Category Archives: Blog

The Shelf Price Vs Register Price

A BIG heads up that we are currently in a wave of pricing errors that can cost you a lot. With constant inflation changes and labour shortages, the error rate between the price you see on the shelf (when you decide whether to buy something or not) and what rings through at the register is at an all-time high.

The quantity of “errors” has reached the levels where Dollar Tree and Family Dollar are currently being sued in multiple states in the U.S. for consumer protection violations in increasing prices at checkout over those posted on the shelves.

As always, watch the screen when a cashier scans your items. If you’re not sure it’s right, or missed something, ask them to go back, to stop, to check it. If you’re in the self-serve lane, you can scan at your own speed and, if something doesn’t seem right, leave it out or get it checked. After all – it’s your money!

My Biggest Ever Price Gauging

Yes, grocery prices are all up – a lot. But how much of it is legitimate and how much of it is just simply price gauging – or at least increasing mark-ups to a much higher profit margin?

Sure, it’s always done with “inflation” and “everything is more expensive” as an excuse. Just like COVID was the excuse for a ton of bad behaviors, customer no-service, etc. for most businesses.

For a few years, this (and other flavours) 1 litre juice was $1 at President’s Choice (Loblaw/No Name store). When it increased to $1.25 two months ago, I was surprised at a 25% increase, but wrote that off to inflation. This past week, the price changed to $2.25. That isn’t inflation. A 225% price increase is the largest price gauging I’ve ever seen. Of course, I’m not buying it. Of the top 10 things I buy all the time, I’ve now replaced 9 of them. But I wonder how many people think “it’s only an extra buck and a quarter…. Since Loblaws just announced record profits for the last quarter, I’m guessing there are enough people who just shake their heads and buy anyway…

Oh, and Dollar Tree (and likely all other chains) now have a base price of $1.50 – up from $1.25 last year. At least that “seems” like a reasonable inflation increase.

Lastly, if you ever need to get emergency air into your tires at a gas station, air is also subject to inflation. Who knew air doubled in price? Yes, it’s now a toonie for “air”!

New Homeowner Surprises? I Don’t Think So

A new survey of 1,000 homeowners by Real Estate Witch (an education platform) found that 9 out of 10 home buyers in the last three years were totally unprepared for a bunch of extra expenses after their purchase. In fact, 73% stated that they had regrets in their purchase due to these expenses.

While the survey is from the U.S., it wouldn’t be any different in Canada. But I would argue that almost none of these are a surprise at all. Sure, you hear the comment that most of the time, buying is cheaper than renting, but that’s just not the case at all – most of the time – for most people. When the survey found that, on average, homeowners say they pay an extra $17,500 in annual expenses, assuming that’s accurate, I wonder how many are necessary or could have been avoided.

Here are the categories of the surprises in the survey and their percentages:

33% property taxes: Nice try. Property taxes are right on the listing sites and sheet. It’s one of the first things anyone can access on any listing before even getting in the car!

27% renovations: Sorry, but that’s a “wanna do” vs. a have-to-do before even moving in. Ten seconds in the home and anyone can tell what they HAVE to fix and what they’d LIKE to fix.

27% utilities: Every realtor can get any seller to give you a copy of the last utility bill. It’s not a surprise to have to pay for electricity and gas, and the amount can be obtained really quickly and easily.

25% roof work – 15% foundation repair: Unless you’re buying a brand new home with new-home warranty, things like this will show up on any home inspection. That $400 must-do can save you a ton of money by either walking away or having the seller fix these things before you close the sale. Sure, sometimes they’re a surprise and shock. But that is the exception and not the rule.

23% insurance: There’s insurance on your vehicle, so needing insurance for your new home isn’t a surprise – ever. You may not have all the details the actual policy asks for, but you can get an idea online inside of two minutes and the only thing you need to actually know is the rough square footage and age of the roof. Then play with various deductibles and you’ll be within a hundred bucks or so.

22% appliance repair – 21% appliance replacement: Repairs happen, but is replacement a surprise, a need or a desire for (as an example) all new shiny and matching stainless steel?

19% yard work: Yup – a condo has someone take care of all that. If it’s a duplex or a house you walked around before buying it. Surely you noticed there were plants, grass, bushes and trees, didn’t you? Besides, that time is enjoyable and the money spent is very little. Think of it as “outdoor therapy” instead of complaining about it. You GET TO have a yard, instead of a 60 square foot concrete balcony or basement suite.

16% home cleaning: I’m not even going to dignify that with a comment – sorry.

A very long time ago, a realtor friend told me that anyone buying a home needs to have an additional $10,000 to spend. The figure may be higher, but buying a home is way more about the money than almost anything else. Read the home buying chapter of the Money Tools book. It’ll save you literally thousands of dollars and a ton of pain. And sometimes the best home buy is one you don’t make in the first place! It doesn’t need to be now – if you can’t afford it, don’t have all the answers or numbers – walk away. That way the dream of your own home won’t turn into a long-term nightmare.

Would You Do A Three-Year Cruise? It’s A Great Deal…

How would you like to take a three-year cruise with a base price of only $30,000 a year? You need to sign up (and pay) for the full three years, but the company is working on a “share” plan where you can split it with others and dip in and out as you choose.

375 ports in 135 countries covering all seven continents. I would go in an instant…except for the money and not being able to work remotely. The marketing isn’t just for retired couples (singles get a 15% discount off the double-occupancy rate – so it’s still rather expensive) but it’s also for people who can work remotely. They will have meeting rooms, a large business centre and 15 actual offices on the ship.

The idea is pretty unique and they’re now taking bookings. You and 1073 others could get your entire travel related bucket list completed on one (long) trip. The ship is the MV Gemini, part of Miray Cruise Lines. You’ll have all the standard cruise benefits of meals, free medical, a 24-hour staffed hospital, entertainment, etc. Although it may be a little expensive to buy the “all inclusive” alcohol package for three years…

Here’s the link of a story CNN posted on it. You still have lots of time to decide, to “sell” your boss on working remotely, your partner on a longer-than-normal holiday, get your vaccinations and a really good quality laptop before sailing in November out of Istanbul, Turkey. Bon Voyage – or happy just dreaming about it…

The Inevitable Cashless Society

Sweden wants to become essentially cashless by 2025, and they’re not alone, but well on the way to that. Right now, less than 11% of their economic activity is still done in cash. There were only seven bank robberies in the entire country last year since they don’t have much cash on hand, and there are less than 900 ATMs in the entire country.

Use your credit card, debit card, e bill payments, or other online payment systems, but don’t try to do too much in cash. Even the homeless people that sell newspapers or flowers on the side of the road won’t take cash. Their cell phone only takes mobile payments. In the U.S., a former head of the Treasury Board stated he thinks the U.S. should do away with the $100 bill. That’s certainly where their conversion to a cashless society would start.

The game Monopoly, for about six years now, no longer come with cash. It’s been replaced by a scanner and debit cards. The game had huge lessons for kids on financial stuff, money, math, making change, and many more. That’s all all gone. But then, Monopoly has just joined the cashless movement.

Is it a good idea or not? While it may seem simpler, once you make the adjustment, it’s also one giant additional step in giving up your privacy. The government, police, tax department, lawyer for your ex wife, and a host of other agencies can now trace very single financial transaction you’ve ever made. Everything you do, anywhere, for any reason, now has a permanent paper trail. While bank robberies are almost non-existent, electronic fraud has doubled.

Sure, we gave up some (OK, a lot) of privacy freedom after 9/11 – yes, in Canada, too. We give up privacy every day on social media. We give up a ton of our privacy when we sign up for store loyalty programs in the hope of saving a few bucks, but is this a step too far? To me, this has massive big brother implications and it’s a step too far – way too far – in my opinion. Freedom and privacy aren’t lost in one big law. They’re eroded one little step at a time. Well, I have nothing to hide so this one isn’t worth fighting for. Then the next little step: Well, I’m not really on social media, so I don’t care. And that’s how massive changes happen, one step at a time.

The further left your political view, or the government in power, the quicker it’ll happen. I don’t know about you, but I’m sticking with cash for my small transactions. I can’t stop the conversion to a cashless society – nobody can. About the best we can hope for is to slow it down.

Save Money Ads – AND Helping You Spend the Savings

I’m always somewhere between amused and confused with ads that seem to teach people how to spend money. Does anyone really need help with that? Spend the savings seems to be the new trend in a lot of ads:

An air conditioning company ad promotes a 17 month no payment plan. That’s kind of cool, but the second half of the ad tells the guy he can now buy his bouncy castle with that saving. What saving? It’s deferred payments for 17 months – the air conditioning system he’s buying isn’t free all of a sudden! Pay for the bouncy castle now, then pay for the air conditioning system after. That’s MORE spending, not less. It’s over-spending, and not saving.

A national television campaign for car manufacturer asks what would you do if you didn’t have car payments this summer. Would you spend it on a vacation? What? They’re delaying your seven or eight years of payments to not start until fall AND want you to spend the money you’re really not saving on a vacation. And newsflash: The ad states no payments. It does not state no interest, so the interest is still accumulating while you’re not making payments.

Scotiabank has been running the same type of ad campaign for a few years, too. The theme is generally that a couple goes into the branch to see how to save $1,500 a year. Then, the second half of the ad, has them spending it immediately. The ads are cute, but come on. You need a commission-based loans officer to show you how to save $125 a month? If so, you’ve got way bigger problems. I bet I can show you how to save $1,000 a month if you have vehicle payments. But, that aside, the savings, according to their ads, should then be spent immediately? How exactly does that help anyone?

NHL Real Estate For Sale

After the bankruptcy story last week, here’s a more financially successful story – and maybe a chance for you to buy a nice Toronto penthouse condo.

In 2019 the Leafs traded Nazem Kadri to Colorado and last year he signed with the Calgary Flames. He’s now selling his penthouse condo at 199 Richmond St W in Toronto if you’re interested. It was originally listed at $5.4 million, but it’s now reduced to $4.5 million. Built in 2016, the penthouse condo has a full view of the Toronto skyline with floor to ceiling windows and a full view of the Toronto skyline.

The condo has three bedrooms, two bathrooms and five balconies over a total of 3200 square feet – Kadri’s memorabilia is not included.

If you’re in the market, a $900,000 down payment would leave you a $3.6 million mortgage at $20,900 a month. Add the $2854 monthly condo fee and property tax of $15,500 and, for just over $24,000 a month it’s a win-win: You can live the lifestyle of an NHL star and help Kadri stop the monthly money-leak he’s had for over four and put some equity money back in his pocket.

Since Robin Lehner of the Vegas Golden Knights couldn’t avoid bankruptcy making only $5 million a year, Kadri seems to be OK with his 7-year $7 million annual contract with the Flames. And that included an up-front bonus of $11 million to hold him over.

The listing realtor is hyping up the penthouse quite a bit. So you should really decide quickly… You’re welcome.

Not Snakes On The Plane – Snakes In The Bankruptcy

If you want to compile a list of stupid financial collapses of pro athletes, get a LOT of paper as it’s a very lengthy list. Over 70% of athletes in the NFL and NBA are bankrupt within five years. The NHL is a little different, but not this time: This weeks’ bankruptcy filing by Vegas Golden Nights NHL goalie Robin Lehner won’t be the only one this year, and won’t crack the top 50 dumb stories – sorry.

Lehner apparently always had a thing for snakes. In 2017 he thought it’d be great idea to buy a bunch of rare snakes from world renowned breeder Ben Renick for $1.2 million as an investment. He made $4 million that year with the Buffalo Sabres, but still didn’t have the money for this new investment under his new company RL Investments LLC. Instead, he went to a company that specializes in loans to athletes by the name of Eclipse Services with quarterly payments of $200,000. The company makes lots of loans to athletes based on their contract. After all, when you get a big bonus and a huge contract, you gotta have money THAT DAY so you can buy your Mom a house and six cars for your buddies and third cousin. Then you gotta get a penthouse somewhere exotic to party with your entourage of old and new-found buddies. That’s all really expensive and you haven’t actually earned a dime of your future contract yet. But I digress.

That snake breeder was then murdered by his wife. Yes, the story has a lot of twists that I’ll skip as it’ll just make you shake your head too much… And, it turns out, breaking news: these snakes are pretty high maintenance and eat a lot. In the first four years, Lehner “only” made around $7.5 million – barely enough to live on – never mind the snakes.

In 2021 he signed with Vegas for $5 million a year and a $2 million signing bonus. But, by that time, the lawsuits, allegations of stealing some pythons, the lawyer bills, trying to just put food on the table, all that interest, etc. were mounting. And, let’s face it, $5 million a years isn’t much, is it?

It’s a mess and a pretty convoluted story. But there’s good news: Now a bankruptcy trustee can figure out this massive mess and handle Lehner’s finance for a year or two. More sort-of good news: Lehner is out the rest of the year with back problems. Sure, he still gets paid, but he’s probably out looking for some part-time work to pay back some of his debts…and right after bankruptcy discharge, he’ll have another two years at $11 million total on his NHL contract.

Sleeping With Walmart

Late fall, the rollout of Sleep Country Canada stores into select Walmart locations started in Quebec. They’ve now worked their way to Western Canada with locations in Saskatoon, Lethbridge, Calgary, Edmonton, and Duncan, BC.

The express stores are around 700 square feet and may replace the hair salon, optometrist/eye glasses, nail salon or other smaller “stores” to make room. Sleep Country has around 300 locations and simply wants to expand their customer reach. Walmart is certainly the place to do that, so it seems like a win-win for both companies.

Mattresses, along with jewelry, certainly have enough markup to make them profitable, even after paying Walmart. When furniture markup is around 300 to 400% (compared to less than 10% for electronics) and mattresses are significantly higher than that, make sure you shop around. For over a decade, a national retailers has had a billboard on a busy intersection in Edmonton advertising 50% mattress sales. That’s not a sale – its re-establishing a lower (but still) retail price. That’s taught me to believe: 50% off is actually full sticker price.

Consumer Report is a good place to start your research. They’ve done testing on everything from $1,000 to $3,000 mattresses and found very little difference when cutting them open and comparing coil count and padding. In their opinion, suggested retail pricing is pure fiction and fancy phrases and brand names don’t justify the additional cost. Feel free to test-sleep them for a few minutes and shop around. If you have a Costco card and are looking for a new mattress, January is the month Costco carries them (as in: check it out right now) since it’s only a seasonal in stock item.