The Life and Times of John and Jane Doe is about a mild-mannered couple and their two primary-school-aged kids -- Jill and Joey --who live about a half-hour transit ride from downtown Yourville. Jane works in a large corporation near the Financial District and John runs a home-based IT consultancy firm. They're comfortable but like most Canadian families, they're dealing with the same kind of financial challenges like: buying their first home, how to budget effectively, saving for their kids' education, saving for retirement and a rainy-day, insurance, and so on.
In this episode, the Does are itching to get out and about. This summer has been mostly go-go-go for the family. With school just around the corner, Jill and Joey want some adventure away from home. But can the Does afford it, considering all their recent expenditures? There must be activities that will help them stretch their "kid-fun" dollars, right?
Summertime and the living's been easy if not super busy for the Does. And the relentlessness of the last few weeks is starting to wear the kids down. So one night at dinner, Jane announced, "I think this family needs a vacation!" Forks fell to plates, milk almost flew out of Jill's nose and Joey raised his arms in the air in a victory sign. "Yessss!"
"Yeah, it's about time isn't?" said John. "We can't go too far though. I've got some deals coming up and we need to keep watching our pennies. But, I think we can afford to goof off for a couple of weeks. That'll be fun, eh kids?" The kids continued celebrating by running around the kitchen table.
"It's a deal then. After dinner, why don't you and the kids go on your computer to look up some fun road-trip destinations and I'll look into some cool stuff in town," replied Jane.
After dinner was tidied up, they split up to do their vacation research. Jane went on her laptop and started investigating family memberships to the art gallery, the museum, the science centre, the film festival and the aquarium. What she found out was that these places really help to stretch out family entertainment dollars because they offer great year-round programs for kids. For example, some places offer birthday party facilities, others put on classes, camps, tours and kid-friendly exhibits.
In terms of the cost, the lowest membership that Jane found was $130 plus tax for one year. One place also offered two-year memberships. The most expensive option was the aquarium, but it was the equivalent of three visits, which she thought was a great value. Joey loves the stingrays, so she knew that it was unlikely that the kids would get bored of multiple visits. Jane discovered that while many of these venues were not-for-profit organizations, the family memberships were not tax deductible -- meaning, no tax receipt was provided. It did however occur to her that she might be able to submit the receipts for any art classes that the kids might take under the federal Children's Arts Tax Credit. Every little bit counts, she thought to herself.
Meanwhile in the basement, John and the kids were looking up fun places on Google. They fantasized about traveling back to the 1600s in Old Quebec City. They also thought about going on safari among the lions, tigers and bears at the zoo -- oh my! And they laughed hysterically at the thought of dressing up like Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley and moseying up to bar for some Calgary Stampede pancakes. Or they could turn into pioneers on Black Creek.
"You know kids, regardless of whether we decide to go camping in one of the national parks or head down to Niagara Falls, there are a bunch of things we have to do before we take off," announced John. He opened up a Word document and started making a list:
Secure the house:
- Cancel the newspapers, turn off the water and set up timers for a few lamps around the house to make the place look occupied while we're away.
- Stop mail delivery.
- Tell our favourite next-door neighbour, Josie, about our plans and ask her to keep an eye out for us.
- Contact our bank and credit card company to let them know about our travel plans to avoid any service disruptions.
- Buy travel insurance. We might get sick or we might have an accident, so it's important to have some coverage so that we can avoid some big hospital expenses.
Next time -- Lock, stock and two surprise pensions
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