Getting Paid at Summer Camp
Normally when you are employed you get paid every 2 weeks or every month into your bank account and the money is there ready and waiting. Easy peasy. Whereas in the summer camping industry you usually have to wait until the end of your contract before getting paid. Even then it can come in many different forms; cash, cheque, direct debit. Having been in this game a while - as an international staff member - I can tell you I have done it all.
I am walking you through the different options I have personally come across. One, so you are prepared. Two, so you don’t get caught out. And three, to help you understand what could be a reality for you.
One option: Getting paid in cash
My first summer I got paid in cash, I literally got given an envelope filled with a mixture of bills minutes before stepping onto the bus to take me to the city. If I was going straight to the airport and coming home, this wouldn’t be a problem. I would just exchange it. However, this wasn’t the case.
This was problematic as I was travelling for 3 weeks and in the world of online booking and reservations, cash in my hand wasn’t going to cut it. I had to heavily use my travel debit card to make these travel reservations ahead of being paid. This might look like you're dipping into your savings a lot! Be smart and budget; so that you don’t splurge too much. Also travelling with an excessive amount of bills personally on me made me very nervous - especially as a first-time solo traveller.
On the plus side, getting paid in cash did have some benefits. I didn’t need to take out any money from ATMs throughout my travels so I saved on transaction fees. Also having small bills whilst travelling America was great as I felt I could tip easily. Another benefit was it helped me budget. I would only take my budgeted amount out with me and when the money was gone, it was gone (obviously, I still had my cards on me if needed for an emergency).
Second option: Cheque
My first summer in Canada was a whirlwind money-wise. I opened a bank account when I arrived in Canada (as part of my orientation). I thought this is great! I have learnt from last year, I can deposit my cash into this account and use it like normal. However, I learned at the end of the summer, I got handed an envelope on the last day of camp and it was filled with a cheque.
This is different, I like the fact it’s not heaps of cash, but now I have to find a branch to deposit this. That's fine, just a task to do when I’m back in the city, I thought to myself. Now, what no one mentioned to tell me is that cheques in Canada at the time took 5 business days to clear. This took me by surprise. I was worrying as I didn’t budget for the seven extra days it would take for my cheque to clear.
The positive of this have I actually had a bank account, this was a huge difference from the previous summer. I had the safety of my hard-earned money is in the bank, and that was a weight lifted off my shoulders. Also with a bank account, I could access my money for travel plans and reservations once the cheque had cleared, this meant I didn’t have to dip into savings anymore.
Third option: Direct Debit
This option was the one that is most natural to me, as it is like any other workplace. Again, you get paid at the end of your contract. But once you know that, you can accept it and plan around that. Having the money deposited straight into your bank account really helps and cuts out the middle step of physically finding a bank and cashing in a cheque.
With this option and the cheque option, there is a small part of adulting involved. What do I mean by this? I mean that when you leave the country, be sure to empty your account and then close it. You want to take your money home with you before closing, so look into either an international wire transfer or withdrawing your cash out. Double-check it is closed because you don’t want to build up any fees and forget about it, that can be super messy and annoying. Don’t be caught out.
No matter how you get paid from camp, hopefully, you have learnt from my experiences. Every camp has its own process, so make sure you ask how you will be getting paid so you can plan and prepare for your onward journey.