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November 18

The Most Common Money Saving Mistakes

Posted by on November 18, 2014 at 8:00 PM

The Most Common Money Saving Mistakes

In our exuberance and unbridled enthusiasm to save money, I’m not afraid to admit that some of us go a little overboard. Frugal is one thing, but some of us are cheap beyond all rationality. I’m talking to the point such an approach actually begins to cost us money.

Below, you’ll find a number of ways that trying so hard to save money can often be a fool’s errand and self-defeating prophecy.

D.I.Y. Home Repairs

Some home repairs are easy and worth doing yourself. For example, fixing a minor hole in the wall is no problem, according to eHow and most plumbing issues can be easily taken care of, thanks to this little guide from Life Hacker, but there are absolutely some repairs you should never do without a professional because it can end up costing you much more than you save not to. Not to mention, some of these jobs can be pretty dangerous and not worth the risk.

HowStuffWorks.com goes through their Top Five Home Repairs You Should Never Do Yourself and they include electrical work, thanks to the danger of live wires and potential to screw up your home’s circuitry and turn it into a fire hazard, roof repairs, on account of potentially falling off, gas appliance repairs, since you could blow up your home, asbestos removal, due to the long-term health effects, and plumbing repairs, where you actually have to weld pipes and reroute the plumbing system. Oh, and did we mention water damage can cost thousands of dollars if it’s not caught in time?

Everything for a Dollar All the Freakin’ Time

Some people swear by the dollar store like it’s a divine miracle, which is fine if all that you’re buying there are items of no consequence. However, if you find yourself picking up electrical appliances, such as extension cords, lamps and other things that typically come with safety standard labels, watch out because these products could be counterfeit and those labels could be fake.

The last thing anyone needs is overloaded electrical wires and appliances causing fires in their home. Plus, we’ve all had the experience of buying something from the dollar store and having it break right out of the package. Also, make sure you check those expiration dates on any food or over-the-counter medication you buy for a dollar because some of those items are known to be past their expiry and best before dates.

Beware of B.O.G.O.

Sometimes things are just free with no strings attached – like when McDonald’s locations in Connecticut gave away free fries – but often “free” comes at a price. This especially true when you have to spend money to qualify for a free offer like in the case of “Buy One, Get One Free” deals or, the ever popular, “Free Shipping for Orders Over __ Amount of Dollars”

Free does things to our emotions because we think it has no downside and it makes us feel good, so, as a consequence, free often makes us reject what is actually a better deal.

Behavioural economist Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational, found that when given a choice between a free $10 Amazon gift card or a $20 Amazon gift card costing $7, most people chose the $10 gift card for free, even though the $20 gift card is the better value.

“You actually get a $13 gift certificate for free, but this is camouflaged by the question. That word ‘free’ just shakes all rationality out of us,” says an article discussing Ariely’s 2006 study.

So, be careful with “free” — it may not be free at all.

The Dollar Menu

We know: “It’s only a dollar, what harm can it do?” Well, it turns out quite a lot in the long run. Money saved during frequent trips to McDonald’s, and other fast food joints, should probably be banked since you’re going to need it later for your inevitably skyrocketing medical expenses. Not to mention, time you could be spending doing other things than managing your health.

A report from The Conference Board of Canada, evaluating healthcare spending among industrialized nations, says that obese people in the U.S. spend $1,400 more a year on their health than a person who is not obese.

Stockpiling

We’ve all seen them, those Costco shoppers who buy vats of mayonnaise and a lifetime supply of toilet paper, or those bargain hunters and extreme couponers who get toothbrushes and toothpaste for next to nothing. Both buy up so much at these stores that their garages start to look like a No Frills. Oh sure, they say they donate most of it to charity and give it away, but does it really save money?

Not when you buy so much you have enough food and toiletries for multiple lifetimes, so much that you can’t possibly use it all. Every time you’re unable to utilize all of your stockpile effectively, this is unequivocally money down the drain. Plus, did you ever think about how much time and gas it takes just to go hunting for bulk bargains?

What kind of money saving mistakes have you made? Tell us in the comments.

Photo credit: SnaPsi Сталкер

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November 16

The Best Ways to Prevent Loss, Damage or Theft of Your Most Important Articles

Posted by on November 16, 2014 at 8:00 PM

The Best Ways to Prevent Loss, Damage or Theft of Your Most Important Articles

If you’re like me, then you have a penchant for mishap and misadventure.

I tell you, there was a time when I must’ve lost, damaged or got stolen my most important articles (I’m talking about my wallet, cellphone, debit card, passport) at least once every six months. It got so bad that I contemplated setting up a savings account just to cover the cost of recovering these important items.

But this trial by fire eventually led to me to discover the best ways to keep everything in my pocket and after a while, there was no need for that account. Oh sure, I still have mishaps from time to time, but you don’t lose the building blocks of your life every six months without finally learning how to minimize the damage and saving a little money in the process.

I went through it, so you don’t have to. Therefore, when you read the following tips – don’t forget to tip your server and thank him on the way out.

Insure Your Cellphone

Honestly, what’s wrong with us? Phones aren’t phones anymore. We’ve taken to carrying personal computers in our pockets. Phones are daytimers, internet connections, maps, music players, video players and more. Our entire lives are on our phones and yet, they are as fragile as the computers they are and we carry them in our pockets.

Something we take everywhere should be more durable. Something we take everywhere should not be stored in an open piece of cloth. But it’s not and it is, so we’re bound to damage it or lose it at some point.

This is why when you get a cellphone, you should sign up for the protection plan. I’m with Rogers and for only for $7.99 a month on top of a bill I would be paying anyway, I have access to an insurance plan from Asurion that will instantly replace my phone for any reason – loss, theft or damage. All I have to do is pay a fee at the time of claim. The fee is $125.00 plus tax. This may seem like a significant amount of money in isolation, but when you consider that when you need to replace a phone without this protection it can cost you $400-$600, it is much cheaper.

Where does this estimate of $400-$600 come from? This cost can be the cost of the phone you lost (if you received it free with your contract) combined with the punitive fees for breaking your contract and your regular usage bill.

However, if you pay the $125.00 and send your damaged phone back in the provided prepaid envelope, you’ll get another phone in two days with no judgement, no exclusions, no additional cost and no additional commitment.

Support Tracking Technology

One of the easiest ways to keep your wallet in your pocket is to buy a wallet chain, but there’s no chain for your cellphone, so use the tracking capabilities that are already available. There are many apps, such as Lookout, which will use the GPS and photo technology in your phone to help you track it down when it’s lost or stolen. Lookout will goes as far as taking a picture of the thief with your phone’s camera and e-mailing it to you. Some cellphone brands, such as Sony Xperia have their own tracking software built in to their phones. All you need is a regular computer and an internet connection to see where your phone went off to.

Of course, even though a wallet chain is the best low-tech solution to prevent lost wallets, there are high-tech solutions too. Tracking technology has come to wallets as well, thanks to a number of Kickstarter projects. SmartWallit is a successfully funded project where your wallet and cellphone work together to find each other. If you leave the room without your wallet, your cellphone rings and if you leave the room without your cellphone, your wallet rings. This is just one idea. There are a myriad of others.

Don’t Put Everything in One Place

One of the best ways to minimize the impact of lost articles is to not keep all your important cards and documents in one place. Backup your photos and contacts in the cloud so they are easily recoverable if you ever need to replace your phone. As an Android user, my phone gives me the option to backup my contacts in my gmail account and backup my photos on Google+.

I don’t put all my cards in my wallet, only the ones I need at the time – the rest stay at home. When you go on vacation, you might consider carrying a dummy wallet in an easily accessible pocket that would act as bait for thieves, while your real wallet sits in a much more secure location on your person.

How do you keep track of your most important items? Tell us in the comments.

Photo credit: Len Matthews

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November 11

How to Save Money on an Irregular Income

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

How to Save Money on an Irregular Income

I’ve been a freelance writer for seven years, so no one knows better than me the feast or famine cycles of an irregular income. Truly, one month you’re flush with cash and the next, you’re eating your last box of Kraft Dinner.

I actually talked about such things in this interview I gave on the lifestyle of a freelance creative. Yes, I know what I speak of, and I know how hard it can be to save money when you’re unsure what day your next paycheque will come and whether it will be enough to sustain you, or pay your bills.

How can you save money when survival is still your first priority? Personally, I’m still trying to figure that one out, so I went to the experts for help.

Automate Your Savings

We wrote an article previously on How to Automate Your Savings, but it was geared towards the majority of people who receive a regular and predictable paycheque. If you’re a freelancer, it’s still recommended that you automate your savings, but just do it in a slightly modified way, while keeping certain things in mind.

Ramit Sethi, best-selling author of I Will Teach You to Be Rich, says that you first need to assess how much money you need to live on at minimum. Then, you need at least a three-month savings buffer before you do any investing. (This comes from any money you would have invested.) In months when you are flush, any extra money also goes into savings.

Once you have that three-month cushion, you can automatically transfer funds into investments, but keep contributing more to your savings account to cover those months when you aren’t doing so well. Sethi also recommends using YouNeedABudget.com as a planning tool when you have irregular income.

Automate Your Debt

Bankrate.com takes the idea of automation to the next level by recommending freelancers automate their debt as well. Of course, most people already do this by sending out automatic bill payments that work with their schedule.

“As a freelancer, it’s recommended you pay off your debt, particularly credit card debt, first and, in a way, you are also saving by doing that”, according to Peter Bielagus, a financial adviser and author of Getting Loaded: A Complete Personal Finance Guide for Students and Young Professionals.

“You’re saving by paying that debt down. If you have $1,000 earning four per cent (in a savings account), whereas your credit cards are losing 18 per cent, then I’d much rather you pay down $1,000 on your credit card,” Beilagus told Bankrate.

Concerned about Automation? Set up Reminders to Save and Invest

If you’re at a point where automation concerns you because it could send you into overdraft protection, MoneyManifesto.com recommends giving yourself little reminders to save and invest instead of automating your savings.

Set reminders on your phone or digital calendar, save and invest as soon as you receive your cheque or invoice your clients, or save and invest on the first of every month. If you still find yourself coming up short, that’s when you can dip into the buffer income you built up over three months. Plus, you should always have some kind of emergency fund over and above the buffer, so you can use it to equalize a really bad month, if need be.

Try to Generate a Short-term Income Stream

In order to avoid these periodic shortfalls that happen as a freelancer, you can also try to find short-term sources of income. Investopedia recommends having a stockpile of items to auction on Ebay for quick cash or having an ongoing contract with a short turnaround time to generate some fast income. Try to make sure you know what your next month’s income will look like by the middle of the current month, so you always know what income targets you need to hit.

Budgeting is Crucial

You’ll never be able to save if you don’t know how to budget, so make sure you are living within your means and not needlessly overspending. Always hustle and make as much money as you can because you never know when a client may be lost or an invoice gets delayed. Stay disciplined in your spending and saving and you should be fine.

Weather the Storm

Hopefully, these tips will help all those independent freelancers and entrepreneurs get over the hump during their down months. Maybe they’ll even generate enough savings to retire one day. This way, they’ll be able to focus on the work they love and not be so stressed over money constantly. At Bargainmoose, we believe everyone should be given a shot to save, regardless of how they choose to generate income. While we wait for certain industries to line-up with the current standard of living, we hope that these suggestions will help you get by and focus on whatever you do best.

If you earn an irregular income, how do you make saving work? Tell us in the comments.

Photo credit: Ken Teegardin

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November 9

How to Automate Your Savings While You Sleep

Posted by on November 9, 2014 at 8:00 PM

How to Automate Your Savings While You Sleep

No one wants to keep themselves awake at night thinking about money and yet, if you’re like me, that’s exactly what happens sometimes. What if you could take the stress out of saving and potentially get rich while you sleep?

Yeah, I thought so. Sounds good, right?

It’s simpler than you think too. There are no secrets. It’s about structuring your accounts and setting up your deposits, so you can put away money without even thinking about it. After a while, if you follow the steps and stay reasonably disciplined about it, I’m sure you can put together a nice little nest egg without even worrying about it.

Link Your Accounts and Investments

Ramit Sethi, The New York Times best-selling author of I Will Teach You to Be Rich, knows that before you can automate your savings properly, you need to set up an infrastructure to be able to do that. First, he says you should link your savings accounts, whether it be a TFSA, a regular savings account or both. (It should be both: a TFSA for long-term savings and a regular savings account for short-term savings) Then link your investments, such as GICS, mutual funds, RESPS and RRSPS.

Automate Your Money Transfers

With your accounts linked together, setting up automatic transfers into each of them should be extremely easy. Just go into “Online Banking,” select “Transfers” and select the appropriate account to allocate your money into from the drop-down menu. Then, all you have to do is select the date, select recurring and you’re ready to set it and forget it.

The key to making automatic transfers according to Sethi is picking a date that makes sense. “if your credit card is due on the 1st of the month, but you don’t get paid until the 15th, how does that work?,” he says.

If you’re transferring money out of sync with payday and when your bills are due, you’ll either be late on your bills or not have enough money to make the transfers, which will defeat the whole purpose, so the first order of business is to sync your bill due dates with payday and your desired transfer days. Simply call your creditors and switch your billing dates.

“If you’re paid on the 1st of the month, I suggest switching all your bills to arrive on or around that time, too,” says Sethi.

Assuming you get paid on the first of the month, Sethi recommends a date schedule for your automatic transfers that should help you generate savings in your sleep.

Decide on Transfer Dates and Designate Payments

Okay people, this is the most important moment if you want to be able to automate your savings and investments for the rest of your life. Sethi details a plan in his article on TheFourHourWorkWeek.com, which doesn’t completely apply to the Canadian banking system because the article was written in America, but many of his recommendations can still be applied with only minor modifications. First, make sure you’ve set up any Canadian Pension Plan or RESP contributions off the top of your paycheque with the help of your employer if you are able. Then, the transfers come into play (assuming you are paid on the first of the month).

The 5th Day of the Month

This is when you transfer a desired percentage of your paycheque into savings. The date is set for the fifth in case you don’t get your paycheque on time and need a little bit of a buffer. It also gives you time to cancel the transfer if there’s a problem. The fifth should also be the day you transfer your desired amount into your investment account, such as your TFSA, GIC or other investment structure.

The 7th Day of the Month

This is the day you should auto-pay your fixed expenses and bills. Some people choose to use their credit card to pay their bills because of the rewards and benefits they receive, but just make sure you have the money in your chequing account to pay off your credit card balance on this day as well. If you are unable to pay off the balance in full, just set the amount at the minimum or something in between and you’ll always pay your bills on time. Also make sure that you receive your bill via e-mail or other electronic method before the money must be paid just in case what you owe exceeds the transferred amount you designated and you can readjust on the fly.

Mission Accomplished

Pat yourself on the back. You just automated your savings and investments – along with your bill payments while you were at it. Of course, no system is perfect and it may require a number of tweaks. Sethi recommends a buffer of $500 in your account so that you don’t run into overdraft while your life readjusts to this newly-automated system. Everything eventually should iron itself out and you should be off to financial freedom.

Sethi has other tips for freelancers and those with irregular income as to how they can also automate their savings, but you’ll have to read his full article to find out the details. For now, we ask the following:

Do you automate your savings? Tell us in the comments how you do it.

Photo credit: Tom Lin

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November 4

How to Save Money on Christmas Shopping

Posted by on November 4, 2014 at 8:00 PM

How to Save Money on Christmas Shopping

I know, I know, but we’re about a month away from the annual holiday festivities, so it’s probably best to start talking about Christmas shopping now, especially since we figure most of you are well underway.

You should be anyway because depending on how many siblings, children or grandchildren you have, Christmas shopping can be incredibly daunting and even if you don’t spend a lot of money on each individual person, it all adds up pretty quickly. After all, $20 for five people is $100 right away.

So what do you do? How do you stop the potential financial bleeding?

Well, you’ve come to the right place. Below you’ll find a number of ways you can minimize more money leaving your pocket than absolutely necessary.

Give through a Gift Exchange

My girlfriend has four siblings, each with significant others, and comes from a very large family on her father’s side, but her wallet thanks her every year at Christmas time. This is because after so many years of spending hundreds of dollars on each other, all sides of her family agreed to do something different – gift exchanges.

Each side of her family has one and the rules vary slightly in each exchange, but they all come down to having to buy just one gift for one person per exchange pool. What we do for the sibling exchange, for example, is draw names to see who we’re buying for (one rule: you can’t buy for your boyfriend or girlfriend) and then set the price limit (usually between $60 and $75)

No matter what the rules are or what the limit is, a gift exchange can mean that you don’t have to buy for a whole whack of people all at once.

Help People Save Money on You

Here’s another strategy from my girlfriend’s family. This time, from her parents. Instead of buying gifts for them every year, her parents suggested that their children just get them beer or wine from the places they visit whenever they happen across it.

There’s no timeline, no pressure and no occasion to mark the giving. Plus, a bottle of wine or craft beer every so often is a lot cheaper for their family than other things their parents could be getting.

I’ve also heard of people requesting that their families make charitable donations on their behalf in lieu of gifts, which is also a great idea.

Have a Budget for Each Person

In Bargainmoose’s 2013 article, How to Budget and Stay on Budget at Christmas we suggest dividing your holiday budget into sections with titles like, “Extended Family Gifts,” “Spouse Gifts” and “Kids Gifts.”

Laura Adams’s Money Girl Podcast takes our idea a step further by suggesting you should set up a budget for each person’s gift, rather than having your heart set on a particular gift for that person that may turn out to be too expensive. After deciding the total amount of money you can spend on gifts, you should assign an amount to each person on your list. (including taxes and shipping where applicable) If you still can’t afford to buy for people, you need to either shorten your list or lower the gift amount for certain people.

Rank the items in order of importance and buy the most important gifts first, so that you’re not tempted use a credit card and go into debt to purchase them.

Find Gifts that Get You the Most Bang for Your Buck

When Canadian Living interviewed personal finance blogger Kerry Taylor, she said that the best gifts are those that get the most mileage. I tend to agree, as gifts that have the most meaning are always the ones people remember most.

Though, she warns about investing too much in homemade gifts because sometimes the cost of supplies can exceed the price of buying a gift at the store. Avoid this situation by putting class in a few basics. A card from regular paper folded in half looks cheap, but if you put a Christmas design on it and fold it into festive origami (found online) your recipient can then hang it on the tree. Even if you’re not a cook, you can still give a homemade foodstuff. Instead of giving a baked good or some other snack, try putting the dry ingredients in a jar with the recipe.

More mileage doesn’t always mean homemade, take to Craigslist, Kijiji or Ebay to look for a meaningful item from your recipient’s past. If they are a collector, try finding the piece of their collection they’ve always wanted, but can never find. Make sure though that these gifts get more mileage for your bank account as well as in your recipients’ lives.

Plan Ahead

Okay, well we know if you’re reading this now, with one month to go, you didn’t exactly do the above, but there’s always next year, right?

With that in mind, try looking for one daily indulgence to eliminate and convert into Christmas cash. Sign up for a Christmas hamper, which can spread the cost of a holiday meal over months instead of days. You can even do the old change jar trick. It’s the one where you put loose change in a jar throughout the year and put it towards your Christmas spending. For more tips like this, see my source at Organized Christmas.

Photo credit: Ben and Kaz Askins

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November 2

Top 5 Money Saving Podcasts

Posted by on November 2, 2014 at 8:00 PM

Top 5 Money Saving Podcasts

Forget talk radio, podcasts are where it’s at.

Whether they’re riding the bus, stuck in traffic or running on a treadmill, millions of people are listening to podcasts during those gaps in their busy lives. Of course there are the hits everyone knows like This American Life, Radio Lab, The Joe Rogan Experience and WTF with Marc Maron, but there are many more that never get written about or discussed.

Luckily podcasts are so diverse and cover so many topics, including saving money, which got us to thinking, what are the best ones out there if you want tips on saving money?

Good question! We have the answers below….

Planet Money (NPR)
In much the same way as Freakanomics and This American Life do, Planet Money tells listeners how the world works from using a decidedly quirky angle on the topic being discussed. In this case, that topic is the American economy. However, that doesn’t mean it’s all about The Federal Reserve and the politics behind economic decisions. More often than not you’ll find episodes on why preschool could save your child’s life or what puts a city below the poverty line. Hosted by former This American Life producer Alex Bloomberg, it’s big ideas can help you tighten your own bottom line.

Mostly Money, Mostly Canadian (Preet Banerjee)
The author, broadcaster and personal finance columnist Preet Banerjee hosts this light-hearted podcast that consistently ranks at the top of its category. It delivers everything from savings and investment advice for the average Canadian to the important business headlines of the day and what they mean to the average person. Plus, Banerjee will interview the occasional financial luminary or business magnate just to mix it up.

Money Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for a Richer Life (QuickandDirtyTips.com)
From the people who brought you the uber popular Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing, comes this straight to the point podcast hosted by the MBA wielding Laura Adams. It’s short and sweet, but packs many tips into about 20 minutes, no matter what the topic is. It’s all killer, no filler and incredibly concentrated with information. Given the season, may we recommend Episode 246: Money Girl’s 7 Money-Saving Holiday Shopping Tips, which will tell you how to stay within your budget when it comes to your holiday shopping. Stick the episode into your ear and you’re bound to use at least one of Laura’s tips to control your spending this holiday season.

Stuff You Should Know (HowStuffWorks.com)
Stuff You Should Know is a brass tacks podcast that never lies to you because it’s exactly what it says it is. We’re kind of cheating here because there is a lot of stuff in the world you should know and not all of it has to do with saving money. Still, the 45 min episode called 10 Easy Ways to Save Money is a single-serving master class on putting money away. Plus, it’s simple, any bonehead can do what’s suggested here. Stuff You Should Know is accessible and it carries an ere of importance that makes it a significant marker in podcasting whether you’re using it to save money or not.

Money for the Rest of Us (MoneyfortheRestofUs.net)
A relatively new podcast on the scene, host and former chief investment strategist J. David Stein has a loose style that’s easy to listen to and doesn’t intimidate those who could care less about Wall St. This is the money management podcast for the rest of us and it shows. Everything here is so simple to understand. If you read the accompanying reviews, you’ll find not only regular people singing its praises, but fellow financial advisors as well.

“I’ve been a financial advisor since 2010, but even being in the industry, there are topics that are confusing,” one said.

That’s the thing – you know a podcast is good when even the experts in the industry it focuses on, go to it for advice. Stein will teach you hands down how the economy works in the real world and how to invest your money so you can have the life you want.

Did we miss anything?

Maybe your biting your lip in anger right now because there’s a money podcast that you love that we totally missed or maybe there’s one we mentioned that you absolutely hate and want to shove those Bargainmoose antlers right up our collective ass and give us a piece of your mind. Well, have at it. We love to hear from you, good, bad or indifferent. Better yet, give some of these podcasts a listen and tell us what you think. Finally, perhaps you have a podcast you want to share with us that has nothing to do with saving money at all. Have you heard some of the podcasts we mentioned off the top? If so, what do you think of them? Let us know as soon as you can.

Photo credit: Sergio Alvarez

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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

Moose Rating (3 votes)
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

Moose Rating (2 votes)
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

Moose Rating (3 votes)
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

Moose Rating (1 votes)
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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