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Grandpa Moneybags And The Spring Break Trip

The following is the eighth story in the Grandpa Moneybags series. Created by Hurlow Wealth Management Group, Grandpa Moneybags is a fictional character who shares lessons that parents and grandparents can use to teach the next generation of wealth holders. This lesson is about budgeting and how to plan a vacation.

Grandpa Moneybags And The Spring Break Trip

by Theresa Claire, CFP®, CAP®

The drive to one of Chicago's western suburbs took almost four hours, but Charlie passed the time by listening to an audiobook his daughter Katie recommended. They both enjoyed All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, and over the holidays, Katie was surprised to hear Charlie had yet to read Cloud Cuckoo Land by the same author. Charlie's grandsons (Katie's boys) gave him a year audiobook subscription for Christmas. Half the present was the time they spent showing him how to use it and helping him download the first twelve books, one of which was Katie's recommendation. Now, almost three months later, he was finally getting a chance to listen to it, although the book was much different from Doerr's Pulitzer Prize-winning work, and he had yet to make up his mind whether he liked it or not. He did, however, look forward to discussing this novel with his daughter. Most of all, he was excited to talk to his grandsons about the books they had recommended. Charlie was skeptical about enjoying a series recommended by 11 and 13-year-old boys, but he kept an open mind, and much to his surprise, Legend, Prodigy, Champion, Rebel by Marie Lu did not disappoint.  

After listening to each book, he made a Facetime call to 13-year-old Keith on his iPad. 

"Hi, Grandpa!" Keith greeted warmly. 

"Hi Keith, I just finished reading, Legend. I couldn't believe the ending!" 

"I know, quite the shocker, huh?" 

"Is your brother around? I'd like to talk to him about it too." 


Grandpa heard a muffled voice in the background. 

"He'll be here in a minute. So what was your favorite part of the book?" 

For the next twenty minutes or so, Charlie and his grandsons engaged in a lively discussion about chase scenes, daring escapes, fighting, mystery uncovered, and of course, the shocking ending. At the end of the call, Charlie promised to finish book two over the next week and ring again on the following Sunday. Each week in January, Charlie held an engaging conversation with his grandsons. 

In February, the planning began for Spring Break. His daughter and son-in-law wanted to work during that week and save their vacation time, so Charlie agreed with pleasure to drive up to Downers Grove, Illinois and spend the week with his grandkids. So on the FaceTime call that first Sunday in February, Charlie gave the boys a budget of $500. That was the amount they could spend on all the activities they would do during the week. That included public transportation, tickets, food purchased at museums or ballparks, or other activities they decided to pursue.

The following Sunday, when Charlie called, Keith answered and said, "Oh hey, Grandpa," in a somber tone. 

Expecting the call, Bobby sat beside his brother and said cheerfully, "Hi, Grandpa." 

"Hi, boys. Keith, what's the matter?" 

"He's just upset because some of his friends teased him about you." Bobby chimed in. Keith elbowed his brother and looked at him warningly, shaking his head.

"Keith, talk to me. Did I do something to upset you?" Charlie felt genuine concern. 

Keith looked down. After a long pause, he started, "it's just that..."

Charlie waited silently for his grandson's words to come. 

"I told my friend Blaise about the plan, and his family is going to Mexico for Spring Break. All our friends are going someplace fun like Florida, or skiing, and..." Keith's voice trailed off. 

"Blaise called you Grandpa Cheapskate!" Bobby blurted

"Shut up, Bobby!" Keith shouted

"Wait, what happened?" Charlie asked.

Keith took a deep breath before continuing, "I was sitting at lunch with my friends Blaise, Cole, North, and Marshall. We were talking about our Spring Break plans, and I said you were giving us $500 to make a plan for activities hoping they would give me some ideas about what to do. Cole said that was not very much. Marshall agreed and said he could spend that in one day. Then Blaise said, 'don't you call him Grandpa Moneybags? More like Grandpa Coinpurse.' Then everyone started laughing and calling you names like Grandpa Tightwad or Grandpa Penny-Pincher. I told them to cut it out, but they just kept laughing and calling you more names."  

Charlie tried to conceal his smile while imagining the middle school cafeteria scene his grandson described. "Well, perhaps I under-budgeted the expenses we might incur during the week. I'll tell you what, you tell me what you want to do and present your budget next week. How does that sound?" 

Bobby was all smiles, but Keith hesitated. He looked away from the screen and seemed deep in thought. "What are the rules?" he finally asked. 

"Good question! I'm willing to drive to a destination up to four hours away, but I want to spend at most two days in a hotel. Also, I would like to spend at least one day seeing some sights in Chicago, and the opening day for Major League Baseball is March 30, so I would like to take you to a ball game. I don't care who is playing." 

The grandsons agreed and spent the next week planning. 

When Keith answered the FaceTime call the following week, he grinned from ear to ear. "Hi, Grandpa Moneybags! We designed a great vacation! You're gonna love it!"

"Wait for me," Charlie heard Bobby yell. "You weren't supposed to start without me. It's my plan too." 

"Don't worry, Bobby," Charlie reassured his grandson. "You didn't miss a thing. I'm very excited to hear what you both decided we should do. So let's hear it!"

"Ok, Saturday morning, we eat breakfast at home. Mom suggested we pack a cooler with a lunch of ham and cheese sandwiches, clementines, granola bars, and water bottles. She said that would come out of her budget, so we won't count that cost."

"Then we drive to St. Louis to see the Cardinals play at Busch Stadium. The directions say it will take 4 hours and 2 minutes to get there, but that's close enough to four hours, right?" Keith pleaded. 

"Yes, especially for baseball," Charlie said reassuringly. 

"Ok, the game starts at 2:15 pm, so we can get there early enough to take a ride up to the top of the Arch. That'll cost $49 for the three of us. 

"The arch is on my bucket list." Bobby chimed in.

"You have a bucket list, Bobby? What does that mean?" Charlie wondered, thinking of all his elderly friends ticking off their bucket list items before they kicked the bucket. 

"You know, the things I want to do once in my life. One and done." Bobby's defined.

"Ok, thanks for the clarification, Bobby. So we drive to St. Louis, get on the Arch, have a picnic lunch, then go to the game. Sounds like an excellent first day." 

"It's not over yet, Grandpa." Bobby chimed in, waving his hands, "just wait." 

Keith glared at Bobby for his annoying interruption, then resumed his itinerary. "Yeah, so the baseball tickets are around $50-$60 each, depending on where we sit. We could get really cheap seats for $17, but I didn't think you'd want to sit in the nosebleed section." 

"You are correct. That price sounds reasonable for good seats."

After the game, we'll drive back up North, stopping somewhere for dinner, since we'll probably have snacks at the ballpark, can we budget $100 for food that day?" 

"You tell me, guys. It's your vacation. I will have ultimate veto power, but I want you to have the best week." 

"Ok, so that night, we'll stay at Grand Bear Resort. It costs $176.49 per night, which includes tax. We will stay there two nights. On Sunday morning, we hike down to Grand Bear Falls."

"There are some fishing spots too!" Bobby interrupted. "Do you want to go fishing, Grandpa?" 

"A couple of hours of fishing sounds wonderful," Charlie responded. 

"Anyway, back to the plan," Keith continued. At 1:00 pm, we'll get on the narrated wildlife trolley tour through Buffalo Rock State Park. That takes 90 minutes. We may even see some bald eagles. Those cost $30 each, but it includes lunch. 

After the trolly ride, we'll go back to the Grand Bear Resort, they have an awesome indoor water park, but they also have a lazy river, so if you don't want to go down the slides and stuff. It's included in the price of the hotel. There's a little cafe in the water park, so we'll eat dinner there. We couldn't find the prices, but it's like hot dogs and stuff, so I figured maybe $40 for dinner. 

The next morning, we will check out of the hotel and drive to Matthiessen State Park. We hike for a few hours. There are some cool caves and an incredible waterfall I want to see. After lunch, we hike back out and drive home. 

Then on Tuesday, we'll start exploring Chicago. The 5-Day Pass will give us admission to more than 25 attractions. It costs $707 for the three of us. I figured we could decide what we will do each day over the next few weeks, but there are many options." 

"I want to go to the Aquarium," Bobby said. 

"Then we should go to the aquarium," Charlie added.  

"Ahem," Bobby cleared his throat. "Back to business, I calculated parking downtown depends on where you park, so I estimated $100 for parking, plus $75 per day for food downtown. 

Here are my totals: 

  • Gas $125
  • Ballgame tickets $165
  • The Arch $49 
  • Two Nights at the Resort $352.98
  • Trolley tour $90
  • 5-Day Chicago Pass $707 
  • Food $515
  • Parking $100

Plus, mom said to add 10% for the three T's, miscellaneous things like tolls, tips, or tax, so that's $210.39.

That brings the grand total to $2,314.38. Well, what do you think, Grandpa Moneybags?"

"I am impressed with your plan! Wow, boys, you really put a great deal of thought into this. I can see how $500 was certainly not enough for the week. Do you both agree that this is what you want to do?" 

Keith and Bobby nodded hopefully. 

"Before I commit, I want to take a week to investigate. And maybe you'll change your mind during that time. Keith, can you email me your notes? I assure you that I will have my decision for you next week. Is that ok?" Charlie asked, knowing full well that he would not disappoint his grandchildren. He just wanted to build the anticipation a little and not seem to give in too easily.

"I'm not going to change my mind." Bobby insisted. 

"I'll send you the itinerary and budget," Keith promised. "But I'm not going to change my mind either. We want to do these things, but if it's too expensive..." Keith's voice trailed off, then under his breath, "Grandpa Penny-Pincher."

"I heard that, Weisenheimer! Charlie smiled. "I'll talk to you boys next Sunday."  

Charlie and his grandsons finalized their Spring Break plans over the next few weeks. As he pulled up to his daughter's house he slowed the car and took a deep breath. He stepped out into the clear, cool night and could see the stars above through the trees lining the neighborhood street. Of all the trips he'd taken in his life, this one he knew would be the most special. Not because of the destination but because his grandsons planned it for him. It was one of the greatest gifts he had ever received.  

Services offered through Hurlow Wealth Management Group, Inc., a Registered Investment Adviser. Hurlow Wealth Management Group, Inc. does not provide tax, legal or accounting advice.  Advisory services are only offered to clients or prospective clients where Hurlow Wealth Management Group, Inc. and its representatives are properly licensed or exempt from licensure.  Past performance is no guarantee of future returns. Investing involves risk and possible loss of principal capital. No advice may be rendered by Hurlow Wealth Management Group, Inc. unless a client service agreement is in place.  
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