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From left, eighteen month Faye James, Olivia Akiyama 3, and Greta James, 3 (Faye's sister) take a short break while skating at Nathan Phillip Square during an outing with their parents, while on a day trip from Peterborough, Ont. on Dec 6 2010. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)
From left, eighteen month Faye James, Olivia Akiyama 3, and Greta James, 3 (Faye's sister) take a short break while skating at Nathan Phillip Square during an outing with their parents, while on a day trip from Peterborough, Ont. on Dec 6 2010. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

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Kids and money: The March Break edition Add to ...

Every family has its own March Break tradition. Ours is a long road trip south -- anywhere where we can get a taste of spring, before returning to our bleak, grey home. Our kids have grown accustomed to driving for an entire day, amusing themselves with books, music and clever conversation (OK, so I made the last one up, but two out of three ain't bad).

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It's easy to break the bank with a vacation. How should you be balancing your kids' expectations for March Break activities with what you can actually afford?

Consider it a teachable moment along the road to financial literacy, says Jeffrey Schwartz, executive director of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada Inc.

Here are Mr. Schwartz's tips for how to go about it:

- Work with your children to set a family budget for March Break.

- Assign a dollar value to each day. Make it interesting by varying the amount you can spend -- even put in a "free" day, on which you spend no money.

- Let them do the research. Remind them to check out family fun days at local community centres, museums, discount coupons, Internet specials, and restaurants where kids eat free. There is no shortage of inexpensive outings -- for example, there are a number of maple syrup festivals on in Ontario these days.

- Be flexible. Explain to your children that if an activity costs more than the daily allotment, they can choose not to spend as much on another day or find an alternative within the budget.

- Incentives are great. Let your children know that if the full amount isn't spent over the holidays, it will be deposited into their piggy banks.

In other words, bite the bullet and get talking about money with your kids. They don't have to feel deprived -- an exercise like this could actually make them feel quite empowered, resourceful and creative.

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