By – Bruce Robinson
In July, I retired after almost 35 years at Statistics Canada (whew!), which makes me just another statistic, I guess. Now I must learn to live on my pension income — no more over time or promotions to help boost our household budget!
I used to plan the purchase of a new snowmobile with an occasional back-pay cheque. But the financial advisor that ran a seminar for we fixed income retirees says to keep a lid on our spending. Does this mean that I have to throttle back on some of the things I really enjoy, like fine restaurants, travel, and of course, snowmobiling? I wondered how my three favourite activities stacked up value-wise…
As you know, full season permits are up $20 this year, the first increase in more than five years. Each fall, I buy six of them: one for me, one for my wife, Liz, one each as Christmas presents for our daughters Sarah and Ann, and for Ann’s boyfriend, Ben, plus one for the fellow who looks after our pool (much too long story for this column!) Six permits @ $200 = $1,200, an increase of $120 over last season. I wonder if this will be money well spent, especially in this economic downturn.
So I sat down the other day and compared the cost of my snowmobiling fun to two of the other activities I enjoy. Dining out is at the top of that list as most frequent. The last few times Liz and ate out, we were in the restaurant about two hours and the average bill with two drinks each was $75 – $85. That works out to about $40/eating hour.
Another favourite is travel. To celebrate my retirement, we took a week-long cruise to Alaska. When the dust settled, that bill was close to $5,500. The cruise was 7 days x 16 waking hours a day = 112 hours (eight hours sleep per night excluded from the equation), which works out to about $49/waking hour.
So my other two favourite ways to spend leisure dollars cost me from $40 to $50 per hour.
Now let’s look at snowmobiling for the two of us. Two permits = $400. Insurance on our two sleds = $400. Fuel and maintenance depends on how much we travel — during a normal winter, we put 5,000 km on each sled, so let’s figure it out on 10,000 km. We get about 200 km on a tank of fuel, so about 50 tanks of fuel at $40 per tank = $2,000. One sled is a 4-stroke so one oil change per season = $50. The other is a 2-stroke, taking a litre per 200 km = 25 litres of oil at $5.00 each = $125. Add in $15 each for the license = $30, and finally depreciation works out to about 10% per year. Our sleds are about $15,000 in total value, so that’s $1,500 for depreciation. So the annual total for our two sleds is about $4,505.
To put 10,000 km on our sleds, we normally do about 200 km in an eight-hour day, that’s an average of 25 km/hour. If I take our 10,000 km and divide by 25 km per hour, this equals 400 hours of enjoyment, 200 hours for each of us. So if it costs $4,505 for our 400 hours of sledding and that calculates to just over $11.25/riding hour. Double that for two of us to $22.50/riding hour, and even if I figure in hard to estimate maintenance, I am still a long way from $49/waking hour for a holiday cruise or $40/eating hour for dining out.
Now consider that the OFSC prescribed trail is nearby my house. I can use it any time of any day or night all winter to travel anywhere in Ontario, not just at meal time or while vacationing (and certainly not while sleeping, although I do have some memorable sledding dreams!) Hands down, snowmobiling wins without question as being the best value for my leisure dollar!
Sure, maybe your sledding costs you a little more or less, depending on where you live, ride and what your sled is. And maybe you spend more for dining out or travel, or golfing or whatever else you do. But I think you’ll find that the equation always works out that sledding provides top value per hour of fun!
So maybe you’re thinking: I don’t have time to enjoy my snowmobile for 5,000 km per winter! Fair enough: take the fixed costs for one sled (permits, licence, insurance) at $430, and you only need to ride two eight-hour days to be ahead of the hourly rate mentioned above for travelling or dining out. After that, it’s all gravy!
Now I just have to break the news to Liz that wise financial planning during retirement means cutting back on travel and dining out, in favour of much more sledding! I think she’ll be okay with that as long as I don’t ask her to pack a lunch. A good restaurant meal is still a must for we Robinsons!
That’s all for now. Remember to get your permit at the pre-season price of $200 on or before December 1 to save 50 bucks — and by November 1st if you want the chance to win FREE GAS, too. And check out buying your permit online this fall!
Until next time, keep your skis on the snow.