It’s Family Fun Month in July and we’re really excited that there are a lot of things going on!
School is out, Canada Day has just passed, people are looking ahead to the Civic Holiday weekend (July 30th to August 1st) and festivals are in full swing. The new Ontario Staycation Tax Credit is available to encourage supporting our local tourism and hospitality industry – take advantage of it!
With increasing prices due to inflation and flight inconveniences keeping some families closer to home, we wanted to share a couple of personal finance and budgeting ideas.
This post is going to be very Ontario-centric, but many of these ideas can be applied where you live as well, and might result in your vacation budget going a little bit further.
Free Fishing Week in Ontario
One of my favourite things to do in my free time is fish. Most days aren’t fast-paced and exciting, but I find it enjoyable trying to figure out the behaviour patterns of the species I target. As an added bonus, a good day out in the boat can result in hundreds of dollars worth of fish going into the fridge or freezer. (Well, if you’re willing to clean them.) Even those smaller, Yellow Perch (which are delicious) are about $22 per pound or more in the grocery store, so you can save some money with your wild catch. Just be sure to positively identify your fish as healthy and edible, and if you’re unsure better safe than sorry.
When is Free Fishing Week?
July 2nd to 10th is free fishing week in Ontario. This is the time when you can take your kids to try it out, but the adults in the group don’t need a license. Be sure to read about the local regulations here. You can get started with pretty basic and cheap gear – even stuff you find at a thrift store or garage sale. The vast majority of people don’t catch a trophy fish their first time out. The most important things are to have good fishing line and tie fishing knots well.
Know the zone you’re in, the local regulations about where you can’t fish (like fish sanctuaries) and the rules about live bait. Most of Ontario Cottage Country is covered by Zones 13 through 20 for those of you getting out there. If you can’t get to cottage country, there is still some fantastic fishing available in Zone 20 on Lake Ontario.
(One of our customers’ Atlantic Salmon out of the GTA)
If you do get the fishing bug, people between the ages of 18 and 65 need to be licensed. The most economical way is to buy a three-year conservation permit – it makes the most sense for most people. You also don’t need to spend a lot on gear – and it’s easy to get carried away – so keep that in mind when you hit the bait and tackle shop. You can also rent fishing gear if you only plan to go once.
Ontario Staycation Tax Credit
What is the Ontario Staycation Tax Credit?
The Ontario Staycation Tax Credit is a temporary action by the provincial government to encourage Ontarians to stay in-province for their vacations and help the local tourism and hospitality industries. It started January 1st, 2022 and expires December 31st, 2022. There are some provinces where similar programs are permanent, let’s hope that this new program sticks around in Ontario!
Essentially, residents of Ontario can claim 20% of qualified accommodation expenses for vacationing in Ontario. This is up to $1,000 for an individual, or $2,000 for a family. That means you could get $200 to $400 back depending on your situation.
For the official source of information, click here.
How to Claim the Ontario Staycation Tax Credit?
The Ontario Staycation Tax Credit will be claimed on your 2022 personal income tax return (T1). Be sure to save your receipts!
What are Qualified Accommodations?
The term “Qualified Accommodations” sounds really restrictive and specific, but it actually includes a wide range of options. Your stay must be for less than one month in one of the following:
- Vacation Rental Property
The key things to remember are:
- This is for leisure stays only – no trying to double-dip on business related travel;
- The expense has to have been paid by you and you may be required to provide a detailed receipt if the government asks to see it;
- The accommodation must be registered for GST/HST and their GST/HST number must appear on the receipt;
- This is only for accommodations – Room service, excursions, price of admission, flights, car rentals, gas and parking are not included in qualifying expenses.
You can claim up to the maximum benefit for all your accommodation throughout the year. If you can only do a couple of weekend jaunts, they can add up to the total.
Be sure to keep those receipts!
A Few Budget-Friendly Ideas
When traveling, even locally, one of the things that often creeps up your cost are your incidental expenses. Although every dollar you spend while traveling can provide a very large benefit to the community you visit, we wanted to share just a few ideas to help keep things more reasonable:
Have a Plan & be Prepared
Do you have a realistic budget?
How can you get the most bang for your buck? These are some things you should sit down and think about before you leave.
Do you have a CAA membership?
If you have any questions about your vehicle’s reliability, it’s a worthy investment. One tow will pay for the entire membership for the year. Along with the membership come a lot of other benefits including discounts at restaurants and accommodations and more.
Where are you staying?
Booking in advance can be cheaper and prevent unforeseen problems such as there being no rooms available, or only expensive rooms available. Most accommodations have friendly refund policies if something happens at the last minute and you can’t make it.
Have the things you’ll need
You can often save a lot of money by bringing things from home instead of buying them on the road. You know you’ll need bug spray and suntan lotion, so pack them.
Keep Food Costs Down
Pack a cooler
Drinks at convenience stores can be 400% more expensive than at the grocery store. Having a cooler and some freezer packs can really have a big impact on your bill. If you really want to get the most out of your budget and help protect the planet, you can make iced tea, juice or other fantastic beverages in reusable containers. Be sure the alcohol stays out of the driver seat.
Adding more than drinks to your cooler can help you avoid waiting for a seat at a restaurant, taking you away from the place you’re enjoying. You can plan a cheaper and healthier diet for your family by planning a picnic!
Did you get that CAA membership?
It will give you discounts at a lot of chain restaurants. Although it may not seem like spending locally, a lot of chain restaurants are franchises, owned and operated by a local family. There are a lot of other memberships and organizations that can offer discounts at eateries. Get to know those you’re already a member of and see what discounts are available.
Beware of spontaneity
Being spontaneous can be really, really fun. But sometimes, it can result in some unexpectedly high credit card bills when you get home.
If you are going to be spontaneous, be selective about what you choose to spend on and how much you choose to spend. Spontaneously going on a fishing charter can cost well over $1,000 for a family, but go-karts might be a bit more affordable at $30-$40 per person.
Finding spontaneity doesn’t have to be expensive. A lot of communities, especially ones that place high value on tourism, have a lot of free, cheap or pay-what-you can events. When you visit, keep your eyes open, you never know what you may find.
Use Your Credit Card
That’s right, using your credit card and paying it off every month is one of the best ways to improve your credit score. Make sure you aren’t going overboard and that you can pay the whole balance off at the end of the month so you don’t end up with expensive interest charges.
Many credit card companies have partnered with gas stations to provide a discount for using their credit card at specific gas stations. Often, you need to register this in advance, so look into it before you hit the road.
Spending at restaurants and hotels often produces the highest points for credit card point programs. In addition, with a little planning, you may be able to use the points to book and pay for attractions, accommodations or more!
Be Safe, Have Fun
The most important things for your family this summer are to be safe and have fun. If you aren’t a strong swimmer, wear a PFD or lifejacket and do it up. Be prepared when you leave and have a plan. You don’t want a fun family vacation ruined by an unhappy event, so avoid it if possible.
From all of us at KATA Accounting Solutions, we hope you have a safe summer with lots of fun!