July 26, 2021

What inflation? 10 consumer items getting cheaper

Inflation is a real pain.

1037486_3d_decay_graph_bar It’s raised the price of certain commodities, made it so no working stiff can even consider owning his own home in many urban cities, and jacked the cost of bacon so high the term “strategic pork reserve” has entered the modern-day lexicon.

But remarkably, in the face of rising costs, some consumer items are actually getting cheaper.

And no, not just outdated items, like VHS tapes or the RIM PlayBook (count it!).

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Shopping with hand-held basket encourages poor choices: Study

Using a shopping cart instead of a much smaller basket can help you make healthier choices as you cruise down the aisles. At least that’s the thinking behind a recent study in the Journal of Marketing Research.

Basket Watching people as they stocked up in the grocery store, the researchers found that people who used hand-held baskets instead of those insidious oversized carts were more than three times as likely to choose unhealthy over healthy food items.

Why, exactly, is a little complicated, but essentially the notion is that bodily sensations can influence our thoughts and emotions.

In this case, the researchers maintain that the act of flexing your arm, as required by the basket, somehow encourages you to choose smaller, easier and generally less healthy items, while extending your arm, as you do when you push a cart, has the opposite effect.

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July 13, 2021

That's right, some purchases are just plain stupid

Ever wonder how much money you could have saved if you had hung on to it somehow instead of blowing it on another tchotchke?

Book If you want to feel a bit better about your silly situation, check out Spendster. Run by the National Endowment for Financial Education, it’s a fun place to share videos and stories about some of the really dumb purchases we’ve all made.

Entrants who've created a video showing their regretful purchases qualified themselves to win one of several prizes, ranging from $100 to $1,000.

It’s all in good fun, of course, much like the late Speaker's Corner.

In addition to video and photo uploads, you’ll also find a calculator that determines the actual cost of unnecessary and poorly used credit card purchases and how much these expenditures could have generated in savings.

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June 16, 2021

5 myths debunked in defence of couponing

Extreme couponing has become quite the craze but most people still shy away from what seems to border on hoarding.

Coup But detractors are losing sight of the real purpose of couponing, say the folks at Savebrite, a mega-couponing site. And that's simply to save a few bucks. Here then are a few myths they'd like to see set aside

* Collecting coupons is too time consuming

Not true. When coupons were only available in your local Sunday paper … perhaps. But now you actually have to go out of your way to avoid them. No longer confined to a once-a-week paper, you’ll find coupons online, on manufacturer websites, on the back of receipts and on your cell phone.

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May 24, 2021

Time to increase duty-free limits for cross-border shoppers ?

Looking to take free trade right to your door step, the United States has asked Canada to raise its duty-free limits for day trips across the border, perhaps to as much as $1,000.  

Flag Americans can buy and bring back $200 worth of Canadian goods in the first two days before they have to settle up with U.S. customs. Over two days, the exemption is $800.

Conversely, after one day, our “exemption” at the border is a mere $50; between two and seven days, you can bring back $400 worth of goods and, after one week, it’s a $750 exemption on most goods.

Earlier this year, former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson proposed that the government increase these exemptions tenfold: raising the one-day allowance from $50 to $500 per person; the three-day allowance from $250 to $2,500; that longer-stay allowance from $750 to $7,500.

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May 20, 2021

The continually changing face of retail

With daily deals delivered via Twitter feeds and mobile-friendly sale sites, retailing is expanding in directions it would have been difficult to predict even five years ago, says consumer savings expert Andrea Woroch.

Retyail While consumers have always looked out for special offers and discounts, new technologies and services mean that 2011 will see even more new ways to help rid yourself of those pesky dollars. 

Among several trends that are quickly changing the way consumers shop, Woroch offers a few highlights ....

1. Daily Deals
With the explosion of limited-time daily deals via group-buying and flash-sale sites like Gilt Group and, other retailers will soon be piling in. Target and Overstock, for instance, already offer Deal-of-the-Day sales with more to come, Woroch predicts.

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May 09, 2021

Sometimes the customer is actually wrong

Successful businesses understand that the word ‘right’ in “The customer is always right” doesn’t mean that the person with the beef would win in court, or even come out on top of a debate. It means: “If you want that guy to come back, you need to let him believe he’s right.”

Cus Unhappy customers are bad news for any company, and it only takes one of them to shatter a perfectly good day at work for everyone, says consumer advocate Christopher Elliott whose “Travel Troubleshooter” column appears in several U.S. newspapers.

In recent years, Elliott has expanded beyond mediating grievances of airline passengers, hotel guests and car renters to helping settle a host of general customer-service disputes. As a result, he's heard it all.

His major gripe: The customers themselves.

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May 03, 2021

Is cross border shopping getting easier?

The wave of virtual shoppers doing regular business with sites south of the Canadian border continues to rise. Buying from U.S.-based merchants is easier than it once was and, given the current strength of the loonie, more affordable than ever.

Cross Yet unspoken costs, from tariffs to shipping fees, can change that equation in a hurry. On top of this, credit card companies charge heavily for currency conversion.

Canadians commonly encounter two potential roadblocks that prevent them from ordering online or by phone from U.S. retailers, warns the Crossbodershopping site:

Some U.S. companies aren’t interested in shipping to Canada and those that do often have prohibitively expensive shipping fees. Many shipping tables don't include Canadian addresses, so you won't know the total cost of each order until checkout.

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April 29, 2021

Keep your coffee hot with magic thermal beans

We don’t like to pimp too many products in this space, but every once in a while a new item comes out that must be discussed.

For coffee drinkers in Canada (read: everyone in Canada), what’s your biggest obstacle, other than finding the nearest Tim Hortons outlet to order from and the nearest Starbucks customer to sneer at?

It’s gotta be temperature, right? Too hot, you burn yourself. Too cold, your coffee tastes like Howard Dean sounds. Yet one new company, Coffee Joulies, is offering a solution. Meet the magical coffee beans.

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April 26, 2021

Are online coupons soon to replace weekend flyers?

The days of clipping coupons from newspapers and flyers may be over.

Coupon Another new digital coupon service launched last week. Unlike group buying sites, however, it’s not designed to offer deals on spa treatments or restaurants.

Instead, the service from SavingStar will work with the loyalty cards handed out at large U.S. grocery chains to give extra discounts on everyday items such as juice, paper towels, and diapers.

Although online coupons account for only one percent of all coupons distributed, they account for about 10 percent of all coupons redeemed, said Susan Gear, group vice president for digital at Catalina which provides a similar service.

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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...

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...