Last Updated: September 14, 2023
What is a Snowbird
The intriguing term, snowbird, has been in use since the early 20th century. The term described men who enlisted in the armed forces for clothes, food and lodgings throughout the winter months before inevitably deserting their posts as the warmer weather approached. Later, the term applied to the northern labourers who moved south as the harsh winter weather ravaged their homes. Today, snowbirds are holidaymakers and retirees escaping the cold and enjoying life in the temperate southern climes. Thousands of snowbirds migrate to Florida, Texas or Arizona as soon as the first frost arrives. Many travellers leave home between three and six months every year. If you’re looking to learn how to be a snowbird on a budget, read on!
Can you be a Snowbird on a Budget?
You’ve worked hard all your life, raised a family, and it’s time to enjoy your retirement years. The thought of not going to work can fill you with psychological and economic terror. With careful planning and an achievable budget, joining the migrating crowds of like-minded vacationers is possible.
There are many ways to embrace the snowbird way of living. You might want to drive your RV to beautifully warm beachside locations, rent a compact condominium, mobile home or luxury villa or even purchase a second home. Once you have considered your retirement income and expenses and worked in the costs of an additional home, you will have a clearer picture. You might even consider working a part-time job to bring in a few extra dollars each month. There are plenty of part-time jobs that also give you a great way to meet others. You might have a love of being a tour guide, a dog walker or a fun retail role.
Another source of income to think about is your primary home. Can you rent this whilst you are away? Not only is the property occupied, but it is providing an income. If you are the proud owner of two homes, there is no reason why you can’t rent them both.
Your snowbird winter home location will be the defining factor; rent and property prices vary tremendously across the southern states. So ensure that you choose your destination and the length of time you are away wisely and well within budget. If you are clever, you might even be able to make snowbirding a financially viable option.
First thing’s first. Work out your household budget. Make sure that you take into consideration all of your income and expenditure sources each month at home; the balance will give you a reasonable estimate of how you can plan your travel budget for your winter getaway. Remember that groceries, fuel, haircuts and other essentials will continue in your winter home.
Perhaps there are monthly expenses that you can put on hold in your primary home whilst you are away. Television packages, internet services, cleaning and gardening costs and car insurance are items that you could possibly suspend. On the other hand, consider hiring snow removal services while you’re away.
In addition, you will need to incorporate travel insurance to run alongside your health insurance. You will also have to adhere to any small print requirements your household insurance may stipulate, such as turning off water supplies to prevent frozen pipes and police-linked security cameras. In case this is all overwhelming, Yardly’s put together a list of home management tips for snowbirds to provide further guidance.
Consider Affordable Destinations and Accommodation
Accommodation tends to be one of the highest costs for a snowbird. Consider looking at a variety of cost-effective options for long-term rentals. It might mean that you have to consider being away from the town centre or the beach for cost-efficiency. Many companies have thousands of listings, such as Airbnb, Home Away, Kijiji, and VRBO. With the advent of online classifieds, social media groups and even the Canadian Snowbird Association, you’ll be able to look to other members for advice and possible assistance.
The Canadian Snowbird Association is a non-profit advocacy organisation that has a multitude of benefits for its Canadian members travelling south each winter. At only $25 each year, it’s an excellent investment.
Whilst many people choose to live in an RV for their retirement years, it’s worth considering renting one first to ensure that it suits your lifestyle. In many parts of the southern states such as Florida, Nevada, Arizona and California, beautifully manicured secure mobile homes are available to rent or buy.
Some snowbirds travel to different countries to seek out new cultures and experiences and reduce the cost of living. Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Portugal and Thailand are all hugely popular with the migrating snowbirds each year. When thinking about your budget, don’t forget to include car rentals and flight costs. The Canadian dollar tends to go a lot further in these countries, significantly reducing your overall costs.
Many snowbird destinations are popular because of their favourable tax benefits and regulations. Arizona and Florida are no-tax states, so seek advice and learn about the various laws and benefits you could capitalise on. Although it can be pretty complex, some states and countries have no income tax and no tax on retirement income. Do your homework to ensure you follow the correct procedure and not be subject to penalties when you return to Canada.
Limit your Time Away
If you are on a limited budget and cannot leave Canada for the entire winter, getting away for at least a couple of months during the coldest months is better than nothing. Most landlords tend to want long-term rental agreements, so make sure that you start looking at rental options early – even 18 months in advance in some cases. It can be a challenge to find shorter-term rentals in some sought-after locations.
Downsize your Primary Home
Many Canadians choose to downsize their homes, which helps them free up some money, enabling them to have the best of both worlds. Many people move into a condominium, retirement village or community, or a summer cottage to keep their summer costs down, enabling travel during the cold winter months.
Rent out your Home
You can choose to rent out your primary and secondary home to have a year-round income from your homes. It will help support your snowbird lifestyle. There are many sites like Airbnb that you can list and rent out your home. You will, however, need to consider a housekeeper to manage your property and the possible tax implications.
Earn an Income or Start a Side Hustle
Many snowbirds enjoy working well into their retirement years to support their lifestyle. Depending on your skills, you could work remotely, in a friendly store or café, tourist attraction, or even walk people’s dogs.
Millions of people across the globe have pets and prefer to leave their beloved animals in the safe hands of a tried and tested animal lover and sitter. TrustedHousesitters has been running for over a decade and facilitates high-quality pet care and ethical, authentic travel experiences with a minimal cost. They connect a community of home and pet owners with sitters to solve a common two-sided problem – pet care and cost-effective travel. Although travel and living expenses are not included, you can live in a beautiful rent-free home and pet sit across the warmer locales of North America and the world.
Loyalty Points and Programmes
Travel rewards, flight miles, credit card loyalty points, if managed carefully and used to their fullest, can save a lot of money. You can use your credit card for every purchase to maximise your points whilst travelling, affording you discounts on hotels, rental cars and flights. Look into each loyalty scheme and see how you can make them work for you.
Travelling with Pets
If you are travelling with your pets, plan for their requirements, including food, medication, pet insurance and toys. Your primary concern is keeping them safe and healthy so pack their favourite bedding and toys to alleviate any travel stress. Always take their pet passports and ensure that their vaccinations are up-to-date. Check requirements where you are staying well in advance so that you can plan for them too.
Forward planning is essential. Whether you are seeking rental accommodation, planning flights, or driving, ensure that you don’t get caught out with expensive school holiday flights or bad weather conditions so you can’t fly. The more you prepare, the smoother the journey.
There are many ways to save money whilst you are enjoying your winter escape.
- Explore various supermarkets, markets and grocery stores for good quality and inexpensive groceries. Make a conscious effort to eat more at home and take picnic lunches and snacks with you if you are out and about.
- Keep busy with community events and activities. Many low-cost concerts, festivals and events are subsidised. Invest into membership with Smartsave or Groupon for discounted tickets. Earlybird purchases can often give you considerable discounts.
- Shop around for the best internet and telephone packages to access Facetime, Messenger, Skype and WhatsApp to remain in contact with your friends and family in Canada.
- Keep your eye on the currency exchange throughout the year so that you can get the best possible rates. Consider using applications such as Wise, one of the most popular money transfer tools in the world.
- Carefully compare travel and medical insurance plans to ensure that you have the best possible coverage. Reduced premiums often mean inadequate coverage, so do your homework carefully and always read the small print. Try and find coverage through the Affordable Care Act so that your prescriptions are covered outside your state.
- Reduce electronic items. Consider a lightweight laptop or a tablet to use for your emails, streaming, camera, video, alarm clock, books and even your favourite radio station. You can even go digital with your important documents by storing them in a cloud-based service so that you can access them anywhere.
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