As the father of two school-aged children I look forward to spring break every year. The weather is warming up and life slows down (no morning rush, bagged lunches or missed school buses). Even better, spring break is one week where the entire country seems to agree that it’s socially acceptable for you to be away from your desk and spending time with your family. Many Canadian families are pining for a week’s vacation in warmer climes (ours included). Whether your family is escaping to someplace warm or relaxing at home, here are a couple of tips and tricks to avoid a margarita-sized credit card hangover when the spring break is over.
- Plan your spring break with a budget in mind
A recent Ipsos Reid poll conducted for BDO Canada identified that 61 per cent of parents do not have a budget for spring break. Before the week arrives, sit down and plan for the extra expenses. If you are traveling outside of Canada, find out the costs of foreign exchange. How many stars are you expecting from the hotel that you book? Is there a meal plan? If you decide to take advantage of a last-minute deal on a cheap getaway, it’s tempting to put everything on your credit card. Without a formal budget and a plan to pay off the card quickly, that cheap getaway can quickly escalate to a bigger expense. Interest charges on unpaid credit card balances will accumulate quickly.
- Search out community-based free events
It seems like the whole continent is on spring break in or around the same time. Whether you’re planning a getaway or a staycation, search the community news online for your location. Look for free concerts, skating parties, community-sponsored events, and attractions offering spring break specials. Often a family can fill a day with free events leaving room in the budget for a dinner out, a lift ticket at the ski-hill or a movie and some popcorn.
- Beware of the internet and FOMO ( fear of missing out)
I am guilty of this too, but I believe the internet and social media “friends” often drive budget-busting decisions. Who isn’t a touch jealous of friends and family posting selfie after selfie of the white sand between their toes? Be mindful of the glossy sales pitches for fun in the sun on the internet. These are designed to entice you to spend regardless of your ability to pay. Pay for the trip in cash if you can. If you use credit, pay it off quickly — within a month or two is best.
- Pack light to avoid extra fees
If you are flying, try to avoid overstuffing that suitcase. In fact, try to avoid the baggage fees altogether by paring things down to just a carry on. Although I do appreciate all of the possible outings and outfits you might need for a weekend or a week away, paying excess baggage fees or overweight fees just to squeeze in that sport coat on the off chance you might eat in a restaurant requiring a dinner jacket is a quick way to bust the budget. Pack light. If you need extra t-shirts or an emergency pair of shorts there is a Wal-Mart in every town in Florida that can fix you up for a lot less than a $50 baggage fee.
So there you have it, a short list of thoughts to avoid blowing the budget or derailing a debt repayment plan with excess spring break spending.
Jayson Stoppel is a Licensed Insolvency Trustee and Chartered Accountant with BDO First Call Debt Solutions. With over 15 years in practice, Jayson assists individuals, families and companies with financial difficulties in Thunder Bay and throughout Northwest Ontario. To reach Jayson by email: JStoppel@BDO.ca