Editor’s note: The economics of the empty nest

September 9, 2012

I’m going through one of those transitional phases in life: I’ve become an empty nester.

It’s a part-time gig for now, with two boys off at college. The biggest change is not the one I expected — figuring out how to spend my free time. Rather, it is adjusting to the economics of my new life circumstance.

On the plus side is my grocery bill. I never quite appreciated what it would mean to no longer load the weekly shopping cart up with three gallons of milk and whatever was on sale in the bulk aisle. Now, we’re just eating for two, and that’s far less than half of four.

Cash flow, though, is another matter. I now have these enormous bills to pay — for tuition, books and room and board. Too bad I can’t front-load my paycheck, too.

I’m adjusting. Last week for the Labor Day weekend, my wife and I decided to continue the family tradition and spent the weekend up at Hershey, Pa. The trip has always included one day at the amusement park, with a sneak preview the night before. With kids, we were always racing around, getting to the park just as it opened and bolting for the back of the park to maximize the number of attractions we could ride.

Now as empty nesters, we were in no hurry. On our way to the park, we took a detour to Hershey Gardens, and then had a leisurely lunch at the nearby Hershey Hotel — because we could. We strolled into the park around 2 p.m., and didn’t mind navigating the longer lines.

I was feeling pretty content until I did the math. On top of our $41 tickets to Hershey Park, I added the $11 -a-person admission to the gardens and the $42 tab at the restaurant. And then my wife reminded me that we had only managed six rides; that came to $6.83 a turn.

I may be learning to fill the time, but I’m having no problem emptying the wallet.

Dan Beyers is the founding editor of Capital Business, The Washington Post’s go-to source for news about the region’s business community. Subscribe to our weekly newspaper and check out our daily reporting in The Washington Post and online at www.capbiz.biz. There, you can also sign up for our daily e-newsletter offering a roundup of news, tips and more.
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