Saving Money

Retire early – Mid course corrections – Save money now

We were actually thinking of writing this post for a retirement blog that we also run,(you can find it here), but then we thought that the idea of saving money fits well with this blog. The idea is to reduce expenses by doing a lot of your own maintenance and renovations around your home. If you can save even more money, you can retire early, take a trip or buy a new car. The main message is that you have far more flexibility about the decisions you can make. Retire early – mid course corrections is all about what changes you can make in your lifestyle to spend less and save for the future, whatever it is.

If you do retire early, life is going to throw curve balls at you which will or should cause you to re-evaluate what you need to do to keep your retirement as pleasant as possible. You may need to have money for unexpected expenses later in life which will cause these mid course corrections.

Retire early – Mid course corrections

This is a lost of mid course corrections that many people can consider. If you have others that make sense to add, let us know by leaving a comment. Pick and choose those that make sense for your family and your personal situation. Here is the list that we have so far along with the percentage of people who indicated they were interested in this area:

  • Make healthier food and exercise choices to save money later: 91%
  • Cut back on daily expenses: 90%
  • Reduce everyday leisure: 82%
  • Limit or cut back on donations to charities: 77%
  • Volunteer more and give monetary donations less: 75%
  • Work part-time in retirement: 75%
  • Downsize to a smaller home: 75%
  • Reduce or eliminate financial support to children: 70%
  • Purchase long-term care insurance: 68%
  • Move to a less expensive area: 67%
  • Postpone taking Social Security: 64% (though 60% said they’d “take Social Security as early as they can” — puzzling)
  • Develop a hobby into an income source: 62%
  • Reduce financial support to parents or in-laws: 59%
  • Take a housemate or become a housemate: 28%
  • Rent a room or part of my home on a short-term basis: 27%
  • Turn my car into a source of income: 24%

Start a Business

Whether it is renting out part of your home through AirBNB, VRBO or using your car to run an Urber business, there are many ways to earn a little extra income. Some people will start hobbies that they can turn into a small business.

Many will work online from home on various blogs like this one to earn extra income. It can be very emotional and difficult, but cutting support to your kids or to your parents, might be a big change or mid course direction to make.

Cutting back on daily expenses covers all sorts of areas. This could mean doing your own repairs and renovations as well as limiting or decreasing your entertainment expenses.

Notice that throughout this post that we do not say stop these areas. Instead we use words like reduce, cutting back and doing things that will help you spend less money and live more carefully.

Make a personal list that can help you achieve your own objectives for saving money and perhaps retire early as well. It will be worth it in the long run.


Inexpensive Weed Management

inexpensive weed managementAre you tired of dealing with weeds in your lawn? There is a time-tested way to reduce and eliminate them, but it does take some work! For inexpensive weed management in a nutshell keep your lawn really healthy. Apply fertilizer at the appropriate times. Thicken with grass seed at least once per year. Make sure it has sufficient water. Spot spray with weed killer as needed. Finally, pick the larger weeds by using a tool that will remove the weed and the root as well.

Some weeds can be easily pulled out root and all just by grabbing them around the stalk and pulling. Others like dandelions have to be cut off several inches below the ground and then pulled out. The writer uses a small chisel to cut the root about 2 inches below ground level and then pull the plant and root out. They come out quite easily this way and will not grow back. Dandelions are the easiest to deal with. They are large, easily seen, and are easy to pull out using the method mentioned.

A healthy lawn mentioned in this way will deter the weeds and make your job much easier to control weeds growing in your lawn. The grass will be thick and will have a fighting chance against all of the weeds that begin growing all of the time.

Inexpensive weed management

The above steps are relatively easy to do and do not cost a great deal of money. It can get very expensive if you allow the weeds to overtake the grass in your lawn. Once this happens there are not many alternatives. You can kill all of the weed by spraying, but then often you’re left with very thin grass or less. You have to be careful when you spray to avoid damaging other plants as well as people walking on a newly sprayed lawn.

One of our neighbors let his lawn go. Never watered it and never did anything about the weeds. Once this happened, all he could do is replace the lawn. He still has not replaced his lawn. It is simply too expensive for home. He took another approach.

He added grass seed all over the yard and then topped it off with topsoil. Just enough to cover the seedlings and allow them to begin growing. A much less expensive approach, but one that takes much longer for the lawn to recover.

He could also remove what was left of the sod and all of the weeds. Then he spread several truckloads of topsoil on the lawn and fertilized it. The next step involved applying new sod all over his yard and watering it for many days to avoid the hot sun killing the new grass before it had a chance to establish itself. We are confident that it cost him well over a thousand dollars for his new lawn.

Spending a few dollars and a few hours a week could have saved him a great deal of money. That’s the main message of this post. Saving money by doing some of your own work and maintaining your property, in this case, the lawn. But many people are less concerned about the savings they might achieve vs. the instant repair that laying new sod will provide.

For more saving money ideas, click here. Consumers can put a little work into their homes and yards and save thousands of dollars.

Lost Starbucks Gift Card

Lost Starbucks Gift CardLost gift cards cost us all money, however at least with a lost Starbucks gift card there is a way of protecting yourself from losing the balance on the card. Whether it is only $10 or a &100, no one wants to lose any money. All you have to do is register your card online and use your Starbucks card each time you pay for a coffee or purchase other food items at this store. There are other reasons why you should register these cards.

Recover your Cash – Lost Starbucks Gift Card

If you do lose your card and it is registered, all you need to do is call Starbucks and they will give you a new card and load the previous balance on to your new card. The balance will be clearly shown on your online account.

Other benefits of using one of these gift cards or loyalty cards is that they reward you for being a loyal customer with free refills, free coffees or food items after a specified amount of purchases and they provide you with free food items from time to time as well.

Starbucks has also recently changed its loyalty program. It is not as generous as it was in the past. However you just have to spend more to get the same amount of benefits. It appears to be still worthwhile, however you may want to review other loyalty

For more money saving ideas around your home, click here.


Register Starbucks Gift Cards

Register Starbucks Gift CardsStarbucks recently updated its loyalty system and we thought it might be time to write about why it is still important to register Starbucks gift cards. The loyalty program is not as generous as it used to be. But that is really the subject of another post. To say the least, we are not happy about the changes they are making. All one can do is spend less money at Starbucks to register your displeasure. In the meantime, if you are given a Starbucks gift card for a birthday, Christmas, or some other special occasion, it s a good idea to register it for a couple of reasons.

Register Starbucks Gift Cards

Once you register the card and begin to use it, every customer will begin to collect stars. These stars accumulate towards a future free drink or pastry. As we said it is not that generous anymore, but it is something.

Secondly, there will now be an online track record of all of your expenses, how much you spent at the last location and how much is still left on your card. If for some reason you lose the card or it gets stolen, call Starbucks immediately and they will be able to shut down the card and transfer the balance to another card. You will not have lost all of your money.

Third, if you are unsure about how you are spending your money, you can always check your account online. Confirm how much and where you are spending your money. For more information about saving money, click here.


Always Ask for Discounts

Always Ask for DiscountsThe motto of this post is always, “Always Ask for Discounts”. The worst that will happen is that the person will say no, they even may apologize for not being able to offer a discount! But in most situations, if the person you are dealing with can offer a discount or at least something, they will.

Discount for an Oil Change

This morning I took my car in go get the oil changed. This includes the oil change, a full 100 point check of the car and a car wash for $41. This by itself is not a bad deal compared to what I normally have to pay. We pay over $50 in Canada and we do not get the car wash or the 100 point check, so at $41 this is a really good deal.

I asked if there was a discount for seniors or triple A. He said he was sorry, there were no discounts for these but he could offer me $10 off bringing the price down to $31! Now that is what I call good service that inspires loyalty and saves me money at the same time. It also demonstrates another way to save money. Always ask for a discount!

The person I was dealing with did not have to meet my request. He could have said no and although perhaps a bit disappointed, I still would have been satisfied with the service and the price. I get to wait in a nice air conditioned reception area and they also provided free coffee as well. But the fact that he offered a discount was really the icing on the cake, so to speak.

Ask for a Discount at MacDonald’s

Another example and this applies to seniors. If you are a senior, always ask for a senior discount. At MacDonald’s for example, if you are buying a coffee, you can ask for a senior coffee and they will be happy to oblige you. The coffee is a small cup and is always discounted for seniors. They provide free refills on their coffee as well so having coffee is an even better deal. The funny thing about MacDonald’s is that the price varies across provinces and states. I have paid as much as $.98 for a senior coffee and as low as $.38 for a coffee. It is always less than the regular price, but some locations are really inexpensive.

Always Ask for Discounts – How Much Money can you Save

It obviously depends on your spending habits, but let’s say you save $10 a week by always asking for discount when you make a purchase. If you save $10 a week that adds up to $520 a year. What can you do with $540? A lot is the answer and you might just save a great deal more than that on some deals, which pushes your average way up.

Some people suggest that you not worry about the small stuff. Focus on the big deals to save a lot of money. Yes, you can save a lot on large deals, buying a car for example and getting a discount etc on the price. But industry has figured out that it is the small transactions that have really made the cash flow issue for them. The banks nickel and dime you with every transaction. The coffee shops increase their price by a couple of cents and make millions. Same with the restaurants. Any transaction you make a lot of is also where you should focus. Don’t forget the large ones but also focus on the small daily cash flow as well for discounts.

For example at Starbucks, if you have a registered Starbucks card, you can refill your coffee for free. In addition after 12 coffees, you can have any drink of your choice at Starbucks. That’s a good deal and although Starbucks is an expensive place for fancy drinks it is on par with most other places for good coffee. If for example you have a refill 50% of the time and get your free drink, your coffee is working out to less than a dollar on average at Starbucks. Pretty good deal and this is one of the best discounts for coffee next to MacDonald’s.

As we said our motto is “always ask for a discount”?

Top 10 Ways You Can Save Money Easily

Top 10 Ways You Can Save MoneyThese are the top 10 ways you can save money at home without even realizing it and it is pretty easy too.  They are not in any particular order. Some families will receive larger payoffs from one area than others and that is ok. Even if one of these areas helps you save some money which can be used for other things you are ahead of the game. Take a look at the list and determine if there any that you or your family can use.

Top 10 Ways You Can Save Money

  • Repair and Maintain Wear and Tear on Your Home
  • Maximize Your Credit Card Rewards
  • Claim Money In Your Name
  • Avoid Food In Your Kitchen Going Bad
  •  Pay Less for Smartphone Data
  •  Use Coupons That Are Right In Front of You
  • Always Negotiate
  • Don’t Fall For Tech Myths
  • Do not Overpay Your Monthly Bills
  • Trying Too Hard to Save Money
  • Share your home with family

We will expand on each of these to give you a little more information. How you can save money on all of these areas.

Repair and Maintain Wear and Tear on Your Home

Delaying repairs will only allow them to get worse and usually increases the repair costs substantially. As soon as you see something that needs to be fixed and repaired, do it right away. Water leaks are among the worst, the water spreads and damages a lot of things inside your home, creates mold and can even make you sick. This is just one example of fixing things as soon as you notice something amiss. Don’t wait or it will cost you more money!

Maximize Your Credit Card Rewards – take advantage of these rewards, they can save you hundreds of dollars. Health insurance, rental car insurance, travel insurance are just a couple of examples not forgetting using your points to pay for things like travel

Claim Money In Your Name – don’t forget money in unused bank accounts and other places were you may leave money from time to time

Avoid Food In Your Kitchen Going Bad – leftovers can be great and making sure that you use food before it expires can save you hundreds of dollars in extra food bills each month

Pay Less for Smartphone Data – use WiFi whenever you can to control or decrease the amount of data you need to pay for.

Use Coupons That Are Right In Front of You

It does not take much work to snip the coupons from the paper or even from some of the packaging your food comes in

Always Negotiate – the worst that can happen is that they say no or they will not negotiate. You would be surprised how even just asking can knock 10% off the price.

Don’t Fall For Tech Myths – go for the real thing. Check out all technologies online first and if it sounds too good to be true it probably is

Do not Overpay Your Monthly Bills – why would you give extra money to the big conglomerates. Pay your bills on time and only what you owe. Practice conservation and save thousands every year.

Trying Too Hard to Save Money – driving 10 miles to save $5 is going to cost more than that in gas. Always ask yourself if the net savings is going to be positive after you consider your expenses.

Share Your Home With Family

This is an interesting way to share the costs of running a home. If a family member moves back in with you, a child perhaps or an older parent, sharing the costs of maintaining the home can be very helpful. You need to discuss the arrangement up front before they move in and come to some sort of agreement. If you do this afterwords, there can be a lot of misunderstandings and it might even ruin your family arrangement. Sharing the cost of food, the cost of utilities and even the mortgage or taxes can make a huge difference for everyone concerned and save a great deal for both parties.


Maximize Your Budget by Travelling to the U.S.

Maximize Your Budget by Travelling to the U.S.When we first wrote this post the US dollar and the Canadian dollar were at par or very close to it. Many people on both sides of the border are planning trips across to the other country to shop and visit places that interest them. However it is not so attractive now for Canadians any longer. Canadians are paying a premium to visit and shop in the states. Still  Canadians by the thousands still visit the US for a day of shopping or spend their vacation dollars there. It is now even more important to Maximize Your Budget.

Maximize Your Budget – Where can you Get the best Value

A dollar at par is very attractive, but lets include the fact that most states charge in the range of 8% sales tax, (some none at all) while the Ontario government charges 13% sales tax. There is  a savings right there of 5%. Next you have the price of gasoline. Recently it was $1.08 per liter, which translates approximately to $4.08 a US gallon. Gas at US stations currently sells for around $2.50 a gallon or less. The biggest savings of all if that were not enough, are the sales and the lower prices. We shopped recently in the US at one of the outlet malls and the prices were phenomenal!

Many banks forecasts the Canadian dollar to remain where it is through the end of 2018. While some of its strength may ease slightly over the second half of next year, they expects the Canadian dollar to finish 2017 at 78.00 U.S. cents. So a lot of Canadians are going to be heading south ( unless you are in Windsor, you head north) to spend vacation time and purchase their groceries, clothes and much more. We found that even at Lowes, there were better deals than we could get at our Canadian counterparts.

Whether you go for a single day shopping trip or are planning to spend your vacation in the US there are a few things to consider to make sure your trip is a success and that there are no issues while you are in the US. If you want an example of a driving trip to the US with a vacation, click on the following link. Driving the USA

Travel Insurance

Remember to pack travel insurance, this could be the most important tip of all – Don’t forget about travel insurance when planning short cross-border trips. Regardless of the length or type of trip, it’s important to consider emergency travel medical insurance as medical treatments in the U.S. can be very expensive. Frequent travelers should consider a multi-trip annual plan to save both time and money.

Maximize Your Budget – Develop a Travel Plan

Always have a plan of were you are going to go, make reservations and bring your itinerary with you, especially if you are spending a long time in the US. You will need to convince the US customs that you have a plan and will be returning to Canada at some point. You will also need your passport . Tell someone were you are going and what your plans are so that they can get in touch with you if there is an emergency at home.

Open a US Savings Account

Open a U.S. savings account – A U.S. savings account is an option to consider if you are planning a U.S. vacation or shopping trip or if you have money left over from your holiday. Look for an account with low or no fees that enables you to take advantage of exchange rates when they are favorable and gain interest. Some will also allow you to purchase U.S. dollars through online banking at a preferential rate by simply making a direct transfer from your Canadian dollar bank account to your U.S. savings account from anywhere.

A US Dollar Credit Card

Use a U.S. dollar credit card – Frequent U.S. travelers may want to consider a U.S. dollar denominated credit card, which gives cardholders the flexibility to make transactions in U.S. funds and avoid the hassles of exchange rates or daily currency fluctuations. Coupled with a U.S. savings account, it also allows holders to take advantage of favorable exchange rates over time using dollar cost averaging and then pay off their card balance using U.S. funds directly from their savings account.

Bring Debit and Credit Cards Along

Consider cash alternatives – Debit or credit cards along with U.S. travelers cheques are easy and secure alternatives to carrying large amounts of cash when shopping or traveling. Credit cards are hassle-free and accepted virtually everywhere and many come with purchase protection and extended warranties. Cross-border debit service only requires your bank card and Personal Identification Number (PIN) for ATM withdrawals or purchases at any of the 1,000,000 merchants in the U.S. that use the NYCE network. Travelers cheques are easy to cash and come in many denominations.

Maximize Your Budget – Cross Border Banking

Make cross-border banking work for you – If you often travel to the U.S. or are one of thousands of Canadian snowbirds who head to the U.S. over the winter, consider a cross-border banking arrangement that provides access to your banking services on both sides of the border including U.S. mortgages.

Financing Options

Look for easier financing options if buying property in the U.S. – If you are thinking about buying U.S. real estate and you have sufficient equity in your current home, consider a loan or line of credit secured against your Canadian home to buy your U.S. property. This will avoid the need for a U.S. mortgage approval and property appraisal.

In Case of Emergencies

Tell someone were you are going and have in your wallet or purse who should be called in case you are unable to for some medical reason. It makes it much easier for the authorities to deal with getting in touch with your family.

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