Author Archive

December 20

5 Ways to Save Money on your next Electronics Purchase

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

5 Ways to Save Money on your next Electronics Purchase

I remember when flat screen televisions used to cost $2000 to $3000 for the latest LED technology or plasma technology.  Nowadays you can get a flat screen television for well under $1000.  Technology and electronic gadgets have a very unique characteristic about them that is unlike any other thing that you can buy… newer, smaller, faster, more updated versions keep on coming out to the public.  Some even more frequently than yearly (such as the iPhone 5 and the iPhone 6).  Remember the first iPod?  Then the iPod touch? Now the Apple watch?  Sometimes it is hard to keep track of it all.  One thing is for sure though, electronics are not cheap.  Especially the “first” for something, these products are is never easy on the wallet.

Whether it is new electronics or older technology electronics, here are five ways that you can save money on your next electronics purchase so that you have more money for the important things in life!

Take Advantage of Discounts

The Apple Store gives you an education discount if you go to a school that is on their list or are a parent of a student or a teacher etc… You even get the discount if you are enrolled in school but have not started school yet.  Head to The Apple Store for more details and to see if your school is on the list.

 Sell Your Old Stuff

Consumer Reports recommends that you sell your old device first (or at least make sure you can sell it) because over time it will depreciate even more.  Oftentimes you will be able to get some good money out of your old device.  A lot of people want to use it for parts even if it’s too slow for you or not working properly.  For example, my 2009 Apple Macbook Pro could probably still fetch $300 or more (which will give you a nice “discount” on your new Macbook Pro purchase, which will likely cost over $1100).  You can easily sell it on Craigslist, or even trade it on Amazon.com for a gift card (though you would have to ship it from the United States and that can be tricky with customs).

Don’t Snub Refurbished

I am a pretty big fan of refurbished goods.  What are refurbished goods?  Refurbished electronics are electronics that have been returned to the manufacturer and restored to a like-new or almost-new condition and resold.  Often the discounts from a new product can be 30% or more off.  For example, I got a laser fax/scanner/printer many years ago that was refurbished.  I’ll admit, I was a little wary at first but was very happy with the steep discount of 40% off what it would normally cost.  Also, usually refurbished products have the same warranty as the new products, so there we go, peace of mind!  The printer is still working amazing and I am still very happy with it.  Payoff.com suggests that refurbished electronics can save you a lot of money in the short run.  It’s also good for the environment because you’re taking it away from where it would normally go, the garbage.

Time Your Purchase

If you time your electronics purchase throughout the year you might be able to save a bit more money.  According to Lifehacker, there is a perfect sweet spot time to buy anything.  Electronics, televisions, and computers etc., are best bought in November and December, which does not surprise me with Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Boxing Day deals in full effect during these two months.

Ask to Price Match

One great thing about Canadian retailers is that electronics stores are pretty liberal about price matching.  Check out Hippowises’ easy-to-read table and easy-to-use guide on how to price match in Canada.  It tells you each electronics retailer information and how much their Price Match Guarantee is.  For example, Best Buy and Future Shop are on the list, so is Memory Express, Staples, and NCIX to name a few.  Most companies will match the price and also beat it by about 10% or even better.  It all varies according to what was advertised and which store is being pitted against which store.

Bargainmoosers, how do you like to save money on your electronics purchase?

Photo credit: Vassilis Galopolous

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December 17

Save Money on Your Christmas Tree

Posted by on December 17, 2014 at 8:00 PM

Save Money on Your Christmas Tree

With Christmas around the corner, many people are taking their Christmas trees out of storage and getting them ready to be the centre of attention for the next few weeks.  Even more people are probably going to their nearest Christmas tree lot to look for the freshest and nicest tree… ready to shell out $100 for that fresh scent and authentic tree experience.

However, if you’re like me and you live in an apartment (where many by-laws do not allow you to have a fresh/ real tree in your apartment because of fire risk) then you may want to think about alternatives that can be good for the environment (and plastic Christmas trees tend not to be the best for the environment) and also good for your wallet.

Admittedly these ideas are probably more practical if you don’t have young children in the home, but they are still great ideas!

Here are a few ideas to save you money on your Christmas tree this year, especially if you’re open to thinking about an alternative Christmas tree:

DIY White Christmas Tree

Save Money on Your Christmas Tree

For the ultimate frugal Christmas tree, why not make it out of paper?  Popsugar has a great Do It Yourself article on how to make a Christmas tree entirely out of paper.  Extra props if you use recycled paper or paper you are planning to recycle anyways to make your tree.  I love how modern and minimalist it looks!

Tomato Cage Tree

Save Money on Your Christmas Tree

From Buzzfeed I love how this looks so amazing and is yet so simple.  Just grab a tomato cage and some lights and wrap it around and around and you are ready to make a beautiful tomato cage tree (it will be the centre of attention and discussion at your next party, I’m sure–“How’d you make that?”)

Christmas Card Tree

Save Money on Your Christmas Tree

Don’t know what to do with all the Christmas cards that you get?  Instead of placing them on the mantle or hanging them on a string across the room like everyone else does, why don’t you try making it into a Christmas card tree?  Simple and elegant and a great reminder of all the loved ones you have.  Home Life suggests that you use blue tack to stick them on your walls, that way you can re-arrange your ‘tree’ as you get more cards.  Also you probably don’t want to damage your walls which might be the case if you use regular tape of course!

Get a Potted Christmas Tree

Save Money on Your Christmas Tree

There are over a few hundred million trees cut every year just for Christmas.  The best alternative to buying a new tree (and throwing it away) is to buy a live, potted tree where after you use it, you can plant it into the ground (or have someone plant it for you) so that it is still alive for the next few years where you can dig it up and repot it again in your living room.  A small potted Christmas tree can look great in your living room, especially if you raise the bottom part of the tree, so that the tree looks bigger than it actually is.

Personally I would get an even smaller potted tree, but they are difficult to care for (e.g., they don’t last well indoors).  One option is to go with a tree rental service where they drop off your live tree and pick it up and replant it for you.  However, this option probably isn’t very economical, but it is good for the environment!

Go for a Cardboard Tree

Save Money on Your Christmas Tree

Instead of a paper tree you can get an even easier tree where you just need cardboard and scissors.  The Style at Home blog suggests getting a cardboard tree.  Literally thinking outside the (cardboard) box.  You can make a small one for your table or a larger one for the floor. Perfect for small spaces and great if you have pets (pets love tinsel, baubles, and can break your ornaments unfortunately), all you would need to do is fold it up when the holidays are over.  Although the company that made these cardboard trees doesn’t seem to be in business anymore, I don’t see why anyone couldn’t make this themselves.

Bargainmoosers, have you ever used an “alternative” tree?  If not, do you usually have a “real” tree or a fake one?

Photo credit: Stephen Woods

Moose Rating (1 votes)
December 9

Accounts and Apps that Will Save You Money if You Like to Travel

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

Accounts and Apps that Will Save You Money if You Like to Travel

I’m a huge fan of travel, especially international travel.  Over the years and almost 40 countries that I have visited, there have been a few accounts and apps that have been helpful for me when I plan my travel and also during the actual travel itself.  Here are five apps and accounts that may be of interest to you for your next vacation abroad.

Tangerine Chequing Account

I recently signed up for the Tangerine Chequing Account (I already have savings accounts with Tangerine, which used to be known as ING Direct) solely because Tangerine waives International ABM Access Fee (which can usually be upwards of $5 per transaction from your usual bank, in addition to the $3-5 that the International ATM charges you).  The International ABM Access fee is waived except for in Colombia and Panama.

The great thing is that the interest rate is better than any big bank chequing account too, 0.25% as of writing this post.  For current rates, check out Tangerine’s website here.

On a recent trip I tested it out (made a few purchases on an ATM internationally in the Netherlands and Denmark) and checked my Tangerine account when I got back.  Low and behold, the only transactions I saw was the conversion rate, thankfully there were no extra fees charged from Tangerine.

If you are interested, Tangerine often has great cashback discounts for opening an account.

Amazon and Mariott Rewards Visa Credit Card

This is a popular travel credit card, however, I do not own it myself.  The foreign transaction fee is preset by Visa and Mastercard, at 2.5% of your purchase.  With the Mariott Rewards Premier Visa Credit Card, you can stop worrying about the foreign transaction fees that your typical credit card will charge you (which are usually hidden and you won’t be able to see it directly on your credit card bill).  Same goes for the Amazon.ca Visa credit card in Canada.  These are both from the bank, Chase.

Check out The Toronto Star’s article on credit cards to save you foreign transaction fees for more information.

Pay Back App

The Pay Back App if one of my favourite apps and probably the app that I have had the longest, pertaining to travel.  I have used it when traveling with friends and they are a big fan of it too.  No more ambiguity when it comes to who owes who for what.  No more complicated charts and records.  With the Pay Back App, you can record multiple trips and use different currencies (as long as you double check with the current conversions to make sure they are accurate).  All you do is input the friends involved in the trip, input the expenses (and to make sure you click on who paid for the expense and who is involved in sharing the expense), and at the end of the trip, click “PayBack!” and you have a summary of who owes what, which can be emailed as well.

XE Currency App

I have had the XE Currency App for years.  It uses live and mid-market rates (but you need access to the Internet, though it can save the exchange rate if you leave the wifi area) and you can add the currencies you want to compare.

You can download the XE Currency App here, the cost is free!  It is available for iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry, Windows, and Firefox OS devices.  Although the currency exchanger that you use or the credit card rate that is charged will be different than the lives rates that you obtain from the XE Currency App, you will at least know how much it should be…roughly.

Google Translate

According to LifeHacker, one of the best apps to get if you travel abroad often is either Google Translate or iStone Travel Translation.  For Google Translate, you can either type your phrase or say it to Siri.  Google Translate has the capability to translate 58 languages in text or 23 languages by voice.  Pretty amazing if you ask me!

There you have it, there are some tricks from the trade on how to save money if you travel abroad often.  I hope these will be of utility for you on your next adventure!

Bargainmoosers, do you have any tried and true tips and tricks to save money while traveling abroad?

Image credit: Peter Rowley

Moose Rating (1 votes)
November 21

5 Tips to Save Money on Christmas This Year

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

5 Tips to Save Money on Christmas This Year

As we all know, the holidays are expensive.  In 2012, according to an article by the Financial Post (and a survey conducted by Bank of Montreal), shoppers planned to spend an average of $674 in gifts during the holiday season and just shy of another $1000 for trips and travel during the holiday season.  People planned to spend an extra $100 compared to 2011.  For some reason Christmas spending inflation beat the average inflation for times outside of Christmas.

Here are some more ways to prevent overspending and to achieve holiday deflation instead of holiday inflation!

Make a List and Check it Twice

Just like Santa does, making a list and checking it twice is a great way to stay on budget.  You will be surprised how much everything adds up.  As mentioned in a post on how to save money on Christmas shopping, it is important to have a budget for each person so you know in general how much you plan to spend.  Try to make a goal to spend under the average amount the average Canadian spends on holiday gifts.

Use Discount Gift Cards

As mentioned in CBSnews, using discounted gift cards is a great idea to save money.  Buy your gift cards with your cash back credit card (make sure you are able to pay off your credit card bill at the end of the month though) through sites like cardswap.ca or through Costco.ca to save anywhere from 1-2%, and then purchase the presents with these gift cards.

Don’t Buy Cards or Wrap

Personally I don’t buy Christmas or holiday cards every year and I have re-use my wrapping paper and gift bags to help my wallet and the environment!  Here is a great Bargainmoose post on how to save money on Christmas cards.  Here’s another great Bargainmoose post on how to save money on Christmas gift wrap.

If you are going to buy Christmas cards or holiday themed wrapping paper, buy them after Christmas is over for the following year.  That way you will get at least 50% off in savings.

Use your Points

A great point that Heather from Bargainmoose made is to use your Air Miles, Shoppers Drug Mart, or cash back credit card points for your Christmas purchases.  This is a great idea because then you know how much you have allotted for your Christmas shopping ahead of time.  It will make the “sting” of Christmas spending less painful because you know that this is money that is “bonus” and not something coming out of your actual pay cheque.    Of course, you likely won’t be able to get presents for all the people on your list with this method, but it will definitely help the holiday budget a little (or a lot), that’s for sure.

Give Homemade Gifts

For about five of my close girlfriends, we had agreed a few years earlier to give homemade gifts to each other.  We give the same present to each other (e.g., make a batch of the same homemade gift) and we actually look forward to ‘guessing’ what has been made for us.  This has worked out really well as otherwise I would be spending at least $150 extra per  year.  We keep the costs of the homemade gift on the low end.  In the past, I have made homemade Bailey’s, bath bombs, jewellery (earrings and bracelets).  My friends have made me an infinity scarf, a personalized mug, homemade hot chocolate mix… the list goes on!

I find that homemade gifts are a great way to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas without the consumerism attached to modern Christmas.  The most important part of giving homemade gifts to your friends is to ensure that they are understand they will be giving home made gifts too!  The last thing you want is someone to feel ‘short changed’… not that they should, but you never know how people end up feeling.

We all usually get together on a small weekend getaway and give the gift at the same time.  The Lifehack article on 10 Ways to save money this year without losing the sparkle emphasizes that we should focus on the celebration of the holidays, and not the gifts.

Bargainmoosers, how do you save on Christmas shopping?

Photo credit: Kevin Dooley

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November 7

Frugal Hostess Gift Ideas that Won’t Break the Bank

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

Frugal Hostess Gift Ideas that Wont Break the Bank

With fall comes more dinner parties and with the holiday season around the corner, it is time to get prepared for the holiday season of dinner parties at your friends and family’s homes.

I always have a great time at dinner parties, though I’m not usually a big fan of hosting dinner parties myself (perhaps it is too much pressure and too much spotlight for me).  That is why, when I have the opportunity to go to a friend or an acquaintance’s home to have a meal, I am very grateful.  To show your gratitude, most people usually bring a small gift.  Although I usually bring wine, there are much less expensive alternatives to wine that can show your gratitude and impress your hostess with the most-est.

Here are six fun and frugal hostess gift ideas that will be easy on your budget:

Frugal Hostess Gift Ideas that Wont Break the Bank Put a Cork In it: Cork Coasters

I love this idea, of course it is chic and classy disguised as frugal.  Martha Stewart has a great Do It Yourself Cork Coasters gift idea.  All you need is some cork coasters, a stencil, craft paint, and some masking tape.  I personally like this idea because it can be personalized and it is a welcome change from the usual hostess gift of wine or soap.

Frugal Hostess Gift Ideas that Wont Break the Bank

I’m a Little Tea Pot

I am a really big fan of this teapot as suggested by Woman’s Day because it looks “expensive” but can be very inexpensive and is an easy Do It Yourself project.  All you need to create this teapot are your favourite teas and a tea pot (one can easily be purchased for cheap from the dollar store).  You can also add the rock sugar swirl stick for cheap but it may be difficult to find and I personally do not think it is completely necessary.

Frugal Hostess Gift Ideas that Wont Break the Bank

This is Art: Art Print

Although this would be harder to replicate yourself if you were not artistically inclined, this art piece is affordable and very chic at the same time.  Here is the posting from glo for 11 inexpensive hostess gift ideas.  For the art print it is under $15, though you would need to pay for shipping of course.

Frugal Hostess Gift Ideas that Wont Break the Bank

Give an M&M, a Monogrammed Mug

If you are running out of time, a great personalized gift that will usually (I’d say 80% likelihood) be liked is a monogrammed mug.  All you need to do for this one is go to the dollar store and buy a mug, and then add a stencil to it to monogram it and make sure that the stencil does not come off (may need to put in oven to harden it).  It is an easy gift and will not break the bank at all.  You could buy it through Anthropologie instead if you’d like.

Frugal Hostess Gift Ideas that Wont Break the Bank

Wash Your Hands: Soap

Of course, a classic gift for the hostess is soap.  Soap can be very inexpensive if you buy it (even fancy soap that is bought from stores).  In addition, if you wanted to go the Do It Yourself route, you could always make your own soap.  Here is a link to Pinterest for hundreds of recipes on how to make your own fancy soap, pretty soon you’ll have your friend asking for soap for Christmas!  They will be a hit especially if you customize it with different smells.  One time I received homemade soap in a “mojito” flavour, it was great and I really enjoyed using it.

Frugal Hostess Gift Ideas that Wont Break the Bank

You Da Bomb: Bath Bomb or Bath Salts

Finally, the last alternative to a typical gift of wine to the hostess is bath salts or bath bombs.  Bath bombs and bath salts are super easy to make and make a great hostess gift because you are encouraging the hostess to pamper herself (or perhaps if she doesn’t really like it  then she can always regift it).  You can decorate it and put it in a cute mason jar.  Here is a homemade bath bomb recipe from the Living on a Dime blog.

Bargainmoosers, do you have any easy to make and easy to give (aka well appreciated and loved by the hostess) gift that you love to give?

Photo credit: Susanne Nilsson

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October 31

Save Money on Prescription Drugs

Posted by on October 31, 2014 at 8:00 PM

Save Money on Prescription Drugs

According to CBC, Canadians spent about 23 billion dollars on prescription medications, which roughly equates to about $667 per person on an annual basis in 2012 to 2013 ($667 per person is the national average across Canada).  British Columbia has the lowest spending across Canada with $511 per capita and Quebec has the highest spending, with $820 per person being spent on an annual basis on prescription medications alone.   I don’t know about you, but that’s a lot of money and a lot of medications.  Although a lot of the time, we are fighting against faulty genetics when we have to take medications, there are ways in which we can save some money on prescription drugs.  Although we are very lucky in that medications are subsidized by the government according to your income, prescription medications can still be costly.

Here are a few ways to save money the next time you fill your prescription drugs.

Ask your Prescriber for a Higher Dose

One great way to save money on prescription medications according to WebMD is by asking for a higher dose, but of course this only works if your medication is a pill form rather than a capsule form.  For example, for certain costly medications like cholesterol pills come in doses of 40mg and 20mg and 10mg (etcetera etcetera).  These are also the same cost (e.g., the 40mg costs the same as the 20mg tablet).  If you are prescribed a 20mg dose, you can ask your prescriber to write 40mg tablets and to have the pharmacist cut the pill in half (or you can do it, just buy a pill cutter).  This will save you half of what it would normally cost.

Get it Filled All at Once

The key here is to get it dispensed less.  Oftentimes you will get one month’s worth of medications and then have to return to the pharmacy to pay for another month, and repeat once more…, but you may be able to get three months worth just by asking.  That’s two less trips to the pharmacist and less dispensing fee cost.  Win-win if you ask me!

Go Generic

Another way to save money on prescription medications is to ask if there is a generic version of the medication.  Oftentimes, the pharmacist will usually substitute for a generic option (or ask you if you would like that).  However, one reason why prescribers may be wary of generic medications is that it is often difficult to tell whether there will be the same effect as the brand name medications.  The brand name medications are the ones that are involved in the drug trials and therefore considered more “reliable”.  With brand name prescription drugs, you are paying for the marketing, and the research and development costs.

Talk to Your Primary Care Provider and Pharmacist

This is where it pays to get to know your primary care provider.  A lot of the time, doctors are very busy (as we know).  Oftentimes, pharmaceutical companies and drug representatives are busy visiting doctor’s offices to provide samples, to provide lunchtime teaching sessions, and to show your primary care provider the most recent novel new drug that is out there.

Oftentimes, these new drugs can be expensive because of the marketing associated with it, because they are brand-name and not generic.  Your doctor may know of an alternative that is not so expensive.  All it takes is a discussion and your doctor should be able to suggest an alternative that may work well.  Of course, there are some medications that cannot be substituted for generic, like certain thyroid medications because the composition varies between manufacturers.

Talking to your pharmacist will be helpful too.  Ask what their dispensing fees are.  Dispensing fees vary between pharmacies.  Here in British Columbia, it can vary anywhere from $5 to $12 (that’s over 100% of the lower end cost)!

Go Au Naturel

Finally, one of the best ways to save money on prescription drugs (especially drugs for cholesterol, high blood pressure, or other chronic conditions that can be improved with lifestyle changes) is to change your lifestyle.  Oftentimes we think it is easier to “pop a pill” rather than make lifestyle changes, but changing your lifestyle for the better is so much more rewarding and effective (no side effects!).  Watch this video for some inspiration by Doctor Mike Evans, titled “23 and a half hours”.

Bargainmoosers, do you have any tips on how to save money on prescription medications?

Photo credit: Mattza

Moose Rating (3 votes)
October 24

5 Ways to Save Money While in School

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

5 Ways to Save Money While in School

Whether it is your first time in university or college or whether you are returning back to school after a long period of being in the workforce, it is generally agreed upon that school is expensive.  Although furthering your education can help you develop your career and improve your income by leaps and bounds, it might not feel like this at the time.  You might just feel like a poor student.  However, sometimes being a poor student does have its perks, and so being able to save money while you are in school becomes less difficult and easier to accomplish.

Here are some strategies that will help you save money while you are in school.

Max Out Your Student Perks

Just like Gail Vaz-Oxlade suggests in this Moneysense article on saving money at school, max out your student benefits.  The rest of the world knows that you are a starving student, why not take advantage of it while you can?

Bus passes, museum tickets, concert tickets, Greyhound bus pass, Air Canada flight passes, Vancouver International Film Festival tickets… the list goes on.  There are many places that offer a discount for students.  One of the most recognized student discount pass (especially if you plan to go abroad) is the ISIC card, or the International Student Identity Card.  It lets the people from the foreign places you plan to go to know that you are a starving student.

Hit the Student Gym

If it’s already included in your fees, why not use it so you are saving money on a gym membership or a monthly yoga class?  Student Universe also states that most schools have a student gym and some even have classes like yoga or pilates that you can take.  These classes are normally very expensive so it makes sense to take advantage of it while you have a student gym pass/ access to enjoy.

Get a Part-Time Job

I personally worked throughout University (both times I went) with a part-time job.  Sure, there were times when I felt really time-crunched, however, I think working allows you to prioritize and to focus on things that matter.  Plus, knowing that you will finish your education program without as much debt as you could have had is priceless.  I believe that working gives you the onus to prioritize and get organized, two skills that are essential as a student.  Of course, you cannot work so much but personally I like to feel productive and I like the organization.  Being organized in my life helped me become organized for my main job.  Although, I only worked 10-15 hours per week with the part-time job in the evenings and weekends.

Buy Used Textbooks

Skip your university or college bookstore, the best place to buy your books is (like most things nowadays) online.  From Bargainmoose, here are some places that you can buy used text books.  Personally, I saved a few hundred dollars buying my textbooks from Amazon.com and then picking it up across the border, rather than going to my university bookstore to buy the books that they recommended.

You could also take advantage of the coupons we have here on Bargainmoose for stores like Bookmob and Textbook Rental and even rent your textbooks.

All you need is the ISBN number from the list your instructor tells you to get, and you just plug that into Amazon.com or Amazon.ca.  Of course, there are a lot of other places to buy your used text books, instead of Amazon.com.  The great thing is that you can resell your books to Amazon.com and then get a gift card for the value of your used books.  No fuss, no muss really.

Pack Your Lunch

Finally, just like for those who work full-time, packing your lunch or avoiding that daily coffee is going to save you ton of money in the end.  Considering a lunch is at least $5 to $10 per day, that’s at least $1000 per year (averaging 4 lunches per week).  That is enough for a last minute ticket to Mexico for spring break!  Besides, packing your lunch is good for your waist line too, and at least you know what you are putting in the food.  Knowing that you are saving day by day is priceless.

Bargainmoosers, are there other ways that you saved money while in school? 

Photo credit: Beraldo Leal

Moose Rating (4 votes)
October 17

How to Make Money Using Airbnb

Posted by on October 17, 2014 at 8:00 PM

How to Make Money Using Airbnb

Airbnb has hit the world by storm and has quickly become one of the most common ways people use to stay in another city or country. With hotel costs becoming more and more expensive and without having access to a kitchen while you are in a hotel, living in someone else’s apartment or suite or even spare room makes much more sense.

Airbnb is in over 190 countries around the world.  While I have not used Airbnb yet I definitely plan to in the near future.  As an Airbnb host, you can choose how much to rent your place out and when.  For a great run down of what Airbnb actually is (the online rental marketplace), check out this great Investopedia post.

What are  the Costs?

The costs to the host are minimal (technically).  Airbnb charges you a 3% fee once the reservation goes through.  The traveler, on the other hand, has to pay a 6-12% fee on top of what you charge as a host for their reservation.

Some other costs include property damage.  While no one wants to think about this, it can be a reality.  You add a security deposit to each booking and Airbnb covers damages up to $1,000,000 but it is a good idea to read the fine print on Airbnb to see what is covered or not.

Also, before you list your place, it is a good idea to look at the laws and jurisdiction in your community to make sure you are allowed to rent out your place, as you may need to apply for a business license from your city in many cases.

Here are some ways in which you can pimp out your pad and market your listing to make sure people want to stay at your place:

Take Advantage of the Professionals

Airbnb offers a professional photographer to come to your place in most cities.  The process is simple but you need to be present with the photographer during daylight hours.  The process is really free.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words and it’s especially important when you are considering listing your place out on Airbnb.

Response to Requests ASAP

According to Smart Cookies, one way in which you can be profitable and successful with your Airbnb listing is to ensure that your response rate is high.  Respond to requests within 24 hours because a lot of the travelers booking on Airbnb are last minute travelers and you don’t want to miss their booking request.  Your response rate is listed and shown on your Airbnb host page.  This is something that you can easily control and manage, and there are no reasons why this should not be followed up on.

Include the Little Things

Little things turn into big things as we know.  The little touches, like towels included, coffee and tea amenities, and WIFI (actually that is a big thing because WIFI these days is seen as a necessity and not a ‘perk’) are going to give you big bang for your buck.  Even parking can be expensive and people want to know that they can park their car hassle free, especially in big cities when parking is a pain to get.

Feedback is Key

Forbes has a great article on “Seven Tips to Make Bank on Airbnb” and one of them is to make sure you get verified, which means getting feedback and reviews.  When someone is searching for a place to stay, it is hard for them to trust you when you don’t have any feedback.  People want to know they are staying at a reliable place that other travelers felt were reliable too.  That’s why some websites like Tripadvisor do so well.  Basically this is like Tripadvisor within Airbnb already embedded.  You want to make sure people like your place and want to write a good comment.

There you have it, hopefully these tips help you with your Airbnb listing or at least inspire you to think about getting on the Airbnb bandwagon.  If you need a little push, use this coupon code from Bargainmoose to get $25 Airbnb credit just for signing up!

Bargainmoosers, have you tried using Airbnb or tried renting out your space with Airbnb?  What have been your experiences?

Photo credit: Matthew Trentacoste

Moose Rating (2 votes)
October 10

Save Your Money While on Parental Leave

Posted by on October 10, 2014 at 8:00 PM

Save Your Money While on Parental Leave

We all know how expensive a baby can be, let alone having to work on reduced income such as paternity or maternity leave.  Many new parents often underestimate just how much that first year with the baby is going to cost them.  While we are very fortunate in Canada to have the option of one year of maternity leave, the great thing is that we have the option to stay for the full year, or if we want we can return to work earlier.

Here are some ways to plan ahead and also some ways in which you can try and save money for your baby’s first year.

Figure How Much You Will Get

Handy websites like Employment Insurance Maternity and Parental Benefits from the Government of Canada will help you figure out how much you will be able to get every two weeks.  For 2014, the maximum amount that you can receive per week is $514 and you are able to receive 55% of your maximum insurable earnings, maxed at around $48,600.  Knowing how much you will receive will help you figure out how much you need to save for your baby’s first year.

You are eligible for parental leave benefits if you have worked over 600 hours in the past 52 weeks, as per BrighterLife.

Figure Out How Much It May Cost

If you are able to plan ahead, you can budget how much you’ll need to save before the baby arrives to ensure a smooth transition.  The last thing you want to stress out about is finances because there are so many other things to worry about.  Like making sure the baby is fed, or what to do so you can get more sleep!

Baby Center has a fantastic baby cost calculator that can estimate the total first year cost for your baby.  The average first year cost for a baby is just shy over $6,000 if you don’t have any regular childcare or daycare in your first year.  Of course if you are planning to feed your baby formula this cost fluctuates too.  There are about $2,000 worth of one time costs that you could use for your next baby if you have one.  In summary, the costs for your baby’s first year are individualized and can fluctuate widely.

Ways to Save Money While on Parental Leave

Canadian Family suggests that you cut down on wants and just focus on needs.  Hand-me-downs are a great idea because children often outgrow their clothes so quickly.  In addition, meal planning works well for your family (not your baby of course) because you or your partner may be too exhausted to cook on a daily basis.  With the luxury of time on your side, maxing out those home cooked meals works well to save on food costs.  Another way to save money is to see whether using cloth or disposable diapers is cheaper for your budget.  In general, it is more economical to use cloth diapers (and even more economical if you wash it yourself) if you use a cloth diaper pick up service.  And it is better for the environment.

The Government of Canada also has a great financial checklist of things you should do after your baby arrives here.

Can I Work During Parental Leave?

Many new parents want to work during parental leave, even if they are odd jobs here and there because, hey, anything helps!

This post from Canadian Budget Binder helps summarize whether you are able to work while on parental leave in Canada.  While it may be tempting to earn a little cash on the side, the amount gets reduced from your maternity leave and employment insurance earnings, so it might be wise to have a cautious look first before you start pulling cash in.  Basically if you work too much you could get your maternity leave benefits clawed back.

Hopefully this post answers some questions about how much you might get while on parental leave, how much your baby’s first year will cost, how to save money during parental leave, and whether you can work on the side.  Having a first baby is both overwhelming and exciting, congratulations on your new bundle of joy!

Bargainmoosers, how did you make it work during your maternity or paternity leave?  Do you have any tips for fellow Bargainmoosers?

Photo credit: Roberto D’Angelo

Moose Rating (2 votes)
October 3

Save Money on Movie Rentals in Canada

Posted by on October 3, 2014 at 8:00 PM

Save Money on Movie Rentals in Canada

With Blockbuster and Rogers Video store standing vacant and empty, to me, Friday nights just aren’t the same anymore.  I miss Blockbuster and Rogers Video stores.

I am obviously going through video store withdrawal even though I have Netflix available at home.  I find that the movies that I want to watch aren’t often on Netflix and I don’t really know where to watch them or access them without going to the illegal route of downloading them from some torrent site.

Here are a few ways in which you can replicate that old feeling of perusing the movies for a suitable movie to rent and enjoy with some buttered popcorn at home.

Red Box 

This is probably the closest thing to Blockbuster as you can get.  You have probably seen one of these red boxes at your local Safeway or 7-Eleven stores.  Although you can’t physically touch the DVDs in the Red Box box, they are certainly very cheap to rent (unless you are bad at returning the DVD back to the box in which case it will be expensive).  If you download the Red Box app you can check your local Red Box’s inventory to save you the hassle of going there and realizing that the movie you want to watch is not available. In addition, if you sign up for their texting service/reminders they often text you a free coupon code for a free movie rental on a monthly basis.

At $1.50 plus tax for a movie rental (but just for the night) and with the ability to browse online and hold your rental, Red Box is a great substitute for Blockbuster.  The one downside is that it will be difficult to find older movies that you have been meaning to watch.

Check Out your Public Library

Another great option that is absolutely free is to check out your local public library for some movies.  Some public libraries nowadays even allow digital movie rentals (meaning you won’t even have to visit the library in person).

Netflix

Of course, the popular option is to go with Netflix.  With recent movie titles and tons of options for movies and even television series, this option is the way to go if you ever want to cancel cable.  I pay $7.99 per month (though I believe they are raising their fees) for a lot of movies and television shows (a little too much option if you ask me).

For me the downside is that there are some movies that I have been wanting to watch but they are not available on Netflix when I search them up.

Apple TV

With this, you have to pay $99+ for an Apple TV device first, but it allows you to download or stream movies on demand.  The selection is pretty good but I found that it took a long time to download and rent the movie (maybe it was just my Internet at the time) and when I had friends over watching the movie, I didn’t download the movie quickly enough.  Also, the cost for renting a movie is about $5 or so depending on which movie you want to watch.  The good thing was that there is a pretty decent selection.  I remember looking up Roman Holiday or Breakfast at Tiffany’s and was able to find that.  Definitely would not be able to do that on a Red Box kiosk.

CinemaNow

I personally haven’t tried watching a movie through this system but I am excited to do so and plan to do so.  I was able to find a movie that I have been wanting to watch for a long time but was not able to find it on Netflix and I do not have Apple TV anymore.  Renting a movie gives you access to watch it for 30 days and you have 48 hours to finish the movie before it disappears from your account (which is similar to Apple TV I believe).  The cost is $3.99 for the movie I want to watch.  For new releases, the rental fee is $4.99.  You can also buy the movies you want to watch as well (obviously more expensive than $4-5).

 Bargainmoosers, how do you watch your movies nowadays?  Which one is your favourite?
Photo credit: Kenneth Lu
Moose Rating (2 votes)
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 (5 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)