Prepare For the Invasion

20131029-203656.jpgIt’s that time of year again. The nights are getting longer and the air is turning crisp (okay, crisp to a Florida girl). The tractor trailers filled with cars for delivery are idling outside developments. And all around people are whispering, “They’re baaa-aack!”

This is when the un-dead start to rise. Our zombies / snowbirds/ seasonal residents are returning to their winter homes and our town is starting to fill up to its traditional winter high-occupancy.

Snowbirds = Zombies?

For new readers, we live in a part of Florida that’s got a ton of “seasonal residents”. (That’s the PC term for snowbirds.) These folks are usually retired and own a home in our area as a second (or third) residence that they occupy 2-5 months per year.

And while it’s tempting to start drawing parallels between the rise of the mindless undead walking around the malls in Dawn of the Dead and the throngs of snowbirds wandering around our own local malls and shopping centers this time of year, that’s not really how I like to roll.

But, because it’s Halloween week, let’s keep going with the zombie analogy, just because it’s fun.

How To Prepare For the Zombie Invasion

Step 1 – Adjust Your Attitude

If you’re stressed out and upset about the invasion, realize the problem is with you.

  • Traffic – More people means more cars on the roads, so yes – there is more traffic. But let’s be realistic here. Snowbirds aren’t on the road for the early morning commute to work, and are usually getting off the road headed for the “early bird” dinner specials by the time you’re getting into the car to head home around 5 or 6. Unless the bulk of your driving is done between 10am and 4pm, the snowbirds aren’t affecting your traffic patterns all that much. And if you want to avoid the effect entirely, try bike commuting. There’s no better weather than winter in Florida to give it a try in.
  • Lines & Congestion at the Store – More people in town means more people in the grocery store, and more people in the grocery store means more (and longer) lines. So instead of waiting a minute or two for check-out, maybe you have to wait 3 or 4 minutes. Or 5! Heaven forbid. Pull out the fancy pants smart phone in your pocket (come on, we all have them by now) and send off a couple of emails that are overdue. Bam – productivity! Or try being sociable and saying hello to those around you. You might be pleasantly surprised how quickly the time passes when you’re meeting someone new.
  • It’s So Much Worse Elsewhere – If you still need an attitude adjustment, go spend a week in NYC. Our NYC friends couldn’t believe how calm and quiet and non-congested our town was even when they visited during the height of our busy season last year.

Step 2 – ???

There is no step 2.

Step 3 – Profit!!!!

  • Snowbirds spend money. A LOT of money. If you have a business (or work for one) that relies on local consumers, you know this. So kick yourself anytime you think poorly about snowbirds – they are boosting the paychecks of many full time residents.
  • Snowbirds also pay a lot in taxes so you don’t have to. Florida rewards full time residents with big tax breaks. Since snowbirds don’t get these tax breaks, that means they’re paying a disproportionately large sum of money, especially when compared to how much use they are getting out of living there. Our property taxes are about $1800/year, so that’s about $150/month that we’re living here. Our snowbird neighbors (the ones with the bananas I covet) – because they don’t get our full time resident exemption, their tax bill is about 2.4x what ours is for the year – around $4300, and since they’re only here about 4 months/year, that means they’re paying ~$1075/month that they’re around. So thanks, snowbirds!

Let’s face it, there are pros and cons to living in a resort-type area (as Kim wrote about a few weeks ago w.r.t. ski resort towns). I just happen to think there are a lot more “pros” than “cons” for us. So as the snowbirds begin their invasion it helps to stop and check the attitude at the door and start saying “thank you” for continuing to subsidize your awesome beach lifestyle.


What’s your take on living in an area with a sizable seasonal population?


Random Aside – Kitty PoP will once again be dressing up in his lion costume for Halloween this year. Check out last year’s pictures here.

42 comments to Prepare For the Invasion

  • Ah – snowbirds. It’s been awhile since I’ve heard that term. The other half of the year they live in Alaska. I grew up there and knew many a snowbird. :-)
    Taynia | The Fiscal Flamingo recently posted..Debt, The Happiness Impact and Your Ability To ChooseMy Profile

  • This is awesome. :-) I don’t live as far south as you guys so I’ve never thought about what a change must come over a place when the snowbirds fly in. :-)
    FI Pilgrim recently posted..FI 101: Chart Progress To Stay MotivatedMy Profile

    • It’s pretty significant – I’m not kidding when I say that our neighborhood is about at half capacity in the summertime, but totally full in the winter.

  • Our next door neighbors go to Florida for half of the year. We usually keep an eye on their place for them and call one of their kids if something is wrong. Since we’re moving, this will be the first year we wont be able to do it!
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted..The Truth About MovingMy Profile

    • Hopefully the other neighbors will pick up the slack after you guys move, but they were lucky to have such good neighbors as you guys for as long as they did.

  • Man, you’re making sounding a second home less and less appealing. It’s interesting that you only pay about $1,800/yr in property taxes. Since I don’t own property, I recently asked my parents how much they pay. $8,000/yr! Isn’t that crazy?
    Cash Rebel recently posted..Work like we’re in a recessionMy Profile

    • We don’t own a home either, and I never thought about property taxes being that high. Holy moly. That’s more than I paid for rent for a year in my last apartment.
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    • CincyCat

      I think it depends on your county. In Cincyland, our annual property taxes are about what the PoPs pay. However, I know some people who live in Allegheny Co PA (Pittsburgh area), and property taxes in that county average twice what we pay for a similarly valued home.

    • trudy

      Try $12,000 for a modest house, 1200 sq ft.

    • It makes a HUGE difference, and trudy and CincyCat are right about how much it can vary around the US. That’s one of the reasons we’re so big on picking where you live based on how much it costs to do so…

  • My grandparents moved down to Boca full-time from New Jersey when they retired and used to complain non-stop about the snow-birds. I felt like it was a little hypocritical, but they liked to complain about just about everything so I guess this wasn’t any different.
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    • admin

      My uncle has had silver hair (and a ponytail!) for about 30 years now. As long as I have known him, he would drive up and down the beach and complain about all the “damn grayhairs.”

  • Thanks for the laugh, I needed it this morning! I also learned something – I had no idea that full-time FL residents got a tax break! It makes sense and I’m glad they do that for you guys. Good luck with this year’s snowbird invasion!
    Kali @ CommonSenseMillennial recently posted..How to Have a Fun and Frugal Wedding: Part IIMy Profile

    • Yup! If you live here for 6 months + 1 day and own a primary residence, you can qualify for a homestead exemption that means you don’t pay taxes on the first $50K of value on your home. There are even more exemptions for window(er)s, veterans, and low income elderly.

  • I am from southern Ontario and we are happy to send a lot of our seniors away for the winter. They are most dangerous if we get snow before they leave because they have all forgotten how to drive in winter and they cause havoc on the roads.
    Jane Savers @ Solving The Money Puzzle recently posted..The Debt Jumped Up Instead Of Going Down TodayMy Profile

  • We have the same phenomenon in Arizona and the only real downside seems to be traffic. I think there’s got to be more people in the stores too, but I do my shopping at weird hours. I love doing grocery shopping in the really early morning or late at night. The only rub is moving around the guys stocking and facing the shelves…
    Done by Forty recently posted..Embracing Either/Or and Opportunity CostsMy Profile

    • Here the traffic really is weird. The time it’s the most noticeable is lunch time. Lunchtime errands are insanely difficult during snowbird season, but a breeze in the summertime. Weird, but it kindof makes sense.

  • We get a higher number of people at the beaches in the summer. I think it’s just trying to work around that, knowing where to park, having more patience, etc. You do have to look at the positive side like what you said in the money it brings the local economy. Although I think I would go crazy with al the slow drivers. I remember that from my time spent in Florida. Here you need to drive like you’re in the Indy 500.
    Budget and the Beach recently posted..Spending Money is Worth the Peace of MindMy Profile

    • Too true – Knowing where to park can make a world of difference. I have my “secret” parking spot on the side of Target since it’s easy to get in and out of through the back entrance. =)

  • Lara

    Not so different from where we live, only our invasion happens the last week of August, lasts nine months, and consists mostly of people between the ages of 18 and 24. Some full-time residents complain a lot, but living in a university town has a lot of advantages.

    • Yes! We were both part of an invasion like that in college – when the university was in session the town doubled in size. I wonder if living in a university town helps keep you young. =)

  • My parents experienced this a little bit when they moved in July. They happen to be very close to a popular beach destination, so lots of people vacation there for the summer. When I visited, the traffic and congestion was quite something. I thought they had been exaggerating! Since they are retired (for now), they chose to work around it by not doing any shopping on the weekend. They’re not beach people so they didn’t care about that.

    • My last apartment was a block from the beach, and the only annoying thing during beach season was the fact that I didn’t have an assigned parking spot (just street parking). So if I needed to go anywhere I tried to make sure I was coming back after dark so I could get a parking spot without having to park blocks away. Other than that living super close to the beach was awesome!

  • If you owned a store that sells culottes and black socks, you’d be salivating.I think you have the right perspective. Another benefit is that you’d seem really young, even maybe through your 50’s, at least to all the neighbors. All of our snowbirds head to Phoenix after Halloween. I used to laugh, but someday, I might just join them!
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted..Making Early Retirement a PossibilityMy Profile

    • too true! Turning 30 was a breeze, and some of my coworkers still call me an “infant” (in a nice way), since I’m the youngest in the office by a good 12 years and most folks in my office are 50+.

  • Snowbirds and Zonies (the AZ folks who come here for the summer) are abundant, but I generally don’t mind. The rare times I do, it’s most likely because I wasn’t fed at proper increments. I agree about being friendly in lines – it makes the waiting go by so much faster, plus you might make a friend/connection!
    anna recently posted..October Repayment and Half Marathon MusingsMy Profile

    • haha, I like that you get mad when you don’t get fed. The same thing happens to me. It’s so much easier to be easy going if you’re not starving!

  • I heard some of my relatives abroad talking about snowbirds but I didn’t mind to ask them what was that, thanks for explaining. :)I have my cousin who goes to the groceries every weekday and I do it every weekend I really don’t mind if the lines are long because I really enjoy walking in the grocery store.
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  • Hilarious. Well, I’m glad you asked, since Texarkana is a HUGE resort area. When I look at all of the people flocking into town every fall, I think to myself…..
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  • Reminds me of what would happen in Wisconsin during the summer time. Every weekend, folks down in Chicago and Southern Wisconsin would pack up bags and head up to the Northern wooded portion to go to cabins and lakes for a weekend retreat. A lot of people would get angry over all the additional traffic but I’m sure they weren’t complaining about the extra money coming in.
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  • My city is basically the same all year round EXCEPT Christmas/NY. Everyone packs up and leaves then. Its a ghost town.
    eemusings recently posted..Wordless Wednesday: Falling for New England in full colourMy Profile

  • I don’t live in a tourist town right now, and after I graduate I’m moving to a place that’s been described as great to live in, no reason to visit. So I guess I’m getting something out of that as well.

  • Also, I want to add to some comments earlier about property taxes – a state’s gotta get its money somehow. So if you have low/no income tax, you probably have high property tax. (ex. CA vs. TX).
    Well Heeled Blog recently posted..Minimum Wage vs. Tipping System: Which is better?My Profile

  • When I read the title I thought your in-laws were in town :). How do you make sure people are part time residents? If there was so much of a tax incentive I would be declaring that FL house as my main residence and my MN home as secondary.
    Pauline recently posted..From having £12 and a suit to buying a property in 6 months!My Profile

  • As a Canadian, I’m more likely to be on the other side of the zombie apocalypse, as one of the snow birds that come to escape the brutal Canadian winters. But I still have a long way to go before I can take my cold winters elsewhere!

  • For some reason, the port that stuck with me is the tractor trailer of cars. I just assumed people would drive down. Why on earth would you ship your car? You can make it in a day from Chicago.

    Perhaps I’m biased because I enjoy roadtrips. I wonder how much this costs? I’d bet it would be a lot cheaper to drive.

    “There is no step 2”

    Friggin’ hilarious!!! Love it!
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  • I’d never heard the term Snowbird. In New York we affectionately call this period “the great migration.” So, I guess a bird analogy makes sense! It’s nice to have a few thousand less people bopping around NYC.
    Broke Millennial recently posted..Using Halloween to Teach about Taxes (aka Candy Tax)My Profile

  • Where I grew up, we called them “Winter Texans”, and yeah, it’d cause havok on the roads for a while. All the big RV’s coming down the highway (which wasn’t even an interstate). Many of them had “permanent” homes in trailer parks, and just drove their cars down. I always wondered how they got their mail and paid their bills (this was before the Internet)….
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  • :-) That’s so funny. We’ve long had snowbirds, too, most noticeable by the surge of traffic along about the end of October and the sudden appearance of very, very confused-looking drivers.

    Also at this time of year, the natives dust off their RVs and fifth-wheels. Wherever snowbirds go, we can go, too! And an RV makes a great spare bedroom. You should see the behemoth my neighbor has got parked in front of his house! Down the street, another neighbor has graced his driveway with this pontoon boat topped with a kind of tent houseboat accoutrement. Well…it’s one way to get the out-of-state relatives off the living room floor and out of the house, eh?
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