Author Archive

October 28

Become a Career Contest Winner and Save Money by Winning

Posted by on October 28, 2014 at 8:00 PM

Become a Career Contest Winner and Save Money by Winning

For some, entering contests and sweepstakes is more than just an occasional lark – it’s their career.

I first became aware of these prodigious winners as a kid. The son of a friend of my father’s, Jason Sheps, made entering contests his job and, as a result, he won a lot. In fact, he’s still doing it to this day as an adult. When last I saw him, he had won seats in a suite at the Air Canada Centre for the Toronto Maple Leafs, had his mom’s entire kitchen redone for free and took a boat trip in Vancouver with the Canadian Coastguard. His mother estimates that he’s won thousands of dollars in services, vacations, food and merchandise since he started doing this in elementary school.

I know, just reading that makes it all seem way to good to be true, but it can be done and Carolyn Wilman has made a career out of teaching people how to do it.

She calls herself The Contest Queen and she makes a living auditing, creating and drafting rules for contests and sweepstakes. With a background in marketing and event coordination, she has over 25 years experience, both as a contest competitor and as a contest consultant. Like Jason, she started entering contests as a kid. She’d be one of those teens, hanging on the rotary dialer, hoping to be the seventeenth caller for concert tickets.

She has won contests big and small since she was 15 and has saved a considerable amount of money doing so. Breakfast Television, Canada AM and The Mom Show all wanted to know her sweepstakes secrets and luckily, I can share a few here that she told me when I interviewed her in 2010 and are featured in her book, You Can’t Win If You Don’t Enter.

Know How to Find Them

There are many contests to be entered – even more if you count those available through social media – you just need to know where to look and it’s not always so obvious. That’s why you should get to know contest aggregators like All Canada Contests, which list all legitimate contests available to Canadians on one website. There are many of these, along with newsletters, blogs, sponsors, and forums that all point in the direction of active contests. We have a weekly roundup of contests on Bargainmoose, so take a look for that each Wednesday.

Honestly, the amount of contests that are out there can be a bit overwhelming, which is why Wilman recommends joining only one or two of these places, so you can avoid potential duplicates and don’t get confused.

Read the Rules Carefully

This is Wilman’s #1 tip since so many people don’t actually do it and screw up their chances of winning right off the bat.

“If you disqualify yourself and your name is drawn, you won’t win — simple as that. If you’re not paying attention, you’re just wasting your time,” she says.

The biggest rules that people overlook are the start date and the end date of the contest, so they’re either too late to enter or they’re unable to maximize their opportunities to enter because they don’t start on the first day. Also, not all contests are open to residents of Canada and even if they are, Quebec is usually shut out due to strict provincial government regulations for sweepstakes that are meant to protect citizens from scams. Some contests are only open to kids and some limit the number of times you can enter, either per day or for the duration of the contest, so read the rules and fine print carefully.

Enter as Many Contests and Sweepstakes as Many Times as You Can

The greatest key to making contests a career and winning a lot is to enter as many as you can as often as you can.

“It’s a numbers game,” says Wilman. “”I win 1% of what I enter,” she says. “People think I’m so lucky, I win everything, but 99% of those prizes go to other people.”

Her average output is about 100 to 300 entries a day, which equates to five to 15 prizes a month. It may seem like an epic waste of time at first, but Wilman says it does pay off.

“My husband used to tell me this was a waste of time and it was just a silly hobby, but then I won him the right to be a judge at the Miss Hawaiian Tropic Bikini Contest and he shut up pretty fast. Suddenly, it became ‘When are you going to enter that contest?’”

Also, there is technology out there that makes it so much easier, which leads to her next tip.

Use Technology to Your Advantage

There’s nothing in the rules that says you can’t use technology to make entering contests easier for you and that’s exactly what Wilman recommends. She uses a tool called Roboform to help her fill out multiple entry forms at the same time and organize them from one central hub. Through her $30 investment, she has won over $200,000 in prizes, so it’s pretty worth it if you’re going to be serious about this.

Don’t Work Alone

The good news is, you don’t have to enter contests in isolation. You can build a support system to help you out and give you tips along the way, especially because contests are getting harder and harder these days.

“More and more they’re looking for UPC codes, they want skill testing questions and you can get help from other people,” confirms Wilman.

To stem the tide and fight back against the increased complexity, Wilman recommends starting a contest club in your neighbourhood where friends can get together and “talk shop,” as she calls it. It’s a great way to pool your resources and collect the required number of boxtops or UPC codes faster. Besides, while Wilman admits that the contest internet forums can get really clique-y and snippy, she says you won’t have the same problems as much in real life.

“You find the right group and everyone is happy for you, you don’t get the eye-rolls and the jealousy.”

Do you think entering contests to save money is worth it? Let us know in the comments below.

Photo credit: Ben Rea

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October 26

The Top 5 Ways You’re Wasting Money

Posted by on October 26, 2014 at 8:00 PM

The Top 5 Ways Youre Wasting Money

Have you ever checked your bank balance expecting to see one number, but the number you actually see is much lower than you were expecting?

Suddenly, you think, where did all my money go?

Good question, where did it go? It’s almost like it evaporated into thin air.

We know the feeling – you have money one minute and the next it seems like it’s just disappeared. Obviously, it didn’t just get up and walk away, but there are so many places that you can spend money in the world, it’s possible to not even realize that you’re doing it.

Hopefully though, if you’re conscious of where your money is potentially going, it’ll be easier to avoid these traps and not spend your money needlessly. Below are various money traps that when avoided, will make it easier to save money.

You let food spoil in your fridge
We know it can be difficult to figure out how much food you actually eat in a week or a month, so every so often something falls through the cracks and spoils in your fridge. Regardless of whether it was a mistake, spoiled food is still money down the toilet. Lifehacker has some great common sense tips for avoiding food spoilage, including only buying the food you will actually eat, buying smaller packages that fit the amount of people in your household, share what you can’t eat, use all parts of your food and use a blender to use up your food and disguise it in other dishes.

You overuse data on your data plan
You’re probably spending more on your cell phone data plan than you really should. Be vigilant about closing windows running in the background of your phone without your knowledge and download free apps like Onavo, which monitors your data usage and tells you which programs hog the most data and where most of your data goes. It also reduces your data usage by compressing it and only using the most essential parts of your program. Download it and see if you save money just by having it run as you go about your business on your phone.

You Don’t Haggle or Negotiate
We recently did an article featuring one of America’s preeminent negotiators – Herb Cohen. Go read it and you’ll find loads of haggling advice. While haggling is second nature in other countries, we’re kind of embarrassed to do it in North America and many of us are too intimidated to take things at anything less than face value. Well, we’re not negotiating to our detriment. According to Fast Company, and a study cited by the two authors of Women Don’t Ask, a book we referenced in our previous article, women lose out on more than $500,000 over the course of their career if they don’t push for more money during their first job. This is a hell of a lot of money, so read our article on haggling and pick up some tips.

You Don’t Get Built-in Discounts
Some of us (but hopefully nobody reading this website) put those flyers, circulars and coupons we receive in our mailbox straight into the recycling and in the process don’t take advantage of the deals right in front of us. Of course, presenting flyer coupons to a store clerk takes more work than we should ever have to do in the internet age – what with the hassle of cutting of the coupons, the driving to the store and the redeeming them at check out. Thank god there’s an easier way. Instead of wishlists, Lifehacker recommends using price alerts from the browser utility Camelizer to get automatic alerts when the prices on your favourite products drop below a certain threshold. InvisibleHand is even better, it will find you a lower price on the product you’re looking at so you can compare. There are even more ways to automate your discounts – look for them in a future Bargainmoose article.

You Don’t Try Lowering Regular Bills
We all know phone and cable bills can be through the roof, but most of us just seem to accept that we’re paying hundreds of dollars and don’t do anything about it. Yet, cable and phone companies have regular promotions and discounts, all you really need to do is ask. Usually though, it’s all in how you ask. Stay calm and polite, as you catch more bees with honey and always emphasize that you’ll be with this company for the long haul (brand loyalty) and you just want to save money and work something out. Of course, some things are non-negotiable, but be specific about your needs and you never know what may happen. Plus, if you continue to get the run-around over the phone, it never hurts to visit the offices or a company retail location in person.

How do you waste money? Tell us in the comments.

Photo credit: B Rosen

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October 22

How to Haggle Your Way to a Better Deal

Posted by on October 22, 2014 at 8:00 PM

How to Haggle Your Way to a Better Deal

Ladies, you’ve probably heard this at least once in your life.

When it comes to haggling for a better deal, most women have one thing in common – they suck at it.

Linda Babcock and Sara Lashchever, authors of Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide, reveal some interesting statistics on their website.

According to their book, 2.5 times more women than men said they “feel a great deal of apprehension when negotiating” and men initiate negotiations four times as often as women. Women compared negotiating to “going to the dentist,” while men compared it to “winning a ballgame” or a “wrestling match.” This opinion costs women money.

Get this, the book also revealed that women will voluntarily pay $1,353 to avoid negotiating the price of a car and that women are more pessimistic about what they can get from negotiating, so they typically ask for and get less than men – 30% less to be exact. Even worse, 20% of female adults – that’s 22 million people – avoid negotiating at all, even though they know that sometimes negotiating is called for and necessary.

You may think these statistics come from one source and they could be biased, but there are countless other sources that show that women have difficulty negotiating for raises or their job offers.

In fact, compared to other places in the world, North Americans negotiate a lot less, but it hasn’t always been this way.

“One hundred years ago, Americans used to negotiate because we weren’t as affluent as we are now. After the Second World War, we had a monopoly on a lot of the world’s manufactured goods and people had to deal with that kind of ultimatum, so a (no choice on the price) attitude became much more pervasive,” said Herb Cohen when I interviewed him about the art of the deal in 2010.

Herb Cohen is one the world’s foremost negotiators. He helped create the F.B.I.’s hostage negotiation program, he advised U.S. President Jimmy Carter on the Iranian Hostage Crisis and he is arguably credited with coining the term, “win-win situation.”

As a woman, you may suck at negotiating, but like Cohen told me, “Anything that’s the product of a negotiation can be negotiated for. You just have to know how to do it effectively.”

So without further adieu, here are a few ways to do just that.

Do Some Research Before You Suit Up

WikiHow recommends finding out how much what you want is going for by either comparing prices online or visiting other stores in your area. Make sure you’re comparing apples to apples and you’re not looking at a used product or one with considerable damage that isn’t what you’re buying. Arm yourself with proof of lower prices in case the store clerk is willing to match or beat them. Also familiarize yourself with the various features of the product and how they compare with other models or competing products, so that you know the difference between them and value of each and can set the perimeters of the deal.

Have Your Lowest Price in Mind Before You Start

Thanks to the research you do, Kiplinger points out that you should have a fair price in mind – or at least the lowest price you’re willing to settle for – and you can use the research you’ve done to make your case. However, don’t name that price. Staying quiet can work to your advantage, as silence is awkward and can get the seller to volunteer a lower price, especially if it’s the end of the day or the seller looks eager to leave or close the deal. Get them to quote a price first and then ask how much they can come down, don’t give them the price you have in mind. Never give away a number right away. If the seller says “Yes” you’ll never know if you could’ve gone lower and got an even better deal.

Keep Negotiations Friendly

Too many people see a negotiation as a battle with a winner and a loser, but most expert negotiators say that if one of the parties involved in the deal goes away unhappy, then you have haggled wrong. According to The Telegraph, you should start by building a rapport with the salesperson. Smile, ask for their first name and give them yours. Then you can start with a little small talk before you get down to business. Get them to show you the product that you’re seeking and walk you through its features. You may know this information already thanks to your research, but it can help put the seller at ease and make them eager to help you.

Remember, you want them to work with you and not against you. You also want to help them out and try to create a win-win situation for both sides. Ask them about their current stock because maybe if they help you with a deal, you can help them by getting rid of some of their overstock. Frame all your discussions as if you need them to help you.

Look for Flaws, Defects or Age Indicators

You should never pay full price for a flawed or damaged product, so if you spot flaws, point out what’s wrong and use it as a reason you should get a deal. You can also use the same tactic if you’re buying a floor model, used products, last year’s model, or the last one left.

Never Take No for an Answer and Always be Prepared to Walk Away

Don’t just say you’ll walk away if you can’t get a deal – actually do it. Stand your ground and keep asking the salesperson questions. Don’t let them rush you into a buy, take your time and work all the angles. Know that if it doesn’t feel right, you can walk away at anytime and make sure the salesperson knows that. If they see a potential sale walking out the door, they may suddenly get a bit more cooperative.

Bundle Your Items

Before you start in on the big main event item you you’ve come for, take a look around the showroom floor and see if anything else catches your fancy. If something does, put it in the back of your mind because you may be able to save that one for later. The more you’re able to bundle your purchases together, (doing the seller a favour by taking more merchandise off their hands) the steeper the discount you should be entitled to.

There you have it, did we miss anything? What’s your favourite haggling strategy and are women really as bad at it as people think? Leave your answer in the comments below.

Photo credit: Keith Chastain

Moose Rating (2 votes)
October 19

Knock-Off vs. Real Deal: How to Spot the Not

Posted by on October 19, 2014 at 8:00 PM

Knock Off vs. Real Deal: How to Spot the Not

Last week, I went to Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities, Cirque du Soleil’s newest production, and while the show was fantastic – well worth the price of admission – the food and the souvenirs were way overpriced (typical of a show of that caliber).

The prices would tempt anyone to try and find cheaper alternatives, which is why sometimes if you exit an event like Cirque du Soleil or (more typically) a concert, you’ll be quickly and immediately accosted by a bunch of guys selling t-shirts at a deep discount.

Has this happened to you? You’d know by how insistent these men were that you close the sale in minutes right on the spot. If you’d been there before, maybe you had a chance to take a close look at those shirts as well. No matter what event this happens at, they all come with the same M.O. From a distance those shirts look like the genuine article, basically identical to the ones you could get inside the venue. But if you look closely, the shirts are anything but — there are a few subtle changes that indicate they’re not exactly official merchandise.

So was that hasty purchase worth it to save a few dollars? Some Bargainmoosers (or is it Bargainmeeses?) may think so, but that purchase was counterfeit, which is why it happened so fast. The sellers were trying to get out of dodge before the cops caught wind. Hey, it’s a nice deal if you can get it, but counterfeit goods come at a cost.

You may not care that the sale of counterfeit goods increases the price of the real product or that you don’t know where the money you spent is going and counterfeit goods are often linked to terrorism, but you may care that counterfeit goods are of questionable quality and that money you saved may go right back into fixing the merchandise when it falls apart.

Whatever you think of counterfeit products, (good or bad) no Bargainmooser is worth their fake antlers if they can’t tell the difference between an artificial product and the genuine article.

So, below you’ll find a number of ways you can spot the not.

Look for Inconsistencies in the Packaging

The easiest way to spot a fake product is to look for differences in the packaging. Grammatical and spelling errors are common and rather obvious. We’re not talking about the occasional missing comma here. Instead, you’ll find random letters or typos in words they have no place in. Think “SOUTH AFRLCA” and “Assoxiation” for example. All of it is usually extremely obvious.

Even if there are no spelling mistakes, the printing quality would be rather shoddy. Look for colours that run or are different than those on the actual packaging you may have seen elsewhere. Look for warped or blurry text along with company logos that don’t quite look the same as the brand you think you’re buying.

Sometimes you’ll notice shoddy workmanship on the package itself. Sometimes counterfeit packages are partially or completely open before they even leave the seller’s hands. They might even be taped closed in a cheap and unprofessional way. If you see any of these many inconsistencies, they’re an absolute dead giveaway that what you’re getting isn’t exactly the real thing.

Look for Deals that Seem Too Good to be True

It’s not that counterfeit goods are always cheaper than the real products they are impersonating, but many of the deals you may be offered for them are generally ridiculously out of touch with the reality of the market. I mean, for crying out loud, who can afford to sell a brand new Louis Vuitton for $50 when the average price starts at $1,000 unless you are a counterfeiter? Exactly, nobody.

If you’re still in doubt, perhaps you should compare previous versions of the product you bought with this more suspect edition or, if this is your first time buying this product, go to the company website and compare what you have to what you see online.

Look for Shoddy Workmanship and Missing Pieces

Most companies take pride in their products, so seeing torn, frayed or broken merchandise should send up red flags immediately. If you see missing tags, decals or parts that are present on genuine versions of what you purchased, then you probably have a fake in your midst. All genuine products come with everything needed for their operation, including a user’s manual, product registration documents and accessories.

Therefore, if any of these are missing or different from what you’d typically expect, then you’ve likely been had by the seller. Again, it may not matter if something isn’t quite the same as the original, but can you think of anyone who wants a crappy product, even if they’re going for a deal?

Look for Safety Certification and Safety Standards Marks

If you’re buying electronics, you’d usually find a Canadian Standards Association mark if it’s a Canadian product and an Underwriter’s Laboratory or ETL mark if it’s an American product. All three marks certify that the product has been tested and meets North American safety standards In Europe, you’re looking for a CE mark to tell you that the merchandise is certified for safe use on that continent.

Counterfeit goods either don’t have these marks or have fake and generic versions of them. We recommend familiarizing yourself with what these marks really look like, so you know what to look for. Often, fake products will have the certification on the packaging, but not on the product itself and although the mark is of varying sizes on all products, they always look the same in terms of font and design. So, if these marks look different in any way, or they’re just nowhere to be found, then you probably have a fake product and a huge fire hazard on your hands.

Okay BargainMoosers, have any of you ever bought a fake product? If you have, tell us your story.

Photo credit: Ben

Moose Rating (1 votes)
October 14

How Your Favourite Celebrities Save Money

Posted by on October 14, 2014 at 8:00 PM

How Your Favourite Celebrities Save Money

Celebrities saving money? I know, right? Why would you even need to deprive yourself when you can literally have anything you want? Still, it’s nice to know that, in some respects, some of them are just like us. I guess it’s comforting.

Besides, just because you get famous doesn’t necessarily mean you have to live like a baller all the time and I’m sure those money saving habits that served them well when they were struggling actors are hard to break.

After all, fame is fleeting – one minute you’re living high on the hog and the next you could be eating Kraft dinner again, so maybe these money saving habits are good for the Jennifer Lawrences and the Lena Dunhams of the world to know, in case they ever lose their appeal as the “It” girls of the moment.

Below you’ll find some of Hollywood’s finest and their average joe strategies for saving money

Zooey Deschanel Saves More Than She Spends

During her 2012 divorce from Ben Gibbard, the lead singer for Death Cab for Cutie (duh!), court documents revealed that she was waaaay in the black. According to Huffington Post, she saves 76% of her income, has absolutely no debt and has put away $1.58 million in the bank with even more money tied into an investment portfolio.

My financial advisor would applaud those numbers, but I guess it’s easy to put a little away into that emergency fund when you make $95,000 a month.

Sarah Michelle Gellar Clips Coupons

So, it turns out that when Sarah Michelle Gellar wasn’t slaying vampires on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she was slaying flyers and coupon books with a pair of scissors.

In 2012, the actress admitted to Self Magazine that she clips coupons saying, “I clip coupons all the time. Why should you pay more for something that someone else is paying less for?”.

Yes, why should you, Sarah? That’s the question we ask ourselves all the time at Bargainmoose and we’re glad you share those sentiments.

I wonder if she’d start going all Buffy on the grocery clerk or dry cleaner if they refused to redeem that 20% off voucher?

Hilary Swank Buys in Bulk

This two-time Academy Award winner is another actress who says she sees coupons as “a dollar in her pocket,” but that’s not all she does to save money. The actress also buys toilet paper and toothpaste in bulk, even though she’s more than financially secure.

These habits aren’t so unusual, especially for her. In her earlier life she lived hand-to-mouth in a trailer park in Bellingham, Washington and we all saw her chow down on a burger just after winning her first Academy Award for Boys Don’t Cry. It’s easy for her to be one of the boys, as her penny pinching practices are so engrained, she’s not above getting her hands dirty if it will save a few bucks. In 2010, she told Regis and Kelly this:

“When you open up the paper and you see those coupons, it looks like dollar bills staring you in the face. . . . It’s how I grew up. Why not?”

Sarah Jessica Parker Will Not Spoil Her Children

Though she has a weakness for Manolo Blahnik shoes – owning over 100 pairs – SJP insists that she’s the complete opposite from her shopaholic character Carrie Bradshaw on Sex in the City. The Daily Scoop reports that she went to the school of hard knocks, living on welfare while growing up in a family of eight.

In a 2008 interview she’s said that she didn’t by her son new clothes when he was younger. Instead, he wore hand-me-downs from his older cousins.

“James only wears hand-me-downs because I’ve got all these older nephews…Plus my mother saved all my brothers’ clothes…I think it’s incumbent on my husband and me to really stress and to show James Wilkie by example what it means to owe your community something and that he is not entitled to the benefits of our hard work.”

Kristen Bell is No Bridezilla

When Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard got married there was no Hollywood wedding. The whole affair only cost $142 plus gas. She told Jay Leno that it almost didn’t happen because even though they filled out the paperwork, the couple forgot to find someone to officiate the wedding so they had to scramble to call their friends (some of them were ordained) to find someone.

The friend that finally came through was actually in the same courthouse and after the deed was done, the new Mr. and Mrs. Shepard joined their friends at a local restaurant where they were presented with a cake that proudly proclaimed, “The World’s Worst Wedding.”

The two wouldn’t have it any other way. Shepard told Jimmy Kimmel, “How many people can say they threw ‘The World’s Worst Wedding?’”

Just you and Kristen, Dax. Just you and Kristen.

Photo credit: Chris Potter

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October 7

Is Your Junk Picker Worthy? How to Tell If it’s Worth Money

Posted by on October 7, 2014 at 8:00 PM

Is Your Junk Picker Worthy? How to Tell If its Worth Money

American Pickers, Canadian Pickers, Picker Sisters and Down East Dickering are just some of the shows on television involving a pair of humans showing up on an unsuspecting stranger’s front porch asking to see stuff in their garage that they might be able to make money off of.

The fantasy is that unassuming piece of junk sitting just to the right of your car gathering dust is actually worth hundreds of dollars and in demand from collectors. Most of the time, it never gets beyond the fantasy, but every so often, your junk is actually picker-worthy and would probably be snapped up by Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz (American Pickers) from Antique Archeology in a second.

So how can you make sure that actually happens? Here are a number of surefire ways to tell if your junk is worth money, attracting pickers and their cash from all across the land.

Toys

We’re all trying to recapture our childhoods, so toys are always a potentially valuable item. With those who grew up in the 80s and 90s now adults, first generation retro toys from popular franchises from that era like G.I. Joe, Thundercats, Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are extremely hot. In package, all four of the turtles are going for $120.00 on eBay.

Even hotter are toys from the 60s and 70s, particularly from popular franchises like Dukes of Hazzard, Star Wars or The Monkees and it’s not limited to figures. Painted lunchboxes, vehicles and other original merchandise could be worth money.

However, it all comes down to condition. The better the condition (particularly if it’s still in the package and mint or near mint) the more money you get. Condition grades start at mint or near mint and go down from there to fine and very fine. The more damage, marks or wear on your toys, the less they are worth.

Also, beware of re-issues – new toys made to look like the original toys from when they first came out. These are made for those who wish to recapture their youth, but can’t afford the original toys, so often toymakers will release new versions based on the original sculpts or looks of the older toys. These look nice and are very affordable alternative, but they won’t fetch top dollar among collectors. Instead, always look for originals and look for toys that may have a certain timelessness or sentimental quality.

Fads such as pogs and beanie babies are also popular among collectors. The same goes with anything else that was very popular one moment and at garage sales the next.

Books and Magazines

First editions of popular books known around the world, such as Lord of the Rings and The Hound of the Baskervilles are extremely valuable, but the key to their value isn’t just that they are old, but, as Powell’s Books writes in their Rare Books F.A.Q., it’s because the demand for these rare books is high, but they are all in short supply. So, not only should your book be old, but a popular book with very few available first editions.

But, like toys, what matters here is condition, condition, condition – the more pristine the book, the more valuable it is. Also, the easier it is to establish its authenticity — maybe it features the year it was published or is signed by the author — the more valuable it is.

As for magazines, first issues of any popular magazine are always hot sellers (not re-launches, but the literal first issues) and the first appearance of any popular celebrity can get you a mint. Also, look for the first work by world-renowned writers and artists, such as the first appearance of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan in All-Story Magazine (1912).

Stay away from significant newsworthy events, like magazines commemorating The Kennedy Assassination or the swearing in of Barack Obama because if you kept it, chances are other people did too, so there’s bound to be a lot of copies floating around and if something is common, it’s not collectible.

Comics

A comic’s collect-ability generally follows the same rules as magazines as well. First issues are generally a safe bet, but they have to feature the debut of a popular or long-running character. Also, look for relaunches here too, as new number ones of a cancelled book that is then restarted are not valuable at all, particularly in modern times.

What you’re looking for are issues of significance, like first appearances or the beginning of a significant storyline with far reaching effects on a comic’s history. Significant deaths, such as the death of Gwen Stacy in Amazing Spider-Man #122, are also in demand along with significant storyline events.

The release of a new comic book movie usually sees collectors clamoring for the original comics the movies are based on. The release of Guardians of the Galaxy saw vendors feature the first appearances of Star-Lord and Rocket Raccoon as wall books (sold at a higher price point) at comic conventions in the summer of 2014.

Signatures from popular creators on their crowning achievements help, but like all collectibles, condition is what determines value in comics and the better the condition the more it is worth. Of course, hugely rare and significant books in relatively poor condition will still fetch top dollar since there are no longer many of them to be had in the first place.

Graded comics will also fetch higher prices than comics that are loose or stored with bags and boards. These are comics appraised by experts and given a grade based on their condition and then sealed permanently in an archival acrylic well with alkali buffers. They are sold at double or triple the price of the same issue without the treatment because collectors trust the graded appraisal as the standard of the market.

Furniture

For furniture to be considered valuable it must be old, but not all old furniture is collectible or an antique. CILSS Antiques has a useful guide to determining if furniture is old, saying that sharp corners often indicate recent manufacturing.

It also gives this advice: “If the upholstery is not original, lift one edge: the antique chair rail to check for the innumerable nail holes which, to a trained eye, are the reassuring sign of many re-upholsterings over the course of a long life” – along with many other fine points.

Once age is established, a piece’s value is determined based on four criteria: rarity, provenance, quality and condition. Patina, colour and finish are important as well, but these elements play a secondary role. The more ornate the design of the furniture, the higher the value as well.

Stay away from repainted or refinished old furniture, as re-painting and re-sanding decreases value. Replaced glass mirrors also decrease the value of furniture with a mirror. Look for more versatile pieces that can be used in modern homes – oversize pieces too large to fit through doors are impractical and unattractive to buyers. Original upholstery also is a good sign on chairs if it’s in good condition.

And the List Goes On…

There are countless other categories of potential collectibles that any picker would salivate over and could be gathering dust in your garage, so perhaps Bargainmoose may cover other antiques in a similar fashion in a future installment of this article.

Photo credit: Dandy Denial

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October 5

How to Save Money on Minor Hockey

Posted by on October 5, 2014 at 8:00 PM

How to Save Money on Minor Hockey

Hockey is our national past-time, played by kids and adults on ponds and ice rinks across the country, but it’s extremely expensive to play in a league. From the equipment to the dues and registration fees, the average cost of minor hockey can be $500 to $1,000 a week, especially if you count gas, hotels, food and other costs related to team road trips and tournaments.

“Once you’ve signed on for the season, you’re expected to be there and play, whether you budgeted for it or not, and you wouldn’t miss it for anything,” Theresa Dostaler, a hockey parent, told The Globe and Mail. She estimated at the time that she would spend at least $5,600 a season for her three kids to play hockey (two boys on rep teams and a three-year-old daughter in tyke).

Not every kid can be Sidney Crosby and most kids don’t play with the talent and skill needed to make it even close to the NHL, but no matter what level you kid plays at, and whether it’s for fun or for larger major league aspirations, hockey will quickly empty the wallet of any parent – it does not discriminate.

So, with that in mind, we give you ways your kids can still play hockey, while you can save some money along the way.

Buy Equipment Used or Secondhand

The great thing about kids is they grow out of equipment. It’s great for parents because that means there’s tons of barely-used equipment (last year’s model) lying around. Hell, there’s even a store with locations across the country and all they sell is second-hand sports equipment. They’re called Play It Again Sports and they’ve got helmets, skates, pads, sticks and goalie equipment that’s all been gently used and priced at a discount compared to the new stuff. Other stores across the country like Sports Junkies and Totem Outfitters have also gotten into the action. Though, it’s important to use caution with secondhand equipment because certain pieces need to meet the safety standards of the Canadian Standards Association, especially helmets and face shields.

Plus, if you’re going for last year’s models, the best time to buy is the last week of July or the first two weeks of August and the earlier you go to the store, the more opportunity to take advantage of the greatest selection and deals. Honestly, there’s really no point in buying new equipment every year if your kids are under a certain age.

After all, as Philip Mckee of The Ontario Hockey Federation told Money Sense Magazine, “Kids don’t need sticks costing more than $75 or skates over $300.”

Try a Starter Kit

You can get an early start on savings by purchasing a hockey equipment starter kit for kids who are just entering the sport. The Ontario Hockey Federation has teamed with Bauer and Canadian Tire to offer a Jonathan Toews starter kit called JT19, which includes all the protective equipment you will need in small, medium and large sizes. The kit comes with shoulder pads, shin pads, elbow pads, pants and a hockey bag at prices ranging from $82.99 to $123.99. It’s a great way to grab most of the equipment you need in a single shot and comes in small, medium and large sizes.

Lobby to Lower Registration Fees

Registration fees can vary widely depending on where your child plays. According to The Observer, fees range in price from $600 in Petrolia to as high as $2,100 for the Chatham Cyclones. The Sarnia Hockey Association charges a $610 registration, but offers a discounted $535 early-bird fee.

Still expensive fees, especially when you get up to a rep team level where some teams charge the equivalent of college tuition, are driving kids away from minor hockey, according to CBC. Actually, it is possible to find cheaper fees, but the cost of ice time continues to go up, which is the main reason teams are charging more than ever.

Rob Gardner, president of the Greater Toronto Hockey League, told CBC that “in Toronto, an hour of city-owned ice costs $170, up eight per cent from last season. Private ice in St. John’s costs $200 an hour and about $270 in Toronto.”

But there is hope. You can lobby your hockey association to partner with a government or private organization that helps cover the cost of sports activities In St. John’s, its minor hockey leagues partner with a government organization called Recreation Experiences and Leisure (R.E.A.L) to help cover costs and a similar organization – Athletics for Kids – does the same in West Vancouver. Both organizations cover registration, equipment and sometimes travel expenses for kids in need. It’s also important that you join a team and a league that holds regular fundraising activities that can help subsidize the cost.

As a league, West Vancouver Minor Hockey uses $2,000 from an annual fundraising lottery to cover their players in need, they subsidize all players ages five to eight and they accept credit card payments so that registration fees don’t need to be paid all in one shot. If your league isn’t already doing these things make sure they are. You can also lobby corporate sponsors to partner with your league and cover ice time, so that registration fees don’t have to be so expensive.

Fundraise

With travel expenses one of the big, rising question marks of any hockey career, it is impossible to know just how much it will cost. The Globe and Mail estimates the figure to be somewhere around $2,200 a year per player. Usually that means at least $1,000 just in gas alone. Every city across Canada with a hockey team feels the pinch that’s why it’s important to participate in bottle drives and sell advertising on the back of jerseys to help offset costs. Some teams offer deals on tournaments, such as buy one, get one free.

But perhaps the best way to get rid of travel costs is to fundraise – a staple of most minor hockey teams’ annual repertoire. There are many ways to do this, including a garage sale, a golf tournament, a car wash, bottle drives and countless others. Tons of advice for putting on these various fundraisers can be found at CanadianHockeyMoms.ca like how to arrange your events so they are either all ages or just for the parents, if you are so inclined.

Grants

In most cases, low income families that are eligible can qualify for a grant to cover their minor hockey costs from $100 to $500 or more. The usual suspects to look into include Canadian Tire’s Jumpstart Program, KidSport Canada and Hyundai’s Hockey Helpers, RBC’s Play Hockey Program, Chevrolet Making Dreams Possible and more. It’s as easy as Googling “Minor Hockey Grants” or asking your local hockey association. There are also corporate sponsors such as Tim Horton’s and Esso that sponsor hockey camps, coaching clinics and hockey programs for kids across the country.

Shop with Puck Bucks

If you shop for hockey equipment and everyday items at Club Hockey Canada you’ll get 20% of the cost of your purchase back in Puck Bucks (one puck buck = one dollar), which can be redeemed directly towards registration fees, tournament fees and ice time. So, for all you shopaholics out there, Hockey Canada invites you to purchase home electronics, kitchenware, tools and garden equipment, along with various items from recognizable brands, and save on your child’s hockey expenses.

Photo credit: Mark H. Anbinder

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September 30

How to Make Money Inaccessible to Yourself

Posted by on September 30, 2014 at 8:00 PM

How to Make Money Inaccessible to Yourself

Are you always wondering why there’s literally no money left at the end of the month to put away for savings?

For most of us, it’s because we have a hard time keeping money in our pockets and always find it burning that proverbial hole. If you are one of those people — where no matter what you do you always seem to be spending money — this is the article for you.

Some people need to put their credit card in their freezer or get their spouse to put them on an allowance because their spending habits are so out of control that if they got a hold of money, they’d send their family budgets into a tailspin.

Below are techniques meant to hide your money from yourself, so you don’t become your own worst financial enemy:

Go Cash Only and Cash Restricted

Research shows that the physical act of getting cash out of your wallet causes people to think about what they are doing and causes us to instinctively spend less than we would when we can’t see a transaction taking place, like through debit or those new Interac Flash systems. According to Investopedia, people spend 12-18% more when they use credit and debit cards over cash.

The key thought for those addicted to spending is to only take out a certain amount of money for the week and if that’s gone before the end of the week, it’s gone and you can’t go back to the ATM. You also should leave your ATM and credit cards at home and if you don’t trust yourself with cash either, give control of your wallet to someone else you trust and make it their responsibility to only give you a certain amount of money and keep your wallet away from you if you ask for more.

Set Up a Separate Bank Account that’s Hard to Get To

In his book A Million Bucks by 30, Alan Corey suggests setting up a separate account for savings that you can automatically send money to, but is really hard to get to and take money out. He recommends choosing a bank account that’s an actual long distance from your home (say, 30 to 50 miles from your home).

Also, you should make sure that you don’t tie a debit card or cheques to the account, so that in order to take money out, you actually have to go to your bank every time. Basically, you’re just making it ridiculously annoying for you to actually go out and get that money so you won’t be tempted. It also makes it easier for you to forget about it to the point where the apocalypse would have to happen for you to need to take money out.

Use Investment Tools and their Penalties

Many investment tools for long-term savings carry steep penalties if you take money out early. Depending on the financial institution, there may be a $25 penalty for withdrawing frequently from a Tax-Free Savings Account. The first withdrawal is generally free, however. If you are connecting your TFSA to another investment tool, such as a GIC you are beholden the rules that govern that investment apparatus.

“Generally, the more access you have to your money, the lower the rate you will receive. Some GICs are cashable, and others are not redeemable at all. Some offer early redemption with a penalty,” reads an article about GICs on BalanceJunkie.com.

When you’re trying to make money harder to get to, nothing is a better motivator than a financial penalty, so use that to your advantage. Also, with GICs you get a higher rate for growth the more you limit your access to your money and the less liquid your cash is.

Transfer Small Amounts of Money into Savings Instead of a Lump Sum

Most financial experts and institutions encourage us to automate a lump sum cash transfer into our savings account once a month, but for most of us, this is doomed to fail.

I don’t know about you, but for me this makes managing my savings feel too much like a bill. Plus, if you don’t have the money one month, you’re going to worry and have anxiety about it. You might even cancel it anyway, since that’s so easy to do. Plus, what if you’re short on a bill that month and you could’ve used that money?

Instead of going with the monthly lump sum, personal finance blog TheBirdie.com recommends transferring smaller, weekly increments into your savings account. For example, $10, $20, or $50 – whatever you can spare that would be about the cost of a night out. This way, you can build a nice little nest egg and you won’t miss it or worry about it because you won’t even see it. Maybe you’ll even think you already spent it somewhere else and it’ll be so rewarding to look later and see that the money is actually still there. Very life affirming.

Photo credit: Duckie Monster

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September 28

How to Save Money on Life Insurance

Posted by on September 28, 2014 at 8:00 PM

How to Save Money on Life Insurance

The very first thing that will put you on the road to saving money on life insurance is determining how much life insurance you actually need and what you need it for.

There’s nothing worse than spending hundreds of dollars on an annual permanent insurance premium and only needing coverage until your kids leave the nest. Conversely, you don’t want to pay the high renewal premium for a term insurance plan, when you need life insurance to offset the tax on your estate or to insure your business in the event of your death.

Both of these mistakes will do the opposite of saving you money on life insurance and end up costing you in the long run. But there are ways to keep costs down when buying life insurance and we’ve asked Lorne Marr, founder of LSM Insurance in Markham, Ontario, to tell us how to do that. You might want to start with LSM’s Needs Analysis Calculator, which will help you determine how much life insurance you’ll actually need.

Stop Smoking

If you’re not a non-smoker already, Marr suggests you quit right away especially if you’re looking to buy life insurance sometime soon.

“The savings on premiums can be up to 60% on term policies, especially with younger people,” he says.

There is less of a variance on permanent policies for non-smokers, but it’s still a significant savings as a non-smoker because the policy is for life.

Ask About Preferred Rates

“If you are in very good health and have a very good family health history, you’ll probably qualify for preferred rates and that can save you about 30% above the standard rate,” confirms Marr.

About a third of life insurance applicants can get preferred rates. Remember though, it’s not just concerning your health, but your family’s health as well.

“You don’t have to be an Olympian,” elaborates Marr, “But you can’t have high blood-pressure or be on any medication.”

Ask About Banding Discounts

In your needs analysis, maybe you came up with a figure that was $480,000 worth of coverage. Well, if you round-up to $500,000, you’re likely to get a bit of a discount.

“You’re better off going with $500,000 because insurance companies have banding discounts, meaning the higher amount of coverage, the lower the cost per thousand,” assures Marr. “This means the coverage could actually cost you less than $480,000 worth of coverage.”

He recommends rounding up to the next $100,000 if the amount of insurance you need is close to a banding level.

Give Up Dangerous Activities and Habits

Another way to increase your discount and reduce your life insurance cost is to take Marr’s advice and cease all high-risk sports, such as bungee jumping, scuba diving or skydiving.

“Take those things up after you’ve qualified for life insurance,” suggests Marr, but it doesn’t end there.

“Drugs, alcohol and even dangerous driving — like a lot of speeding tickets — can all add up to a higher premium,” he continues.

It may be a couple of years before your previous lifestyle no longer affects your standing with the life insurance company, but Marr says that the longer the period of stability, the better off you are.

“If you’re a former alcoholic, [the insurance company] will want a stability period of about three years before your premiums can return to standard rates and if the stability period is longer than 10 years, your former lifestyle will have almost no impact on your premiums at all.”

See an Independent Broker

You can save a considerable coin if you work with an independent broker who can sell policies from many insurance companies, as opposed to a captive agent who only represents one insurance company and can only sell their products.

“A captive agent only works with one company generally and because that agent is captive and can’t shop around, the company can charge a higher premium,” says Marr. “When a broker is independent, generally the insurance company will offer a lower premium because if their rates aren’t competitive, the broker could go with another company.”

Brokers offer another advantage as well. Companies underwrite particular medical conditions differently from one another, so a broker can shop around and find a company that will underwrite a condition such as diabetes in the most favourable way.

Do a Preliminary Inquiry If You’re Hard to Insure

If you get declined for life insurance, you will negatively impact your future insurability and limit your policy options. So, if you’re a person who would be difficult to insure due to recent health problems and you suspect that you wouldn’t qualify for traditional life insurance, ask your broker to do a Preliminary Inquiry.

“A Preliminary Inquiry is when an insurance broker asks an insurance company informally whether you’d qualify for life insurance based on your health history, lifestyle and age without giving your name,” says Marr. “If it looks like you’re going to be declined for a traditional policy, then you’ll want to go with a simplified issue policy.”

A simplified issue policy is a policy with an application that has no medical tests and only a few health questions that you must be answer “NO” to. The barrier for entry is much lower with these policies.

“But if you’re declined, you’ll be disqualified from a lot of the simplified issue policies, which you’ll want to get because the face amounts are larger and the premiums are less expensive than guaranteed issue policies, which have no health questions and no medical tests.

“A Preliminary Inquiry is not a firm offer, but it will give you an idea whether you’ll be declined and you’ll know, if that is the case, there’s no point in submitting a traditional life insurance application,” says Marr. “You can then start to look for other life insurance options like guaranteed or simplified issue polices.”

Photo credit: Hartwig HKD

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September 23

Money Saving Tips from a Grifter, Hustler and Con Man

Posted by on September 23, 2014 at 8:00 PM

Money Saving Tips from a Grifter, Hustler and Con Man

Forget the honest dollar, some people always have an angle, none more so then those who make their living on the other side of the tracks.

Sure, what they do may not exactly be legal, but that does not mean that they aren’t correct sometimes when it comes to their attitude about money and the way the world works. It’s for this reason that you can borrow a few things from the grifters, hustlers and con men of the world. Particularly when it comes to their mentality around keeping money in their pocket.

After all, these slick, nefarious characters are experts at separating people from their money, but have you ever wondered how they keep the money they “earn” once they have it? The magic of any con is to not take your money by force, but to do it through persuasion. To make you think that you’re in control of the situation and that handing over your money is your idea.

Unlike taking things by force, it takes very little effort on the part of the con man to get what he wants So, if that person can get money in a way that makes you volunteer it because you want to, then he must be just as effective at holding onto his cash once he has it, right? Read on to find out:

Don’t Carry Baggage

In this capitalist society we live in, so much stock is put in possessions and things that spending seems to be out of control. According to Huffington Post, household debt is poised to hit a record high by the end of 2014 at $28,853.

But grifters and con men aren’t held down by material possessions. In a 2009 article from Men’s Journal, “What I learned from My Father the Grifter,” Pat Jordan writes that his father Patrick Michael Jordan (born Pasquale Michele Giordano, or Patsy, as most people called him) didn’t believe in “things.”

“There were no mementos in our house. No things from the past that had been passed down from one generation to the next,” Jordan wrote. Jordan’s father did not keep or save anything because he saw all that as baggage from his past. As he’d always say, “Baggage caused you to miss the next train out…baggage held you back.”

Of course, you probably won’t go to the extremes that Patsy did and eliminate all physical trace of your past and use everything you have for only its necessity, but we could probably all take Patsy’s advice a little bit and divest ourselves of our things and clutter that’s holding us back. Part of that also means not acquiring more things and tying our self-worth to them and as we all know, the less you acquire, the less you spend and the more you save.

Be Skeptical of Institutions

Patsy also did not trust institutions. Perhaps it was because he spent his childhood in an orphanage, but he told his son that there was nothing hinky taking place at the orphanage itself. He just didn’t trust them. He called life insurance, “blackmail, like a protection racket.” He never invested in the stock market, never had a credit card and never put his money in a bank because, as his son put it:

“He believed only in the cash in his hand and in his ability, his wits, to make more money out of that cash, or maybe lose it all, he didn’t care, as long as he didn’t entrust that money to forces and people beyond his control.”

Obviously, investments, credit cards and bank accounts are useful tools, but everything has its place and if there is anything the lemmings among us can learn from Patsy and other hustlers, it’s to not trust our entire financial future to a third party. The 2008 recession should’ve told Americans that no bank is too big to fail and Pasty’s lesson underscores that if you want something done right, you still should do it mostly yourself.

Too many people simply hand over their financial future to a financial advisor in it for the commission. If Patsy’s habits can be applied at all, we recommend doing your homework before trusting your money to anyone and try to know as much as your financial or insurance advisors before they try and sell you something you may not actually want or need.

Don’t Live Beyond Your Means and Give What You Can

While Patsy may have come by his money dishonestly, he never spent it on himself. Instead, he spoiled his family while he wore simple outfits to fool the “suckers” into thinking he was just an absent-minded professor.

“My father always dressed shabby Ivy League, like an absentminded professor, which was part of his con. His cronies even called him “Ivy League,” wrote Jordan. The only time Patsy spent money on himself was “every 20 years or so to buy a new navy blazer with brass buttons from J. Press Clothiers in New Haven.”

The rest of the time, he showered it on his family, taking them out to dinner every Sunday night, buying his wife mink coats and his son professional baseball gloves. They never wanted for anything and if his son ever needed money, forget the piggy bank, all he had to do was ask his father. Yep, Patsy spread his money around — always slipping the Maitre ‘ D some cash or making the coatcheck girl’s day with a c-note.

Sure, do that enough, as cavalierly as he did, and saving money will be the last thing you’ll be doing. Still, if you look deeper, Patsy had a point. If you live within or below your means as he did, you’ll be able to afford to treat the people you love to something nice every so often. Although, you probably don’t want to go about it exactly like Patsy did:

“It was a lesson he had learned in the orphanage: You make people happy by giving them what they want. And if you are lucky, they give you back a crust of affection,” wrote his son.

“For my father, love was to be conned out of people by his wits.”

Photo credit: Jose Manuel Rios Vallente

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September 21

The Pros and Cons of the Share Economy

Posted by on September 21, 2014 at 8:00 PM

The Pros and Cons of the Share Economy

Recently, we did an article surveying what’s out there in the share economy and detailing how you can save money by taking advantage of services from TaskRabbit, Fiverr, Uber, Elance and more.

While it is certainly true that you can save money and time with these websites, there is a bit of a dark side to the share economy that everyone should be aware of before wading into these new waters. Bargainmoose is all about saving money, but sometimes you need to use caution when doing so and its important to get the full picture.

With that in mind, we present the advantages and disadvantages of the share economy. This list will hopefully mean you’ll always know what you’re getting into with this new way of making and spending money.

Pro

Freedom and Flexibility

These two tenants are often touted as reasons to become a tasker on TaskRabbit or to complete a job on Elance and they are very true. Working any job as part of the share economy largely means you can set your own hours and work with who you want, when you want — all while setting your schedule from the comfort of home. Plus, the extra money you earn can be put towards your own financial freedom.

Con

Unpredictable Wages at Unpredictable Hours

Along with that freedom and flexibility comes unpredictability. No one should try to make a living solely on gigs garnered from the share economy because often the wages are a mere pittance compared to what a worker would get for the same service if they worked for a professional company. This is because bidders often undercutting each other with bids well below minimum wage. In a recent New York Times article, author Natasha Singer pointed out that those with no stable full-time job are turning to the share economy and trying to cobble together some semblance of an income without much success.

“They often work seven-day weeks, trying to assemble a living wage from a series of one-off gigs. They have little recourse when the services for which they are on call change their business models or pay rates. To reduce the risks, many workers toggle among multiple services.”

One economist source told Singer: “If you did the calculations, many of these people would be earning less than minimum wage. You are getting people to self-exploit in ways we have regulations in place to prevent.”

Pro

Insurance and Peer-Review

One of the great things about the share economy is that most sites like TaskRabbit and RelayRides offer insurance to protect you against damage or theft when someone else is driving your car or inside your home doing a chore. Perhaps more integral to even the necessary insurance in the shared economy is the peer-review system that ranks and reviews tenants, guests, taskers, drivers and more after they do a job or stay in your home. Those who do well get recommended, promoted to the most viewed parts of the site and get more jobs or offers, while those who end up providing a bad experience are harshly reviewed and ostracized by their peers on the site. It’s the number one homegrown system of checks and balances in the share economy.

Con

The Share Economy is Largely Unregulated

Across North America the share economy means that millions are renting out their homes like hotels or using their cars as taxi cabs and still these practices remain largely unregulated, but lawmakers in the U.S. are trying to change that.

This particularly true in larger urban centres like New York City and Chicago. In New York, legislators are trying to regulate the operations of Airbnb by charging their in violation of New York’s Illegal Hotel Law, which makes it illegal for New Yorkers to rent out their homes for fewer than 30 days unless the resident is living in the apartment at the time. Car-Sharing service Lyft was also banned in New York for what regulators called “disruptive” and “personally dishonest” business practices.

Of course, these regulations look like they’re just in place to protect already entrenched industries like hotels and taxis, but Micah Lasher, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s Chief of Staff, told Freakonomics Radio that regulating the share economy actually protects people.

“One of the big issues is the question of externalities and external impacts. In other words, if my next-door neighbour is using their apartment as a hotel room, they’re not just running a risk of their apartment getting trashed, they’re having an impact on me. Similarly, in the case of Lyft, if one of those drivers gets into a car accident, doesn’t have appropriate insurance, that can have an impact on a whole bunch of folks who did not sign up for that.”

Pro

The Democratization of Luxury Services

One of the best things about the share economy is that services previously reserved for high class individuals like chauffeur services, maid services and professional consultation services are now available and affordable to the masses. Plus, now anyone can do them. If you have initiative and an entrepreneurial spirit, you to can be a hotelier by renting out your home for a few days or a taxi cab driver by driving people around in your car. In the past, it used to be that these services were only available to those who could afford it, but now these services are available from regular people at a variety of price points – most of them affordable to the average person. These services used to be extras reserved for special occasions, but now they could be affordable enough to be enjoyed on a regular basis.

Con

Limited Safety and Corporate Oversight

Whenever you’re sharing your personal belongings like your car and your home with a stranger you just met online, the question of safety is always an issue, especially for women. Sites like CouchSurfing.com offer safety tips, but many of the companies in the share economy put the onus on you, the individual user, to keep yourself safe and take very little responsibility for your safety as a business. For example, these companies could make background checks of participants mandatory instead of optional if they wanted to.

According to an article on Sharable.net, When a female Air BnB user identifying herself as EJ found her home ransacked and identity stolen by a renter named DJ, she noted that even though AirBnb responded swiftly and appropriately after the fact, (despite not having a 24-hour emergency helpline and not responding until 14 hours later) they made it difficult to research her potential tenant until the reservation was bought and paid for. She wrote the following in a blog post detailing her ordeal:

“By hindering my ability to research the person who will rent my home, there is an implication that airbnb.com has already done the research for me, and has eliminated the investigative work that Craigslist requires. In effect, the friendly, community-based site with its Golden Rules creates a reasonable expectation that some basic screening of its users has occurred, and speaks little to the risks involved, primarily within the very small print of the lengthy Terms of Service. Thus by the time this reservation was confirmed and I was given Dj’s email address and phone number, I was on a plane heading East, and he/she was armed with my welcoming instructions on where to pick up the keys to my apartment.”

Photo credit: Alex:

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September 15

Does Buying in Bulk Save Money?

Posted by on September 15, 2014 at 8:00 PM

Does Buying in Bulk Save Money?

We’re constantly told by big box stores like Costco and Walmart that buying in bulk will save us money, but is that really true or just clever marketing-speak?  Well, Bargainmoose Canada has always wondered that too, so we took it upon ourselves to investigate and we found that yes, buying in bulk can save you money, but it’s not a forgone conclusion that it will.  To make sure you don’t misstep on your quest to keep as many dollars as you can in your pocket, we’ve laid out this checklist of dos and don’ts to maximize your savings when buying in bulk.

 Do

Take advantage of sales and coupons – If it’s possible to stack coupons, (use multiple copies of the same coupon on one item or use different coupons that both apply to the same item) do so on bulk items the moment they go on sale. This way, you’re able to reduce the price your paying per item as far as it will go. Make sure you present your coupons before you pay. Also, make sure that the sales don’t have a limit and that the coupons can be combined with other offers.

Figure out the price per unit – The only way you’ll know for sure if you’re truly saving money is if the price per unit is favourable and you should only buy in bulk when the price per unit is low. A unit is an actual measurable amount or quantity of whatever you’re buying. All you need to do to figure out this crucial piece of information is to divide the cost of the item by the quantity. A reporter for CBN.com found that for the right price per unit you could save up to 31% by buying bulk at American big box store Sam’s Club. Think about it, saving 20 cents on a bowl of cereal or a can of soup may not sound like much, but, as CBN points out, it can amount to a savings of $208 a year for a family of four who eats cereal everyday.

Make sure you have the storage – There’s no point buying in bulk if you don’t have the storage to keep the many items you buy or if it will cost you more to store the item than you’ll save by buying it in bulk. If you do have the storage though, make sure you rotate the stock and check the dates on perishable items so that you’ll be able to eat them before they go bad. Remember, even canned goods have dates on them. If you’re storing things in the freezer, make sure you date them, so the older food gets eaten first and always separate the perishable items from the non-perishable ones. If you find an item you simply can’t pass up thanks to the price, but you don’t have enough room to store it, why not split it up between friends so that you can use it faster and you’re also able to share the wealth. For more tips on organizing your stockpile, see this Bargainmoose article from a few years back.

Don’t

Don’t buy an item in bulk that you’ve never used or had before – What if you buy lots of garbage bags in bulk, but every bag rips? What if a particular soap irritates your skin and what if that new foodstuff you thought sounded so good, tasted like dirt? Now, imagine buying those craptacular items in bulk and inadvertently sentencing yourself to having to use them for the next few months or worse, the next few years. This is why you should never buy items in bulk that you’ve never tried before and made sure they are what you really want. Anything else is just a waste of money.

Don’t bulk binge – When people start exploring the wonders of bulk buying, they usually can’t help, but go hog wild and buy everything they need in bulk in one trip. This is a good way to spend yourself to the poor house. Instead, Trent Hamm of The Simple Dollar recommends raising your grocery supply budget by 25% and using that extra 25% to by some bulk items when they go on sale. Eventually, your stockpile will mean you don’t need that 25% increase anymore and when you do buy more, you’ll simply be refilling your supply or taking advantage of the best discounts available, which means the grocery budget will be even better than before you started because you’ll be buying fewer items way less often.

Don’t let your bulk stores get too scarce – Even a stockpile of bulk items can run out and suddenly, you may find yourself taking an emergency shopping trip and dropping lots of money to refill your stores when it’s not advantageous economically to do so. Instead of having to scramble at the last minute, when you see you’re running low on a particular item, start looking for sales, deals and discounts for that item. Some items go faster than others, so a good rule of thumb is making sure your good for the next month on every item you have. If you have too much of something, you can always donate it to friends or the local food bank.

 More bang for your bulk!

Follow these simple dos and don’ts and you’ll never get ripped off or overspend when buying bulk items. There’s a fine line between marketing and money saving so be smart and strategic about your bulk purchases.

Photo credit: Jonathan Dueck

Moose Rating (2 votes)
September 11

Pay Yourself First vs. Save What is Leftover

Posted by on September 11, 2014 at 8:00 PM

Pay Yourself First vs. Save What is Leftover

When it comes to personal money management, there are two main ways to save money, the traditional stalwart of Saving What’s Leftover and the newer method you’ll read many personal finance experts recommending – Pay Yourself First.

They usually explain how each method is done: Saving What’s Leftover requires you to wait until the end of the month, after you’ve paid all your bills and expenses, to save what’s leftover. Paying Yourself First means exactly that – putting money away at the beginning of the month when all your income is still in your account and you have not had to spend the money on bills yet.

What they do not tell you is which savings method is better, so trust Bargainmoose to settle this burning question so you don’t have to.

Saving What’s Leftover Takes Discipline

People have been saving the money left over after expenses for years — it is a common method for building a nest egg. The problem is, saving what is leftover takes discipline. Not many people have the self-control necessary to make sure there is actually anything left in their account at the end of the month. Our capitalist, consumer driven society plies us with too many temptations to spend our money on and there are always so many unexpected expenses that crop up that often you look at your balance sheet at month’s end and see a big fat zero, as all your money has been spent.

Paying Yourself First Makes Saving Your First Priority

Paying Yourself First changes your savings from a luxury to a necessity and calculates it as the first ‘expense’ you pay, thus ensuring that you do put aside money each month. It is a much more realistic strategy for growing your savings, according to Dan Sutton, managing editor of MoneySense Magazine. He says:

When things are automatically channeled away on payday, you’re less likely to miss or spend the money

Such a strategy also forces you to cut expenditures that are more frivolous in order to keep your savings growing when your budget is a little tighter. You can make sure the money goes into your account automatically, so you do not even have to think about doing it. All you need to do is tell your employer to take a certain amount off your pay cheque for your RRSP or transfer a designated amount into a high interest savings account every month. Some banks will even automatically transfer money from your chequing account to your savings account each month.

There is No Law against Doing Both

If you are super gung-ho about saving money and you consistently have money leftover at the end of every month anyway, why not employ both strategies to maximize your savings? Sutton recommends paying yourself first with whatever amount you can afford (perhaps $100 a month) and then, if there is any money left over, just sweep the remainder into a High Interest Savings Account.

Remember, it’s Your Money

Paying yourself first also makes logical sense as well as financial sense because you should remind yourself why you go to work every day. After all, you are not earning money for someone else – your money is yours. So, you should always make sure you get your money before anyone else gets it. This is why paying yourself first makes more sense than saving what’s leftover. However, you should avoid at all costs carrying a credit card debit. It does not make sense to pay 19.99% interest on the money you owe someone while only making a couple percent interest on the money you are saving. Pay off your debit first, and then start building a nest egg.

It’s Easier to Get Rich If You Pay Yourself First

It’s very hard to save and plan when there’s no guarantee that there will be any money at the end of the month to put away. But when a certain amount of money is deducted from your monthly income automatically, you’re basically saving money in your sleep. Think about it, if you have $200 from each of your biweekly paycheques deducted and put into your investment account from the time you are 25 to when you are 65 – you will have $1 million. You can get to $1 million with only 7% return on investment, according to MyMoneyCoach.ca. This means the average person can become a millionaire with this strategy without winning the lottery and with a little sacrifice when it comes to spending. With diligence, it is possible and all you have to do is arrange one automatic money transfer every so often.

Pay Yourself First Wins!

Everyone wants to make money in their sleep and when you pay yourself first, you ensure that process actually gets done. If you just save what is leftover, you are counting on leftover money that will not always be there. Money management can be stressful, so making a nest egg your first priority when you are paid instead of your last priority will help reduce the stress and ensure that your savings continues to grow even during the more difficult months.

Moose Rating (1 votes)
August 29

Crowdsourcing To Save Money

Posted by on August 29, 2014 at 8:00 PM

Crowdsourcing To Save Money

You know the old saying, “Two heads are better than one?” It has always been more true than not, which makes us think, what happens when you get three heads, four heads, five heads or more? Then you really could get things done.

That’s the magic of crowdsourcing. It’s soliciting services, goods, ideas and more from the brain trust of a large group of people and you can use it to save money through the following websites.

Crowdsourcing To Save Money

Fiverr

On Fiverr people with various skills, — writers, artists, graphic designers and more – tell you what they’re willing to do for a mere $5.00. As the potential customer you can see the seller’s rating, look at their average time frame from the job and decide if you want to make an offer. At only $5.00 a job it’s hard to go wrong, especially when professional creatives normally charge hundreds of dollars for some of the jobs on this site.

Crowdsourcing To Save Money

TaskRabbit

TaskRabbit allows you to outsource those necessary but menial tasks to people in your community, so you don’t have to do those things you don’t want to and can reserve your time for something more important. Simply post a task and TaskRabbit will show you their most professional taskers in your area for what you need done and what they charge per hour. Often, you’ll find that taskers offer cheaper rates for tasks like landscaping than a professional lawn care services even with the company’s own 20% service fee. Plus, its safe to trust your tasks to a stranger because every task is insured to $1 million and every tasker must follow TaskRabbit’s strict marketplace guidelines or risk being barred from ever working through the site.

Crowdsourcing To Save Money

RelayRides

RelayRides takes the carpool to the next level by allowing regular people in your community to rent out their car for you to drive for as long as you book it. As a potential renter, all you have to do is pick the perfect car for you, make a reservation, pick up the keys from the owner, refill the tank, return the car at the scheduled time and review the experience. Car owners don’t have to worry because the car is insured by RelayRides while it’s in use. As a consumer, everything but gas is included and all prices and requirements are self-explanatory, so there are no surprises like there are when it comes to dealing with a rental company. On RelayRides, 24 hours with a 2010 Toyota Prius that traveled 150 miles cost $38.00, ($3.80 per mile) plus premium insurance protection for $15.20 for a grand total of $47.00. I have to say, that’s pretty reasonable.

Crowdsourcing To Save Money

Elance and Odesk

Like Fiverr and TaskRabbit, Elance and Odesk use crowdsourcing to help you get things done at a reasonable price. However, on Elance and Odesk you’re not buying a specific job or outsourcing a specific task, you’re hiring freelancers and those freelancers are applying for your job on spec. Of course, you’ll want to offer the lowest price possible, (hence, the money saving) but don’t undercut. Among the grossly unqualified applicants that do exist on these sites, there are some truly professional diamonds in the rough who know what a particular job is really worth, which means if you offer too little, you won’t get quality work from the people who truly know what they’re doing. We recommend doing a little research on typical industry rates for the position you are trying to fill, so the freelancer you hire is not insulted by the rate you offer and actually does the job to the best of their capabilities.

Crowdsourcing To Save Money

99Designs

Say you want a logo, but you’re not a very good artist. No problem, at 99designs you simply write a description of what you want and your assignment gets turned into a design contest where you provide the prize money. The bigger the prize, the more designs you can choose from drawn by professional designers. As the designs come in, you can provide feedback on the designs you like, so they can be refined, but after seven days, you must pick a winner. Once you crown a champion, 99Designs gives out the prize money to the winning designer and you get your logo that you can use (copyright included) for whatever you want. It’s great for the consumer because you can get from 30 to 60 designs to choose from for relatively little effort on your part. Prices range from $299 for the Bronze Package of 30 designs to $1,199 for the Platinum Package of 60 designs from the best designers on the site. So, if you can afford it, 99Designs might be your best option for a professional illustration.

Crowdsourcing To Save Money

Airbnb

Perhaps the original destination for crowdsourced accommodation, Airbnb still makes it easy to rent a room in someone else’s house or apartment in most countries you could be traveling in. Cheaper than a hotel and, at its best, a more local perspective than you can get as a traditional tourist, Airbnb is still the go to for many who utilize the share economy.

Crowdsourcing To Save Money

DesignCrowd

DesignCrowd works similarly to 99Designs without the design contest aspect. Instead you simply have access to a certain number of designs to choose from depending on the tiered pricing model you select. There is still that aspect of designers competing to win your business but it isn’t overtly modelled like a contest. Plus, as a Bargainmoose reader, you have access to an exclusive offer giving you access to 50 free designs within five days as soon as you post a project. Oh, and if you don’t like the designs, you receive your money back for the initial design package you purchased. Use the offer code BMEXCLUSIVE for this deal.

Final Thoughts

Before we conclude, it should be noted that as much as crowdsourcing could be cheaper for the consumer, it relies on a great deal of trust between the parties involved and some people aren’t going to want a stranger traipsing around their house or using their car no matter what safeguards are put in place. It should also be said that many of these sites that outsource jobs, while cheaper for the consumer, take advantage of the service provider by cheapening their skills and putting the economic bar so low that other professionals in the field are unable to compete or make a proper living. So, when you use services like Elance, Odesk and 99designs, think about what is fair, not just what is cheap.

(banner image credit: Dvya Thakur)

Moose Rating (1 votes)
August 23

Top 10 Life Hacks that will Save You Money

Posted by on August 23, 2014 at 8:00 PM

Top 10 Life Hacks that will Save You Money

A life hack is any trick, shortcut, skill or unorthodox way to increase productivity and efficiency in any part of your daily life. Instead of finding a work around in a computer program like a traditional hacker.  A life hacker does the same thing for their everyday life. Online you’ll find a large number of life hacks for anything you can think of, including saving money.  Below you’ll find some of our favourites in no particular order:

1. Pay with Cash – It’s so simple, but most people never give it a second thought. Next time you go out, leave the debit or credit card on the kitchen table and only bring cash. A Dunn & Bradsheet study showed that people spend 12% to 18% more when using credit cards compared to using cash. The fact you can see what’s being spent makes people consider more seriously what they’re doing before they part with their hard-earned money.

2. Buy Cars at the End of the Month – If you’re tired of being given the run around by sly car salesmen and feel like you’re overpaying, then may we suggest buying a car at the end of the month? This is when a car dealer is trying to make their quota and according to AutoTrader, it’s the best time to get the best deals because dealers are trying to meet their monthly sales goals and get their bonuses.

3. Put a Brick in Your Toilet Tank – When your water bill is too high, or your community is asking you to conserve water, don’t sweat it and just put a brick in your toilet tank. It sounds bizarre, but it will save you a brick’s worth of water and your toilet will still flush normally.

4. Use a Banana to Fix Scratches on Cds, DVDs and Blu-Rays – Anytime a product lasts longer and you don’t have to replace it, you’re saving money. Try this banana trick for minor scratches or smudges on your discs. It won’t work for multiple scratches, but for one scratch you can rub the banana on the disc and then rub the inside of the peal over it. Clean it with water, dry it with a soft cloth and voila! It should be good as new.

5. Use an Old Chapstick Case as a Clandestine Money Pouch – Hiding money in your sock is so last year. Besides, most thieves know it’s a common hiding spot and will look there or demand you empty them. To make sure you don’t lose it all, hide your emergency fund cash in your empty chapstick container. Pop off the bottom, clean out the excess and then glue the bottom back on before rolling up your cash and stuffing it inside and putting on the cap.

6. Paint Your Roof White to Expel Heat – Some people go to extreme lengths to save money and if you painted your roof white to save on your heating bill, you’d be one of them. However, all the people who were laughing  when you were climbing up the ladder will eat their words the moment you show them all the money you saved.

7. Clear Your Browser History When Booking Flights – Airlines know when you’ve been searching for the cheapest flight, thanks to the cookies that monitor your browsing history, and they’ll actually charge you more on the flights listed (They smell fear!) So wipe the slate clean before you start doing your research because that will make your options all the more inexpensive.

8. Hit the Library for Free Stuff – Nothing beats all the money you save at the library. Just ask Bargain Moose contributor Avigayil Morris, she told us the money-saving wonders that come with owning a library card. These include, but are not limited to, free internet, free movies, free tv shows and of course, free books.

9. Save on Prescription Drugs with Honey – Not only do you catch more flies with honey, but you save money too. Toast is not the only thing it’s good for, you can also use it as a topical ointment for burns and as a disinfectant that kills bacteria. So, next time you have a zit, burn or infection, hit the hive.

10. Reduce Your Cell Phone Data with an App – Say goodbye to data overage charges. That’s because there’s an app out there that will reduce your data plan consumption without reducing how often you actually use the phone. It’s called Onavo Extended and it will compress your data usage by running in the background of your phone. (Another version, Onavo Count, simply tracks how much data you use.) So, when you’re browsing the internet, watching a video or streaming audio on your phone, Onavo makes sure you never take up more data than you have to by making the file smaller. This means you can do twice as much with the same amount of data, which translates into big savings on your cellphone plan.

Photo credit: Auto Trader

Moose Rating (4 votes)