Apr 25: Best from the blogosphere

April 25, 2016

By Sheryl Smolkin

I can never get too excited about the make and model of the car I drive. All I expect it to do is to reliably get me from A to B and cost as little as possible to run. But there has been a lot of press about the pros and cons of electric cars lately, including the latest luxury Tesla.

If owning a Tesla is on your bucket list, you may be interested in a blog from the self-proclaimed tightwad Mr. Money Mustache describing his 1400 miles of non-driving in a Tesla with a friend who recently acquired one for over $75,000 USD. He says the autopilot actually works, and the company has lined U.S. interstates and major cities with high-speed electric charging stations fueled with free solar electricity available 24 hours a day.

However for the rest of us, the more realistic option when we are looking for a family car is to purchase or lease a new or used vehicle from a car dealer in our community. Automobiles – Buying and Selling, an interesting post from Saskatchewan’s Public Legal Association discusses the pros and cons of these alternatives and your legal rights and responsibilities in each situation to help you make the decision that is best for you.

If a used car is in your future, take a look at What You Need to Know Before Buying a Used Car. When it comes to inspecting a car you are interested in, TrueCar.Advisor says be a “DIY detective.” For example, he suggests bringing along a little fridge magnet and placing it all over the car (lower door, front fender, etc). If there is any plastic body filler present, the magnet won’t stay in place, indicating the vehicle has been in an accident. If you want a more in-depth list of possible DIY Detective skills, visit the DMV guide.

Andrew Wendler acknowledges on that vehicle listings on Craigslist are always free of oversight and may include half-truths and incomplete vehicle histories. However, this classified advertisements website can be a highly effective tool for locating the car of your dreams, so he provides 10 Tips for a Successful Car-Buying Experience on Craigslist that should help you separate fact from fiction and make a satisfactory purchase.

And finally, in a guest post on the Canadian Finance Blog, Retire Happy’s Jim Yih warns readers Don’t Fall for This Amazon Payments Car Scam. Unfortunately there are phishing scams out there that make you think you’re paying through services like Amazon Payments or PayPal, but you’re really sending your funds to a fake site and are unlikely to ever see that money again. He recounts how he almost got taken in by an Amazon Payments scam when he was looking for a used car a few years ago and includes screen shots, illustrating how you can identify signs of a bogus offer


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

The latest scams and how to avoid them

November 28, 2013

By Sheryl Smolkin


Many people believe that fraudulent schemes are isolated incidents that could never happen to them. But if you’ve read Will Ferguson’s 2012 Giller prize-winning book 419 about Nigeria’s Internet scams you’ll know better.

Cons intended to separate you from your money are big business. The Better Business Bureau and partner organizations investigate thousands of scams every year, from the latest gimmicks to schemes as old as the hills. So does the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC), a joint operation of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Ontario Provincial Police and the Competition Bureau.  The agency collects information and criminal intelligence on “mass marketing fraud” aimed at multiple victims.

In the first six months of 2012 the CAFC received almost 21,000 complaints of mass marketing fraud with losses of over $30 million. Another 11,500 claims related to identity fraud/identity theft and cost victims $7.5 million. “These calls represent only about 5 per cent of the people who have been duped,” says Det. Con. John Schultz who is part of the CAFC team.

The Better Business Bureau has compiled its list of the biggest scams of the year, showing that something that seems good may not live up to its promises.

  1. Top advertising scam: If you place an ad on a free site like Craigslist to sell your car, you may receive a call from unlicensed telemarketers offering to help sell your car. If you accept their offer, you will pay a fee of about $500 for posting to online classifieds you can post yourself at no charge.
  2. Top love scam: You meet someone through a social networking or dating site who turns out to be from a faraway place. They fall in love with you in a very short time. The person gains your trust and asks for money to travel or help with a family emergency. Victims usually send money through wire transfer.
  3. Top financial scam: Here the person earns the trust of an influential member of a group, family or workplace to use this connection to get their hands on their money. The investment is a fraud, you lose your money and your relationships could be irreparably harmed.
  4. Top online scam: Online financial fraudsters send e-mail spam or they approach you on a social media website or a web forum. The target is consumers who go online for financial advice. Some spam will lead to an internet ad, designed to gather your personal information. A fraudster will later approach you directly about the phony investment.
  5. Top sales scam: “Curbers,” buy old or damaged cars and sell them from parking lots or curbsides, advertising in newspapers and online ads. The buyer is out-of-pocket after realizing the vehicle has a long history of damages, a lien against it or the odometer has been rolled back. In some cases the vehicle may be stolen.
  6. Top youth scam: You receive a text message that invites you to participate in a contest for a great prize. The target is smart-phone users with web-browsing capabilities. You are asked to enter the PIN and later an email address with a link to another site to apply for a credit card. In the end you never receive a credit card and have given out personal information.
  7. Top computer scam: Consumers receive a call with a warning that your computer has been infected with a virus. Then an offer is made to clean your computer for a fee. The target is homeowners who have a computer with an internet connection. The result is that the scammer gets remote access to your computer and will also ask for credit card information for payment.
  8. Top business scam: The business receives an invoice that appears to be past due, when in reality your company has had no dealings with the business listed on the invoice. The target is business owners and busy employees handling accounts payable. The result is that businesses pay a fake invoice or receive more threatening letters about the credit consequences of non-payment.
  9. Top home improvement scam: Rogue door to door contractors will come to your home to seal or repave your driveway or fix your roof with product left over from another job. In some cases they offer a furnace repair that wasn’t requested or a free “inspection.” Targeted home owners are then out-of-pocket for unnecessary work or a poor job that has to be redone
  10. Scam of the year: An email that mentions the Better Business Bureau and says something like “Complaint against your business.” You are asked to either click on a link or open an attachment. If you click on the attachment, you may download a malware virus.

If this list isn’t enough to make you weep and you want to know more, Competition Bureau Canada’s 36-page The Little Black Book of Scams is a helpful resource full of information on how to avoid being caught up in a scam and on how to report fraud to the appropriate authorities.

How can you recognize a scam?

The CAFC says if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. For example, you’ve won a big prize in a contest that you don’t recall entering. You are offered a once-in-a-lifetime investment that offers a huge return. You are told that you can buy into a lottery ticket pool that cannot lose.

They also suggest that you watch for these warning signs if you suspect that a relative or friend is being targeted by unscrupulous telemarketers.

  • A marked increase in the amount of mail with too-good-to-be-true offers.
  • Frequent calls offering get-rich-quick schemes or valuable awards, or numerous calls for donations to unfamiliar charities.
  • A sudden inability to pay normal bills.
  • Requests for loans or cash.
  • Banking records that show cheques or withdrawals made to unfamiliar companies.
  • Secretive behaviour regarding phone calls.

Have you, a family member or a friend ever been scammed? Share your tips with us at and 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:

06-Dec Holiday decorations A real tree or an artificial one?
13-Nov Holiday gifts Ways to save money on winter driving
20-Dec Transportation Ways to save money on gas

How to find a holiday season job

November 7, 2013

By Sheryl Smolkin


Whether you are saving for retirement several years from now or you are already retired and want to augment your income, the upcoming holiday season is the prime time to get a part-time or temporary job.

If you are considering seasonal work, playing Santa Claus at the local mall may not be on your wish list. But there are lots of other jobs available at this busy time of year. Examples may include:

  • Sales associates and cashiers in retail stores
  • Gift wrapping and customer service positions
  • Waiters, bartenders and other restaurant/catering staff
  • Various positions at hotels, resorts and ski lodges
  • House sitters, pet care, dog walkers, groomers
  • Baby sitting and child care.

How do you find out who is hiring?

Many employers advertise both full and part-time positions on their own websitesKijiji, Craigslist and job boards like and In early October on 13,205 jobs of all types were posted in communities across Saskatchewan.

But don’t just let your fingers do the walking. In a recent article, Monster Senior Contributing Editor Mark Swartz says you should grab a handful of resumés, put on comfortable shoes and hit the streets. Arriving in person lets you apply for jobs on the spot. And if you get there during the day when it isn’t too busy, you have a better chance of speaking with a manager.

Here are some other ways you can find seasonal work:

  1. Contact a previous employer: If you have done full or part-time work before and your employer was satisfied, chances are they will jump at the chance to hire you again. A known entity beats combing through piles of resumés to find a suitable candidate.
  2. Apply for multiple jobs: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Apply for more than one position so if the first one doesn’t work out you have something to fall back on.
  3. Temporary placement agencies: Companies looking for seasonal workers often list them with a temporary agency. They may need replacements for people taking vacation or additional staff at their busiest time of year.
  4. Social Media: Use your Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook account to search the site for local companies that are hiring. Be sure to ask your contacts on each site for any job referrals.
  5. Posting ads: If you are interested in pet sitting, see if you can post an ad at the local pet store or veterinary clinic. Ads for babysitters and child care will attract attention on school and community billboards.
  6. Shopping Mall websites: Check out mall websites. For example, the Midtown Plaza in Saskatoon has listings for open positions at various stores.
  7. Get the word out: Talk to your family, friends, neighbors, former co–workers, etc. and ask them if they know of any companies that are hiring for the holiday season.
  8. Be adaptable: Employers often hire seasonal workers because they are open longer hours during the holiday season and regular staff can’t or won’t work on holidays. If you are prepared to work whenever you are needed, you will be a much more attractive candidate.

Do you have hints for readers looking for seasonal or part-time work? Share your tips with us at and 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:

14-Nov Work expenses Why you should pack a lunch
21-Nov Money management How to choose a financial planner
28-Nov Avoiding fraudulent scams Latest scams to avoid

12 ways to make money on a garage sale

August 8, 2013

By Sheryl Smolkin


I’m pretty sure some people have made a significant amount of money on garage sales but I’m not one of them. When my mother moved from her house to a condo we had garage sales for several weeks running as we cleaned out the house, but they were very demoralizing, particularly for Mom.

It didn’t matter whether the items were treasured keepsakes or formerly expensive items of clothing, nobody wanted to pay more than a dollar or two for anything. In the end it would have been easier to package up most things and give them to a charity or thrift store right away, rather than dealing with a two-stage process.

However, if I had read 14 Ways to Make Money at a Yard Sale before we started, maybe our sales would have been more successful.

Here are some of the better suggestions (in no particular order) that might help you recoup a reasonable amount for all of your efforts:

  1. Get the word out: Put up plenty of signs with the date, address and directions at major intersections. Create a Facebook Event Page. Put an ad in a community or neighbourhood paper. Post information about the sale on Kiji or Craigslist in your area with pictures of some of the big ticket items.
  2. Display: Display items attractively. Avoid cardboard boxes with a jumble of things by using folding tables. Borrow or rent hanging racks for clothing. While it is preferable to have everything out on the driveway or front lawn so passing drivers can easily see what you are selling, make sure you have garage space to quickly store things if it looks like rain.
  3. What’s not on sale: If possible, move or cover anything that is not for sale. If your garden tools or children’s bikes are visible you may turn your back for a minute and find they have been taken or sold for a pittance by mistake.
  4. Check the pockets: Make sure none of the items you are selling have money or other valuable items like jewelry in the pockets. Also watch for credit card receipts or any other documents that could lead to identity theft.
  5. Electrical appliances: Are you getting rid of a blender, toaster or Aunt Minny’s heating pad? Plug an extension cord into an electrical outlet so potential buyers can be sure that the item works.
  6. Pricing: Price items by groups. For example, $2 for paperback books or 3 for $5. All items of children’s clothing for $2. Make sure there are labels with clearly visible prices so prospective buyers will not have to ask you about every item. If you are selling an expensive object or piece of art, tape a newspaper ad or computer print-out to illustrate its value.
  7. Holding items: Only hold items for a buyer if they give you at least a 50% non-refundable deposit and specify how long you will hold the item for. Get the person’s cell phone number and full name so you can check in with him if he does not arrive by the allotted time.
  8. Closing the deal: Be sure to have ample bills and coins available for making change and provide shopping bags and card board boxes for toting items home. Don’t leave a money box around. It is preferable to wear a belly pack.
  9. Bargaining: Everyone wants to bargain. But early in the day don’t be afraid to say that you think the item is worth the price you set but you may be more flexible later in the afternoon. If an item is big and awkward to move consider taking less to get rid of it as soon as possible.
  10. Free drinks: Buy a few cases of water or soda and put them on ice in a cooler. Advertise that every buyer also gets a free drink. You may be surprised how many people may be more inclined to browse longer and even buy something on a hot day.
  11. Music: Draw attention to your sale. Play music in the background to entice buyers and keep them relaxed and shopping for more items.
  12. Get help: The problem when we ran garage sales for Mom was that we were simultaneously cleaning the house. I think the sales would have been more successful if we had people doing nothing but selling who could also help us pack up at the end of the day.
  13. Cash and carry: Post a sign that all sales are final and that all purchases must be paid for and removed from your premises on the day of sale.

Do you have tips for people planning yard or garage sales? Share your tips with us at and 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:

15-Aug Back to school Back to school shopping: A teachable moment
22-Aug College/University Stay at home or go away to school?
29-Aug College/University Credit card options for your college kid

Cleaning your closets? What to do with the stuff.

May 16, 2013

By Sheryl Smolkin


Do you buy new clothes every season and then realize you already have a similar item in your closet? When you are trying a new recipe, do you check the cupboard first to see if you have all the necessary ingredients or do you automatically add them to your shopping list? Are toys your children have outgrown still cluttering up the house?

Cleaning closets and purging are no fun. But every now and then you can no longer avoid the inevitable. And it’s worth it, because you will be able to “reclaim” expensive real estate in your home, save yourself time in the future and even save some money.

However, the biggest problem is often what to do with all the stuff you have excavated from your closets or your basement. Here are some ideas:

  1. Sidewalk recycling: One man’s junk is another man’s treasure. In our neighbourhood if you put something on the curb, it will disappear in a few hours. This occurred when we recently got rid of a broken TV and a baby carriage with flat tires.
  2. Recycle Saskatchewan: This website tells you what items can be recycled, where you can take them and gives lots of ideas how items that are still in good condition can be re-used. Also check out the Saskatchewan section of
  3. Clothing swap: If you have gently used clothing you or your children have grown out of, arrange a family or neighbourhood clothing swap. Everyone brings items they can no longer use and returns home with “new” items to enhance their wardrobe.
  4. Jewelry: If you have gold jewelry you don’t like and you don’t wear, consider cashing it in. The price of gold when I wrote this blog on April 9th was $1611.24 per ounce so depending on what you have it could be a real windfall. I sold some jewelry several years ago and gave the diamond chips to my daughter for her wedding band.
  5. Old cell phones: Donated cell phones are helping to protect battered women in Saskatchewan, thanks to a program called “Phones for a Fresh Start.” So long as the phones are in working order, they can be a valuable lifeline in an emergency.
  6. A garage sale: One sign of spring is the proliferation of garage sales on beautiful weekends. You can put up fliers in the neighbourhood, announce your sale on social media, or post to craigslist or Kijiji.
  7. Sell online: Depending on the nature of the items you want to get rid of, consider selling them online. Here are some great hints about how to sell your items in 24 hours or less on craigslist.
  8. Donate to a charity: Various charities are happy to receive donations. In some cases you may get a charitable receipt. For example, the Saskatchewan Institute of Community Living is a non-profit organization that collects donated clothing and other household items throughout Saskatchewan. All proceeds from the items you donate support individuals with intellectual disabilities and their families.

Have you recently done a massive cleanup in your closets or your basement? How did you get rid of your old stuff and make some extra cash? Send us an email to so*********@sa*********.com and share your ideas with us. 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:

23-May Budgeting How to set up a budget and why
30-May Wedding How much should you spend on a wedding gift?
6-June Bringing home baby How to prepare financially for a new baby

Jan 21: Best from the blogosphere

January 21, 2013

By Sheryl Smolkin


This week’s best blogs are a mixed bag.

If you have a give-away pile accumulating in your basement or garage, Marc Saltzman says you may be throwing away items that could be be sold on Kijiji or Craigslist.

Ellen Roseman reports on how ignoring a 3-cent balance affected a reader’s credit rating so she couldn’t get the mortgage she needed for her new house.

On Boomer and Echo, we learn the true cost of tapping into your RRSP nest egg early.

Jim Yih concludes Freedom 35 is possible but not likely unless you have sufficient passive income to support your lifestyle.

And if you are thinking about giving up on savings altogether, MoneySense editor Jonathan Chevreau says you may also be giving up the chance for financial independence while you’re still young enough to enjoy 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 so*********@sa*********.com and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.