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Trimming those monthly expenses

krystal2Every few months I like to go over my budget line by line. I take a look to see if there’s anything that needs tweaking, or if I can save money somehow by lowering my expenses. May was one of those months.

Cell Phone: Rogers Wireless

The first up was my cell phone bill. I’m with Rogers and currently pay $60 for the standard unlimited minutes/texts/nationwide long distance, as well as 1GB data. Checking on the website though, it seems that my plan isn’t even offered anymore, and that prices have gone up. There’s a $55 plan that gives you 150 minutes/unlimited evenings at 200MB data. And then there’s a $65 plan with 1000 minutes/unlimited evenings, and 500MB data. Yikes.

Cell coverage with the smaller carriers doesn’t work for me, and where I live you can’t get Telus reception, so my options were limited. So thankfully my employer has a corporate rate plan for employees, and I’ve switched onto that plan. :)

I’m still with Rogers, but now I’ll be paying $55 for unlimited minutes/texts/nationwide long distance. That’s already a $5/month savings. But the bonus is now I have 1 GB data that’s available for all of North America. This is huge! I don’t travel a ton to the USA (maybe 4-5x/year), but the times that I do go, I usually wish I had data for looking up directions, restaurants, iMessaging someone, etc. Now I’m covered, and I don’t have to worry about buying data packages or SIM cards.

Internet: Shaw Cable

Next up was my internet package. I’ve moaned about Shaw Cable’s ridiculous prices for years. Right now I’m paying $60, and the cheapest plan is $55. They advertise the $55 plan for browsing the web and sending e-mails. The $60 plan is faster, and they say it’s appropriate for streaming videos, etc. Since I only have Netflix at home, I chose that one.

But then I decided to take a look at the posted download speeds to see if I could get away with the $55 “web browsing” plan instead.

Netflix recommended download speeds:

netflix

Shaw Cable $55 High Speed 10 package:

shaw

Netflix recommends 5 mbps download speed, and Shaw’s package offers up to 10 mbps. So that’s a no-brainer, and I feel a bit dumb having paid $5 per month for the past year for something that I’m not even fully utilizing.

Entertainment: Netflix

Ever since Netflix rolled out the option to have users on every account, I’ve been wondering why everyone in my family has separate accounts. It kind of just makes sense to share one. Especially for me, since I’m not at my house that often to utilize my account. So that’s what we’re doing. I canceled my account, and am now sharing an account with my dad and sister. :)

These three moves save me $18/month ($216/year). It’s not a lot. But it’s something, and it’s certainly better than paying $18 for services I don’t need. :) Next up is examining my car and home insurance packages to make sure I’m fully covered.

How often do you do examine your monthly expenses?

Prioritizing travel plans

barcelona06For the past three months I’ve been quietly saving money for a potential trip in the fall. Thanks to a bit of freelance income, automatic bi-weekly deductions, and Tangerine Bank referral bonuses, I’ve managed to save just over $2,300 – with a goal to end up with about $3,500 by mid-September.

With my freelancing this year, whenever I receive a cheque in the mail, I’ve been using the Tangerine Bank app to deposit the money via Cheque-In. I’ll put away at least 25% of every cheque towards my Travel Fund, and the rest gets transferred over to my PC Financial account to spend/save like I normally would. It has worked out so well that I think I’ll keep doing this going forward, and that will ensure that I always have a bit of money in my account specifically earmarked for travel.

I’ve also got about $700 in Capital One Travel World Aspire Mastercard points, so I’ll have a total of about $4,200 to play with for this Europe trip. I don’t think I’m going to need that much, but I’d rather plan for it than end up without enough cash to do all of the things I’d like to do.

A flight will be about $1,200. Accommodation for 14-15 nights might come out to around $1,200 as well (estimating $80 per person/night using hotel/b&b/AirBnB). Then there’s food, entertainment, travel, etc. which I don’t think will come out to more than $1,800.

It’s a bit tricky to estimate how much everything besides the flight will cost. All we know is that we’re going to Europe, and we’ll either start or end our journey in Paris. We’ve been talking about heading south and going to Spain, because in the end of September the weather will be nicer there instead of going north to Amsterdam and Copenhagen, which was the original plan.

This trip means that I won’t be able to do a few other things that I had wanted to do this year. A tentative trip to Edmonton next month is likely going to fall through. As is our Canada Day long weekend idea of going to the Okanagan. We had also talked about potentially going to Las Vegas with another couple in August, but doubt that will happen either. These axed vacation plans will likely get replaced with more local trips – camping, fishing, hiking, and going back to the island. :)

Do you have summer travel plans that you’re currently saving up for?

Should tipping in restaurants be banned?

Should tipping be banned in Canadian restaurants?Tipping has been on my mind a lot. A few days ago, I read about a new restaurant in Parksville called Smoke and Water that will be banning the act of tipping (they don’t open until June). As someone who has really struggled with the concept of tipping, I find this really intriguing.

So instead of tipping, as you can imagine, the menu prices will be higher – about 18% higher. The owner will pay his staff a living wage (between $20-24/hr for servers and $16-18 for cooks), instead of having them work for less and rely on tips to make up the rest.

The owner will eliminate the tipping line on credit card/debit receipts altogether, and if someone does leave a tip, they will give it back to them. If they can’t get it back to the customer, they will donate the money to charity.

The newspaper articles I read about this restaurant said that this is likely the first in Canada of its kind. But I found that this is common in many places in Europe, and I know it’s the model of countries like New Zealand and Australia as well.

After the news broke about this new restaurant, I listened to a Freakonomics podcast about tipping, and a Wait But Why article called Everything you don’t know about tipping. And now I feel like the whole concept of tipping could be at its tipping point (hahahaha).

But the problem is, until the system is fixed – until workers get paid fairly – I will always feel a moral obligation to tip people in the service industry. When I get a massage or have my hair cut or go out to a restaurant, I often wonder how much of what I’m paying is actually going into the pockets of the people performing the service – and how much is going back to the owner. So I tip. Not necessarily because I got good service (bad service gets 10%, good service gets 15-18%), but because I feel like I have to. And that’s not right.

Related: How much do you tip?

Another thing is, why do some customer service jobs get tips, and others don’t? I’ve worked in retail and customer service for over 10 years, and never once got tipped. I had repeat customers, people knew me by name, I made them smile, and I worked just as hard as those people in tip-based jobs … except I only made a base wage. Doesn’t seem fair to me.

Recently BF has thought about not tipping as a mandatory practice. Instead, he thinks he should only tip when he feels he receives good service – and even though I agree with what he’s saying, I scoffed at that idea because the system is broken. We’ve never NOT tipped, but the man has a point. Tipping shouldn’t be mandatory, and it shouldn’t be expected. You should only tip if you want to, but unfortunately our society seems to be a bit tip-crazy, and a lot of people will openly judge if you don’t leave a tip wherever you go. Maybe these little changes could be the catalyst needed to make a big change to the whole system.

Related: The one where the waitress added in her own tip

It’s going to be interesting to see what customers think of seeing a significantly higher priced menu, and whether they will buy into the no-tipping model. For people who regularly tip less than 18%, perhaps that will be their cue to dine elsewhere. Or maybe customers and workers will start demanding this model be adopted by other restaurants.

What do you think about this no-tipping policy?

Do you think the Smoke and Water restaurant will be able to attract staff, as well as customers?

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