March Break is just around the corner, and if you're like many Canadians, you're probably wondering how you're going to afford to pay for it.
Chances are, your credit cards are still smoldering from the holiday season (the average Canadian planned to spend $1,600 on Christmas cheer). Household budgets are stretched thin, and it may not come as a shock to learn that half of Canadians are living paycheque-to-paycheque.
But the calendar doesn't care about the state of your personal finances. March is here, and your school-aged children are about to enjoy a week (or two, depending on your school board) of free time.
It's possible that your kids may not care about the state of your personal finances, either. For them, March Break has nothing to do with budgets, mortgages, or credit card bills. March Break means fun.
Luckily, there's an easy way to save money, keep your children happy, and teach them a few life lessons too. Use the break as an opportunity to put your kids in the classroom of life by involving them in the March Break budgeting process. Here's how:
Time and money
Decide how much money you can reasonably spend on March Break - something that fits into a balanced household budget - and bust out the old Monopoly set. Give your children a stack of Monopoly money and explain that you need their help planning this year's March Break, and this is how much they are allowed to spend. Ironically, the fake money will teach them a very real lesson - money is finite.
Take a look at the calendar and tell your children that they need to think of some activities they would like to do during March Break, emphasizing that it must all fit into the budget. Get out a laptop or tablet and look up prices of cinema tickets, restaurant meals, and theme park fees. Your children will love choosing their own adventures.
Let your children know that if they come in under budget, they will be rewarded. Maybe there is a video game or action figure they have been eyeing; any money leftover could be used on a trip to the toy store.
This will push your children to seek value options, or better yet, free activities. However, you will need to remind them of the costs associated with free activities - a public skate might cost nothing, but they need to factor in the post-skate hot chocolate.
I did some research on some free or inexpensive activities for the major cities across Canada - there are lots of great things to do in Vancouver, Calgary, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, Moncton, Halifax, Charlottetown, and St. John's.
Good habits are priceless
Involving your children in the budgeting process doesn't have to stop when March Break ends. Re-introduce the concept when you are planning your summer vacation. When birthdays roll around, encourage your children to think carefully about how they want to spend the money they got from grandma and grandpa.
Money doesn't have to be a taboo topic at the kitchen table. Planting the seeds of financial literacy will set your children on the right path, and they are never too young to start.
Follow HuffPost Canada Blogs on Facebook