How to Achieve the Canadian Snowbird Lifestyle
Everything You Need to Know About Budgeting, Costs, and Purchasing
So, you want to be a Canadian Snowbird, eh?
It seems ideal, doesn’t it – trading the snowy, blizzardy winter months that come hand-in-hand with laying down roots in Canada for warm Florida days laying on a sandy beach. Think about it: a drink in hand, the sun above you, and the best part, not a single snowflake in sight.
It’s the dream, right?
If a few months reprieve to a Florida paradise does sound like your ideal lifestyle, then it’s likely you’re already considering morphing into one of those long-envied Canadian Snowbirds. The problem with this? Being a Snowbird isn’t all sunshine and rainbows – not at first, anyway.
Becoming a snowbird is actually pretty tough – there are costs to think about, taxes you might have to pay, and of course, a ton of additional expenses you normally wouldn’t have to deal with if you were content to just sit back and grow cold during the Canadian winter.
But this dollar dilemma doesn’t have to stop you from sprouting wings and escaping for a fun-in-the-sun-winter in Florida. You just need a little extra help to guide you down the right path toward becoming a smart, savvy, and successful Snowbird.
The good news? We’re here to help you do just that.
The team at Snowbird Realty has put together a list of must-know-tips-and-tricks for all you prospective sun seekers out there. Not sure how to save your money? No worries, we have tips for that. Not entirely sure what spot might be the best for you and your budget? We’ve got advice for that, too.
Check out these tips and tricks below for some Canadian Snowbird insights to help you speed up your transformation once and for all! Our advice? Try to figure it out before winter really blows in – nothing says happy holidays like spending your winter somewhere under a palm tree, right?
Manage Your Spending for Canadian Snowbirds
Obviously, most people can’t become Canadian Snowbirds on a whim – it requires a lot of planning, budgeting, and of course, managing your spending. If you’re thinking that you’re going to – eventually – become a Snowbird who splits their time, it’s better to begin saving your earnings and managing your spending early so you have enough saved up when the time comes to pull the trigger on your sunny, paradise home. Try discounting your expenses on a daily basis, consider putting away extra money into your savings, and overall, try to cut back on your day-to-day spending so you can stash it away for your Snowbird fund.
Find The Spot That Speaks To You (and Your Wallet)
When people think about becoming Canadian Snowbirds, their minds probably go straight to beachfront property. But you know what the secret to being a smart Snowbird is? Picking out the spot that makes the most sense for you and your budget! Your little haven in Florida doesn’t have to be a big, flashy beach house – you can find a modern, cozy, and comfy spot in Florida that makes sense for your budget. Consider modest condos for purchase, manufactured homes, or even recreational vehicles you can park in popular spots. Many retiree or snowbird spots that are manufactured homes get a bad reputation as “trailer parks,” but many of these communities actually cater to Snowbirds and have tons of fun, convenient, and luxurious amenities.
Understand it’s Not a Vacation – You Need to Economize
The difference between being a Canadian Snowbird and going on a 2-3-week vacation is that it’s a way of life, not a short-term stint in paradise. When you’re on vacation, you spend money – you go out to restaurants, you shop, you stay in fancy hotels — but if you’re planning to stick around Florida for a few months, you can’t spend like you would on a vacation. Economize by buying property instead of renting, making your own meals (instead of spending tons of money on fancy restaurants), and trying to live a life similar to the one you live in Canada. The difference? You’re living your everyday life, but you’re enjoying it Florida style in the sunshine and warmth. If you can learn to economize as a snowbird, it’s really not all that expensive – it just takes a little perspective adjustment. Remember, a snowbird lifestyle isn’t one of consistent vacation choices, rather, it’s living your normal, cost-effective life in a more enjoyable location!
Account for Your Trip There and Your Trip Back
This tip is short but sweet. Don’t forget that you’ll need to account for your trip down to Florida and back. The very nature of a snowbird means that you’re going to split your time, so of course, you’ll need to ensure that you’re providing yourself with plenty of means to get from your northern home to your Florida paradise. If you’re driving to and from, ensure you’re budgeting enough money for gas, food, and hotel accommodations (or campgrounds if you’re bringing your recreational vehicle with you). If you’re flying, try to shop for budget tickets or ensure that you’ve set aside enough money for your roundtrip tickets.
Don’t Overlook Insurance
This is less about financial advice and more about making wise choices as a snowbird. While you’re likely looking for every avenue to cut costs and corners, when it comes to insurance – home, rental, health, or car – it’s never a good idea to cut corners! This applies specifically to health insurance. As a Canadian, you’re likely used to the country paying for and providing provincial health care. When you come to the United States as a snowbird, though, Canada will likely only cover a fraction of your costs incurred when you visit a US hospital. Although it can really help with your budget – and may even fast forward your snowbird plans – it’s never wise to cut corners on insurance. Make sure that all of your insurance options, like travel, car, health, and housing, are well-covered and taken care of before you commit to the snowbird way of life.
When Possible, Purchase!
Renting is great for a vacation-style stay, but if you’re planning to repeatedly split your time between your northern home and sunny Florida, you might be better off just purchasing property, a condo, or a space in a manufactured home community. Remember, this is a lifestyle choice, not a temporary vacation, so purchasing, in the long-run can be much more beneficial for your wallet. According to data from Florida Realtors, condos and townhouses in Florida had an average, median sale price of about $185,000 with an average sale price of about $261,709. Compared to rental properties over the years, long-term opportunities, and other alternative options, you’re likely better off investing in permanent property.
Consider Converting to a Local Bank
Part of creating a realistic budget is finding a way to manage and organize your US-dollars, which likely will include you getting a US bank account, a few credit cards from the US, and figuring out how to effectively and efficiently converting your Canadian dollars into US currency. This, however, can sometimes be pricey. Consider working with the CSA and using their foreign exchange program to transfer money – in bulk – from your Canadian accounts once monthly for a more affordable exchange rate. Specialized currency exchanges, a US bank, and US currency are going to be a big part of living a cost-effective lifestyle as a snowbird.
Set a Realistic Budget
All in all, the key to being a successful snowbird is to set a realistic budget and stick to it! Understanding that being a snowbird is a way of life and adjusting to that is the first set in creating a budget that’s realistic and maintainable. Take some time to sit down and spell what sort of budget is necessary for you to accomplish your dreams of becoming a Florida snowbird!