How to choose an eReader

By Sheryl Smolkin

SHUTTERSTOCK
SHUTTERSTOCK

On a recent 10 day trip to California I read an 800 page book using the Kobo app on my PlayBook. I agree with journalist and technology expert Marc Saltzman that electronic books have many advantages. For example:

  1. I can store hundreds of books on small device.
  2. I can buy books 24/7 as long as there is wifi and they are generally cheaper than hard copy.
  3. I can download library books and there are no late fees because they automatically expire after a certain date.
  4. I can adjust the font style and size, and click on hyperlinks to get definitions of words and other background information.
  5. Music and audiobooks are also available on some models.

However, the battery on my tablet only lasted about six hours before it had to be recharged. As a result, I’m looking for a lighter digital reader with a longer battery life to take on future trips to Eastern Europe and the Far East.

So I asked Saltzman for some hints about what I should look for. Here’s what he told me:

Q. Who are the major players in the Canadian eReader market?

A. I would say Kindle, Kobo and Sony.  They each have a line of products ranging from an entry level bare bones eReader up to something more sophisticated with colour and apps that acts a little bit more like a tablet computer. Kindle has the largest library but you have to purchase Kindles from the U.S. and they are the only one of the three that won’t let you borrow books from the public library.

Q. What questions should consumers ask if they are considering an eReader purchase?

A. I first ask people whether they are looking for a straightforward device for reading books or if they want something with colour that will allow them to surf the web, play games or read email. That’s when you go for the higher end eReaders that are more like a tablet computer.

If all you want is to read books, then look for a black and white touch screen wifi eReader that costs between $60 and $120. Once you start adding things like cellular connectivity (only offered by Kindle) then you will pay $200 or more for better screens, larger screens, colour screens and app stores.

Q. How does battery life stack up?

A. The Kindle Paperwhite is the eReader with the longest battery life – about two months on a single charge. The Sony and Kobo last about a month depending on usage. More advanced tablets with backlit screens max out at about 10 hours. They are also heavier.

I prefer my iPad mini with the Kobo and Kindle apps because I have everything I need on it when I travel to meetings. I can leave my computer in the hotel.

Q. What about downloading library books?

A. Both Kobo and Sony let you do that. What is required is a personal computer, some free Adobe software, and your library card. You go to your local library’s website, and if they offer eBooks, you sign on with your library card number and then it will walk you through the software you need.

Then you reserve books in advance like you would at your local library, and when the book is available, you download it to your computer. The next step is to tether your eReader to your PC or Mac with the USB cable in the box, and it copies the book over to the mobile device. On the day it expires you will no longer be able to access  the digital book unless you can renew it in advance.

Q. Do any of the ebook readers allow you to share books with other people on their eReaders?

A. That’s one of the downsides of an eBook. You can’t share them. It’s intangible so  you can’t put it on a bookshelf or give an autographed copy to someone as a gift. In the U.S. Kindle has something called the Kindle Lending Library, but it is not available in Canada.

Q. What’s next, what’s on the horizon for eBooks?

A. I think more and more of them are going to have tablet features. The line is going to blur between an eReader and a tablet. Even entry level eReaders are going to have a lot more capabilities. We’ll see faster wireless connectivity, more storage and more people subscribing to electronic newspapers and magazines. And down the road they are going to be thinner, lighter and even roll-able.

So that’s the skinny on eReaders from one Canada’s top experts. You can see a comparison of prices and features for four different Kobo models here.

Have you purchased an eReader or tablet computer lately? Send us an email to socialmedia@saskpension.com and tell us what you like and don’t like about your device. If your story is posted, your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card. And remember to put a dollar in the retirement savings jar every time you use one of our money-saving ideas.

If you would like to send us other money saving ideas, here are the themes for the next three weeks:

04-Apr Real estate New or resale house? Pros and cons
11-Apr Taxes 10 tax deductions you might miss
18-Apr Wedding How to beat the high cost of weddings

Mar 25: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

blogospheregraphic

Our best favourite bloggers continue to explore a number of interesting themes this week.

On Boomer & Echo, we hear from Boomer this week about How Her Retirement Plans Got Derailed – Big Time, and what her options may be to get back on track.

The Blunt Bean Counter is an accountant and this week he presents valuable information on stress testing your finances so you are protected in the event of death or other unforeseeable events.

When you purchase real estate is resale value important to you? Then read what shethinksimcheap has to say about how future transit plans can affect real estate.

Last week we talked about job hunting strategies. When you land a new position, you will be interested in Anne Levy-Ward’s new job survival guide on Brighter Life.

And finally, although you got a new job with a huge salary jump, you may wonder why you don’t seem to be able to save more. Krystal Yee calls it lifestyle inflation and discusses how you can manage it.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?”  Send us an email with the information to socialmedia@saskpension.com and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

How to save money on home, auto insurance

By Sheryl Smolkin

Shutterstock.com
Shutterstock.com

Nobody likes paying for home or automobile insurance. But you can’t get a mortgage or drive a car without it. And if you are involved in an accident or a natural disaster your insurance company will suddenly become your best friend.

But insurance premiums are going up all the time and there is no reason why you should pay anymore than you have to. Recently the insurance rating website InsurEye put together a comprehensive list of “101 tips on how to save money on insurance.”

Some of the more obvious, general suggestions are:

  • Shop around online and on the telephone.
  • Bundle home and auto insurance with the same carrier.
  • If you are a member of an association (i.e. professional engineers) or an alumni group there may be a deal for members.
  • Staying with one insurer longer may result in loyalty discounts.

However, the list also includes some unusual money-saving options which were news to me. Here are some of my favourite.

Auto insurance

  1. Welcome discount: Some insurers offer a welcome discount just for becoming a customer. E.g. five per cent at Grey Power.
  2. Rental car rider: If your existing auto insurance policy does not cover rental cars, you can often add it as a rider (policy extension) for $20-$30/year. Compared to the $20/day you might pay when renting a car, it’s not a bad deal.
  3. Dashboard camera: Get a dashboard camera for your vehicle. Insurance companies do not offer any premium discount related to dashboard cameras, but it can help you prove you are not at fault if you have an accident.
  4. Claims history: Keeping a clean claims history may make more sense than submitting claims for small damage repairs that could result in increased premiums. Contact your insurance provider/broker before you decide whether or not to claim for minor property damage.
  5. Good students: Students with good grades may be eligible for a break on car insurance rates. For example, the State Farm good student discount rewards student who are younger than 25 with a discount of 25% if they have a B average or better.
  6. Short distance to work: If you are located close to work, the distance you need to drive is short or you may not have to drive at all. The further you have to drive to work, the higher your premiums.

Home insurance

  1. Valuing your contents: If you are renting an apartment or condo and you only have a laptop and some IKEA furniture you may not need hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of coverage. Check the policy to see what you are paying for.
  2. Mortgage free home: When you have paid off your mortgage, some insurers will reward you with lower premiums. This one was news to me and I am now looking into discharging my mortgage.
  3. Heating: Insurers like forced-air gas furnaces or electric heating. If you have an oil-heated home, you might be paying more than your peers who have alternative heating sources.
  4. Stability of residence: Some insurance companies will offer a stability of residence discount if you have lived at the same address for a certain number of years.
  5. Dependent students: Some insurers will cover dependent students living in their own apartment under their parents’ home insurance policy at no additional charge.
  6. Credit scores: Some insurers factor in credit scores when calculating home insurance premiums. If you have a good credit rating your rates will be lower.

These are only a few of the tips. However, the list also includes some interesting ways to keep down premiums for life insurance, travel insurance and credit card protection.

Some of these ideas are more practical than others, but every little bit helps.

Have you saved money on insurance lately? Send us an email to socialmedia@saskpension.com. If your story is posted, your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card. And remember to put a dollar in the retirement savings jar every time you use one of our money-saving ideas.

If you would like to send us other money saving ideas, here are the themes for the next three weeks:

28-Mar Books Comparing eReaders
04-Apr Real estate New or resale house? Pros and cons
11-Apr Taxes 10 tax deductions you might miss

Also see:

Car insurance: 10 things you need to know 

Does your home insurance cover storm damage?

Mar 18: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

blogospheregraphic

Whether you are a student looking for a summer job, a new graduate seeking a career opportunity or a recently laid off worker looking for a new position, hunting for work can be nerve-wracking.

In Boomer & Echo, Robb Engen talks about cutbacks in the Alberta university sector where he is employed and how he would manage financially if he lost his job.

Mochimac shares her top 5 career regrets. She suggests that you see how little money you can live on so you can expand your career options.

Brighter Life blogger Kevin Press regales us with a humorous story about a seven hour interview for a job he did not get writing for a Manhattan magazine published for global investors. No regrets though, because soon after in Toronto he met his wife “the lovely Lisa.”

The Blunt Bean Counter Mark Goodfield discusses why references are a no win situation for past and future employers. That’s because employers feel compelled to give “plain vanilla” references because they are worried about defamation or negligent misrepresentation lawsuits.

And finally, on Canadian Dream – Free at 45, Dave tries to figure out how to productively spend the extra time he has now that he has finished courses for his CGA designation.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?”  Send us an email with the information to socialmedia@saskpension.com and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

How to choose a travel rewards card

By Sheryl Smolkin

SOURCE: SHUTTERSTOCK
SOURCE: SHUTTERSTOCK

I got my first travel rewards card in the mid-1990s when I was doing a distance LLM at University of Leicester and had to travel to Europe for series of residential weekends.

Without a great deal of thought, I opted for a CIBC Aerogold card because in addition to getting one point for every mile in the air, points were also awarded for amounts spent on household expenses with 1.5 per dollar credited for purchases at some grocery stores, drug stores and gas stations.

But it was often very hard to get Aeroplan seats on the flights we wanted to take. And it got even more difficult when Aeroplan instituted the current program, where the number of points required to reach a particular destination varies depending on the time of day, the day of the week or the time of the year.

When I started researching travel rewards cards again for this article, I realized that the current selection of over 70 cards is mind boggling and selecting a card that delivers the best value depends on whether you pay a fee, how much you spend each year and where you want to go.

In all cases, unless you pay off your credit card balance every month, the interest you pay on the outstanding balance will quickly erode the value of any travel benefits.

The most up-to-date resource I found was Rewards Canada. Here is their top 2012 pick in two categories with some of the key features of each card.

Top Travel Points Credit Card (with annual fee)

Capital One® Aspire Travel™ World MasterCard®*

The Capital One Aspire Travel World MasterCard has has been number 1 in this category for three years. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • Earn 2 reward miles for every $1 – on all purchases
  • Get 35,000 bonus reward miles with your first purchase
  • Get 10,000 anniversary bonus reward miles every year
  • Annual fee of $120. No additional fee to get a second card for “an authorized user.”
  • This card can be a good choice for someone who spends at least $2,000/month.

A requirement of this card is a minimum personal income of $60,000 or household income of $100,000.

Top Travel Points Credit Card (with no annual fee)

American Express Blue Sky Credit Card (2011: 1)

The Blue Sky Credit Card has been top in this category for four years. Here’s why:

  • Earn 2 points for every $1 in eligible card purchases at your chosen 5 places.
  • Earn 1 point for every $1 in card purchases everywhere else.
  • Earn a welcome bonus of 7,500 points the first time you use the approved card

I encourage you to follow the five step guide to choosing a travel rewards on the Rewards Canada website for a brief description of the types of travel rewards credit cards and what to look out for when choosing one.

There is an excellent chart updated to January 2013 comparing features of a series of the most popular Canadian travel cards. The Choosing a Travel Rewards Credit Card Flow Chart can also help you narrow down what category and type of card you should choose.

Have you selected a new travel rewards credit card lately? Have you had good or bad experiences with the card you are currently using? Send us an email socialmedia@saskpension.com. If your story is posted, your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card. And remember to put a dollar in the retirement savings jar every time you use one of our money-saving ideas.

If you would like to send us other money saving ideas, here are the themes for the next three weeks:

21-Mar Insurance Getting a better deal on car, house insurance
28-Mar Books Comparing eReaders
04-Apr Real estate New or resale house? Pros and cons

Mar 11: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

blogospheregraphic

This week’s best blogs are a mixed bag.

As soon as there is a hint of spring in the air, many people start thinking about buying and selling houses.

Peter Anderson writes in Bible Money Matters about how Cutting Expenses, Increasing Income And Staying On Budget To Reach A Short Term Savings Goal will allow his family to afford a brand new custom built home.

But Boomer and Echo blogger Robb Engen confesses  his biggest home buying regret was getting in over his head on his first home purchase. Fortunately  he caught a lucky break and got a promotion and a raise so things turned out ok.

If moving house is in your future, take a look at Joe Wood’s hints for moving for under $3 a click on Timeless Finance.

In Call Me Maybe: Why my $783 unlocked iPhone is a ringin’ deal  Squawkfox Kerry K. Taylor makes a good case for buying an unlocked cell phone so you can select the best deal from any carrier.

And if this is the weekend that you tackle your tax returns, take a look at Ray’s blog Tax Audits – Simple and Sound Advice on How to Avoid One, on Financial Highway.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?”  Send us an email with the information to socialmedia@saskpension.com and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Mar 4: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

blogospheregraphic

Now that RRSP season is over for another year, personal finance bloggers are again exploring basic money saving tips that can help to free up cash so you can stretch your paycheque to include saving for longer term goals like retirement.

On $he Thinks I’m Cheap blogger Andrew says you can save thousands if you do your research before purchasing almost anything and always try to negotiate a better price.

Jim Yih reports on BalanceJunkie that he has been collecting Air Miles for many years and he got a pretty good bang for his bucks when he cashed them in for a family trip from B.C. to Ottawa for his family of 6.

Boomer and Echo blogger Robb Engen offers 25 tips for filing your own tax return.

Tim Stubbs considers why it is important to have interim goals on the road to financial independence on Canadian Dream Free at 45.

If hitting the reset button to turn failure into success  worked for Steve Jobs, Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey, Birghter Life blogger Gerald McGroarty says it could work for you.

And after her MacBook Pro went blip, Squawkfox (Kerry K. Taylor) offers helpful hints for caring for your computer to keep it healthy and happy as long as possible.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?”  Send us an email with the information to socialmedia@saskpension.com and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.