Jul 10, 2013

By Margaret H. Johnson

June 21st was the 1st day of summer. You can hear in the wind the sound of happiness by smiling children, teenagers and young adults in schools everywhere. For the parents, not so much. A new wave of activities kick in.

First, you have to decide what to do and what is available in your community. That means checking out community centres for programs that generally cost money. This can add up for families short of financial resources.

The next question – how do you get the children to and fro. For working families this can be a headache that also costs additional babysitting money.

Then there is the mad rush to enrol the little darlings, like right now at the end of June. In some places the school and community sponsored programs get filled up in an instant. So, disappointment might be awaiting some parents and kids before the summer holidays even begin.

If the kids don’t get enrolled in some activities then all fingers are pointed at you. What are we going to do today, Mom or Dad?

Any which way you look, the summer vacations spring board families into a mixed cycle of fun, obligation and additional expenses. In the school of budgeting, families with children tend to spend more during the summer vacations than they do when they attend school on a day to day basis. And, the parents most often take their vacation time during the summer holidays and travel somewhere spending, spending and spending.

For many households all of these new demands register high on the tension register.

For families with older children, recent polls regarding employment for young people paint a dim picture as employers seem to be only hiring older people with experience. This is a very sad statement – by a society that should value the importance of working and earning money – and that summer jobs teach life skills that are badly missing by many of today’s top college and university graduates.

This really makes me wonder because the best teacher for money management is direct experience. For our children to value money and take a keen interest in managing it, they need to earn it and then, of course, spend a little, save a little and make a few mistakes. It is so much better to make these mistakes as a teenager on a summer job than later in life when the stakes are much higher and the ability to recover from them less forgiving.

I am particularly thinking of spending choices – buying the wrong things or spending too much for things (as in overspending). You only really get it if it’s your money – if you earned it and then waste it on something.

As is the case with money and the usage of credit to fund shortages, I take this time to caution everyone about how quickly everything can add up during summer break. The best way to manage these additional expenses is to do a budget and decide how much you can afford without ending up with any additional debt. Don’t forget there are many free activities and great places to go for day trips in British Columbia.

Don’t get me wrong. Summer is good. Most Canadians have been waiting for several months for warm weather and a holiday from the cold (and wet for us west coasters.) It reminds me of an old John Wayne joke when he said, “Do you know that Canada has a great snow removal system? Yes, it’s called July.”

Happy summer holidays to everyone.