Shopping In USA Compared To Canada – Cross Border Shopping

September 10th, 2009 admin Posted in Shopping General No Comments »

crossbordershoppingcanadausSo my wife and I are heading to Kalispel and Whitefish today. We’ll be shopping for the winter season. Clothing, coffee, shoes, supplies, toiletries, etc. The prices are dramatically cheaper in the United States compared to Canada. The irony is that most all products that are manufactured in Canada, and sold in the USA, are more expensive IN Canada. Much of this is due the taxes the Federal Government in Canada puts on some products, such as diesel, gasoline, cigarettes, alcohol – just to name a few.

When I spend 100 Canadian dollars on gasoline when I’m in Canada, I spend only $65 USD on the exact same amount of gas. Even with the currency difference as of today (1 CAD = 0.925252 USD or; 1 USD = 1.08079 CAD if you prefer) the savings is dramatic. For this example of spending $65 American dollars, it equals $70 Canadian dollars, which is $30 dollar savings. This is big money when you make a decision to drive across North America in the States instead of driving across North America in Canada. That is just for fuel – read on.

When we shop in the States for clothes, we go to Ross Dress for Less or JCPenny, Target, Kohls, or even Wal-Mart. The amount we save by shopping in the United States makes up for the cost driving down across the border and staying down there in an RV or staying in a hotel. The reality is that the amount you save on shopping easily pays for the holiday plus some.

When you buy spices, cheese, coffee, etc. the savings is even more dramatic. There is something afoot here my friends. Even Costco is a complete scam up in Canada. The so-called membership store is much more expensive for ALL items when you are in Canada. The American based giants of merchandising must LOVE the relationship with Canada. Where else can they make such a huge profit, and there is no excuse for it.

Even with the extra shipping cost to Canada, USA based companies are making a killing of the 30 million people living in Canada. Because of the lesser dollar equivalent in Canada, and the difference in pricing, it’s really a ripoff – plain and simple to be blunt about it.

So what can Canadian do to fix this situation. I have a solution. If you live in Canada, buy as little as possible in your own country. Go down across the border and buy all of your clothing and goods down in the USA. This will put pressure on the Canadian government and these large merchandisers to stop ripping people off. I’ll give you an example.

Our family buys 100% of these items in the United States every year;

Actually there is more to that list, but that gives you an idea. If I lived closer to the border I would buy all of my gasoline in the States as well. If every Canadian decided they would pay for their holiday with the savings they make shopping in the US, there would have to be some changes made in the way these corporations set their prices in Canadian store.

The government of Canada would be forced to lessen (or back off) the taxes they take in on consumer goods and services, and competition would rise for the Canadian shopper/consumer.

So, my fellow Canadians, next time you are looking for a way to pay for your family holiday, drive down across the border and get all your back-to-school clothing, and school supplies in the States.

How Much Can You Take Back Across The Border in Goods

  • 48 hours is $400 CND dollars exempt from duty
  • 1 week is $750 CND dollars exempt from duty
  • 24 hours is $50 CND dollars exempt from duty

When you add up these examptions from duty/taxes with a family of 3-4-5 people (you can buy goods for your children because they have the exemption amount too). So you have 4 people in your family and stay at a campground for week and you have total duty exemptions $3000 dollars. That buys allot of clothing and supplies for the entire year.

By the time you pay for your vehicle fuel, your clothing, and supplies, your accommodations (hotel, RV park, or campground), you are going to have a free vacation out of the deal. My wife and I more than break even on these trips with what we buy and we don’t have kids in school (all of the kids are grown up and out of the house now). We have two dogs and that’s it.

We drive a gas-guzzling RV down to the USA and stay in 30 dollar a night RV parks or campgrounds, and play golf etc. while we’re down there. We STILL save enough to call it a free holiday. You can’t count the food you eat, because you have to eat at home in Canada anyway. You are not using water and utilities back home in Canada and you are not spending money back home you would normally spend.

I’ve done the math on this, and we live very well down in the States for the week, and we break even on the deal. The difference is we are on holidays. Of course it really helps that we work from home and we can work online from the RV and an Internet connection we pick up out of thin air during our stays in the States.

For the example of a family doing all their back to school shopping in a 48 hour period and tenting in campground for $15 a night and driving a 4 cylinder economically advanced car or truck, there is one other little trick you do to save even more.

Rip off all of the price tags on the clothes and footwear you buy in the States and wear as much as possible. Get rid of the sales receipts for the clothing and call it your own. This way you can go over your exemption amounts and save even more money that way. What I’m suggesting is of course technically, and legally called smuggling, but it’s something that almost everyone does. The border agents know this and would have a difficult time proving how old the clothing is, and where you purchased it.

I know that some people crossing the border with RVs and boats often fill up their storage spaces with expensive items that put them WELL over their exemption limits. They’re taking a chance here for sure, but some Canadians do this every time they cross the border.

I no someone who used to do the crazy alcohol smuggling trick whereby they fill their potable water tank of their RV with alcohol purchased in the US and cross the border illegally. They never got caught, but I don’t drink that much alcohol, and that is way to big of a pain in the butt as far as I’m concerned. Some people will do anything just to get the rush of “pulling a fast one” on Canadian customs officials.

It also makes a big difference which border you cross. Some border crossing are bigger and have more resources for carrying out searches and random checks. Once we were crossing the border and had our car impounded for an 3 hours while they searched every inch of it. They took our vehicle and drove it into a garage, where commenced on rifling through the interior of the car. They were doing that to allot of people crossing the border that day. The particular border crossing had allot of manpower, big garages, big facilities and where capable of going these extra lengths.

So if you cross the border at a much smaller station (on both sides – Canadian customs and United States customs) you will sail right through after a few typical questions. These small little border crossing don’t have the facilities, the staff, or the resources to bog down the border traffic flow for long. Sure, they may do some brief look-about observations of your trunk and the interior of your vehicle, but that’s about it.

If you don’t want a hassle at the border, do yourself a favor and make sure the driver does all the talking and don’t turn it into a conversation. Answer all questions asked of you calmly and slowly. Look the border patrol officer square in the eye when you answer questions, and always have your paper work perfectly in order when you drive up to the window.

Have your passport(s) ready, and if you have animals, make sure their paperwork is offered to them when you pass them your human passports ;-) .
When they see that you have over-delivered on documentation, they tend to think you really have your sh*t together. DO NOT hum and ha when answering the border agent. Answer back without any hesitation and have your facts straight before you get to their window.

Don’t turn your head to your passengers with a dumb look, as if you don’t know the answer to the question(s) they’re asking. Looking unsure of yourself and squeamish is the very best way to get pulled over and searched. It’s a real pain in the ass when you get held up at the border.

Make sure that if you are fudging things a little, it’s JUST a little. Claiming ignorance will not help you even a little bit. You can, but you will still be hauled in, questioned, and charged the fines and taxes according to how bad you smuggled (or fudged) your declaration. Often I’ve been up front with the border agent and told them that we were over a bit, and they just shrugged it off and let us go – DON’T do this.

If you are over a little bit, just make the fib that you are dead on within your limits and exemptions. They like a clean and simple crossing. You may think you are being the good citizen by declaring you are over a little bit in how much you spent, but this just annoys the border agent, and they may decide to MAKE YOU PAY for it, with a search of your persons and your vehicle which will cost you money, embarrassment, and TIME.

If you decide to push things way over the limit to the point of outright high level smuggling, then you are really risking everything. You can lose your vehicle all together, do jail time, be listed a criminal, and never allowed in the United States again.

If you are smuggling guns, and/or illegal drugs, you are plain stupid and you deserve the full weight of the law coming down on your head. If you are doing that or intending on doing that, I don’t even want you on my blog.

For those normal people who just want to have a holiday and do some shopping down in the States – you will enjoy your visit. My wife and I love the Americans we come across, and I have to say they are generally more friendly (or least less uptight) than your typical Canadian. Don’t know why, and don’t know if that is is even an accurate generality, but we have felt this way when we travel down there.

Don’t be afraid of the so-called horror stories of American crime you read on the news. We feel safe and sound in the States. ALLOT safer than being downtown at midnight in Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal, Winnipeg, or Toronto!!! I’d have to say that I feel safer traveling almost every where we’ve been – like China, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, England, etc.

So have fun shoppers and travelers.


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