Frugal living

October 31, 2021

E-bikes can prove costly when it comes to insurance claims

Although both motorists and cyclists don't seem to crazy about them, electronic bicycles (e-bikes) are flying off the shelves these days. They're cheap to buy, cheap to run and don't leave much of a carbon footprint.

They are, however, subject to provincial traffic laws; that is, they can ride in traffic with motor vehicles, like scooters, and their operators mustn’t drive recklessly or under the influence of alcohol. Here's a good summary of the existing rules.

More importantly, they also don't need a license or insurance, according to a recent Ontario Court of Justice ruling. But taking that latter option at face value might be shortsighted, warns My Insurance Shopper

"Like any motorized vehicle, there is a liability risk attached with owning this type of vehicle. If you're an owner of this type of motorized vehicle you need to know that you may have no liability coverage if you get into an accident, and you could find yourself without coverage if you cause property damage or worse, injure another person."

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October 17, 2021

Why your budget may not be working

Got that nagging feeling that you’re just not doing enough to manage your money? You’re probably right, which leaves you with two options. Keep writing cheques and melting plastic until your money runs out, or get a handle on things right now by establishing some sort of spending plan.

A reasonable spending plan can provide a shot in the arm for many households – particularly those where there are dissenting views as to where the money actually goes.

Once you've decided how much your family is likely to burn through in big-ticket categories like cars, housing and food, then you can work towards either predetermined savings goals or emergency planning.

Here's one story of how someone ended up suddenly without a job -- and without a firm idea of his household’s spending.

The important thing to remember is that money is fungible, maintains economist Emily Oster. In reality, all dollars are the same. There is no such thing as a gas dollar, a grocery dollar, or a “fun” dollar.

So simply slotting expenses into envelopes depending on what you think you might spend may actually hinder you in the long run since it doesn't allow for much flexibility.

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October 10, 2021

How to split the bill when eating out at a restaurant

It’s been a good time all around. The food was delicious, the company entertaining – and then the bill arrives. That often means an awkward moment deciding whether to divide things evenly or whether to add up the cost of each person's meal.

Anyone going out to eat in a large group has to be ready for someone suggesting a simple division of the bill by the number of the people at the table, even though studies suggest that most diners prefer to pay individually for items they had.

What's worse, when groups do end up splitting the bill evenly, there's often some chintzy *%$#@ looking to take advantage by ordering a more expensive, and therefore subsidized, meal. But maybe you're better off ignoring that one.

But then out comes that coupon that's been burning a hole in someone's pocket. Should the dollar value  reduce the entire group bill, or only how much they pay individually?

Does it make any difference if it's a gift card; a Groupon-like voucher that they purchased; or a discount from a previous visit? Yes, says Presh Talwalkar, the mind behind the site Mind Your Decisions.

Here are his suggestions for handling that one.

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October 07, 2021

Could you afford to live to be 100 years old?

Forget being retired for 20 or 25 years: How about something closer to 50 years?

Science fiction? Not necessarily. In fact, it could happen within our lifetimes, maintains Alex Zhavoronkov, the author of The Ageless Generation: How Advances in Biomedicine Will Transform the Global Economy.

There are several specific technology trends that will undoubtedly make us live significantly longer than our parents and grandparents, he claims. In fact, it's already happening.

Today, the average 65-year-old has an average life expectancy of 19 more years — approximately age 84. But half of all individuals live longer than the average life expectancy. In fact, one out of every four 65-year-olds will live past age 90, and one out of ten will live past age 95.

But that longevity comes at a price, the two primary concerns being declining health and the ability to create a sustainable retirement income that may need to last decades more than expected.

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September 30, 2021

Are joint credit cards ever a good idea?

Linking your credit with another person's credit always has the potential for risks and rewards.

Joint credit card accounts were once quite popular, since they allow couples to share cards, giving  stay-at-home partners with little or no income access to credit since the account is in the names of both people.

But one income families are the exception these days, with the result that some issuers are turning away from joint accounts, arguing that they no longer fit the times.

What's more, since credit issuers in the U.S. are no longer allowed to use income as a factor in rejecting a credit card application, most vendors have simply lost interest.

Shared cards might work where both parties have conservative spending habits, compatible financial goals and are truly committed to each other. But that doesn't always happen. It might be obvious to you which expenses should be put on the card and which shouldn't but one person's "obvious" may be another's "I don't see the problem!"

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September 25, 2021

Ex-Trader Joe president plans to open grocery store selling 'expired' food

Would you buy “expired” food? Doug Rauch, an ex-president of Trader Joe’s, is hoping you will with his new store, The Daily Table, launching next year in Dorchester, Boston.

He plans to help with food waste by using groceries close to their expiry date or slightly past and transforming them into healthy meals, such as soup, salad and casseroles. The store will also have a teaching kitchen to teach people how to create easy, healthy meals. They will also sell milk that’s past it’s expired sell date for $1 a gallon, according to the Boston Globe.

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September 11, 2021

Which would you rather be in a relationship with ... a saver or a spender?

Most people would rather be in a romantic relationship with someone who prefers to save money rather than partner with a big spender, according to a recent ING study.

What’s interesting is that the results of this poll mirrors other studies on the topic.

For instance, researchers found that online daters are more likely to describe themselves as a saver on their dating profile than they are in a private questionnaire.

This suggests people are aware that savers come across as attractive partners and are willing to highlight spendthrift ways – even if it stretches the truth, the study suggests: "Savers are naturally viewed as possessing greater general self-control, which increases their romantic and physical attractiveness."

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August 27, 2021

New app helps drivers identify parking ticket trouble spots

Parking tickets are a necessary evil for most city dwellers. Some people park illegally on a regular basis, content to receive tickets to avoid the congestion pricing.

Trouble is, tickets are being written with increasing frequency these days as cash-strapped municipalities try to squeeze revenue from every side street.

Not only are municipalities making parking costlier and more restrictive, the proceeds – which, at one time, were reinvested in parking and transportation-related services – are now being used to support other programs.

So it's not surprising that police and bylaw officers are becoming increasingly reluctant to give drivers a break. It’s happening in cities across Canada, but Winnipeg appears to be the worst.

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August 12, 2021

Can you spend your way to happiness?

You can be poor and happy, and you can be rich and unhappy. But the norm is more likely poor and unhappy or rich and happy. But it doesn't have to be that way.

According to Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton, money can definitely make you more satisfied with life; you just need to know how to spend it more effectively.

In their book Happy Money, the authors offer several key principles for happy spending. It's an easy read and not too preachy.

What's more, unlike many "yes, you too can be happy" books, Dunn, an associate professor of psychology at the UBC, and Norton, who teaches marketing at the Harvard Business School, back up their views with both their own research and third-party studies from around the world.

Here are a few of their suggestions:

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August 08, 2021

Nine secrets to earning $100,000

There's no easy way to $100,000 in annual salary. But people who have reached that milestone are offering some advice on how others can get there.

One user on the Reddit website put out a request for anyone making at least $100,000 a year. "What was the smartest decision you ever made?" asked someone going by the name of RicsFlair.

The question generated a wide-ranging discussion about what it takes to climb the career ladder. Some of the predictable responses were in there — work hard, do a good job and the like — but users did have some decent advice for anyone trying to make it in the world.

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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...