How to Have Your Dream Vacation on the Cheap?

The colosseum in Rome to show a dream vacation location

How to have a dream vacation on the cheap? The obvious answer is that you don’t! Sure there are those all inclusive deals you see advertise all the time but to go somewhere truly exotic, historical or cultured it is going to be expensive. So, do I find a cheaper location to go to? Perhaps, but there are ways to save that can help you still have that dream vacation that you have always wanted. Here are three tips to help you below.

Travel Off Season, on Your Dream Vacation!

This one seems obvious but you would be surprised how many people do not do it. However, that has a big cost and it could be the difference between having a dream vacation or not. For example, I went to Tuscany in November which is low season for Italy. The weather was cooler and there was a bit of rain. However, the savings was huge! The loft apartment my wife and I stayed was 50 Euros a night. In high season which is the summer months, the same place was 250 Euros a night. Just think of the savings! One week(seven nights) in Tuscany costed me 350 Euros as oppose to 1750 Euros in high season. And the place I stayed at was awesome as it was overlooking an olive grove in the Tuscan countryside. Travelling off season can save you a ton of money!

Cook Your Own Meals and Save!

I know a lot of people will say, “who wants to cook their meals while they are on their dream vacation?” I get that but to eat out everyday for every meal is really expensive! For example, if my wife and I ate out every meal for a week in Europe and tried to find cheap places to eat, we will still be paying upwards of 100 Euros a night at the very least. However, if our accommodation had a kitchenette or stove, and we cooked our own meals than we will be paying around 100 Euros a week. That’s a massive savings! Also, if you want go out for a romantic meal out, you can splurge on it and still come out ahead and you will have that special memory to boot. It’s a win, win!

Look for Free or Low Cost Activities

This seems impossible and at first look you are right because all the attractions at your dream location usually have costs. However, there are free or low costs options out there which can lower you expenses significantly. For example, when my wife and I were in London a while ago, we were pleasantly surprised to find out that all the major museums in London are for free! These were not second rate museums, but some of the best the world has to offer. It was an incredible experience and it was all free.

Avoid Tourists Traps

It is easier said than done but the reality is that any store, restaurant, business, or shop near an attraction is a tourist trap and you will pay a lot more then you should. So, you need to do some research and venture away from these locations and you will save yourself money. For example, when my wife and I were in London, we were looking to buy a cheap throw away phone for our trip. We were staying in a tourist area and the store that was selling phones were charging 40 pounds. I decided to do some research and found a store two miles away. The store had the same phone for five pounds! Avoiding the tourist traps as much as you can will be a big savings.

Conclusion, Your Dream Vacation is possible!

Yes your dream vacation is possible. With a little planning and finding a few alternatives here and there, you can do it! Yes, there are a few sacrifices you might have to make to get there, being going off season, cooking your own meals, looking for free or low cost options and avoiding tourist traps. But the benefits far out weigh the costs. So start planning that dream vacation and have memories that will last a life time. Save travels my friends!

You Might Also Like: https://bargainblog.ca/10-ways-to-save-money-on-rent-saving-on-apartments-and-condos/

Is Online Banking Safe to Use?

doing online banking on a computer

Is online banking safe to use? It is an interesting question as some love using online banking while others fear it. And it is easy to see why because we live in a time where we can literally purchase everything online. However, with that comes skyrocketing cyber crime which seems to be getting worse by the day. Hence the dilemma.

The Fears of Online Banking

These fears can be summed up in three areas:

  1. The fear of my bank account being hacked and compromised resulting in loss of money.
  2. Computer or system glitches preventing me from accessing my account.
  3. Human error resulting in moving money to the wrong location or source resulting in loss of funds.

Are These Online Banking Fears Founded?

In a word, no. Online banking has come along way and here are three reasons why these fears are unfounded:

  1. Security-Online banking systems have sophisticated security software to protect the user from hacking. For example my bank uses Trusteer Rapport which is security software developed by IBM. Also, banks have a guarantee to users to compensate them for any losses due to their account being compromised. Here’s an online guarantee from my bank, “We will fully reimburse you in the unlikely event that you suffer direct financial losses due to unauthorized activity in your accounts through Digital Banking Services provided you have met your security responsibilities.”
  2. Systems glitches are pretty rare. I have been using online banking for a long time cannot remember the last problem there was. There could be the rare time that the system is down for maintenance but the website usually has a warning if this is the case.
  3. Extra steps implemented to prevent human error. When you do any transaction, there is usually a step that asks you to confirm a transaction or asks if you are sure. This gives you the opportunity to double check. If you do make an error, who can call the bank’s call centre or email their help desk to get help to reverse the transaction.

Benefits of Online Banking

Here are two benefits below:

  1. Time. This one is obvious! What is faster? Driving to your bank to pay a bill or apply for a credit card or turning on your computer going to your bank’s website and doing it all there? You save lots of time!
  2. Convenience. Imagine, you can pay your bills, pay your taxes, invest, and apply for a loan at once. If you did it the old way, you would have to line up at a bank, see multiple people, and potentially go to other places to pay for your bills or invest. With online banking, you can do it all in the comfort of your home.

Conclusion

Should I use online banking? If you value time and convenience than the answer is a resounding yes! The benefits definitely outweighs the risks and if something does go wrong, you bank will compensate you for any losses. It’s a win win situation which is a rarity in our world today. So, why not give it a try?

You Might Also Like: https://bargainblog.ca/should-i-open-a-tfsa-today/

A Reverse Mortgage, Is it Worth it?

A picture of a house to denote that you can have a reverse mortgage in you own your home.

A reverse mortgage, is it worth it? It is an interesting question. Reverse mortgages are definitely on the rise. There are now many commercials airing on TV stating the merits of getting one. But what is a reverse mortgage? Who is eligible? What are the pros and cons? Is it worth it?

What is a Reverse Mortgage?

Here’s a definition from the government of Canada website, “A reverse mortgage is a loan that allows you to get money from your home equity without having to sell your home. You may be able to borrow up to a certain percentage of the current value of your home. The maximum amount you will be able to borrow will depend on your age, your home’s appraised value and your lender.

You don’t need to make any payments on a reverse mortgage until the loan is due. This is usually when you move out of your home, sell it or the last borrower dies. You will owe more interest on a reverse mortgage the longer you go without making payments. This may result in you having less equity in your home.”

Who is Eligible?

The government of Canada website says that you have to be at least 55 years old, a homeowner, it has to be your primary residence. Also, if you have a mortgage or lien on your home, you have to pay it off when you get a reverse mortgage.

What are the Pros and Cons?

Here’s some details from Government of Canada website:

Pros

  • You don’t have to make any regular loan payments
  • A person may turn some of the value of your home into cash, without having to sell it
  • You don’t have to pay tax on the money you borrow
  • This money does not affect the Old-Age Security (OAS) or Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) benefits you may be getting
  • You still own your home
  • You may have options as to when and how you receive the money

Cons

  • Interest rates are higher than most other types of mortgages
  • The equity you hold in your home may go down as the interest on your loan adds up throughout the years
  • Your estate will have to repay the loan and interest in full within a set period of time when you die
  • The time needed to settle an estate may be longer than the time allowed to repay a reverse mortgage
  • There may be less money in your estate to leave to your children or other beneficiaries
  • Costs associated with a reverse mortgage may be higher than a regular mortgage or other lending products

Some Caution about Reverse Mortgages

As mentioned above, a reverse mortgage is a loan and with a loan there are conditions that have to be meant and this is where caution is needed. For example you required to keep up the value of the home by maintaining it. However, as you get older this could be harder to do and if your place fall into disrepair you could default on your loan and potentially lose your home. A similar scenario can happen if you do not pay your property taxes and home insurance.

Is it Worth it?

It depends. If you plan to stay in your home right up until you die and you have no beneficiaries to your estate then the reverse mortgage might be to your liking. But if you have beneficiaries you want to give money to after you die, or you plan to downsize or go into assisted living, then it might not be for you. So do your do diligence and do your research. Because a reverse mortgage is not free money but a loan that has conditions like other loans. So you need to be mindful.

You might also like:

Should I Open a TFSA Today?

10 Ways to Save Money on Rent – Saving on Apartments and Condos

There is no greater cost for most of us than our housing costs – either our monthly rent, or mortgage. In some large cities – I’m looking at you Toronto and Vancouver – monthly rental costs can easily swallow up half of our paycheques! (Or, sadly sometimes way more!!) With rent prices skyrocketing, we thought it would be helpful to discuss some ways you can save money on renting an apartment, house or condo. If you can lower your rent costs, then you’ll be able to live within a budget. So, here are our 10 favorite tips!

1. Look for apartments in the ‘off season’

Sometimes you just can’t control when you need to rent a new place. For instance, if you’re a student – well, you need to rent an apartment to be ready for the new school year! But, if you are in a situation when you can be flexible about when you look for your new digs, choose winter time to search. Fewer other people will be searching then, and you might secure a lower lease because of it.

2. Add up all the costs – rent plus utilities

Sure, that gorgeous little downtown condo sounds like an impressive bargain! But, make sure you include all costs in your total rent payment. If the rent is $1500, but then parking is $150 and utilities are $200 your total rent payment is actually $1850! If there’s another condo located in the same building for $1750, with all costs included then you’re better off choosing Condo B. Do your research to discover what your full monthly housing costs will be.

3. Negotiate a lower rent

If you’re a brand new tenant, you may be able to negotiate rent by being knowledgeable about the area and what typical rental costs are. You can even print out similar properties with the rent that is currently being charged. If the landlord is reasonable, they may be willing to lower the rent. Or, if you’re a long-term tenant, use your record of excellent payment and tenancy to negotiate to either stay at the same rent or even lower it. Or, sometimes landlords are willing to negotiate for other freebies such as free additional storage space, or free parking. (I’ve recently done exactly that – received free parking that would’ve otherwise cost $65/month, because we are long-term, excellent tenants.)

4. Offer to do repairs, maintenance or lawn work

Your landlord may really appreciate it if you’re willing to do some of their hard work for them! It never hurts to ask if you could do some repairs around the place for a lowered rent. Or, you could do regular maintenance or yard work – such as raking up leaves, mowing the lawn, or shoveling snow. Ask them if you could negotiate your rent based on offering these maintenance services. Then, if they agree – get your agreement in writing.

5. Manage an apartment building

Some people get free rent by managing an apartment building! Others will receive reduced rent for doing this job. But, make sure you know what you’re signing up for. Other tenants will come to you with complaints, and worries and even possibly to drop off rent cheques. Make sure you want to take on this responsibility before signing up to be a resident manager. If this kind of job sounds ideal, then you may snag some very cheap rent!

Home sweet home

6. Get a Roommate

Sure, getting a roommate may be an obvious choice to reducing your overall rental costs, but make sure to do your research. As in: know the person you’re going to share your home with! Ask around your friends to see if anyone needs a good roommate, or even at your workplace. Set up careful rules about how rent will be paid, how utilities will be divided, and even how food will be shared.

7. Sign a longer lease

Have you found your dream place? Are you worried that rent prices are just going to continue going up, up, UP? Well, then sign a longer lease. Ask your landlord or the management company of your building if a longer lease is an option. This could be 1 year, or even 2 years or longer. Then, you’ll have locked in your housing costs for that period of time and won’t have to worry about that dreaded letter being slipped under your door telling you about rent increases.

8. Rental Incentives

Especially in areas where there are a lot of rentals available, and too few qualified renters – there will be rental incentives. Take note of signs in the areas you’re looking to live in of these special offers. $500 off, Free Parking, 1 month free rent, and other offers may be used to entice new tenants to sign a lease at that apartment or condo complex. And, if there are incentives, you know too that the landlord may be willing to negotiate a bit more in other areas – such as free cable or internet. It’s always worth asking! (Just be polite about it, and don’t seem as if you’re trying to take advantage.)

9. Refer a Friend

Often, larger condos or apartment buildings may have a referral system in place to reward you if a friend moves in. At one point, where we live, both we and our friend received $150 off rent, and all because we referred her! It’s worth checking it out, and seeing if there are any perks for referring people to live in the same complex you do. And hey, then you’ll know the neighbors, too!

10. Rent an unfurnished apartment

If this is the first time out on your own, you may be very tempted by gorgeous, glossy looking, fully furnished apartments or condos. But, the price for these can be outrageously high! Instead, choose a small first apartment and then furnish it very cheaply. You can do so by letting your family and friends know (it seems like everyone’s Auntie or Grandma has some extra, old furniture lying around unused in the attic) or also by finding freebies or very inexpensive furniture on Craigslist or Kijiji. It’ll take a little time to furnish your place, but this way you’ll also make it more your own, unique space.

How to Save Money on Food in 3 Easy Steps!

Putting money into a piggy bank as a result of your savings on food.

Do you love food? I know I do! We need food to live but the variety we have makes it a delight. As a result, food costs end up being one of the largest household expenses for families. So, how do you save money on food? The key lies with the type of expense food is.

Saving Money on Food, a Variable Cost

Most of our expenses are fixed and there is little we can do to change them. Expenses like mortgages, rent, car payment, insurance are examples of such. The only variable expense is food. So, to save money, we must focus on cutting food costs. How? Here are 3 easy steps.

Track Your Food Costs

This means you track the amount you spend on food including groceries and eating out. You can track either weekly or monthly but have enough of a sample size to give you a good idea of your spending habits. Once you have done that, find your average food spending costs.

Reduce and Save

Once you have your average food costs, take 10 percent of that amount and immediately put into savings. You will do this every time you need to spend on food(either weekly or monthly). The other 90 is what you will spend on food. So, is that it? Not quite!

Use Cash, Save More Money

The next thing you need to do is take that food budget as cash. Why? Because once your cash is gone, there is nothing else to spend. If you use a debit or credit card, there is always the temptation to spend beyond your budget. Cash takes this away. Also, you will be more mindful of what you spend on and might have cash leftover. If you do, put that into savings too!

Conclusion

It seems pretty easy and it is! Most times the simple solution is the best solution. So try it out, you might be surprised on how much you save! Saving money is important; eating food is very important. But you can have the best of both worlds. So eat, drink and save!