To good to be true…..

April 14, 2010

Invicta watches 70% screams the headline! Get a $1000.00 watch for only $300.00. Sound to be good to true? THAT’S BECAUSE IT IS TO GOOD TO BE TRUE.

Online stores like http://www.ewatches.com and http://www.yugster.com love to tote the Invicta brands at huge discounts but Caveat emptor. These watches are cheap for a reason.

A quick google search shows these watches have swiss parts but are assembled in middle eastern countries, people who have purchased the watches have many complaints and the company has only a C+ rating with the BBB. Just because they try and price themselves like a high end swiss watch doesn’t make it a high end swiss watch.

Shop Around

March 30, 2010

It doesn’t have to be Battered, beaten or bad to get a deal. It just takes a little time with your best friend google. In this case about 10 minutes to save 30%. Oh yeah and 2 minutes to save 75%!

1st the 75%

My laptop, I use the term loosely as the battery wouldn’t charge, was in need of replacement or so I thought. All that was wrong with this laptop was that it is a couple of years old and the previously mentioned battery issue. Cheapest option on a new laptop was a netbook for $250.00 plus tax and shipping. Yes it came with all sorts of new features and an enormous hard drive ( I can get an SD card with as much memory as my laptop hard drive ) but do I need any of it, no!

What do I do with my laptop? Check email, edit the occasional document, blog, write journals and watch the occasional DVD movie. Oh wait and the netbook wouldn’t even let me do that. $290.00 for a new netbook that won’t really do everything I want, or $75 for a new battery for the laptop that does everything I want and more. I will take the 75% savings thank you very much!

Now on to saving 30% on the battery. I assumed a new battery to be somewhere around $110 – $150, always check your assumptions. I only found one battery for my laptop model listed at over $100. $104.99 to be exact. I paid $54.05. With a simple google search and checking about a dozen links I found these guys . It may have been possible to save more but at a certain point your run into the law of diminishing returns. More a shout out to my brother than a great example of diminishing returns but….:-)

All

March 19, 2010

Just a quick blog today dealing with one on my favourite money saving activities, saving money on hotel rooms!

We pay a huge price for convenience $5 for a .50 cent morning coffee, $100s for basic car repairs each year we could do ourselves and of course hotel rooms because we don’t want to put in the effort. I am about to commit that cardinal sin by booking a hotel room not on points, not a vrbo.com rental and without a coupon.
But I’m still not paying retail! My favourite hotel discounter skoosh.com failed me on options and i may be too lazy to put in a priceline.com. In to the breach steps http://travel.travelocity.ca. Where the normally reliable skoosh.com couldn’t get me sub 100 hundred Travelocity got me several options under $100 with the lowest acceptable hotel being $69.

This is where just thinking about your money on a regular basis can save you money. I thought I was ready to end this post at the last para but realize if Priceline or Kayak can save me another $20, why do I want to give that money away?

I will make a Priceline offer and check kayak and post the results later.

Any suggestions for downtown Toronto accomodations gratefully accepted.

You can Bargain at a Chain Store

March 17, 2010

A big fail that will be part of a big win.

How can I count going through $200.00 in 4 hours with $60 going on dinner, $30 on booze and $45.00 on an unexpected theatre ticket as a win. Because it is all part of the plan.

Since the last blog I have traveled from the west coast to the eastern portion of Canada and my flight did arrive on time. The $200 blowout was all part of the plan for this trip and we had some awesome money wins along the way.

1st money win was Lunch Friday afternoon at McDonald’s of all places. I limited lunch to chicken fajita, no French fries and just water to drink. Less money and no addition to the waistline it’s a win.

2nd money victory came in our search for a camera. The $10 bargain camera I found turned out to be a $10 fleeing but I will be returning it to the store. We tried Canadian Tire but nothing decent sub $100.00, same with Best Buy though one model came close. If you have been following along you know I said you can’t bargain as easily at a chain store but sometimes you can.

We find ourselves in Future Shop with very limited sub $100 choices and nothing in the sub $50 range we really want. Brother says to the lady “do you have any cheap cameras”? “How cheap?” He says “$50 or less” and the women literally walks away in disgust! Fortunately the lady beside her, we assume the department manger, she looks at another worker and says, “Do we have any open box stuff?” OHHHH that sounds good! Male colleague says “yeah we have a Vazinga” She says “go grab it and these guys will take it for $50!” I guess you can negotiate at the chain stores in the right circumstances.

Other money wins on Saturday no wine at lunch saving $6, same $6 saved at dinner the night before

Saving Money on Holiday Transportation

March 17, 2010

Transportation

We have several options for getting off the Island where we live to Vancouver on the mainland. The typical option is to drive your car on to the ferry to the tune of $92 each way for a family of 4. This is about the middle of the spectrum.

On the least expensive end we have walking on to the ferry for $12 per person and $5 a head to use public transit to get into downtown Vancouver. On the high-end you could take an Air Canada flight and then a taxi to your hotel in downtown Vancouver.

We chose the middle road. We were driven to the ferry and then spend $48 to get coach line tickets into downtown Vancouver. Yes it is nearly as much as it is to get on the ferry but we saved all the aggravation and associated cost of using our own vehicle. The burdens of vehicle ownership were even greater due to the numerous road closures during the Olympics

Total Savings – Several hundred dollars off a plane trip but no significant saving from taking a vehicle

Grade for the day: B

Saving Money on Food While Travelling

March 17, 2010

Eating well on the road while saving money is as easy as following my 3 easy rules for eating well at home.

1. Eat early
2. Eat often
3. Carry it with you.

Fortunately these 3 rules are very often, especially on holidays, superseded by my 3 rules of where to spend more than you think you need to.

1. Food – You eat at least 3 times a day (6 if you’re eating healthy) you might as well enjoy it.
2. Shoes – You spend a huge portion of your day walking you might as well be comfortable.
3. Mattress – You spend 1/3 of your life sleeping and how well you sleep is a big factor in how much you enjoy the 2/3 or life where you are not sleeping.

Our Olympic food journey.

Following Rule 1 and Rule 1 we had the buffet on BC ferries. In this case was it not only a great way to start o trip for a good meal but it guaranteed us seats for the trip as the ferries were way overbooked. Plus the kids love “the feast” as they have come to call it.

$54 for the 4 of us. Expensive as breakfast goes yet excellent value as spreads this well go.

I don’t even remember what we did for lunch I think we gave in to the McDonald’s monster for around $30. As my younger brother would say, epic fail.

Dinner was a budget blow out that could and should have been far more contained even with rule 1. I’m all for three bill meals in good restaurants but $150.00 with tip in a Moxie’s is a terrible example of going overboard just because you can. It doesn’t help the wallet any that Girls no longer order off the kids’ menu and have a thing for steak. Skipping the grown up desserts and wobbly pops would have made this bill more manageable

Breakfast the next day was a very reasonable at home breakfast in the fully outfitted kitchen of our 2 bedroom suite rented for $200.00 and booked only 72 hours in advance before the final night of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

Lunch was an expensive event because you can’t bring outside food or drink into the Olympic celebration zones, though I did unintentionally get around this.

Dinner was another disaster on the planning front. A Mad dash to be at the front line of the ferries and secure seats. I left the family in the seats while I made a mad dash to the snack bar. Unfortunately the girls didn’t like anything about the sandwiches bought so we ate the fruit and other snacks we had pac ked with us. The lack of sustenance precipitated another McDonald’s stop on the way home. Two McDonald’s stops and another fast food lunch in 2 days is not a record I am proud of.

Total money saved on food – $70

Could have saved an additional $70 with proper planning.

Grade for the Day C+

My Wallets Olympic Journey

March 10, 2010

As a finance professional I spend a lot of time thinking about money. Where it comes from, where it goes, how to earn it, what to do with what you earn, etc, etc.

With all the time I spend thinking about money and what to do with it I don’t get to spend as much time talking about what I really like about money: How to keep more of it. Everyday I talk to people who want more money through higher returns, higher salaries or some sort of windfall like a lottery, inheritance or discovering a Stradivarius in the attic. The huge opportunity missed by nearly everyone I talk to is the opportunity to save more of the money they have and therefore have more money!

This blog will be a journal of my attempts to do just that and in the process help as many people as possible do the same.

What is the best save I have found lately? How about and Olympic sized saving of over $600.00 on a hotel room?

How I did it starts our journey demonstrating how with a little work you can save a lot more of the money your have.

I am among the lucky ( If you consider it lucky to have your children and grandchildren pay off billions in debt for a two week party ) residents of British Columbia who recently had the Olympic games in our backyard.  Despite my concerns about the money spent to host the games I gave in to the urge to go. Yet  giving in to the urge didn’t mean I was going to add to my personal debt load to enjoy these games.

Now the question became how to make this trip without breaking the bank and not feeling like we were the poor relations come for a visit.

The 3 main costs of this trip were

1) Accommodation – Rooms, if available, were going for between $500 – $1000 for Saturday night for regular 3 to 4 star rooms. I snagged an $800 per night two bedroom suite for $200.00 even with Priceline.com and skoosh.com telling me there was nothing available.

2) Transportation – Living on an Island the fastest and most expensive way to get to Vancouver would have been to fly. Not in the cards as there is no way I am paying $200 per person for a 13 minute flight each way. The fastest and most time consuming would be to go as walk on passengers on the Ferry and take public transit. We took the middle ground boarding the ferry as foot passenger and by Tour Bus tickets once on the Ferry to get us into Downtown Vancouver.

3) Food – This can easily destroy and semblance of a holiday budget when even eating at a fast food :( restaurant runs a family of 4 about $30.

Accommodation

I initially thought our options on this one very limited. We tried contacting family but mysteriously no one got back to us. We looked at regular hotel rooms but the “best” deal we could find was $330.00 per night for a less than stellar motel in the suburbs that normally charged $70 per night! As much as I wanted to stay overnight to get an extra day of olympic fever in I would sleep on the bus depot floor before paying that much for a budget motel room. I thought we were coming home on the midnight ferry until I remembered VRBO.COM

VRBO.COM stands for Vacation Rentals By Owner. People who have timeshares to rent, vacation homes not being currently used or even suites built into there homes post their available rentals on this site. Prices on this stie ranged from $350.00 per night to $1000s with a limited selection available for the last night of the Olympic Games. Having exhausted opportunities at Priceline.com and Skoosh.com I decided to make my own deal. Completely ignoring asking prices I sent out 40 emails ( I only stopped at 40 because I got a positive response ) saying that I was local, coming over with my family for the night and willing to pay $150.00 for the night.

I received 39 polite to enraged responses of “No” but got one “If you’re willing to pay $200.00 for the night we would love to have you”. My excitement in getting this email was tempered by the fact that I had sent queries about some bachelor suites and thought this is what  I was getting. Turns out it was a 2 bedroom suite in a great neighborhood right on the edge of Downtown Vancouver.  Not just 2 bedrooms also a full kitchen with dishwasher, a living room with satellite TV and fireplace and a 2 minute walk to a supermarket, wine merchant, restaurants and a main transit route.

Summary: A little elbow grease can have big benefits. Having the willingness to negotiate saved me $600.00 off the advertised price and I now have a great place I can stay when in Vancouver. Would this be possible at a chain hotel? No way! Always try to buy from someone who has the ability and desire to give you the best deal possible. In this case the owner could take my $200.00 or their rental sat empty. Of course she was wiling to take my money but do you think the service staff at your local Hilton or the call centre for Delta Hotels is that motivated to fill a room?

That’s enough for today, tomorrow we get in to transportation, Friday we will deal with food and then Saturday will be a “vacations on the cheap part ii” or “how cost effectiveness got me stuck in the wilderness for 2 hours” all depends on how my 6:15 AM flight to Toronto goes on Friday.



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