A Money Coach in Canada

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If you can believe it, in my 20s I scorned, yes I scorned, discount stores. < shakes head >

Now I <3 the thrill of obtaining quality at below-below-below regular prices.

I do believe I made my frugal steal of the year today. Ever heard of T K Max? It seems to be the UK answer to Winners.

And there, quietly piled amongst the clutter of so-so stuff were some gleaming Le Crueset items. I nearly quivered with excitement. Le Crueset has been on my wish list for quite some time as I’m seriously undersupplied in the kitchen front but I hadn’t been able to justify the price.

See the items above? I went home with them! I could tell I was getting a good deal on them but I wanted to know how good of a deal. So when I returned home I sussed out Amazon’s best prices, itself a serious discount. Here’s the best Amazon could do for me:

  • 1 pie plate (kiwi colour matches my kitchen!) $34.95
  • 2 ramekins $24.00
  • 1 medium rectangular baking dish $24.95
  • 1 cute oval au gratin dish $10.00
  • 1 petite round covered casserole $20.00

Total Amazon’s best: $112.95

My price? £36, which converts to — wait for it — $55.15


My savings: $57.80 More than 1/2 the Amazon price (just in case that wasn’t apparent).

See what I mean? Squeeee! And are these pieces gorgeous, or are they gorgeous?

1.  Rupert Murdoch trashy tabloid crosses line; advertisers flee

North American readers will recall the furor over Donald Trump’s embarrassing allegations that Obama had not been born in the USA. After a twitterstorm, advertisers pulled out from his show Celebrity Apprentice. I imagine they’ve flocked back by now but the same thing is now occurring across the pond.

A Rupert Murdoch tabloid, News of the World, allegedly accessed, and possibly paid for, illegally hacked voicemails from the police. The voicemails included of folks whose relatives have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and also of murdered school girl Milly Dowler, and others.

As this has come to light, big advertisers such as Ford, Mitsubishi, Sainsbury (the UK equivalent of Safeway), Lloyds of London are distancing themselves by withdrawing their advertising.

Rupert Murdoch’s terse response is:

Recent allegations of phone hacking and making payments to police with respect to the News of the World are deplorable and unacceptable.

I have made clear that our company must fully and proactively cooperate with the police in all investigations and that is exactly what News International has been doing and will continue to do under Rebekah Brooks’ leadership.

We are committed to addressing these issues fully and have taken a number of important steps to prevent them from happening again.

I have also appointed Joel Klein to provide important oversight and guidance and Joel and Viet Dinh, an Independent Director, are keeping News Corporation’s Board fully advised as well.

Rupert Murdoch

2. Portugal’s credit rating is downgraded to Junk status. Portugal had borrowed money from the EU and the IMF (International Monetary Fund) but it is looking unlikely that they will be able to meet the targets spelled out in the loan agreement.

3.Facebook launches VideoSkype. If that doesn’t redefine communications, I don’t know what does. Does anyone besides me remember rotary dialing?

Here’s the second in this month’s series on saving money while travelling.

Looking for affordable accommodations when you travel this summer without giving up comfort? My pal Gregg saved hundreds on his European tour by using an online site.
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I’m 48 years old, and having just returned from a 3 week/9 city whirlwind tour through Europe, I’ve been joking that it was my two decade late ‘post university tour’. For this trip, however, I wasn’t quite up to the thought of lugging a backpack around and sleeping in less-than-private hostels. I wanted a bit more peace-of-mind knowing I had a room reservation and, if at all possible, a private bathroom.

As I went online to research hotel prices in Europe my naiveté became apparent. I was making my plans only two to three weeks from my departure date and WOW are hotel rooms expensive – those ain’t dollars, they’re Euros, worth 40% more! As I contemplated delaying my trip, I decided to look at more affordable options having recently heard there were web services connecting travellers with people renting out rooms and apartments. So I started my search and came across AirBnB.com

Airbnb lets anyone search and book rooms, apartments and unique spaces from people around the world. Membership is free and the only fee you pay is a small booking fee charged on top of the rental once you commit to a reservation. For my trip I was looking for a room for two people for two nights in cities like London, Paris, Amsterdam, Prague, Florence, Rome and Barcelona and found great convenient places for each of them. Prices ($CDN) ranged from $58/night for a room in someone’s London apartment near Canary Warf, to $77 for a full flat/apartment in Prague, to $90 for rooms in Paris and Amsterdam, to $93/$98 for Florence/Rome, and $88 in Barcelona for a full funky place in the centre of town that I booked last-minute using the Airbnb iPhone app.

Everything worked out great with all our reservations, and the best part was meeting local people who were more than happy to chat and provide insider tips and tourist information. Of course you can’t always tell exactly what a place will be like from a website photo (our Rome apartment was fine but the street and entranceway were not appealing), but Airbnb features like testimonials, photos and Google Street View minimize any uncertainty. And although you submit your credit card information when you book, the charge is held ‘in-trust’ until you arrive and find everything is suitable. This gave me great peace of mind knowing that I wasn’t handing out my credit card, or cash, to strangers, and that I could call Airbnb to cancel and receive a refund if the space was unavailable or not suitable.

The trip was great and staying with locals in each city really helped us feel connected to the cities and countries we were visiting. Although I found Airbnb to be the only site I needed to use, you can also check out Crashpadder.com, Couchsurfing.org, For Rent by Owners,and Vacation Rentals By Owners . I didn’t use these as the latter two focused more on apartments and homes for rent for longer stays, and the first two didn’t seem as feature-rich, but they may be worth a look too. To check out how Airbnb works go to: www.airbnb.com/info/how_it_works.

Bon Voyage!
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Gregg Taylor is a career coach and consultant who loves life, travel, and supporting people through life and career transitions. He can be reached at gregg at visionpath.ca

Readers: any tips for comfortable accommodations at affordable prices while travelling? Anyone use any other sites?

Featured Image photo credit: Jessamyn

Not once, not ever in my life, have I had to worry about any Americans either formally or informally raiding my country with guns or bombs. Nor ever in my life has Canada been overwhelmed by waves of refugees from the USA fleeing their leaders.

And while I rant and fight against aspects of the underbelly of our neighbour, and will continue to do so, on the whole I, like most Canadians (I hope), have an ongoing, quiet love affair with so much that the States is, and gratitude for what it has contributed to my experience as a Canadian (or indeed a global citizen).

For NASA, which generously shares its discoveries and images from the deep mystery of space (of outer space!), Thank you!

For Frank Lloyd Wright, who brought such a refreshing vision of what architecture could be, and for the Chrysler Building, arguable NYCs most recognized building, with good reason, Thank you!

For all the American innovators who in my lifetime have opened the world to anyone with access to the net, the folks behind Google, YouTube, Flickr, Apple, Expedia, Thank you!

For the gutsy, lonely, on-fire-for-their-cause heros, for Gloria Steinem who forced the conversation about what it means, or doesn’t to be a woman, for Martin Luther King, for Malcolm X, for Dorothy Day and Eleanor Roosevelt Thank you!

And particularly dear to my heart, Thank you to the many business pioneers showing us it *is* possible to care for the Planet AND People AND be profitable! Ben and Jerry’s, Tom’s of Maine, Tom’s Shoes (no relation!), EcoScraps, Method … vive les social entrepreneurs!

Art of Contentment … so glad to have such an all-kinds-of-awesome neighbour.

Happy 4th of July!

photo credit: supa_pedro

Enough of the heavy duty posts about the economy and Greece.  Or why it’s so important to jump off the consumption train.

It’s July!  Serious summer!  And I bet most of you have *some* kind of travel ahead. (Can’t afford to?  My online money management program can help!)  So this month, I have a series of posts lined up all about being smart with your money while travelling, or even living abroad.

First up:  England. After 3 weeks living with both a native Brit and a Cdn expat, here are 5 tips I’ve learned to save money while staying in England.

1.  Cel phones & Internet

I paid Bell an extra $100 for 100 phone minutes.  I can make the calls from the UK to anywhere in the world.   Usually these would be at nearly double that price for calling from outside my region so I’m glad I made the call to Bell.   However, I popped into a local  (England) phone shop (I forget the shop name, but they’re in every mall) and discovered for £10, or $15, they would have given me the same minutes on a new sim card.  Don’t know how to replace a sim card?  It’s super easy. Having said that, it would have involved jail breaking my iPhone (I got it for $200 in exchange for locking into a 3 year contract with Bell) which I was hesitant to do.

Internet?  Of course I turned my roaming data off (and you should too, or you’ll probably regret it!).  I had hoped for the same kind of ubiquitous free wifi that Vancouver enjoys, but no such luck.  In fact, only one coffee shop and one pub has provided it free so far during my stay.   So I bit the bullet and paid £39 (about $60) for 60 hours of wifi from BT OpenZone.  Most coffee shops have BT OpenZone as an option.   Next time though, I’ll buy a dongle, although apparently they’re not as fast as using BT OpenZone.

2.  Grocery Stores

Obviously buying groceries is less expensive than dining out.  Grocery stores here seem to supply way more quick-and-easy (yet healthy!) travel-friendly items than Canadian stores.  Marks & Spencer is particularly fabulous – little curry bowls and fancy-schmancy couscous boxes, for example.   As you would expect, there is a range between super-value grocery stores up to high-end grocery stores.

Sainsbury is probably the most value-for-dollar.  Think:  SuperStore.

Tescos are everywhere, and a good, basic store.  Think:  SaveOn

Marks and Spencer are probably comparable to Safeway.

Waitrose is generally top end, perhaps comparable to the IGA Marketplace.

I have not seen anywhere comparable to  Urban Fare or Whole Foods (Waitrose might reach those heights but I’ve only been in one small one).

3.  Trains. Trains are the way to go between towns.  The further in advance you book, the better the fare.  Use trainline to find the best deals.  So far I haven’t seen any real advantage of going first class over economy, and I’m not just saying that because I’m a money coach.  So unless you have money to spare, stick with economy.

4. Many galleries – top calibre galleries – are free or by donation.  Spend time enjoying them!  The Tate Galleries, The National Gallery, Natural History Museum — enough to keep you engrossed for hours, for free.

5. Shows.  If you’re prepared to risk not getting a seat at all, really super-low deals can be had by booking same-day theatre tickets from Last Minute.

One thing everyone should know is that the whole country is well in to the chip-(debit) card. My debit card isn’t (I’d received the card but not my pin before I left) so I can’t use it at all! Problem inelegantly solved by using my visa which is chipped.

Readers – any of you travel in England a lot? What would you add to this list?

Photo Credit: APDK