Consider these points before you shop in U.S.

Q: My sisters and I usually go down to the U.S. to shop during their Thanksgiving weekend. A friend of mine thinks it's cheaper to buy in Canada. Is she right?

A: The American Thanksgiving weekend, or "Black Friday" as it is often referred to, is the day when retailers start to turn a profit and be in "the black." Many Canadians will cross the border during this weekend to make their Christmas purchases.

Before you pull out your passport and cross the border to take advantage of the savings, there are a number of points to consider. These include:

  • Will you purchase items with cash or pay them off over time on credit?
  • What are the savings after factoring in the current exchange rate?
  • How long must you stay in the U.S. to avoid paying duty?
  • How much will it cost you for a hotel, food and gas?

It is crucial that you factor in all of these extra costs when you're deciding whether there are good deals to be had or not. For example, if you wanted to spend $400 US on gifts, the additional costs could easily add $200 on top of the purchase price of the gifts:

Two nights of accommodations (shared): $75.

Meals and gas: $100.

Exchange rate (at $0.94): $25.

Gifts: $400.

Total: $600.

Paying a 50-per-cent premium on top of the items purchased may not be what you had in mind when shopping for "good deals." In this example, if you had $600 budgeted for holiday gifts, a trip to the U.S. with your sisters would be an added bonus. However, if you only have $400 budgeted you may find it makes sense to shop in Canada for Christmas and find other ways to enjoy time with your sisters and stay within your budget.