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How to Avoid a Post-Spring Break Debt Load

It’s an image in everyone’s head. The spring break escape, flying off to warm weather destinations or driving to the nearest big city — keeping your kids entertained for their week off with a big trip. But, wait…before you finalize your itinerary, ask yourself one important question. Will this trip add to my debt load?

While this might be the ideal spring break for some families, economic challenges and a rising load of household debt means many of today’s parents with young kids are stretching their dollar — not looking for ways to increase their debt load.

Spring break can create a host of challenges for families on a tight budget. You want to keep your kids busy and happy, but money is too tight for vacations or expensive day camps.

This is a common problem for Gen X parents with school-age kids. A recent Ipsos poll found that this generation has the most consumer debt in Canada, owing an average of over $10,000 on loans and credit cards.

Many factors are at work here: a generational “sandwich” between kids and parents, large mortgages, high household debt, and a rising cost of living. With interest rates going up since 2017, it’s not getting easier either.

Which brings us back to spring break. Last year, our spring break spending poll found that low-income parents didn’t expect to spend much less on activities than those earning between $60k and $100k. A surprising 40 per cent of parents said they would need at least a month to pay off their spring break debt.

If you’re tightening budgets, like many Gen X Canadian parents are, planning for spring break should include a few money lessons for kids. Yes, this can help you manage your kids’ expectations, but it also strengthens their financial literacy. Your kids may even end up with a better understanding of your family’s financial challenges, and that’s a good thing.

Here are a couple of ways to cut back spending and find teaching opportunities for children.

Challenge your kids with a spring break allowance

If you prefer a DIY approach to spring break, giving your kids an allowance can provide a teachable moment and a good challenge. Depending on their age, give your child a set amount to spend and tell them they have to make it last for a week. They choose how and when they want to spend it — whether it’s seeing a movie, renting a video game, or buying a toy. Encourage them to supplement their allowance with free activities, such as going to the park or the library.

To help with this, you can use the Youth Budget Sheet from Make It Count.

Teach financial gratitude

In this blog post from Parents Canada, money coach and mom Lama Farran includes some tips on teaching “financial gratitude.” Every night, she suggests parents ask their kids to write down five things that they’re grateful for. This helps change mindsets from “I don’t have this” to “I’m happy with what I already have.”

Comparing with friends, neighbours, and other family members is so common with young kids. Teaching gratitude and understanding can help parents re-adjust how their children view possessions and experiences.

Starting to create these good money habits for your kids might impact how they view a debt load in the future. It also has great benefits in the present, though. You fill their spring break with cheaper activities and provide a few good money lessons in the process.

Have you ever used a family outing or a school break as a financial literacy lesson for your kids? Share your idea on social media by using the hashtags #DebtSolutions, #ParentingTips, and #FinLit.

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