hardware: $20

Ladder safety is paramount when working in slippery conditions.  Clark Griswold, however, never misses an opportunity to defy common sense.

While working alone on the Christmas light display Griswold finds himself hanging onto the house’s front gutter system.

He then proceeds to tear down the aforementioned gutters.

Another trip to Menards or Lowes during the holidays can be quite stressful!

5) New Drywall, Tape, & Mud: $26

While being a good husband and hiding his wife’s Christmas present in the attic Clark steps through the ceiling.

I’m assuming he will need at least a 4×4 sheet of drywall, tape, and mud to fix the holes he left.

I didn’t estimate paint because I know Clark has some of that lying around in the garage.

6) Utilities: $300

Lighting up your house so it looks like an airport runway may seem like a good idea, but the electricity cost is going to skyrocket.

We also have to figure in a few extra bucks for supporting Cousin Eddie’s RV which I doubt is very eco-friendly.

7) Food: $160

The Griswolds end up hosting eight additional people for a couple of days before Christmas.

Let’s assume, for this example, that the average meal cost per person is $5.

Even if they only provide 2 out of 3 meals this ends up becoming a considerable expense!

8) Walmart Trip with Cousin Eddie: $150

Cousin Eddie is down on his luck and, while he isn’t much for charity, Clark did ask…

Get yourself somethin’ real nice!

Notable expenses during this trip include 3+ bags of dog food, presents for Eddie’s kids, and a gift for Clark from Cousin Eddie…paid for by Clark.

9) Christmas Dinner: $280

14 people eating a full 3-course meal…that gets pricey!  Luckily the meal turns out gooo-uud.

10) New Armchair & Living Room Carpet: $1,360

When a cat burns to death underneath an armchair there are some items that must be replaced.

To be honest, I might go with hardwood after this incident.  And probably avoid cats as well.

11) New Drapes: $24

Uncle Lewis loves his cigars but accidentally incinerates the drapes and the tree while striking a match.

To be fair Uncle Lewis is not entirely to be blamed.  In one of the more memorable scenes, Eddie can be seen in a bathrobe emptying his RV’s septic system into a storm sewer.

The gas that is created by this ignites when Lewis strikes his match…ergo burnt tree and drapes.

12) New Neighbors Window: $97

Since the tree has been destroyed, Clark goes out to the front yard and cuts down a new one (assuming it is his).

In the process, the tree knocks out the neighbor’s window while they are home.  Since they can prove/saw that Clark did it, he is on the hook for the money…

but I probably wouldn’t ask him for it at this point.

He has a chainsaw and a crazy look in his eyes.

13) Newel Post Replacement: $80

Clark noticed a wobbly newel post and decided to fix it.

14) New Interior Kitchen Door: $115

A squirrel happens to live in the tree that Clark cut down.  The squirrel jumps out of the tree once it is inside the home and begins running around.

Cousin Eddie’s dog, Snot, pursues the rodent and runs through a kitchen door…

15) New China Hutch & China: $520

Snot continues trying to sleigh the squirrel and knocks over the china hutch.

The hutch is somehow full of China, even though the Griswolds just finished using it for Christmas dinner.

16) 4 New Windows: $388

After a brief kidnapping mistake, swat teams storm the Griswolds house and burst through four windows.

Even though the city should pay for the damage they caused I wouldn’t count on it.

17) New Santa and Reindeer Set: $200

Uncle Lewis gives Clark one last kick in the chestnuts when he lights his cigar near the sewer mentioned in item #11.

The gas ignites and explodes, sending the plastic Santa and Reindeer set into orbit.

Grand Total (Drumroll Please): $6,074

Phew.  That’s a lot of extra money to spend.

Luckily Clark’s Christmas bonus should cover it…

Merry Christmas!

Thanks all for reading, and to all a good night.

P.S.  If you want to see a line item of every expense you can here:)