A Money Coach in Canada

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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

About the Author

Imagine if Canadians were known for being all over their money. Engaged. Proactive. Getting out of debt. Savvy. Saving. Generous. Nancy wants to help. Nancy started her own journey with money over 15 years ago, and formed her company “Your Money by Design” in 2004 to help others along the same path. It’s not the usual financial advising/investment stuff. It’s about taking control of day-to-day finances –managing monthly cashflow effectively, spending appropriately, getting out of debt, saving. If you're ready to take control over your finances, pop by her business site, YourMoneybyDesign.com


  1. Ex pat ish (still awaiting CDN long term Documents … But were here to stay God Willing)

    1. We feel utterly broke the moment we step off the plane … We find everyday starbucks etc can be double the price … Eating out can nigh on Bankcrupt & London is insane financially!
    So prepare yourselves.

    2. I agree with Nancy get a package from your cell provider we paid something similar with Fido turned off Data Roaming & it was good. As for Wifi it’s hit & miss the big cities London, Manchester, B’ham will have extensive coverage! All Starbucks gave wireless
    3. Quick easy food is good M&S is awesome we often buy their delicious Sandwiches rather eat out at lunch. But it is pricey!!!(
    4. Transport the trains are great trainline is awesome & travel Virgin where possible they have great super saver servuced! If more than two I’d hire a car : Go Easy Car or as we did use the scheme of your air miles/ areo plan/ flight bookers BUT beware you need nothing more than the car insurance is nearly always covered by your visa/MasterCard
    4. Places: lots of little rural bliss corners of the UK are still on train lines check it out!! St. Ives Cornwall – best train trip you’ll ever take!!!

    I can’t think of any other things but … Their are free/cheap ways around!



    nancy (aka moneycoach) Reply:

    great news about SBux – I’ll make a point of seeking them out! and tx for the headsup re: St. Ives. I have one non-work day left, plus weekend, so I’ll check into it. Thanks for popping by, Ruth.


    Jul 02, 2011
  2. Vaila Backhouse

    • Norman and I (new grandparents!) put our heads together this afternoon and came up with some ideas to add to this, garnered from our recent trip to Ireland and England to see our family.

    • In Ireland, instead of breaking into our locked-in sim card, we purchased a couple of basic pay-as-you-go phones for about €30. This included €20 of calling time. Of course, we couldn’t phone overseas or access the Internet, but calls and texts in Europe (we used them in England for no extra charge) were fine. We just topped them up when needed. We only topped-up three times in a month. The phone numbers stay active for a year so any remaining money left in them could still be used if we went back within that time. After that they would be able to be used with a new sim card.

    • We also found the scarcity of free WiFi a nuisance. We’re not familiar with “dongles” but will look into that for next time.

    • We found taking buses or coaches to be a good option. For instance, we found the coach service from Heathrow and Gatwick to Oxford to be much easier and cheaper than taking a train. Our son regularly commutes to London from Oxford and has found the coach service to London is much better than taking the train.

    • For local travel the bus would be the way to go or the Tube in London. It’s probably worth it to buy bus passes (for London) or Euro rail passes if traveling on the Continent.

    • Air fares: We managed to book $0 fares plus taxes and luggage (this is TRUE!) with Aer Lingus, from Gatwick to Cork, Ireland. Norman said, “I did it online in the very early hours of the morning. They weren’t advertised at all so I think I just hit on a seat sale for those flights. Someone told me that booking after midnight is the best time to get these kinds of deals.” Anyway, it sure worked for us.

    • We found flying with Air Transat that the luggage weight restrictions were a pain and the seats were very crowded. On our flight over we were carrying a lot of gifts for our new grandson. We later thought it might have been worth our while to travel first class because we would have been given a larger luggage allowance, better seats and decent leg room. We upgraded for the return trip from London and our flights were still cheaper than Air Canada. We found another downside to using Air Transat was that there wasn’t flexibility of travel times – especially for the return flight from London. But we thought some inconvenience could be tolerated to save a few $.


    Jul 04, 2011
  3. Thanks for such extensive and helpful tips, Vaila. I still am blown away by the $0 flight.
    I agree re: flights cheap v. legroom etc. Last yr I used Thomas Cooke (via Canadian Affair) and felt like a sardine by the time I got back to Canada (2 big blokes seated either side of me). This year I decided it was worth it to pay extra and used Air Canada (I got a seat sale that made it *close* to Thomas Cooke) *with* reserved seats (emergency row) to arrive here and home not miserable.
    btw, Dongles are those cel-phone thingies you plug into your laptop to use the cel network to access the net.
    Thanks again for popping by w/ great tips!


    Jul 04, 2011

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