May 25, 2017

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A vacation's value

Time away is vital to good work, yet many Canadians forgo holidays

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Jill Munro poses holding photos from their family trips, with from left, Luke,10, Todd, and Jill, 5.</p>

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Jill Munro poses holding photos from their family trips, with from left, Luke,10, Todd, and Jill, 5.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 7/5/2016 (383 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Jill and Todd Munro’s paycheques go toward keeping their household afloat. With two growing children, cash is scarce when it comes to the finer things of home life — such as vacations.

Yet they are avid travellers all the same, with the Winnipeg family taking at least two major trips a year.

"We’re definitely not raking in the cash," says Jill Munro, who is in her 30s and works part time as a teacher’s aide.

"But holidays are a priority, so we make sacrifices to travel with the kids."

The vacation may be the light at the end of the long — and sometimes dark — tunnel of our daily existence of work, eat, sleep and repeat.

But a recent TD Canada Trust survey states many Canadians aren’t packing their bags as often as they can.

This is particularly the case with millennials — individuals who entered adulthood around 2000. The survey, published in March, found about 46 per cent of this age group is not taking the full allotment of holidays, compared with about 36 per cent of workers of all ages.

"What we found was, for millennials, it is hard to get away from work," says Shirley Malloy, associate vice-president with TD Canada Trust.

While this may dispel any misconceptions about this generation lacking a good work ethic, it also indicates they are likely lacking the additional cash to even take a vacation.

Malloy says many millennials face multiple and competing financial priorities. "They’re trying to pay off student debt; they’re also trying to save for longer-term goals such as buying a house or a condo, and then they’re trying to keep up with everyday expenses," she says.

"Our sense is they feel a bit overwhelmed and anxious about their finances."

In fact, about three in 10 indicated a lack of money was the main reason they have not taken full advantage of their holiday time.

It is a troubling trend, says Ontario-based life coach Hellen Buttigieg with We Organize U.

"They set very high expectations for themselves when it comes to professional advancement and feel like they can’t be away from work for a moment, but recognizing that taking time off can actually benefit their work life is key," she says.

People need time away from work to re-energize, she adds. Without it, they’re more likely to suffer emotional and physical consequences: stress, poor health and an overall sense of being burnt out.

"If it’s affecting your health and well-being, then it makes it much more worth taking the time off," she says.

"You can have all the money in the world, but if you’re not healthy, what good is it to you?"

The survey found the majority of people do take all their holiday time. Among those who fit into that category are the Lindens — another Winnipeg family with young children.

"I’m happy to take as many as I have, and sometimes I even take unpaid days," says Erika Linden, a marketing manager and mother of two young children. "We’re definitely on the opposite end of the spectrum as far as that goes."

Like the Munros, the family also often takes two major vacations a year. In the summer, they often go to the West Coast to stay with relatives, and in the winter they spend time in the U.S. — again taking advantage of family ties to save on costs.

Despite being cost-conscious, they often don’t save for vacations, says Linden — who writes about their holidays, among other things, on her blog, the Linden Life.

"We’re probably not the best when it comes to saving and planning," she says.

"We go more with booking things and then figuring out how to pay for it."

Still, they try to reduce costs whenever possible, such as using loyalty points to pay for hotel and car rentals.

"With the dollar exchange rate being so terrible, the upside of points is there’s not currency conversion on them, so they go further," she says.

Eventually, the Lindens would like to plan a major holiday to Europe that will require them to save money in advance.

"That’s one vacation we wouldn’t just book and go," Linden says.

"There’s not actual money in the bank for it yet, but we are working on a budget to figure out how much it would cost and how much we would have to save every month."

Simply having the discussion about how to save for a holiday is a good start, Malloy says.

"The first step is really understanding your budget or at least starting to do a budget in the first place," she says.

"Then, the next big piece of advice is making saving a priority by paying yourself first."

The best way to do this is with an automatic savings plan where money comes out of your bank account every month into a separate account so it can’t be spent on other things. People often hesitate to do this, worrying it might negatively impact their day-to-day budget. But this strategy doesn’t need to involve stashing away hundreds of dollars a month.

Just $20 a week — the equivalent of a lunch and a couple of coffees and muffins — can add up to roughly $1,000 a year. Double that amount, and you’d have $8,000 saved in two years for a vacation.

Or you can make like the Munros. They may not be able to squirrel away cash from paycheques, but they still find other ways to save.

"We sell things on Kijjiji. We do odd jobs. I’ve even started a business where I sell vintage clothes," says Munro, who also reaps savings by seeking out discounts on tourist attractions through writing about their vacations on her Lune Travels Blog.

"It adds up. Even that change left on the counter at the end of the day. Scoop that up and put it in a jar, and it will eventually pay for a night out at a restaurant."

It’s an ongoing campaign that often involves the entire family pitching in to find savings whenever possible — extra work that proves its worth beyond dollars once they’re on the road.

"Why do we do it? It’s the learning experiences, the chance for togetherness, to de-stress and making great memories," Munro says.

"Our best times are travelling together."

joelschles@gmail.com

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