Frugal living

August 29, 2021

Will sweet talk get you a bigger discount?

True bargain hunters seize every chance they can in the search for a better deal. However, for many people, bargaining is still an issue.

Save A couple of years ago, San Diego-based blogger Roxy Popescu embarked on a simple experiment.

At least once a day for a year, she politely asked shopkeepers, waiters, service reps … in truth, just about any vendor she came in contact with … if they would consider giving her a discount, upgrade, or any other sort of perk.

She’d bargained at farmers markets and asked for free samples before. But now she was trying to learn and improve the outcome with every attempt.

It worked, better than she expected in fact.

Continue reading »

August 24, 2021

Is it ok to use your old student ID to save a buck?

Last week, the Globe and Mail shared a list of tips on how to get student discounts long after you’ve graduated.

Stu As long as their face continues to resemble the photo on their student ID, many recent grads or drop outs seem anxious to take advantage of any possibility of a student discount.

Who really checks? And what's the harm, after all? 

First off, there are clear ethical issues with asking for a price break when you’re no longer in school. It’s actually dishonest or at least a bit sneaky, depending on your point of view. 

But is it any worse than asking for a senior’s discount when you look older but don’t actually fall into the correct age range?

Continue reading »

August 22, 2021

Is autopaying your bills a good idea?

Although I wouldn’t describe myself as an early adapter, I have switched to automated payments for most of my bills— primarily because it’s convenient and, in some instances, generates credit cad points. Although there's something to be said for seeing a balance in front of you ans writing a cheque of paying online.

Bill But, says Marketwatch, letting vendors reach into your wallet each and every month can be a problem since you may be setting yourself up for all-too-frequent fee hikes, surprise costs, and payments for services you never even use.

I do check, of course, and haven’t had many problems but maybe I’ve been lucky. Anyway, here are five fees you may want to worry about, Marketwatch warns.

Continue reading »

August 17, 2021

Do stores really match lower prices from competitors?

“We’ll match any price or give you a discount if you find the same item offered for less at another store," screams the ad.
But does it really happen?And will your time be well spent?Price Sometimes, particularly if you're politely assertive. Some outlets even offer the full difference and 5-10% on top of that. The only catch with price matching is that it's usually a bit of hassle, particularly if you care what the people behind you think and you don't really know the rules.

Continue reading »

August 04, 2021

Understanding the 'rules' when buying second hand

For a family watching costs, buying second hand merchandise can translate into some pretty hefty savings – if you can find anything at a reasonable price, of course.   Frugal

On the lookout for several second hand items, Sandy L, an engineer mom who blogs at First Gen American is nothing short of amazed at the total lack of price awareness of some of the sellers on popular sites like Craigslist, Kijiji, and a stack of local imitators.

First off, get over yourself. Think of selling your old stuff as earning, not losing, money. 

You lost the money long ago when you made that decision to buy the item, particularly if you’re not really using in the first place. The sooner you realize your mistake and resell it at a reasonable rate, the more money you’ll be able to recoup, she suggests.

Continue reading »

August 02, 2021

Is it time to abolish food banks altogether?

“Summer is a hard time for food banks,” says Robert Thorpe, who runs the Parkdale Community Food Bank in downtown Toronto.

His two main sources of food are Daily Bread and Second Harvest, both of which tell him that their cupboards are pretty bare.

A couple of years ago, his operation was mainly serving people on welfare, disability support programs and those with mental health issues. More recently, the lines have been supplemented by laid-off factory workers, information technology staff and people with administrative jobs.

“This is a group that, up until that point in their lives, had solid and stable sources of income. And for them, to get into a food bank line, was very mortifying,” he told the Toronto Star.  

Continue reading »

August 01, 2021

Wealthy homeowners are renting out rooms to save cash

Wow, I guess times really are tough south of the border.

Man With the housing slump increasingly infecting the homes of the well-heeled, owners of sprawling U.S. properties are quietly taking in boarders, using the rent cheques to offset expenses that, in the past, would have come from other income.

Homeowners like the arrangement because they can keep up outward appearances while keeping any financial woes to themselves. And tenants get to use some pretty fancy digs for as little as $600 a month in some instances, SmartMoney reports. 

Would you sign up for a few months? Well, somebody certainly is.

Continue reading »

July 20, 2021

Would you consider going on a volunteer vacation?

After spending an unpaid week in Costa Rica building a school, a friend of mine can’t wait to do something similar next year. And he’s not alone.

Book Volunteer vacations are becoming increasingly popular with those who’d like to do a bit more than sit on the beach for a few days but don’t have the time to join the Peace Corps.  

In exchange for your work and dedication to their project and cause, sponsors like Global Volunteers will take you on an unbelievable journey – at a fairly reasonable cost.

In fact, it seems that just about every travel organization — from tour companies to luxury resorts — has a volunteer component, although prices rise proportionately.

Continue reading »

July 14, 2021

How much would you pay for a pair of jeans?

Why do some jeans retail for hundreds of dollars when a typical pair can be had at your favourite department store for 30 bucks?

Jeans That’s the focus of a recent Wall Street Journal story wondering: “How Can Jeans Cost $300?”

Buying a “premium” product means paying extra for American materials and labour, custom embroidery on the pockets and waistbands, and, of course, a brand logo.

But the purchaser of $300 jeans is paying far more for markups, storefronts and marketing than the fashionable article of clothing itself. After all, denim is one of the most ubiquitous products going with over 100 brands available in the U.S.

Continue reading »

June 30, 2021

Are there chores that you gladly outsource, whatever the cost?

If you run a business or have any serious money to work with, it clearly makes perfect sense to have an accountant, lawyer, and tax pro on your side rather than trying to master complex issues that can really cost you if things go wrong.

Lawn But what about all those tasks – cleaning, mowing, shovelling, painting etc. – that, while important, don’t take necessarily take a lot of skill or a decade in university?

At some point you have to recognize that your time is valuable, too, maintains the Frugal Dad.

Would you rather be enjoying more time with your kids, pursuing more entrepreneurial endeavours, or working in the yard in 30-plus heat on a Saturday?

Continue reading »


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...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...