Agency: Credit Counselling Service of Sault Ste. Marie & District

Topic: Holiday Costs

Phone: 254-1424

Date: 06/99

"The Hidden Cost of Holidays"

Have you ever experienced "holiday hangover"? Itís the sinking feeling you might get a few weeks after your summer vacation if one of the things that you have relaxed is your spending control. Unlike the effects of other overindulgence, holiday hangover probably wonít affect you "the morning after." It tends to kick in with the arrival of the first post-vacation credit card bill ó usually about the same time your tan starts to fade.

With careful planning, however, it is possible to avoid those unpleasant post-holiday surprises. "The first map to pull out for any holiday, is the financial plan" says Greg Elsby of Credit Counselling Services of Sault Ste. Marie & District. "The key to determining what kind of a vacation you can afford means adding up all the costs ó and many are hidden." You may have a rough idea of the costs of this summerís holiday, but you should also make sure to consider some of these not-so-apparent expenses:

When travelling by car, donít forget to include the costs of gasoline, meals and accommodation en route. Remember that in some locations, you pay more per gallon for your gasoline when you buy it on credit. As for those rest and refreshment stops, taking a cooler along with your own snacks and drinks can help you to minimize the costs on the way.

Air travel includes not only your fare, but also insurance, taxes, and transport to and from the airport. One way to keep down the cost of transportation from your home is to pay a senior citizen or older teen to drive you. They will often be happy to earn extra cash, and it will likely be much less than the cost of a limo or leaving your car at a park and fly depot.

Hotel rooms are subject to considerable taxes, and often charge extra for parking. Make sure you include the full cost of accommodation in your budget. Look at the location of attractions you want to visit, relative to your hotel. It may make sense to stay a little further away and pay less for your accommodation. Also, donít forget to ask about discount rates to which you may be entitled.

Do some research on the cost of attractions you want to visit and budget accordingly. Find out what free events will take place while you are in town. Tourist boards for many cities will often provide coupons for specific attractions which can provide savings. You should also include in your budget a set amount for souvenirs and gifts.

Remember the cost of money, particularly if you are travelling outside of Canada. Exchange rates are only one part of the equation. There can be costs associated with purchasing travellersí cheques and there are often significant fees to cash the cheques if they are in a foreign currency. As well, you should be aware of the costs of using ATMs and Interac while abroad.

Donít neglect the costs of maintaining your home while you are away. Calculate the cost of boarding your pets and maintaining your garden etc. into your vacation budget. Remember too, your whole paycheque canít be dedicated to your holiday. Utility bills, mortgage or rent, insurance and taxes are among the many expenses that donít take a break.

You donít have to travel a distance to have a great vacation. Sault Ste. Marie & Algoma District offers many no or low cost attractions within driving distance such as the ACR tour train, lock tours, Agawa Pictograpghs, as well as countless places for camping, hiking, swimming, and boating. As well, involve the whole family in your plan. You may be surprised to find out that the things your children really want to do arenít that expensive.

"One of the best ways to have the vacation you really want without negative financial after-effects is to plan all year long," says Mr. Elsby. "Know what you want to do, research what the real costs are and, if it appears to be achievable, develop a savings plan to set aside enough money to pay for the holiday when the time comes.

"The earlier you start," says Mr. Elsby, "and the more disciplined you are, the better your opportunity to relax during your vacation ó and after."

"Helping you get out and stay out of debt" is a series of articles provided by member agencies of the Ontario Association of Credit Counselling Services. All agencies provide a range of no or low cost services to help people solve their financial problems and improve their consumer and money management skills. For more information about credit counselling services in Sault Ste. Marie, please contact Credit Counselling Services of Sault Ste. Marie & District, 298 Queen Street East, Suite 2, Sault Ste. Marie, ON, P6A 1Y7 or visit our website at