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A Canadian in NYC: A Spending Primer for US Shopping

Hey Canada, guess what? I’m not in you right now!

It’s true, I’m on the road. For the next month or so, I’m hanging out with friends and spending my time—and my money, oh man, my money—in one of my favourite cities in the world, New York.

Next week, I’ll give you a full account of my NYC shopping style, but this week I’d like to touch on some basic stuff I think about while traveling anywhere. It’s very easy to get swept up in the excitement of traveling and to forget the obligations that go with it, so use this handy guide to get started.

The Exchange Rate Matters

If, like me, you do a lot of your travel shopping on plastic, it’s easy to forget the difference in price between home and away. Here’s where having a smart phone is helpful (to a point…see below), because with the right exchange app you can keep spending in check. If you’re too busy having fun to think about it, just keep an estimate in mind whenever you pull out that credit card (ie: when I was in England a few years back, I just thought, “this costs 1.5 times as much as I think it does” whenever I went to buy something shiny). No need to be a miser, but better to know than not know, right?

Make a Budget, Stick to It

Before going on any trip, I generally spend a little while saving up some cash to spend. And, for the most part, I spend this money WAY faster than I saved it. In my early 20s I didn’t care so much, but lately I want my dollars to go further. I therefore made a vacation budget that allowed me to put this in perspective. To make things easier, as well, I made it a daily budget rather than a big catch-all trip budget. If saying “I can spend $50 today” makes things better for you, as it did for me, then great!

Track those Purchases!

Along the same lines as the previous points, I like to make a small note somewhere (in a notebook, or my phone) whenever I spend money while travelling. You can easily go overboard, but this way you’re always mindful of where your money is going. Conversely, if you have a lean day, you will have more fun the next day with that extra money. Right?

Finally, Plan Ahead.

All the things your mother says to you before you go on a trip are absolutely true: Pack light, buy insurance, call your credit card company/bank and tell them you’re going, carry extra cash, etc. But add to those old-school Mom Wisdoms a few more in this day and age: think about your phone (I added unlimited texting to mine before going, but skipped data cuz I figured I could use WiFi). I also cancelled/suspended a few things I wouldn’t need on the road, and since this was something I thought of on the way out of town (sorry mom) I was grateful for online services to help me out!

Most importantly is just to plan as much as you feel you need to in order to have fun and not worry. I’m generally an over-planner, so allowing myself to let loose can be as much of a vacation as the vacation itself. Listen to your conscience just enough. Then enjoy!

Stay tuned for my NYC shopping diary, next week!

What are you looking for?

What are you looking for?