Dec 28: Best from the blogosphereDecember 28, 2015
By Sheryl Smolkin
This is the last Best from the Blogosphere for 2015 and I’m taking a break, so the next one will be published on January 25, 2016. We wish all savewithspp.com readers a healthy, prosperous New Year.
As we look back on 2015 and ahead to 2016, there is much to think about. We have a new Federal government, the loonie is at an all-time low and Canadians have extended extraordinary hospitality to Syrians and other refugees from war-torn lands.
Here are some interesting stories we are following:
In TFSA vs. RRSP: How are Canadians saving? I interviewed Krystal Yee (Gen X), Tom Drake (Gen Y) and Bonnie Flatt (Boomer) to find out how Canadians are taking advantage of the tax-sheltered savings vehicles available to them.
In What Sean Cooper Really Achieved By Paying Off His Mortgage In 3 Years Robb Engen from Boomer and Echo tells us that Sean Cooper didn’t just pay off his $255,000 mortgage in three years; he taught us all a lesson in personal branding. Mr. Cooper, a pension analyst by day, mild-mannered blogger by night, took an almost Machiavellian-like approach by achieving fame through mortgage freedom at age 30.
Jim Yee offers some Year End Finance Strategies that will take advantage of ongoing changes to our tax rules. For example, in 2016, the new Liberal government will be lowering the tax rate on the middle income bracket from 22% to 20.5% so those individuals making more than $45,283/year but less than $90,563/year, deferring income to next year might save some tax dollars.
On the Financial Independence Hub, Doug Dahmer writes about the timing of CPP benefits. He says the CPP benefit for a couple can be in excess of $700,000 over their lifetime and the study demonstrates that the difference between starting your benefit at the least beneficial date and starting at the best date can be more than $300,000.
And finally, Rob Carrick at the Globe and Mail offers some thoughts on how to prepare for a frugal retirement. Frugality is assumed to be a virtue in the world of personal finance writing, but on the outside, frugality is sometimes a synonym for cheap. He refers to a blogger on Frugalwoods who argues that making the choice to be frugal is about asserting your independent thinking about money.
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 http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.
Loyalty programs: Which one is best?October 16, 2014
By Sheryl Smolkin
Canadians love loyalty programs. The 2013 Loyalty Census from the industry research group Colloquy reports that 120 million consumers in this country belong to at least one loyalty program and the average number of loyalty programs per household is 8.2. But the challenge you face is selecting the loyalty programs that will give you the best bang for their bucks.
Typically websites that evaluate loyalty programs either rank programs based on the stated preferences of survey participants or by weighting various features like points per dollar spent and the value you can get when you spend the points in different ways.
But the research company Environics recently developed a “time to reward” algorithm for Colloquy that ups the ante by predicting how many months it actually takes to earn $100 CAD in rewards.
The calculation not only takes into consideration the potential payback from a program, but factors like usage patterns, the ability to double-dip (i.e. get points for the dollar value of your travel purchase plus the number of miles you fly) and how much you buy from a particular retailer.
Initially, over 1000 Canadians surveyed online in March 2014 by Environics were asked to select which of 23 top loyalty programs (14 of which have a non-credit loyalty card only) they used to collect loyalty rewards or dollars in the past three months. The programs in the list had membership of at least one per cent of the Canadian population and multiple programs could be picked from the list provided.
The top 10 selected were:
- 72%: Air Miles
- 35%: Shopper’s Optimum
- 29%: Canadian Tire Money
- 28%: Aeroplan
- 28%: PC Points
- 23%: Petro-Points
- 17%: Scene Rewards
- 17%: HBC Rewards
- 13%: Club Sobey
- 12%: Sears Card
However, once all 23 programs were assessed by Environics applying “time to rewards” metrics, rankings in some categories changed. Not surprisingly, the Air Miles and Aeroplan programs took the first and second spots for long and short haul flight rewards. Both are “coalition” loyalty programs (members can earn points through hundreds of retail partners, as opposed to just one).
But Aeroplan dropped to the number three spot after the Shoppers Optimum card when it came to how quickly cash equivalent rewards can accumulate. The Shoppers Drug Mart program regularly runs promotions where a large number of points is awarded for spending specified amounts on certain days.
The research also revealed the credit cards that will get a program member to a cash equivalent or merchandise reward the quickest tend to be retailer-specific or bank-issued credit cards. The Canadian Tire Cash Advantage MasterCard, the Best Buy Reward Zone Visa and the RBC Shoppers Optimum Card ranked 1, 2 and 3 in this category.
The Environics Research contains many more “time to reward” comparisons for loyalty programs and loyalty credit cards you can check out here. There is also an interactive online tool where you can test which Canadian loyalty programs will get you to your desired reward faster (i.e. travel rewards, cash or merchandise) using either your own spending pattern or pre-programmed Statistics Canada data.
Of course your favourite loyalty program may not have sufficient market penetration to even have been considered in the Environics study.
When I polled several prominent personal finance bloggers to find out the loyalty programs they use the most, Tom Drake (Canadian Finance) said his number one choice is a Costco Executive Membership, which is notably absent from the Environics study. It pays back two per cent of most purchases throughout the year in cash. “I also pay using my True Earnings Card from Costco and American Express which gives me another one per cent cash back or two per cent when I fill up with gas,” he says.
Robb Engen (Boomer & Echo) identified Scene Rewards which allows you to earn points that can be spent on free movies, concession food and music downloads as probably one of the most under-rated loyalty programs in the country. He also subscribes to Amazon Prime for $79/year because it gives him free two-day shipping on most items that Amazon carries.
And even though he is an avid Air Miles fan, Jim Yee (Retire Happy) believes it’s important to take a balanced approach to racking up points vs other important cost-saving considerations. “Safeway gives Air Miles but sometimes it’s more convenient or less expensive to shop elsewhere for groceries,” he says.
Jul 22: Best from the blogosphereJuly 22, 2013
By Sheryl Smolkin
In this week’s Best from the Blogosphere, we highlight blogs and blog posts that can help you plan frugal vacations.
On Boomer & Echo, read money saving tips from a budget savvy traveler. For example, take a look at Skyscanner.ca when searching for cheap flights between cities. They list all carriers including budget airlines which normally don’t show up on sites such as Expedia and Kayak.
In an archived blog on Frugal Wanderer, Krystal Yee reviews AirBnB, a peer-to-peer website for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodation around the world at any price point. From a spare room in someone’s house to a oceanside villa, she says there is something for everyone and there are listings in more than 19,000 cities and 192 different countries.
Perhaps you have been contemplating buying a summer cottage. Retire happy blogger Jim Yee says buying vacation property is something that should be well thought out because of the financial impact it can have on your retirement planning. Do the math and consider how much time you will actually spend there.
Spending money you don’t have on even a frugal vacation can blow your annual budget. That’s why Gail Vaz Oxlade says if you’re worried about how much your summer trip is going to cost, you probably shouldn’t take it. Instead, consider a staycation.
Finally, if you think following your travel dreams is impossible, then Myscha Theriault says you haven’t checked out these eleven Canadian bloggers. They’ve travelled the country, and the world. What’s more, they’ve chronicled all of it for your inspiration.
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 on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.