Author Archive

September 26

Save Money on Banking

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

Save Money on Banking

Without us knowing, banking fees can really eat up our monthly and annual budget.  According to Canadian Living, Canadians spend an average of $185 a year on banking fees, which is more than the average family spends on going out to the movies ($171).  Now, wouldn’t you rather watch double the big screen flicks and spend less money (or hopefully zero money) on banking?

Personally I would rather watch more movies on the big screen or spend that money with something more purposeful than giving money to the bank.

Apparently, most people do not realize that they do not have unlimited banking transactions.  A lot of us do not review or understand our current banking package (I know I don’t, to be honest- I don’t know exactly how many transactions I am allowed but I know that I don’t go over the allotted amount).

Stick To Your Own and Visit the ATM Less Often

By stick to your own, I mean using ATM’s that are your bank.  Every time you go to another bank’s ATM machine you get dinged at least $3-5 for your being disloyal.  These fees add up over time and really break your monthly budget (unnecessarily, I might add).   Also, if you are charged each time you use the ATM, a very simple way to reduce your banking fees is to visit the ATM less often.  Financial Plan agrees, visit the ATM less often to save money.  Personally, I only go to the ATM every two weeks when I get my paycheque.  I use my credit card for most things and carry very little cash with me.

Avoid the Teller Like the Plague

Although the tellers and customer service representatives are really nice and friendly, using them to withdraw your money may necessitate unnecessary service charges to your account.  In this case, unlike MacDonalds fast food restaurants, smiles are NOT free at the bank (well not usually anyways)!  I personally do not go to the teller for anything unless absolutely necessary, like ordering a money order or getting a bank draft or something.

Minimum Balance It

Of course, at a lot of banking institutions if you keep a minimum balance in the primary account they will reimburse your monthly banking fee.  I see that they reimburse my fee each month otherwise, it will cost me $9.95 each month for the banking package I have.  If you are strapped for cash, you can also use your minimum balance amount as a form of emergency savings too.  This will motivate you to try and keep the minimum amount (usually $2000 to $3000) in your account.  If you do need to dip into it you will be motivated to save your money so you don’t have to pay the monthly fee again.

Try No-Fee Banking

Finally, one very easy way to eliminate all chance for cost and all chance for going “over” your budget for banking (e.g., making too many ATM withdrawals) is to go to a no-fee banking account.  This comprehensive websites by nofeebanking.ca has a great list of no-fee chequing accounts and no-fee savings accounts that will not cost you a dime.  One of the most popular ones is the President’s Choice Financial banking account and also the Tangerine (previously ING Direct) Thrive Chequing account.  The great thing about both of these accounts is that you can use the ATM’s of big banks like CIBC for example (for PC Financial).

Personally, I think that saving money on your monthly banking fees and expenses is one of the easier things to do to reduce your monthly budget.  It may take a little bit of time (for example, switching to a no fee provider such as President’s Choice Financial would entail you filling another direct deposit form at work and switching any other automated payments) but it is well worth it in the long run.  And you will only have to think about it once.

If you’re interested in looking at other ways to save money on banking, check out last year’s post on saving money by avoiding banking fees for more tips on how to save money on your banking budget.

Bargainmoosers, do you pay for your banking?  How do you save money on your banking fees?

Photo credit: Billy Wilson

Moose Rating (4 votes)
September 19

How to Save Money on your Next Hair Cut

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

How to Save Money on your Next Hair Cut

In a recent survey, the average woman spends over $700 a year on hair cuts and hair maintenance (not including shampoo and conditioner or other hair products) alone.  I personally consider my hair routine low maintenance.  I have long hair and get it cut twice a year along with highlights twice a year.  Usually this sets me back around $500 a year.  The hair cut and highlight usually costs me around $200 after tax and tip at the salon I was going to for a long time.  With the haircut being around $60+ for a simple haircut and the highlights being over $100+ the average cost was around $200 each time I went.  That is why I was only able to go twice a year because I refuse to spend more than $500 a year on my hair.

Since then, I have changed what I do for my hair and things are much more simpler and less costly with frankly, not too much difference.  I know that hair loyalty is important, but if you don’t find that your hair stylist is being innovative, or if you do not have as much loyalty as you thought you did, it might be a good idea to think about jumping ship and doing something different with your hair to save a few hundred dollars.

Here are a few ways for you to save money on your next hair cut:

Try a Student

One surefire way to save money on your next haircut is to look for the beauty schools in your city and inquire when the next hair cut is.  They will have discounted hair cuts but with brand name salons.  Oftentimes the hair stylist teacher will be present so the chances of the student making a mistake is quite minimal.

Use Groupon or the Daily Deal Sites to your Advantage

Recently, this is how I save money on my hair cuts.  I check out Groupon or other daily deal sites for my hair salon ghat I am a favourite of.  The price of a cut and colour can often be at least 50% off from the usual price.  This allows me to go to hair salons that I would not normally go to because of the reduced price.  So instead of the $200 cut and colour (highlight), I pay about $100 less than what I would normally pay.

Go on Craigslist

If you are flexible, have time in your schedule (especially during the day) and want a new style and are open to different ideas, check out Craiglist and look for salons who are looking for hair models.  Oftentimes the students need to do a hair cutting technique that needs a cooperative model, such as a hair bob.  I think this is a great idea for those who are open to new hair styles and want a free haircut.  The only downside is that the meetings are during the day and you have to be agreeable to basically the hair cut they are trying to do for that day (which is often a bob style cut or a pixie cut).

Get a Blowout Instead

Moneycrashers suggests that most people who feel like they need a new style or some change can try having a blow out from their stylist instead of getting their hair cut.  Blow outs are significantly less costly and can give a sense of newness and change without the prices of a hair cut and colour.

Find a Freelancer

A few years ago I used to go to a freelance hair stylist who worked out of her own home.  I was able to skip the salon price (the middle person, really) and have a cheaper cut and colour that way.  It was a great win-win situation.  MSN Money agrees with the idea of seeking out a freelancer.

I have personally tried pretty much all of these ideas with the exception of getting a blow out instead of a hair cut and all of these have worked well for me to reduce my cost from $500 a year for haircuts to approximately half that amount and frankly, there isn’t much difference in my hair style and colour.

Bargainmoosers, how do you save money on your hair cuts?

Photo credit: Gemma Bou

Moose Rating (2 votes)
September 5

How to Save Money on Your Internet Bill

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

How to Save Money on Your Internet Bill

Paying monthly for Internet can be costly, and these days it is becoming more and more of a utility, or need, rather than a ‘want’.  The big Internet service providers in Canada, like Rogers, Telus, Shaw, and Bell have a big hold on the pricing of the monthly Internet fee that you pay.  Canadians pay an average of $45 per month on Internet (according to Financial Post).  When you add taxes and fees that adds up to well over $50 a month.  Some people pay even more for this for fast Internet, Internet “25″ (high speed Internet that I use) starts at $65 a month regular price and on promotion sometimes you can get it for $35 a month.

If you are just paying for Internet (no cable) it is easy to say, switch to an alternative Internet Service Provider to save money, however, this is easier said than done.  We are all attached to the security that well-known companies such as Telus and Shaw give us, and we pay for the around the clock (or more reliable at least) customer service.  I am one of these people as well.  I have always used either Shaw or Telus Internet here on the west coast.  Although a foray into the alternative Internet Service Providers is alluring, I have found a way to continue to pay reasonable prices for Internet without having to go to an alternate Internet Service Provider.  If I am forced to pay a lot of money for Internet then I will probably switch one day.

So, if you are interested in saving money on your Internet bill, here’s how. It just takes a bit of organization, polite manners, some research, and a phone call.

How to Save Money on Your Internet Bill

I have been paying $30 for my Internet “25″ regularly.

First, find out how much you pay for your Internet and what your speed is.  You can find this information out easily by looking at your bill.

Second, find out if you are on contract or not.  Here in western Canada, Shaw and Telus pride themselves on not tying their clients down to contracts.  So I am not in a contract and this allows me to stop or cancel service on my whim and whenever I want.

Third, look for promotional pricing.  For example, both companies are having a promotion for Internet “25″ for $30 for the first six months.  Sometimes I find that they have more promotional pricing closer to the September season when it is time for students to go back to school.

Fourth, call the company you are with and ask to cancel your subscription to their Internet (you have to do this close to the period that your promotional pricing ENDS).  Keep organized, jot it down, write it in your calendar.  I personally set a reminder to myself on my iPhone.  Call them within one week of your promotional pricing expiry (please note that your Internet usually will be in service one month after your billing date).

Fifth, be nice, polite, your pricing is really at your CSR’s (customer service representative) mercy.  The more polite (but perhaps assertive) you are, the more they will accommodate your needs.  It’s easier to catch flies with honey right?  Tell them that *the other company* has promotional pricing and you would like to cancel your Internet and switch to the other company.

At this point, the CSR usually offers you a deal to match the price of the other company for the same duration (e.g. 6 months).  You should not have to sign a contract or anything.

Write the new date in your calendar or set a new reminder to yourself, and in about six months (sometimes three months), repeat steps 1 to 5 again and you are good to go!

Of course, it goes without saying that if you don’t have cable (I just subscribe to Netflix) you will save more money, however Internet by itself is usually more expensive than when in a bundle.  This strategy (making a phone call) should save you money so you do not have to pay for a bundle!

Bargainmoosers, how much do you pay for your Internet?  Do you have a bundle or do you just pay for Internet itself?

Photo credit: Stian Eikeland

Moose Rating (5 votes)
August 30

Save Money On Home Organization

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

Save Money On Home Organization

The leaves are changing; fall is coming, and there’s nothing better to get you ready for the school year than a little bit of home organization.  Sometimes when we are not organized we end up spending more money because we can’t seem to find anything, feel more stressed, and accumulate more clutter.

Why is it important to organize your home?

First off, it’s important to organize your home in order to save money because you’ll be less inclined to buy duplicates. When we do not take stock of what we have, we are unaware of what we have, and then we end up buying more items and wasting money.

Apartment Therapy also suggests that when you organize your home, you’ll feel less clutter, you’ll feel more happy in your home, and ultimately you will feel less inclined to redecorate. It is this restless energy that comes from a cluttered home that may prompt people to redecorate and change things up.

Finally, Apartment Therapy also agrees that when you have a place for everything to go to, you will save time finding things (not to mention frustration). This frustration and stress is a cause of medical bills, sick time, and according to Life Hack, stress is a factor and cause in 80% of our medical bills, so it makes sense to reduce stress as much as possible.

Here are some ways to save money on home organization. Doing something to help you feel organized and allowing you to save money simultaneously? It’s a win-win situation if you ask me!

Drawer Dividers

Drawer dividers can be created easily and probably provide one of the best ‘bang for your buck’ fixes in terms of home organization. After all, it is Murphy’s Law, things just naturally get messy in your drawer the more often you open and close it, right? According to HGTV, all you have to do is grab some strong cardboard or plastic, and divide it up. Alternatively, you could spend a little bit of money at the local dollar store to find some drawer dividers. Gone will be the days of mess and disorganization in your drawers!

If you’re hard pressed for time to make some drawer dividers, another thing that works well is using ice cube trays for small knick knacks that add clutter, such as rubber bands, paper clips etc.

Re-Use Jars with Lids

Who needs fancy Mason Jars? Premeditated Leftovers, a blog about natural and frugal living doesn’t think you need fancy mason jars to organize your home.  Just reuse the jars with lids that you have. Mayonnaise jars, food jars, pasta jars: they are free Mason jars in disguise. Besides, you are helping the planet by reducing and re-using.

Printable Organizing Lists

A Cultivated Nest (a great blog about inspiring frugal ideas for your home and garden) has a great list of ten printable organizers from other great blogs that will help you save money. Describing everything from a printable sales cycle planner, coupon binder pages to a monthly budget chart, this is a great post to keep bookmarked.

Cheap and Easy Organization Tips

Check out this post on A Cultivated Nest on inexpensive home organization ideas that can be easily implemented without having to spend a fortune on an expensive home organization place like The Container Store. One great example that I love is the cracker box container lid holder. It easily stores your Tupperware or Glad container lids and keeps them organized. One thing I would do is to cover it up with some wrapping paper or paint to make it more elegant looking.

I would personally love to see my home more organized than it currently is and I think that I need some shelf dividers and some more baskets to hold things, because I am finding my place a bit cluttered. I am a huge fan of the Ikea dish divider (I use it as a shelf for my clothes in my Expedit shelf) and plan to get more. Time to make a trip to Ikea!  Also, it is time for some late summer/early fall cleaning if you ask me.

Bargainmoosers, do you have ways in which you save money on home organization that you can share?

(banner image credit: Becky Wetherington)

Moose Rating (3 votes)
August 27

Save Money On Your Child’s Extracurricular Activities

Posted by on August 27, 2014 at 8:00 PM

Save Money On Your Childs Extracurricular Activities

The New York Times states that the average family spends about $601 annually on summer activities for their child. This does not include the rest of the year. Now that summer is almost over and school is back in session, it is time to think about the extra-curricular activities to put your child in this year.

In Canada, the situation isn’t any brighter (especially with high cost of extracurricular activities such as hockey). According to Canadian Scholarship Trust Plan, a non-profit organization that helps families save for post-secondary education, the average Canadian family spends about $1500 on hockey related expenses and can spend upwards to $10,000 a year on hockey. This is more than the average a Canadian family saves for post-secondary education on an annual basis, which is $1455 a year.

Even more interesting is that The Canadian Scholarship Trust Plan also found that 38% of Canadians have (or have known someone who) borrowed money to put their child in extracurricular activities and even deferred their own retirement in order to put their child in extracurricular activities.

Obviously we all want the best for our children, but perhaps it should not be at the expense of our own retirements and post-secondary education savings (or post-secondary “something” whatever they want to do, perhaps it is a gap year studying abroad or traveling abroad). This is especially true since children often change their minds with certain activities and one thing they like this year might not be the same thing last year. Or even one thing they like this month might not be the same as last month (especially relevant if you spend the aforementioned $1500-$10,000 on hockey that year only to find out your child does not like it after two months).

In any case, here are some ways in which you can save money on your child’s extracurricular activities:

Limit Activities

Fox Business recommends picking and prioritizing extra curricular activities.  Find out what your child is interested in and pursue that, instead of trying to juggle three to four different activities at one time. They suggest that you discuss with your child and get them involved in the decision making process (especially if they are older) that you cannot pursue three to four different sports or activities for them at a high level due to cost. Getting your child involved in the decision making process helps them feel empowered and also helps your wallet feel empowered because they can choose what they really want.

Buy Used or Rent

The Centsible Life recommends that if you are putting your child into music lessons or music classes, look at buying used musical instruments or renting.  The same goes for sports equipment, buy used or rent if possible.  When I was a child, my mother rented my musical instrument and I was always very cognizant of that and appreciated it. I later on ended up buying it (it was a rent-to-buy program) and was happy that it was a used instrument instead of a perfect new instrument.  It gave the instrument more character.

Check Out your Local Community Centre

Additionally, Money Crashers also suggests that you say no to expensive activities and set a limit. The local community centre is a great choice because it allows your child to try an activity for three months or less (sometimes even just eight weeks) in order to ascertain if there is enough interest to commit to a year of the same activity. Even better is that the local community centre is usually close to home, which means less commuting and driving to and from activities, which is another source of expenses. I took swimming lessons at my local pool and took ice skating lessons at my local community centre.

Sign Up for Free Activities

If there are free activities available at school, sign up for these. Lots of places offer introductory classes (such as karate) for free. It is a great way to get your child exposed to different activities and to see if your child has any interest.

Extra curricular activities are an essential part of being a well rounded individual and part of a healthy childhood; however, they shouldn’t cost your retirement!

 Bargainmoosers, how do you save money on your family’s extracurricular activities?

(banner image credit: USAG-Humphreys)

Moose Rating (1 votes)
August 24

Avoid Spending A Fortune At Your Next Visit To Ikea

Posted by on August 24, 2014 at 8:00 PM

Avoid Spending A Fortune At Your Next Visit To Ikea

There’s a reason why Ikea is so popular.  Ever since I was a child, I used to be obsessed with looking at the Ikea catalogues. I’m still amazed at the beautiful layout and design ideas that the catalogue pages depict.  From the marketing design to the free children’s playroom (which I loved as a kid, by the way) and very economically priced hot dog and soft serve ice cream, the trip to Ikea is designed for you to invest your time and money. I think that most people agree: it can be very hard to get out of Ikea without spending any money.

Here are some ways in which you can save money during and after your next trip to Ikea:

Go With a Plan (and a List)

One of the easiest ways to spend money is through the slow meander through the display area in Ikea.  According to the Globe and Mail, the average shopper spends about two hours wandering through Ikea.  This is not surprising since the average size of Ikea is akin to roughly six football fields. The strategically placed items are meant to make you buy on impulse (all those cute things near the cashier are meant to make you impulse buy).  I found it very interesting that on average, 50% of customers who shop through Ikea purchase something, which is much higher than the average women’s wear boutique, per the Globe and Mail article.

If you head to Ikea and plan your purchases beforehand, you could head through those six football fields with less temptation and more direction. You will head straight to the warehouse section, find your aisle and get out of there without buying a lamp, a terrycloth stuffed animal, or some kitchen utensil that you probably do not need.  This article from The Consumerist concurs that the Ikea business thrives on add-on sales.

Take Advantage of Sales

If you sign up for their mailing list, you will get to know firsthand when the bedroom collection or bathroom collection goes for 30% off.  Unfortunately it’s a little bit of spam, but considering Ikea stuff rarely goes on sale, this might not be a bad idea.

In addition, Ikea has Wacky Wednesday sales where they have an item that goes on sale for a very reasonable price. It does mean making a trip out to Ikea during a weekday, and sometimes the items are not necessary (meaning it would also be an impulse purchase if you bought it).

Finally, head to the As-Is section of Ikea.  The mark downs tend to be very generous and very reasonable.  Best yet, the As-Is section is full of items that are already assembled for you (that Allen Key is the bane of a lot of people’s existence, I’m sure). One person’s dislike is another person’s treasure, isn’t it!

If You Live in the States…

In the American Ikea stores, you can sign up for a $25 coupon if you spend more than $250 and are planning to move. In addition, if you sign up for the Ikea Friends and Family Program you can get a free cup of coffee and get information on the special discounts just for members. It is free to join. I don’t think we have any great deals like this in our Canadian Ikea stores, but hopefully in the future there will be.

After Your Visit

After your visit to Ikea comes the dreaded task of assembling the furniture with the aforementioned Allen Key.  I found that it was useful to pay someone (I found someone on Craigslist) to do it because it saved me time and frustration. For me, I could spend my time being more productive as opposed to spending hours trying to assemble something properly.

However, asking your friends to help out (handy friends, might I add) is a great solution too!

Get Some Ikea Hack Ideas

If you are bored with your Ikea furniture and want to make it a bit more unique, especially since everyone is buying the same furniture, head to this great website called Ikea Hackers.  It is filled with creative and easy ideas to make your Ikea furniture a bit more unique.

Bargainmoosers, how do you save money at Ikea?

(banner image credit: kaktuslampan)

Moose Rating (2 votes)
August 1

Save Money On Summer Travel

Posted by on August 1, 2014 at 8:00 PM

Save Money On Summer Travel

With gas prices at all time highs, people are sticking around for summer travel.  Many people (including me) are planning last minute close getaways and avoiding the trans-Canada road trips: 28% of Canadians are going to limit their summer traveling and enjoyment to $100 or less according to the Toronto Star.

Here are a few tips on how to save money on your next summer trip.

Choose Alternative Accommodation

I had trouble finding a place to stay during the long weekend because most motels and hotels were booked. The only accommodation on booking websites such as Hotels.com or Orbitz were expensive hotels that were hundreds of dollars a night. Alternative accommodation that is much more reasonable includes airbnb (check out the latest coupon codes for airbnb available on Bargainmoose here) and VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner).  Oftentimes if you can’t find what you are looking for in terms of dates, you can email the owner to see if there is availability and to see if they can accommodate your needs.

If possible, find accommodation that contains a kitchenette or simply fridge so that you can prepare your own meals and save money on dining out.

Plan your Meals

Speaking of saving money on dining out costs, like many things in life, organization is key.  If you are able to plan ahead with your meals, bring a cooler (if it is a short three to four day road trip) and buy groceries ahead of time, you will save a lot more money than if you ate out for your meals.  This of course is dependent on if you have accommodation that has a kitchenette.  If it does not have a kitchenette, see if you can get at least a fridge so you can put certain foods in the fridge, and it may help you skip spending money on a breakfast.  The Motley Fool blog recommends getting accommodation with a kitchenette as well so that you can cook and save money.

Make Sure Everyone Chips In

Of course if you are traveling with your immediate family you probably won’t need to utilize this app, but if you are traveling with friends or extended family or anything where you would want to keep a tally of who spent money on what, the best app to use for this is the Payback App.  It is easy to use and calculates exactly how much you owe your friends, and vice versa.  All you have to do is input who the people chipping in are, and then input the expenses, and press “It’s Payback Time!”  The best thing about it is that it is a free app, too!

Time it Well

US News suggests that you plan your summer holiday to avoid the long weekends.  Everything is more expensive (and booked up) on long weekends, including gas and accommodation (because available rooms will be more expensive).  They suggest that if you are going to travel on a holiday weekend, you should wake up early so that you can avoid traffic and therefore save money on gas. The less time you are on the road, the better for that tank of gas and the better for your psyche as well.

Get Organized

As mentioned earlier, organization is key. The Chicago Tribune has a great article on some must-have travel apps before you start your vacation. For example, CityMaps2Go allows you to look at the map for a city without having to use wifi.  Avoiding the roaming charges while trying to find the destination you are heading to will definitely save you money.  I often fall into this trap and have to turn on roaming data because I am lost.  Therefore, an app to help you with data loss is where the focus for donations should be targeted at. Another app that is very helpful is TripIt. This app allows you to organize your itinerary so you have access to it all in one convenient location. Instead of looking for emails or files, just access TripIt and you can have access to your itinerary, trip bookings, flight details, and even restaurant reservations.

Hopefully these five tips to save money on summer travel will be of use to you this summer or maybe even next summer.  Have a great summer everyone!

Bargainmoosers, what is your favourite way to save money on your summer vacation?

(banner image credit: motiqua)

Moose Rating (3 votes)
July 25

Keep Cool In The Summer: Save Money On Air Conditioning

Posted by on July 25, 2014 at 8:00 PM

Keep Cool In The Summer: Save Money On Air Conditioning

With the summer weather in full swing, many people are having to turn on the central air conditioning because they can’t sleep at night without it on.  Air conditioning, much like heating your home in the winter, can suck up a lot of energy, pollute the environment, and most importantly, it can put a dent in your utility bill unnecessarily.  According to Wikipedia, 88% of single family homes constructed in 2011 in the United States have built in air conditioning, along with 99% of homes in the Southern United States and 62% of homes in western United States.  That’s a lot of air conditioning (and a lot of energy use)!  Of course, if you (like me) don’t have air conditioning in the home, these tips will help you keep cool. I am happy that I do not have air conditioning; I keep the thermostat at zero in the summer and enjoy my low energy bills.

Here are a few ways in which you can save money on air conditioning, by having to avoid the need to turn air conditioning on.

Close the Windows

Contrary to popular belief, if you close your windows during the day you will keep cooler than if you opened them.  If you think about your home like a container that absorbs heat, when you open the windows it allows the heat to get into your home and stay there.  This also applies to closing your blinds and shades once the sun rises, since the suns rays will heat up your home if you leave blinds and shades open.

Of course, this is easier said than done, because who doesn’t want to keep their window open to smell the fresh air, see the blue sky, and hear the birds chirp?

Use a Fan

Fans are a great way to keep cool and use significantly less energy than air conditioning.  For example, a ceiling fan uses about 10-100 watts of energy whereas a central air conditioner uses about 2000-3000 watts of energy (source:  Yahoo Shine).  That is at least 200 times the amount of energy!

If you don’t have a ceiling fan, stand-up or table top fans are great too. Another way to maximize your fan is to put a bowl of cool ice in front of it to circulate cool arctic frozen air.  How fun is that?

Check Your Lighting

If you haven’t already, switch your regular joe incandescent light bulb over to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL’s). If you think about it, over 90% of an incandescent light bulb’s energy is wasted on heat instead of producing light (source: eBay Green).  When you have a whole household full of incandescent light bulbs, that’s a lot of energy wasted and a lot of unnecessary heating in your home.  Of course, make sure you turn off any lights or electronics that you do not need turned on to save on energy and to prevent any unnecessary heating in your home.  When your electronics are in standby mode, they still emit heat unfortunately.

Insulate Your Home

This strategy and home improvement is a win-win for both summer and winter, so it’s a no-brainer to implement.  Attic insulation can help keep your home cool by not allowing the cool air to escape. Although this does not necessarily decrease the heat in your home per se, it helps keep it cool.  According to Good Housekeeping, if you have central air, you should make sure you use seal ducts at vents and registers to prevent the cool air from escaping- if you do not do this, you can allow up to 20% of the cool air to escape.

In addition, Conde Nast also recommends that you seal your air leaks with caulk.  A simple job (grab a caulking gun at your local hardware store) will give impressive results.

Keep Cool In The Summer: Save Money On Air ConditioningCool Down with a Drink

Despite using these tips you may still want to turn on the air conditioning.  If all else fails, head to your local lemonade stand and support your neighbourhood budding children entrepreneurs!  I love seeing children sell lemonade- wish I did that as a child.

Bargainmoosers, what is your favourite tip to keep cool in the heat of summer?

(banner image credit: Kenneth Lu)

wishes

Moose Rating (4 votes)
July 19

Save Money Organizing For Back To School

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

Save Money Organizing For Back To School

Sometimes it takes me the entire month of September to get back on track to get organized and ready for back to school.  Sometimes it just takes me a week or two.  No matter the amount of time it takes for you to get you and your family organized for back to school,  organizing for it is a necessity for a productive and happy school year.  There are great ways to get organized, and most of these do not require that you spend a fortune to do so.

Here are some ideas and way to save money while you are organizing for back to school.  Many of these are do it yourself projects and do not require expensive supplies.  In fact, most of these supplies can be picked up at your local dollar store.

Magnetic Lunch Chart

Save Money Organizing For Back To School

This great idea from the Martha Stewart website is a fantastic way to get your children involved in their weekly meal planning.  This will likely reduce the chance that they will swap their lunch or not eat their lunch because they are the ones involved in decision making (well, one hopes, anyway!).  All you have to do is download the template and print it on magnetic paper.  Another added bonus is that it makes grocery shopping easier because you have the week planned out.

Set up a Craft Closet

Save Money Organizing For Back To School

Arts and crafts necessities such as pens, pencils, crayons, scissors, glue, felt markers, scrap paper and construction papers tend to adhere to Murphy’s Law and create a big mess in your home.  Laura’s Crafty Life has a great idea to use a clear shoe organizer to store the arts and craft supplies so that they are easy to spot and easy to access.   Shoe organizers are very cheap and are usually under $10, and $10 for peace of mind and organization is well worth it, in my opinion.  I am a big fan of shoe organizers behind the door, but mine is filled with shoes rather than arts and crafts for now.

Backpack Central

Save Money Organizing For Back To School

Another great idea is to create a back pack central area (much like the cubby holes and jacket and backpack area that your child has at school).  This idea from Pinterest incorporates your children’s names, a cork board, and a list of chores or homework that they need to do that evening.  It’s a great way to regroup and refocus once they return home from school.  It might also make mornings a little more manageable because things are organized and in the right spot!

Create a Command Central

Save Money Organizing For Back To School

Another great idea from the Martha Stewart website is to create a command central.  This is where all the schedules are, where the calendar is kept, and where the organization is at its finest.  A check list for each child is helpful and encourages your children to set goals for themselves, mark their checklist and feel like they accomplished something.  It is also a great way for them to develop skills to get organized.  Another reason this is a great project idea is that all the stationary essentials are easily accessible and visible, you’ll be replacing less things that get “lost” all the time.

Mason Jar Organization

Save Money Organizing For Back To School

Mason jars are beautiful and very reusable.  This great idea from the One Hundred Dollars a Month blog teaches you how to create cute mason jar holders labelled with chalkboard paint to keep your children’s pencils, crayons, and other stationary organized.  Not only are these jars functional, they are beautiful to look at and super easy to make.  All you need are mason jars, chalkboard paint, and some chalk.

Back to University Apps

For those of you who do not have children, but are going back to school, CBC has a great list of apps that are free but are great for back to school.  My personal favourite for organization is Dropbox.  It has saved me from a ton of clutter and it is free.  Here are five free cloud computing services to consider if you’re not a fan of Dropbox but are in need of some organization.

Bargainmoosers, do you have other DIY organizational tips for back to school?

(banner image credit: Lyn Lomasi)

Moose Rating (4 votes)
July 11

Save Money On Working Out

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

Save Money On Working Out

Since the beginning of this year, I have made a conscious effort to work out and to incorporate personal fitness and exercise into my weekly routine.  It all started with training for the half marathon that I did earlier this year.  I realized that incorporating exercise does not have to be expensive – you just have to have the will power and the motivation to do it.  Motivation is free (and simultaneously priceless).

I have never been one to join the gym (I prefer to be outdoors rather than cooped up indoors) so I never was suckered into buying $30 to $100 monthly gym memberships.  This is probably the key to saving money on working out.  I believe that if you are going to join a monthly membership you should join something that has a set schedule or set times that you need to make a commitment to.

The recommendations for a healthy fitness level is 30 to 60 minutes on most days of the week (four to seven days a week).

Here are some ways in which you can add some fitness to your weekly routine without breaking the bank:

Free or Frugal Fitness Ideas

  • Take up running:  There’s a reason why there are so many runners out there.  It is a relatively cheap workout that allows you to have high aerobic activity and a high amount of cardio.  The only costs are initial ones, as you have to pay for running shoes and running gear.  Run clubs are usually free to join and a great way to meet people.
  • Work out as part of your commute:  This is probably one of the best ways to incorporate fitness into your weekly routine without adding to the budget and without adding too much to your already busy schedule and US News agrees.  If you live within biking distance to work, biking is a great way to put in a workout.  Also if you live within running distance you can also run to work.  Check out if your office has showering facilities.
  • Workout at home:  Although this is probably difficult to stick to for most people, if you have the self-discipline, working out in the privacy of your own home is a great idea.  Pilates videos, yoga videos, even P90X videos are low cost and can continue to help you work out for years to come.  I have used the same yoga video for the past eight years and haven’t gotten sick of it yet.
  • Utilize your Amenities: If you live in a condominium or another facility with amenities such as a gym or a pool, make full use of it!
  • Check out your local community centre: When I needed to use the treadmill to get my run in during the cold icy winter, I often went to the local community centre gym.  To work out it only cost $2.50.  That’s pretty good if you don’t plan to go that often and you just need to use the gym facilities infrequently.  Oftentimes, pool access is also similarly priced and reasonable.
  • Check out daily deals sites: Fitsugar suggests that daily deals sites often have great workout or intro classes available.  I purchased a kayaking weekly session for half of the regular price (saving $50)  just by doing a quick google search.

Although frugal and free fitness suggestions are great, sometimes it can be hard to stick to these, which is why people often go for the expensive workouts and gym memberships – to get the motivation and external accountability. There are ways to increase your self-motivation and internal accountability; Huffington Post shares how to increase motivation and will-power:

  • Write it down. This announces to the universe your intentions and keeps you accountable.
  • List reasons why working out is important to you – list the benefits, list the importance of achieving these goals
  • Reward yourself when you reach sub-goals.
  • Predict sabotage thinking and think of ways to act on these thoughts – for example, making excuses for not to exercise.
  • Put reminders in your calendar. This works well for me because if I schedule it into my calendar, it increases the likelihood that I will complete the exercise task.

Bargainmoosers, do you have other frugal and fun fitness ideas that you use?  More importantly, how do you motivate yourself and keep yourself accountable?

(banner image credit: Heather Dowd)

Moose Rating (4 votes)
July 4

Save Money & Time: Buy Your Groceries Online

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

Save Money & Time: Buy Your Groceries Online

As someone who works fifty hours a week (and sometimes more), I often have trouble making sure I am well stocked up on food for the week.  If it weren’t for the grocery stores close by, I don’t think I would be able to batch cook for the week like I am doing right now to save money on my food budget.  I often try to wait until it is a 20 times the points day at Shoppers Drug Mart before I make purchases like shampoo and conditioner, or even dish soap.  However, even when it is a 20 times the points day at Shoppers, sometimes I don’t have time to go there to shop.

That is why when my friend sent me a referral code to save $40 on my $75 purchase for something called Spud.ca, I was quite excited. Being able to browse from the comfort of your own home and have the food delivered to your door while you are at work is kind of amazing!

Spud

I had heard of Spud for a few years, but never used their services.  I know that they deliver your groceries in a Rubbermaid container and have a set delivery date.  I know that they have locally produced groceries and a lot of organic groceries selection.  Also, they are conscious of the carbon footprint and let you know how far your groceries traveled to get delivered to you.

Spud is available in:

  • Vancouver (lower mainland)
  • Victoria to Nanaimo
  • Edmonton
  • Calgary
  • and even Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles

Unfortunately, Spud is not available in Eastern Canada yet, but perhaps there is something similar to Spud in the east.

I signed up for Spud and bought my $75 worth of groceries and was only charged $45 after taxes because of the promotion.  Unfortunately the promotion is over, but they have an ongoing referral promotion that if you refer your friends to Spud you get a $20 credit for your groceries (and they get $20 off of a $75 purchase).

The process was easy and straight forward, and my groceries came packaged with great care, including some ice packs (that you can re-use or return to Spud!) to keep my yogurt and meat cool, and some dry ice packages to keep things extra cool.  It was a great feeling to come home from work and have my grocery shopping all done for me. I think this feeling is much akin to the feeling you get when you come home and dinner is already made with the slow cooker.

I was very happy with my Spud purchase; the prices (if the items are on sale) are very reasonable.  I don’t know if I would purchase the produce from Spud because I like to make sure I select my own produce.  However, my friends who used Spud were very happy with their produce purchases and say the produce is very fresh. The only downside is that in order to qualify for free grocery delivery, you need to spend $35.

Amazon.ca

For a few months now, Amazon.ca has launched a pilot project of grocery delivery.  Check out the Grocery section of the Amazon.ca store here.  However, the items available on Amazon.ca are non-refridgerated grocery products (that means no milk or yogurt unfortunately).  They even have an organic and natural section.

Personally, I am not a fan of having more boxed products and cardboard being delivered to my home. Because I live in an apartment it would be difficult to have UPS or Canada Post deliver groceries via Amazon.ca to me.  I would have to go to the local postbox holding company and pick up my parcel there.

Might as well go grocery shopping, if you ask me.  However, I can see this working well for people who live in houses where packages can be left on the doorstep.

There are also a bunch of local grocers who can do delivery, but you may have to pay a delivery charge or purchase a minimum amount of groceries.

Bargainmoosers, have you tried online grocery shopping?  What do you think?

(banner image credit: eddie welker)

Moose Rating (3 votes)
June 27

4 Ways To Save Money On Your Next Camping Trip

Posted by on June 27, 2014 at 8:00 PM

4 Ways To Save Money On Your Next Camping Trip

Summer is undoubtedly here, and so is the warm weather.  Summer is my absolute favourite time of the year because it is the best time for camping.

Camping can be relatively cheap, and camping can be expensive, depending on the type of camping that you do.  For example, if you take a trip to Mountain Equipment Co-Op, you will spend a pretty penny there, guaranteed.  The freeze dried meals are convenient because you can just add water, but at $7 to $9 for a package of two, it can really add up.  So if you aren’t too concerned about the weight of  your backpack (if you are going wilderness/ backpack camping instead of car camping) then you will definitely save some money with alternate food options.

Although camping is considered a frugal vacation in comparison to other trips like flying to Mexico or going to Europe, there are still ways to save money when you go camping. Here are four ways that you can save money on your next camping trip:

Buy Used

One of the best ways to save money when you go camping is to buy your gear used.  MSN Money also shares the same sentiment in this article.  The most expensive aspect of camping is often the gear.  The tent, the tarp, the stove, the sleeping bags, and the sleeping pad can all add up.

Search out Craigslist for some great deals, check out garage sales, and go to your local used sporting goods store.  There are some great deals to be had at sporting good stores where people place their items on consignment.  I bought an entire set of camping cooking gear through the local sporting goods consignment store and was very happy with it.

Borrow Gear if You Can

Of course, if you’re just trying out camping and you’re not sure if you should be invested in it (and if you should invest your family’s precious time in it) borrow some of the camping gear from your family or friends.  Most people barely use their camping paraphernalia regularly and are happy to share some of their gear to increase the use.  Just make sure you return it clean and in a timely manner.

Make your Own Ice Pack

A great tip form the One Hundred Dollars a Month blog is to save money by not having to buy the ice bags.  They get messy, water leaks all over the place, and your bacon in the cooler ends up getting soaked because of the ice bags leaking.  Instead, she suggests getting a milk jug, filling it with water to three quarters of the way up, and leave the caps off when freezing it.  This saves you from having to spend $6-$10 (money is still money!) buying ice in a plastic bag.  It also saves you from having to deal with the watery mess of bacon water that you’ll have to get rid from your cooler.  Why not reduce, re-use, and recycle where you can?

Meal Plan

Just like it is helpful to meal plan when you’re not camping and busy living the day-to-day grind, it is helpful to meal plan for your next camping trip.  Think about the meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and the snacks that you will need to plan for.  Things usually taste better when you’re camping because everyone is relaxed and just focused on camping and cooking and eating, so don’t worry about bringing expensive steaks for your camping trip (unless of course it’s a gourmet camping trip).

If you’re backpacking camping, save money by bringing meals like bagels and cheese or peanut butter.  These keep well for a few days.  For breakfast, the separately packaged oatmeal is a great idea and easy to make (just add water and some of your favourite trail mix).

In addition, book well ahead of time for the provincial and federal parks.  Most of these allow online bookings nowadays.  If you are going to the United States for camping and decide to go the private campground route, the KOA’s (which I personally call luxury camping because some KOA’s provide you with ready-made breakfast for a fee) offer discounts if you become a member or if you frequent the KOA’s often.

Bargainmoosers, do you have any other ways where you save money while camping?

(banner image credit: Christopher Michel)

Moose Rating (4 votes)
June 20

4 Tips To Make Money At Your Next Garage Sale

Posted by on June 20, 2014 at 8:00 PM

4 Tips To Make Money At Your Next Garage Sale

One person’s trash is another person’s treasure, right?

I have always wanted to throw a garage sale but never had enough “guts” to do so.  I was wary that people would not be interested in buying my items or would haggle me down to the bone and I would take it personally.  Recently, I bit the bullet and went ahead arranging a garage sale because I was taken under the wings of a friend who was experienced in garage sales.

Here are some of the tips I learned on how to make good money at your next garage sale.  We made about $800 between the two of us (with some volunteer help of course) over a period of seven hours, including set up and take down of equipment and items.

Advertise it Well

One of the most important tips is to advertise your garage sale well.  One of the more effective things we did was advertise on Craigslist.  We also put up over twenty signs near by at larger intersections indicating that there was a garage sale close by.  In addition, we advertised on Facebook.

Most people came by through the ad on Craigslist.  I posted about the garage sale about a week before the actual garage sale, and posted again the night before.  In addition, as I had pictures available, I updated the post with pictures, which helped it go up to the top of the Craigslist/ garage sale ads.

Enlist Help

A garage sale takes a lot of work!  Enlist the help of your family, friends, or neighbours to help you carry heavy items and set up.  Reward them for their efforts with a cut of the profits or with pizza lunch.  Most people are happy to help out and want to have a sense of community and giving.

In addition, if you have any friends who are desperate to get rid of their junk and don’t care about money back for them, ask them to donate their items so you have more items for your garage sale.

Price it Right

We found that the things that were priced “right” were the best sellers: $2 for books, $2 for DVD’s, and $10 for video games were some of the best sellers.  In addition, we sold clothing items for $3 (any type of clothing).

When you bundle the prices, for example, $3 per item of clothing or two items for $5, people are encouraged to buy more.  We found that bundling worked well and encouraged the items to go.

Also, some people are really interested in getting a good bargain.  For items that you might not sell so easily, consider just lowering the price so you can get a win-win situation.  Better than holding onto that item for another year, right?

For children, we gave some allowances and allowed them to take a stuffed animal for free.  It’s only $1-2 and you get to see a child smile! 4 Tips To Make Money At Your Next Garage Sale

Organize It Well

Another important tip is to ensure that your garage sale is well laid out.  No one likes clutter (even though you are trying to get rid of your clutter, understandably) and if you arrange the items at your garage sale well, people will be more encouraged to buy and stick around.  Having your garage sale organized cannot be overstated enough.

Here are some ideas on how you can lay out your garage sale in specific sections:

  • clothing (have a clothing rack so people can browse easily)
  • shoes (laid out on shoe rack)
  • electronics (laid out on a table)
  • kitchen stuff (e.g. dishes, wine glasses, mugs) (laid out on a table)
  • books, DVD’s, games (laid out in a specific area/ box)
  • furniture
  • art
  • $1 bin (for any knick knacks)
  • $2 bin (for more expensive knick knacks)

There we go, hopefully these tips are helpful for your next garage sale!  It seems daunting to arrange a garage sale but it’s actually very easy and rewarding.

If you want more tips, here are 9 ways to throw a successful garage sale from Canadian Living and more tips on how to throw a successful garage sale from MSN Money.

Good luck!

Bargainmoosers, do you have any garage sale success stories or lessons to share?

(banner image credit: Dan Daluca)

Moose Rating (4 votes)
June 13

Duty & Tax Free Groceries In The U.S.

Posted by on June 13, 2014 at 8:00 PM

Duty & Tax Free Groceries In The U.S.

On a recent trip to Trader Joe’s, I was really excited to realize that groceries are not subject to taxes, which makes my trip down to the United States with my Nexus card (save time and money when traveling to the United States with it) and back within a few hours completely guilt-free.  Before, I would feel anxious about whether or not I would get charged a high amount of duty and taxes on my groceries and same day purchases.

With a little more searching and researching, I discovered a few amazing things about groceries in the United States and bringing them back to Canada, and I thought that you might want to know about them.

If you already know about these restrictions and allowances, my apologies for duplication of information you already know about.  If you don’t know about this (just like I did), I hope this helps you on your next trip down to the states for groceries!

Groceries, Duty and Taxes

In case you didn’t know (I was vaguely aware of it but not 100% sure because I thought it was a rumour), basic groceries, for example, food that is edible by humans, are duty and tax free.  However, non-edible groceries like cleaning products, toiletries, paper products, pet foods, and household items are subject to taxes.

Yes, that means that the cheap run to Trader Joe’s in the states was well worth it because you don’t have to pay taxes or duties to bring that back.  Might explain why Pirate Joe’s did so well heading down to Trader Joe’s in his large van.

Restricted Groceries

There are some grocery categories that have restrictions, and if you go over these allowances, you will need to get a permit!

  • Turkey- you can only bring back one turkey.  That’s it.
  • Meat and Poultry- fresh, frozen (maximum of 20 kilos)
  • Meat and Poultry- processed, like sausages (maximum of 20 kilos)
  • Fish and seafood – not puffer fish and Chinese mitten crab (maximum of 20 kilos)
  • Milk products (cheese, butter, yogurt, ice cream)- a maximum of 20 kilos with a maximum allowance of $20 worth
  • Eggs- 24 eggs
  • Potatoes- you are allowed one bag of commercially packaged potatoes
  • Baked goods (maximum of 20 kilos of baked goods- which seems like a lot in my opinion!)

Groceries Not Allowed into Canada

  • Needless to say, anything with soil is not allowed into Canada (for example, that cute basil plant for $3.99 at Trader Joe’s is not allowed back to Canada unfortunately!)
  • Apples are not allowed (thank goodness someone stopped me at the counter from buying the apples)–> this is a specific restriction for British Columbia
  • Fruits that have pits/ stones in them (apricots, nectarines, peaches, plums)  –> This is a specific restriction for British Columbia
  • corn on the cob

If you want more information, check out the Canada Food Inspection Agency website.

Do Not Bring back Alcohol or Tobacco

Of course, do not bring back alcohol or tobacco if you have been gone for less than 48 hours unless you want to get in the bad books with the Canada Border Services Agency.  If you do bring back these items to Canada within a same day trip (a trip less than 24 hours) they are subject to taxes and duties.

If you need a refresher on personal exemptions allowed, check out this mini-guide from the Government of Canada travel site.

There you have it, folks.  Because cheese is so ridiculously cheap and economically priced in the United States and at Trader Joe’s, I’ll be sure to make regular (perhaps every two months) trips down to the United States to stock up on some cheese and other goodies.

If you want to get more trivia about Trader Joe’s, check out this interesting Buzzfeed article on 18 incredible things you didn’t know about Trader Joe’s! I had no idea that you could ask a sales person to open anything and they will let you try it.  Or that managers at Trader Joe’s stores can make over six figures!

Or you could alternately check out this Buzzfeed article on 23 Reasons why Trader Joe’s is the Best.

Bargainmoosers, do you buy your groceries in the states? Have you ever been taxed or gotten into trouble with the CBSA?

(banner image credit: Spiro Bolos)

Moose Rating (4 votes)
June 6

Save Money On Your Next New Car

Posted by on June 6, 2014 at 8:00 PM

Save Money On Your Next New Car

I had been looking for a new car for a few months.  There is a specific colour and make that I am looking for.  I had gone to the auto show, sat in a number of different cars, and for the price and the convenience and fuel economy, I was still set on that one particular car.  I also went to test drive a number of cars.

I had wanted to buy a used car, ideally, because that’s the best way to save money since the car basically depreciates when you drive it off the lot, but there were not any used cars in the colour and make that I wanted, and many of the used cars had a lot of mileage on them, with some having at least half of the mileage of my current car.  Some used cars were a good deal but some were rebuilt, meaning they were write offs and were rebuilt to try and salvage them (except the insurance company did not want to salvage them).  This means that they must have had some pretty bad damage.

Now, I am not the most knowledgeable with cars and am by no means a car fanatic, but looking for a new car is tough work!

I Timed It Right

Even though I consulted my own post about how to save money on buying a new car through making sure I got the timing right and purchased at the end of the month (which the sales person admitted to me because he said they needed to make their quota before the month-end and were willing to negotiate even better prices – they were willing to knock a few hundred dollars off just to fit their target), I still found it difficult to know whether I was getting a good deal or not.

I am a pretty good negotiator but even with car salespeople it can be hard, because it is so high pressure.

I Did My Research

I also did my research, asking the sales person to price out the cost of the car for me with the bottom line (after the hefty taxes you pay).  Unfortunately here in B.C. (not sure if this is the case in other provinces and territories) we have to pay the full 12% tax on new and used car purchases, so when I did my research, a new car and an old car (used car) had a price difference of only about $500.  I also looked at the Kelly Blue Book which to my knowledge, is American based, but there is a Canadian Black Book version that is free (Kelley Blue Book is also free) but is based in Canada.  The only caveat is that you have to put in your name and contact information details (which I used a junk email address for) in order to obtain the quote of the used car price/reasonable value.  I also scoured Craigslist regularly and Autotrader.ca for cars but was unable to find anything that I wanted.  In addition, I called a few car dealerships and emailed some for quotes.

I Ended up Going with an Auto Broker

I was telling my friend that I was interested in buying a car and she gave me the contact information of an auto broker that her friend used who was able to save him at least $3000 to $4000 off the purchase price of his last car.  She explained that an auto broker acts much like a mortgage broker, and deals with managers directly so that the commission for the sales person was cut out.  I called him, he was prompt, offered me a bottom line price.  When I checked with what I had negotiated with the sales person after a test drive, I informed the auto broker that the price was similar.  Then the auto broker made another phone call and got a deal that I could not refuse, another $500 worth of goods that I would not personally pay for.  Money Sense also advocates for auto brokers too. The discount you can get depends on how valuable the car is and how popular it is.

All I did was call the auto broker, ask for the style, colour, year that I wanted and he went and did some searching.  It really skipped the uncomfortable feeling of having to deal with car sales people, especially the one that was not knowledgeable at all about the car (he was unable to answer a lot of my questions and got a lot of information wrong, that was written plainly in the brochure).

Bargainmoosers, have you ever used an auto broker?

(banner image credit: Axion23)

Moose Rating (2 votes)