Category Archives: Money saving tips

Are snowbirds healthier than the rest of us?

It’s a sure sign of winter.

In late November, normally right after American Thanksgiving, a noticeable number of our Canadian seniors start packing up to head out. Their goal – avoiding the icy temperatures, daunting snowbanks and dark days of a Canadian winter.

Save with SPP will admit to a bit of envy here. Surely there is a health benefit to being a hardy Canuck and toughing out a Canadian winter? Isn’t there? Let’s see.

Au contraire, writes the Retire Fabulously blog. “Cold weather can be harder to endure as we get older,” the blog advises. “A slip on the ice could be more likely to result in injury for older folks, and shovelling show can become too physically taxing.”

The Travelers Country Club blog is definitive on the question, saying snowbirds are definitely healthier than those who tough out the winter.

“According to a 2010 study, enduring cold weather puts people at a greater risk of heart attack. Older people and those with previous coronary heart disease are more vulnerable to the effects of cold temperatures. Bundling up and cranking up the heat in your home can help but it’s not a long-term solution and it can be costly. Snowbirds live in warmer climates all year round, reducing their risk of weather-related heart issues,” the blog notes.

The Cranky Fitness blog sees benefits simply from the increase in outdoor activity snowbirds can enjoy.

“A two to three-fold greater volume of walking for pleasure, the most prevalent type of activity for both men and women, was reported in spring-summer-fall seasons, compared with winter,” the blog reports. As well, data from the Canadian Community Health Survey of 2004 found that the number of respondents who reported they were inactive “increased from 49 per cent in summer to 64 per cent in winter,” the blog reports.

So having less winter means having more spring and summer activities, the blog concludes.

Getting away from winter chores and icy sidewalks is one thing, but the Aging Horizons blog sees other advantages. Citing research from North Dakota State University, the blog says “researchers found seasonal migration provided snowbirds with a change in lifestyle and an extended network of friends, which boosted their quality of life.”

The Ingle International website says that while Canadians travelling abroad – mostly to the U.S. – will enjoy the warmer weather, they have to think about medical coverage while there. “Once you leave your province and enter another country, your medicare benefits stay behind and you become responsible for paying for your own medical costs. You will be lucky if your provincial medicare pays 10 cents on the dollar of any foreign hospital bills you generate,” the site warns.

As well, the blog notes, be sure to check with the federal government’s website on rules on how long you can live outside Canada.

From what we’ve seen here, it sounds like getting away from the winter may indeed make life last a little longer, if only through the boost in activity and less exposure to the toils and travails of winter. If you’re thinking of being a snowbird one day, you may want to put away a little cash today for future travels tomorrow. A wonderful opportunity to turn savings into retirement income is available to all Canadians by opening up a Saskatchewan Pension Plan account – be sure to browse on over today.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock. He and his wife live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Thrift stores – looking sharp while spending much less!

We’ve seen, time and time again, that the best way to save money is to spend less than you earn.  Sounds easy, but in practice, it can be difficult. That’s where thrift stores can become handy.

At the Debt.com blog, shopping for clothes at thrift stores is discussed, and a few tips are offered. First, the blog notes, “look for new clothing” at the thrift store – clothes that often still have tags on them and have never been worn. Often, the blog says, people donate clothes that don’t fit, or were gifts they didn’t like. “After some practice,” the blog advises, “it is easy to spot the never-washed creases of new clothing.”

Other tips? The blog advises that you “take your time” and check the clothing racks thoroughly. “You’ll need to spend some time pushing hangers around while searching for quality stuff,” the blog notes, adding that you need to separate “the wheat from the chaff” to find gently-used, well-cared-for clothing.

Other tips from the blog – don’t “settle” for something just because it’s cheap, focus on getting high quality only. Take note of which thrift stores offer the best stuff, and frequent those ones more.

You can, reports the Budget 101 blog, go even farther than just clothes or home furnishings. Some people are finding that a thrift store-backed wedding can save you a fortune on the cost of your big day.  “Recycling, re-purposing and some creative thinking will go a long way to cultivating a wedding experience you will be proud to share with your loved ones, and something to feel good about for years to come. What a great way to start a life together,” the blog states.

How would such a wedding look? Many wedding dresses are donated after they have been used, and are of course lightly worn. “Why purchase a brand-new dress that will serve you for just one day when you could use that money traveling and making memories on your honeymoon or purchase some new furniture,” the blog asks. A used wedding dress can be had for a tiny fraction of the thousands to tens of thousands a new one costs, the blog adds.  Other “thrifty” ideas include getting some used vases or mason jars to help with flowers or centerpieces, the blog notes.

In an article on decluttering, the Vancouver Sun notes that having “donate” and “sell” bins in your home, with donations going to your local thrift shop, is a great way to create more room in your existing space – always less expensive than moving. The decluttering “craze” in North America has actually created “an uptick” in donations to thrift shops, the article notes.

One of our family’s little savings maxims is this – you can avoid paying the full price for something by getting it on sale, getting it used, or getting it free (donated to you). Thrift stores are great, since you never know what you’re going to find on offer. It’s the only store you go to where you don’t really know what you might buy. But over the years we’ve found deals on golf clubs, tools, clothes, furniture, small appliances, dishes – the list goes on and on.

When you blast out of the bunker with a $4 sand wedge, your pleasure is doubled!

When you blast out of the bunker with a $4 sand wedge, your pleasure is doubled! And it frees up money for retirement savings – check out the Saskatchewan Pension Plan to see how your savings can be put to work for you.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock. He and his wife live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Why cash may still be king

These days, there are zillions of ways to pay for things. We’ve had credit and debit cards for decades, plus years of being able to pay for things with your phone or online. So when the beer cart comes around at the golf course, it’s OK not to have cash, because she’ll take debit or credit.

But some people still use cash all the time, and shun these other approaches. Save with SPP set out to figure out why.

According to CNBC, a mere 14 per cent of Americans still “use cash for everyday purchases.”

However, the network notes, cash can help you in some surprising ways. According to Cornell University’s Dr. Brian Wansink, “people who stick with paper buy fewer sodas (pops) and desserts at work. And workplaces, like restaurants and stores, are “’booby-trap hotspots’ — meaning, places where you’re more likely to eat unhealthy foods.”

And even more importantly, the article notes, it’s harder to part with physical currency than to tap with a card or phone. “That’s because researchers have found that paying with cash — physically handing over your money and watching it disappear – is painful,” the network notes.

And while your cards tend to have high limits, cash is cash. You can budget easily by “withdrawing a pre-determined amount of money for the week,” and committing to only spending that amount, the article explains.

The article’s final point – you can make a deal with cash. Someone offers you something for $30, you can say “I’ve only got $20,” and in a lot of cases, they’ll take it. This sort of thing doesn’t happen with plastic, the article notes.

Over at the Pocket Sense blog, a couple more ideas in favour of cash are presented. What better way is there to spend within your means than to go cash-only, the article asks. As well, the article notes, there’s no interest charge or long-term debt associated with a cash purchase.

“Interest rates, annual fees and other charges can make a consumer’s monthly credit card bill skyrocket and get them into a vicious cycle of debt that is difficult to overcome. By paying with cash, consumers may protect their credit and avoid unneeded debt,” the article notes, citing the fact that in the U.S., Americans have rung up more than $1 trillion in debt.

Another sort of “wow” aspect of cash use is that it protects your privacy. “The Federal Trade Commission reports that fraudulent use of credit and debit cards is taking place every single day. By using cash, you protect your identity and your credit,” the article notes.

Save with SPP has a number of friends and relatives who are great with debit and credit cards, paying them off in full each month and getting cash back and points and other great perks. There are also some insurance benefits of paying for things with plastic. But for the rest of us who tend to spend first and worry about paying later, moving to an all-cash approach might correct some bad habits and balance the old chequebook.

And that, in turn, might free up a little more money to save for retirement. A wonderful place to park those extra dollars is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. Even small amounts will grow over time at an impressive rate, and when you’re ready to enjoy retirement, the SPP will turn your savings into a steady monthly income. It’s win-win.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock. He and his wife live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

What do people do with all their change?

Ever since we Canadians moved to the loonie and the toonie, we all have noticed the heavy amount of change we have to carry around. Getting rid of the penny helped a bit, but those coins pile up. Save with SPP took a look at what we are doing with all that spare change.

A Wikihow site called Save Money with Spare Change suggests that you “get yourself a change jar that you want to use to put all your spare change in.” Then, you consolidate all your change from pockets, little piles around the house, and so on in that one big container, the post says.  Keep stuffing the change into the jar (without taking any out) until the jar is full, the article notes. Once it is full, the article recommends that you “start rolling (the coins) up with wrappers,” and then either spending that stash of change, or putting it in the bank.

An article in the Mint Life blog, What’s the Best Way to Cash in Loose Change for Free, talks about using Coinstar machines, a coin counting device, to turn your change into folding money.   These machines, the article says, which are commonly found at grocery stores, are simple to use.

“Simply drop your coins into the slot and the machine counts them all up for you,” the article notes.

“You receive a handy-dandy money voucher afterwards, condensing all your heavy metal money into one, easy-to-store piece of paper,” the article adds.

While the “pro” is that the machine is easy to use and a simpler way to get rid of coins than rolling them up in wrappers, fees usually apply, the article says. In other words, the machine gets a cut of your savings.

If you don’t like the fee, you can roll them yourself, pay someone else to roll them, or buy your own coin separating machine, the article suggests.

Is it all worth the bother?

Well, maybe. The Five Cent Nickel blog tells the story of “a guy named Danny who uses a coin jar to supercharge his savings. Whenever he spends cash, he makes a point of not using his change – and when he receives additional change, he collects it in a jar back at home before taking it to the bank.”

Danny, the article says, “managed to save $723 over a seven-month period by doing this.” The article notes that Danny benefits from being Canadian and having loonies and toonies to “supercharge his change jar.”

Save with SPP uses many of these principles. Our change goes in a little metal piggy bank. It’s home for change from pockets, from returning bottles, and from minor scratch ticket wins. When the bank gets heavy, it’s off to the local grocery store for coin counting, and then to the bank to deposit the paper bills. The final destination for that money is retirement savings, via the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. It’s a great way to turn a little change into retirement security.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock. He and his wife live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Saving easier if you use a “small steps” approach

Like everything good for us – losing weight, eating right, managing debt – saving money seems like a daunting, overwhelming task. In fact, like other resolutions, it’s something that seems so difficult and impossible to stick with that we have given it up by Groundhog Day.

However, the experts tell us that great things can be accomplished by moving one small step at a time. Save with SPP today looks at tips on getting your savings effort fired up and back on the road forward.

At The Simple Dollar blog there are over 100 savings tips on offer. Among them are these ideas – to “stop collecting and start selling” any of “your collections that you thought would bring you riches,” as well as turning off the TV and signing up for “every free rewards program that you can.” The latter is self-explanatory, the thinking behind the “no TV” idea is “less exposure to spending-inducing ads,” and the possibility of a lower cable bill if you downgrade your package.

Interviewed in the Globe and Mail, Scotiabank’s Mike Henry says “to take small steps to save money, you’ve really got to understand… what’s important to you and what you’re trying to balance in your life, and you’ve got to understand how much money is coming in and how much money is going out.”  The article suggests automatic savings via payroll deduction or automatic transfers between accounts, and to examine any expenses that can be cut or reduced, like “gym memberships, Internet bills and groceries.” Getting rid of the daily latte is also advised, the article reports.

A key strategy – “living below your means” – is recommended by the Creating My Happiness blog. “If you earn $1,500 a month and you spend $1,500 a month, you have nothing left to save!  You have to start living on less than you’re making so that you can put money away for the future,” the blog advises.

Other tips for those wanting to reduce spending including “starting small – don’t try to cut your budget by 50 per cent right away,” and making saving a priority. On this last point, the blog says spending “temptation is everywhere. We are bombarded with images of people who appear to be happy because they got the new iPhone/Xbox/gadgety thing-ma-bob.” Tell yourself that having the latest thing is “nice, but not a priority,” and walk away, the blog recommends.

The Better Money Habits blog stresses the importance of recording all expenses, making a budget, and then planning to save some of your money. “Try to spend 10-15 per cent of your income,” the blog suggests. “If your expenses are so high you can’t save that much, it might be time to cut back.” Focus on the expenses you can trim, such as non-essentials like dining out and entertainment, the blog advises.

There are many ways to turn your financial ship around, and all of them involve living within your means and not spending more than you make. We can all get there by making little improvements which will add up over time. And when you’ve creating a regular budget for retirement saving, a great destination for those funds is a Saskatchewan Pension Plan. Check it out today!

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Why some Canadians choose to retire to other countries

Let’s face it – it’s hard to find good things to say about winter in Canada when it’s 40 below with the windchill and the snow is piling up in your laneway.

Save with SPP knows a number of people who head south for the winter every year. And there are others who leave Canada for good and live out their golden years abroad. We took a look around to find out some of the reasons why some of us take this step.

Well, one reason might be finding not only warmer weather, but a lower cost of living, reports MoneySenseRetiring in North America, the site advises, means you’ll need an average of about $625,000 in the bank at age 65 (or an equivalent pension), or “annual retirement income of $55,000.”

But this amount, the site notes, is enough to let you “live in luxury” in a variety of other countries, including Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico and Malaysia, all modern countries with much lower living costs. You can, the article says, get a three-course meal at a restaurant for about $10 in some of these countries, and rents are in the low hundreds, rather than the low thousands.

The Roam New Roads site also cites lower living costs and a better climate in France, Panama, Thailand or Belize. Some offer low-cost national healthcare, the article notes, as well as lively culture, history, and wonderful culinary expertise.

However, there are other factors to bear in mind if you are moving away from your home country, notes the Escape From America blog. You can be homesick, which “leads to many expatriates returning home every single year,” often a costly process. Retirement abroad means little or no time with family and friends, a “forced loneliness,” the blog reports. Culture, language, accessibility (driving a car) are all other potential downsides in a faraway land, the article says.

The government of Canada’s website notes that living outside Canada will have an impact on your taxes, and may change how you are able to receive your Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security benefits. If you are living outside the country for part of the year, there may be provincial or territorial requirements for your healthcare – a set amount of time you must reside in your homeland in order to keep your benefits. Or, you may have to try and arrange health coverage for the foreign country. It’s certainly a cost to be aware of.

So putting it all together, you can live on less money by moving to another country, where your retirement savings will allow you to trade middle-of-the-road living here for luxury and new adventures there. You’ll be free of snow shovelling and dark winter afternoons. But, if you get homesick, the cost of travelling back will put a dent in your now-lowered cost of living. You may find yourself isolated by language and culture. And you’ll have to figure out how to keep your healthcare or find an alternative.

It’s a big commitment, and not for everyone, but on a cold winter day, it’s nice to imagine heading down to the beach.  Any sort of retirement, be it here in the good old northland or off in some exotic sunny country, will require income. If you’re dreaming about retirement, take some time to put away a few dollars now for that eventual future. You’ll be happy you did. And a great destination for retirement savings is a Saskatchewan Pension Plan account.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Top ways to stretch that dollar

Whether you’re saving for retirement or are living on those savings, one thing’s for sure – the more you can stretch your spending dollars, the more you can save.

Save With SPP took a look around the Interweb to see what the experts say about the spending side – or more particularly, ways you can spend less and save more.

The Money Saving Expert blog offers three great ideas to save big. They recommend you quit smoking, try to shop around for cheaper, generic prescription drugs, and to have a “money saving wedding.” They offer tips on “how to get the best value out of your big day, so you don’t spend the rest of your married life paying for it.”

Over at The Simple Dollar blog ideas include shopping for the bank that has the lowest fees and highest interest, watching less TV (and cutting the cord to cable), a great one – “stop collecting and start selling.” Those old collections of trinkets, keepsakes and other clutter creators can be converted into cold, hard cash, the blog advises.

At Clark.com, one idea is one that your humble blogger used to use when paid every two weeks. Since you are getting 26 pay cheques a year, work it so you are living on 24. The other two can be treated as bonuses. The extra money, the blog advises, can be used to “pay off debt, contribute to a retirement account, (be added) to a new car fund,” and more.

Other tips from this blog include shopping for a cheaper cell plan and cutting way back on restaurant meals.

The MyMoneyCoach.ca blog recommends another strategy that we have tried – banking your raises. “You lived on less before… do you really need those extra few dollars?” the blog asks. Use the same budget you had before the raise and bank the difference – and do it again with the next raise.

Other great tips from this blog are using tax refunds to increase your savings and picking one expense to cut out completely. Once you do that, you save the money associated with that single expense. Examples might be a coffee on the way to work, a subscription, and so on.

Life is good, and making it a little less costly is a strategy that will pay you back in the future. And imagine all the extra bucks you will be able to direct to your Saskatchewan Pension Plan account.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

What apps are the most helpful for retirees?

A bunch of us old guys were shooting the breeze after a round of golf when the topic of apps came up – what apps did we find the most helpful/useful, and why?

Going quickly around the room, our gang liked Microsoft Translator, which you can get here. This is a handy app if you’re going out of the country and is a lot of fun to fool around with – it talks to you in many languages and goes slow to help you learn better.

More practically, all of us liked having a good blood pressure log app, here are a few, to track our BP results, and to share with the doc. Some of the newer BP machines can actually send your results directly to your app, one of our golfers noted.

One of us had MapMyRide, a cool app for tracking your bicycle ride – it counts off every kilometre you ride, giving you time and speed, shows you a route map at the end, and sends you monthly stats on how you have been doing.

We all had banking apps, fitness/calorie trackers, investing apps, and apps to watch TV (Netflix, CBC, etc.) which made Save with SPP wonder what other retirees have on their phones.

According to the A Place for Mom website, EyeReader by Netsoft is a great magnifying app. Hold your phone over a book, a menu or other printed text and it not only magnifies it, it lights it up.

A CBC news story mentions Fongo, a free Canada-wide phone app that lets you make calls using WiFi. The story quotes Diane Thomson, who lives in Ontario, saying that “It’s amazing…I can call my family back in Nova Scotia for free.”

The SeniorNet blog likes an iPhone app called Park and Forget, which logs where you parked your car in a parking garage so you can find it later.

Many seniors don’t really get how phones, tablets and apps work. For them, there is the Oscar Senior app which provides an easier-to-use interface that simplifies the process of using mobile communications. In other words, an app that helps you understand how to work your phone.

There are, of course, zillions of apps out there and this represents only a small sampling. If an app eliminates time-wasting note-taking, helps you remember things, or makes it easier to stay in touch with family and friends, it may be worth checking out.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

A look at the fascinating world of “extreme couponing”

On an almost daily basis we are all inundated with coupons – 10 per cent off this, that, and the other – that we sometimes remember to use. But there’s a group of people out there who take part in “extreme couponing,” a gang that seem to have the discipline to make maximum use of this everyday savings tool.

An article in the Globe and Mail describes the world of extreme couponing as “a no-holds-barred pursuit of savings that has earned itself a weekly TV series and countless obsessive Internet followers who strive to maximize their savings at the checkout by spotting the best sales and by hoarding coupons.”

It takes work, the article notes. In the piece, a woman called Aimee Geroux, who has her own blog called Extreme Couponing Mom, says she has walked out of stores with $300 worth of goods that cost her $20 of her own money.  She tells the Globe that she totes a binder full of coupons when she goes shopping, but also employs “price matching.” That’s when stores match the sale price from other stores – you get a lower price if you can show the flyer, the article notes. Another trick is the “scanning code of practice,” the article says. If the item’s price on the shelf is more than the scanner says, you can get it for much less, even free, the article notes.

If you don’t feel like cutting coupons out of flyers and newspapers, there are online sites that can save you a lot of trouble. The Balance Every Day blog lists 11 Canadian sites that give you access to savings coupons and other deals.

If you like shopping online, going through the E-bates portal first gives you automatic discounts that are mailed to you by cheque every couple of months.

Like everything else that’s good for you – exercise, proper eating, and balancing the budget – extreme couponing requires commitment. Sue Neal of Investors Group recommends putting all your savings in a fund, the Globe article notes. “Now you can really see the savings you’re making,” Neal said. “It could actually get you more excited about using the coupons.”

It’s also a great way to save some money for retirement. Maybe some of your coupon coinage can be directed to your Saskatchewan Pension Plan account – visit SPP to find out how.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22