Category Archives: Blog

BIG $$$ Savings On Travel

Next week I’m off to Phoenix to escape the horrible Edmonton weather and for another appointment with my Mexico dentist (search the radio stories for ‘dentist’).

Since most of this happened by 6 AM this morning, and it’s fresh in my mind, I wanted to share some big savings insights. But heads up that my definition of savings is where you have to buy something and get it cheaper, such as a flight or hotel (because you do need to sleep somewhere). Savings is  not for golf. Yes, I’m going to golf but it’s spending less and not savings because I don’t have to golf!

Flight: I needed to go on a specific day. But the cheapest flight was $500 – which is insane and double what it should be. So I used 12,500 of my Aeroplan points and just paid $120 taxes. That’s a real saving of $380 and THE best way to use your points. The return flight was $140 and that I paid myself as it wouldn’t make sense to use up points on a flight that cheap.

Hotel: I found a 3 star for $38 in Tempe and a 3 star for $40 in Scottsdale. So I clicked at hotwire.com on the Tempe one and great news: Hotwire has now started showing any so-called resort fees before you book! This hotel has a $10 rip-off fee per night! So changed to the Scottsdale one and saved myself $56.

Purchases: I need three things from the U.S. for my business. One order for seminar supplies was going to cost $46 Fedex to Canada plus brokerage fee plus customs and duty for $70 total. Instead, I’m having it sent to my Phoenix hotel with free shipping. The same for two Amazon orders. One was going to be $14 and the other $22 shipping to Canada. Again, shipping it to the hotel is free and saving me $36. That’s $128 US

Car rental: Every city in Canada and the U.S. has big fees added to a car rental at the airport. In Edmonton it’s some kind of improvement levy, in Phoenix is a stadium tax and two other ones. That way politicians can get free money from tourists who don’t complain and not tax locals who might not vote for them anymore. So I rent from the closest city location that is not at the airport. For this trip, I’ve reserved a compact car for $202 total – yes, it’s way too expensive. But an airport rental right now is $280. I’m ahead $78 less an Uber of $10 to get the few miles to the location. I also keep checking for price reductions every day before I leave. If it drops, I re-book it – and have done it twice to get from $240 down to the current $202.

That’s a $380 Can$ saving plus $252 US$ in real savings for a total of $715. THAT is some real big money for maybe two hours of internet searches.

Event Tickets: Avoid Ticketmaster

I am not a fan of Ticketmaster and their monopoly. Their fees have nothing to do with their costs, or any logical reasons. It’s whatever they can get away with.

Last month, the Canadian Competition Bureau made a little dent into their immoral business practices. They fined Ticketmaster $4.5 million for misleading pricing when advertised ticket prices were up to 65% higher for so-called ‘mandatory fees’ late in the purchase process. They didn’t address the issue that Ticketmaster actually partners with scalpers to drive up prices, doesn’t release all available tickets the day of sale, and many more issues. Here’s a CBC Investigative report story of some of the still existing business practices: https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/ticketmaster-prices-scalpers-bruno-mars-1.4826914

It’s the reason I don’t go to at least one concert a year as I won’t pay those insane fees. Years ago, Ticketmaster went to promoters and venues and gave them pretty much whatever they wanted in order to be the exclusive seller. That’s how they can get the big fees.

According to Rolling Stones (and I’ll post the link to the article) it’s even worse than that. Apparently, Ticketmaster sells face value tickets to their own scalpers in order to re-sell them at much higher rates on the secondary market. One recent concert was advertising $900 tickets just a few rows up from the original $140 face value tickets! Ticketmaster is denying the accuracy of the story – of course.

The good news is that, with so much going on, you can get a deal and not pay Ticketmaster. Many concerts or events aren’t sold out – or even close. If you can wait until the last few days, or are prepared to not sit in the primo seats, you’ll likely get tickets even below face value! In November, I was in Arizona and found $15 tickets in Anaheim for the Ducks vs. Oilers hockey game. They were $40 face value plus $17 fees if I had bought them online. But $15 was a purchase I was willing to make.

Should Retailers Be Allowed to Refuse Cash?

This question will take a little empathy because it likely doesn’t apply to many people listening to us, but it’s worth asking: Should retail stores and restaurants be allowed to refuse cash as payment? There are a growing number of retailers and restaurants that won’t accept cash – it’s pay by debit or credit card, or they don’t want your business.

A number of pro sports stadiums, including the Atlanta Falcons, won’t accept cash at all for concession purchases. It became so prevalent, and such an issue, in the State of Massachusetts and the city of Philadelphia, nicknamed the biggest poor city in the U.S., that they passed a law that retailers must accept cash as payment.

The poor and working poor, however, do not have a debit or credit card. Up to 15% of the population doesn’t even have a bank account – that’s how payday lenders get rich cashing paycheques. So they pay upwards of 10% just to get their cheques cashed, and now they’re punished even more by not being able to shop or eat at lots of places. Is that right or fair or is this a law that makes sense?

In Edmonton, the City is mulling a smartcard that can be used for public transit. It’ll encourage people to occasionally use transit without needing a bus pass. It’s really convenient and might allow any City to charge based on how long a trip actually is. But the downside is that it has to be linked to a credit card. So is this another way to leave the 15 to 20% of the population behind that doesn’t have a credit card…but are likely the highest percentage of transit users?

George Boelcke – Money Tools & Rules book – yourmoneybook.com

Buying A New Vehicle?

LOVE this Facebook post. It’s so true. There isn’t anyone that cares what kind of vehicle you drive. They just care that you don’t get in their way…so don’t buy it for the “image” – buy it because you a)have the cash and b)can afford it!

Zig When Banks Want You to Zag & Adulting 101

Last month we talked about a survey that showed 8 out of ten people want financial advice from their bank. Great idea – from the wrong people! Getting financial advice and learning the insights is a great ideal or it’ll cost you huge. But don’t get it from people who are on commission. Here’s more proof of that going on right now:

Interest rates are stable and heading down. The Federal Reserve in the US will start dropping them before Canada, but they will come down in both countries. I first mentioned that we will be going into a recessing last fall already.

What are all financial institutions advertising heavily right now? Getting a fixed longer term mortgage at a “special” rate. OK, rates are coming down – so the WORST thing to do is lock yourself in right now at higher than need be rates! Banks want you locked in for five years or longer. That way, when rates come down, you’re way overpaying and it’s their additional profit.

What you do not hear from any of them right now are any ads on GICs. Why? Because if you lock those in right now you’ll get the higher rates before they drop. That’ll make you money but cost the banks a significant amount of profit: You get the high rate – they have to pay it while prime rates are dropping.

Adulting 101 Course

What a great idea! And it’s something four or five parents or grandparents can do together this summer: An Adulting Boot Camp. A high school in Lexington Kentucky this year started a three-day adulting 101 course for grade 12 students. Day one is all about money, day two is home & health and day three is being a professional. It’s everything from budgeting to saving, how to do laundry, basic cooking, car maintenance, ironing a shirt, shaking hands, making eye contact, tucking in your shirt, leaving your cell off during an interview and a ton more.

I love it love it love it! They may seem like such no-brainers to us older generations, but it isn’t in any way shape or form for 18-year olds!

George Boelcke – Money Tools & Rules book – yourmoneybook.com

Bankruptcy Stats Are On the Rise…and Alternatives…

There were multiple media stories a few weeks ago that the bankruptcies and proposals in Canada are rising rapidly. They were up over 9% from April a year ago nationally.

OK, that’s true. But…First, it’s comparing a pretty low year, so the percentages are quite misleading – percentages almost always are. Just look at the report that Vancouver home sales were up 44% last month over a year ago. Yes, but off an incredibly brutal April last year. So I always want to see the real numbers and not the percentages. In BC there were 22 more actual bankruptcies than a year ago, in Alberta exactly 100 more, and less than 150 for the whole country. (That’s bankruptcies and not proposals where there is some kind of payback set up through a trustee).

Every single bankruptcy is a very personal and often tragic or heartbreaking story. Yet, every person who has to file, should also be admitting that they caused it and are responsible in one way – some small or big way – or another. There is zero chance someone who is debt free will ever file for bankruptcy.

For anyone coming out of bankruptcy the question to ask is if they’ve learned that lesson and will never go down the debt road again. Then, read the rebuilding credit chapter in the Money Tools book for the five steps (and only five) to rebuilding your credit.

For anyone wondering if they can make it back from the edge of financial trouble, here are a few things to consider:

-There is a recession coming. I first started talking about it a year ago. It’s going to rain – get an umbrella now. Pay off what you can. Not a few bucks extra here and there – read the step up plan to pay off your debts smallest to largest.

-Most people also don’t need to file for bankruptcy. Canada does not have a debtor prison. It’s perfectly OK to stop paying your credit card. They’ll call, they’ll have a fit, they’ll send you nasty letters but that’s it. Tell them calmly that you don’t have the money and you can email them your bills in order of priority and your income. They’re not even going to want it – trust me.

-Ask  yourself if you have your priorities straight: Food, shelter and utilities are fist. If you have enough income for a roof over your head and food you’re doing OK. Everything else comes after that. When you’re out of money on paying your priorities – the rest will have to wait – period.

George Boelcke – Money Tools & Rules book – yourmoneybook.com

Careful With lowestrates.ca and Aviva Insurance!

Ah, another day, another incorrect online insurance quote. In my new part-time job to compare rates online, there appears to be a few more companies where your quote isn’t going to be close to your actual rate.

Lowestrates.ca is one of a number of sites you’ll find on the first search page under “insurance quotes.” They are not an insurance company or a broker, so they’re not liable for the common bait and switch – or “your quote isn’t actually your rate.” But you do need to know what happens after you fill in your online quote and it pops up with “your best quote” before you get your hopes up.

Mine was $824 and came up with Aviva Insurance. Since they don’t sell directly, the referral (and how lowestrates.ca makes their money) was to Surex Direct Insurance. Surprise, surprise, the actual quote from them through Aviva was actually $895. Yup – another quote, another “not close” in being over by $71.

Aviva chose not to reply to an inquiry. To their credit, lowestrates did reply to my email with an apology for the lack of communication. They also reached out to the broker and claim that the quote provided was “accurate to the dollar.” The broker, Surex, claimed that the information I provided wasn’t accurate. It’s totally false, but an excuse or reason why the “real” quote wouldn’t match the online quote. Their response indicated that “date first insured” was June 2001 “based on autoplus.” Nope – my first insurance entered accurately was a long ways prior to that.

Again, their information is false and there’s no chance you or me have of getting it accurate. Hands up if you have your insurance receipt from 19 years ago to prove your prior coverage? No – didn’t think so… According to a ballpark figure of a police officer friend about 10% of drivers don’t even have their current pink card with them.

The Statute of Limitations for most crimes and for keeping your tax records is about a third of that time. Yet insurance companies will punish you if you “only” have 19 years accident free coverage. Again, that’s inaccurate – but 19 years just isn’t enough to get a decent insurance rate?

It certainly isn’t right or logical, but is that legal or allowed by law? Has any consumer rights group ever asked why 19 years of coverage STILL isn’t enough for the lowest premiums? If so, send me a note as I want to contact them. I’ve also sent an inquiry to the Superintendent of Insurance to find out. Stay tuned…

George Boelcke – Money Tools & Rules book – yourmoneybook.com

Just Do It (Some of it) NOW

Just Do It (Some Of It) Now

The Nike slogan is “Just Do It” and everybody aged 18 and up, the sooner the better, should take that to heart. Or at least do some of it. There’s a chapter in the Money Tools book entitled: Do You Have a Half Hour?

In life there are tons of things we just never get around to – for all of us at all ages. We’re too busy, maybe next week, it’s not a priority, or whatever the reason or excuse. If you don’t take the first step you’ll never take the second step – and that chapter has about a dozen things that take less than half an hour.

If you look at your bank account and have an extra $200 you might want to save it. But it’s likely you won’t – or at least if you’re in your 20s because you don’t have an investment or TFSA (tax free savings) account, or an RRSP set up. That’s just one no-brainer example. If you take less than half an hour to set up an investment account with just a $20 deposit you’ll have it if and when you have some extra money, a bonus, or maybe some cash for your birthday. But if you don’t even have an investment account, you’ll never detour the money to it. If you’ve done the half hour basics, it’s two clicks and you’ve added to your investments.

Just taking this one example at age 18 to 25 has a staggering impact down the road. Here is a chart of what just $1,000 savings gets you in compounded interest down the road if you set it and forget it (from taxtips.ca):

$1,000 in just GICs over 50 years turns to $16,000. If you’re already 25 or so, over 39 years it’ll be $7,700.

But you’re 18 to 25 so that’d be a total waste of investments. If you put it into a basket of the top 500 companies in the world (that’s called the S&P 500) the $1,000 turns into $135,000 over 50 years. If you’re already mid-20’s it’ll be $77,000.

That’s a lousy $1,000 saved – never mind if you read the teenage millionaire chapter and do it quicker for a return of $1.1 million. Or you can hope you’ll get your $900 Canada Pension – good luck with that.

So the half hour today pays off huge – but you need someone to print you off this returns chart for you to believe it. And then you have to get off your butt and make the half hour. If that’s not worth your time – I can’t help you!

George Boelcke – Money Tools & Rules book – yourmoneybook.com