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Credit Counseling with the Sudbury Community Service Centre

SASS: Sudden Acute Summer Spending

SASS can strike anyone, anywhere. It often starts with an itch to just get out of town for a few days and quickly becomes a frightening rash of spending in some pricey American capital, heedless of the lousy American dollar exchange rates.

SASS is not limited to travelers. Homeowners, twenty and thirty-somethings entranced by a champagne lifestyle, college students with more than one credit card and anyone who owns a boat are typically hit the hardest. A virulent case of SASS can go undetected for months if you're not vigilant. SASS sufferers have been known to get as far as Christmas before they're diagnosed. And by then it's too late. Even the holiday shopping money has been spent.

Fortunately, the Sudbury Community Service Centre has a list of things you can do to protect yourself, your loved ones, and most importantly, your bank account.

Does a bear wear brand name Gore-Tex gloves in the woods?
You decide to have an inexpensive vacation this year: camping and hiking with the family. Mother Nature thanks you -- and so do Columbia, Eddie Bauer, L.L. Bean and other purveyors of increasingly overpriced outdoor sporting equipment. Sir Edmund Hillary climbed Mount Everest in woolen long johns, and you're preparing to spend $450 on a sleeping bag that will keep you warm down to -30 degrees Celsius -- this summer? Add in the park entrance fees, campsite fees, firewood and the soaring cost of marshmallows, and you might as well have gone to the Caribbean.

Just say no to nuptials!
There will be about 2.5 million weddings celebrated this year, many, if not most, between now and Labor Day. Each wedding will host an average of 168 guests, meaning that roughly 420 million innocent bystanders will have to shell out money for transportation, a decent gift and probably a new dress. What are your odds of escaping the carnage – slim to none. The average cost of a gift alone is $85, according to the American Association of Bridal Consultants. How about sending a lovely card instead?

Don't brake for yard sales!
Warm weather inspires otherwise sensible people to drag all their junk onto the front lawn or cart it to a "flea market" and assume someone else will buy it. It's a bizarre Canadian ritual, and we all fall for it, spending millions of unplanned dollars on used wicker and picture frames. This summer, do what tourists do: wander around, handle everything, giggle at the natives as they spend, and then go have an ice cream.

Write off the graduates.
The trouble with attending school is that it requires a series of graduation ceremonies beginning from pre-school. That's about six graduations per kid, per lifetime (assuming the little geniuses don't get a Masters degree). Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and close friends of the family, I have two words for you: Bic pens.

Beware of hosts expecting gifts.
"Don't show up empty-handed," your mother admonished you whenever you went to stay at a friend's house. Yeah, well, that used to mean bringing a limp carnation for Sally's mom; now you're supposed to show up with crystal wine glasses to thank your hosts for letting you crash on their fifties-era Hide-a-Bed. What happened to letting the host be hospitable and letting the guests mooch?

Don't get taken by the old ball game.
A common myth among people today is that buying some popcorn and pop is all part of the good old Canadian tradition of enjoying a sunny, summer game of baseball, soccer, lacrosse, or basketball. The fact is, however, the “Fan Cost Index” is rising. Taking a family of four out to a major league ballgame -- which includes tickets, hotdogs, caps , etc. -- is about $150. Meanwhile, that brand-new, flat-screen TV is gathering dust at home, so what do you say we watch the game on TV?

Don't take a bath on that bathing suit.
Friends, women, bathing-suit buyers, lend me your ears. I know how hard it is to find a decent-looking suit. In other words, one that makes you look like the voluptuous Salma Hayek. I know sadly how much you're willing to pay for that. THIS IS CRAZY! Look at the garment. Measure it. Are you willing to pay $54 per square inch? OK then. I have an idea. It's a little radical... but here goes: wear last year's suit.

Cheap veggies make expensive compost.
Farm stands are sprouting like mushrooms after a rain at this time of year, and you've never seen strawberries so cheap -- or corn or lima beans or peaches or beets. You can even buy a bushel of green beans for a toonie. Summer is like one big farm-fresh buffet!
I only have two questions. If you only bought what you're really going to eat, instead of promising yourself you're going to make strawberry jam, (which is a LIE) how much would you spend? And secondly, while you're spending that toonie on the green beans, can you resist the urge to buy the home-smoked buffalo liver, which you're only going to throw out anyway?

Beware the idiotic impulse buy.
Warm weather creates a lovely expansive feeling of well-being that, alas, you foolishly imagine extends to your wallet. Suddenly you decide – yes! -- it's time to get that new patio set, new deck, above-ground pool and shiny convertible. My advice to you is – keep watching the commercials. It’s not nearly as satisfying as owning real things, but it’s so much cheaper.

Give your credit cards a summer vacation.
Everyone needs a vacation to rest and recharge. It's a well-deserved reward for working hard all year. Consider leaving the credit cards at home this year. They need a break once in a while, too. Carrying the cards makes it too tempting to put the whole “shebang” on plastic. Before you know it, you're saying to yourself, "I've already spent $5,000 getting here, what's another $800 for a genuine replica of the Aztec Sun Stone Calendar?" You'll be feeling the pain years after your sunburn has faded.

So beware of SASS (Severe Acute Summer Spending). What looks like a great idea for a little fun may become your financial nightmare come the fall. If you happen to find yourself falling victim to SASS don’t forget that the credit counseling program at the Sudbury Community Service Centre is there to help free of charge.

For more information contact the Sudbury Community Service Centre at (705) 560-0430 or 1-800-685-1521.


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