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Hello Simplii Financial!

Note: This post is sponsored by Simplii Financial but the views and opinions are my own.

Back in August when President’s Choice Financial announced that they were going to end their banking service, I was as shocked as anyone. Some of you know I had been a PC Financial customer for almost a decade! I had switched most of my banking over to another bank about two years ago, but still kept my PC Financial account open just in case I ever wanted to switch back.

That’s why I was so curious about Simplii Financial entering into the direct banking scene. I’m always one for competition, and was intrigued as to how they were going to entice new customers.

Simplii Financial promised a seamless transition from PC Financial – with no changes to account numbers, or pre-existing automatic payments, or any issues with automatic payroll deposits. And that was true. I found I was able to login to the Simplii website with my existing PCF debit card number and password. Aside from a fresher image, everything online looked exactly the same.

I will admit that one of the reasons I switched away from PC Financial was because you couldn’t transfer money between different chequing accounts without having to pay $1.50 for an Interac e-Transfer. In fact, I blogged about that more than once! Honestly, that really made it hard for me to use the bank for my daily needs, because if I need to transfer money to my boyfriend’s PCF account, I had to pay each time. That’s why I was really pleased to see that one of Simplii’s offerings was free, unlimited Interac e-Tranfers.

I’m not going to list pros and cons of the different online banks there are in Canada, but I feel like Simplii definitely stacks up against them. They have the standard no-fee daily banking, their ATM network (using 3,400 CIBC ATMs) is really good, and customer service is available 24/7. They also offer a wide range of other products too – including mortgages, RRSP, GIC, TFSA, lines of credits, and loans.

I’m really interested in seeing how people react to Simplii and what their next steps are for gaining a bigger share of the direct banking market. I’m not in a position where I’m going to switch banks right now, but I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on them. To be honest, they’ve already done good in my books by introducing free Interac e-Transfers. :)

To learn more about Simplii Financial and their offerings, please visit their website at www.simplii.com!

Would you consider switching over to Simplii?

I’d also love to hear about your transition over to Simplii!

How to save on a Canada 150 vacation this summer

 

Note: this post was sponsored by RateSupermarket.ca, but the views and opinions expressed are my own.

 This has been an expensive year so far, with buying a condo and organizing a trip to Portugal, but now that summer is here, all I want to do is spend time outside, go on vacation, and just relax. Summers are always hard on my wallet, but because I’m super conscious about my spending, I never let myself get too carried away. :)

But because we have a lot of house expenses we’d like to take care of this year (like paying for a renovation, patio furniture, a dining set, and a spare bed – just to name a few), I need to be extra careful with my cash flow. Every dollar I spend on vacations means less to spend on the condo – and vice versa. There needs to be a nice balance between the two, and it starts by budgeting and prioritizing what is most important to us.

Last year we spent most of our vacation time exploring Canada, and this year – Canada’s 150th birthday – will not be much different. All of our summer vacation plans will be spent seeing first-hand just how amazing this country is.

Speaking of saving and of Canada 150, here’s an exclusive offer from RateSupermarket.ca. For a limited time, apply for a President’s Choice Financial® Mastercard® through RateSupermarket.ca and get a $150 e-gift card & up to 20,000 PC® points when you activate your card.1  

So, here’s how I plan to save money this summer on my vacations (while still having the best summer possible) – and any other tips would be much appreciated!

Have realistic expectations

We were originally planning a 5-6 day road trip to go hiking in the Stein Valley, but since we’re got a European vacation later this fall and we also have condo expenses to take care of, we decided to be realistic with our budget. Sure, we could afford to go, but we’d rather not stretch ourselves too thin. So instead we’ll have a little relaxing staycation at home, get up into the local mountains, and save the Stein Valley for another year when we don’t have so many competing expenses.

Camping

Our two-year anniversary is coming up in August, and to celebrate we’re getting on our bicycles, taking a ferry over to one of the gulf islands, and going camping for 3 nights at a gorgeous private campground. We stayed there last year as well, and had so much fun bicycling around the island, going to the farmer’s market, and lazing around our oceanfront campsite. It’s the perfect frugal getaway, but it also helps that we already have all of the camping gear needed to have an adventure like this.

Using AirBnB

This is a pretty standard thing to do, as I’m pretty sure most people use AirBnB nowadays. We definitely try to stay in AirBnBs or use HomeAway for every vacation we go on. Not only does it save us money because I get to cook at one or two meals a day, but it also feels nicer and more relaxed to be in an actual home. And there are some pretty amazing AirBnB places – when we were in Whitehorse last fall, we got to stay in a yurt overlooking a gorgeous lake, and on our last trip to Tofino, we stayed across the road from Chesterman Beach in a perfect little cabin.

Know what your priority is

You can afford anything, just not everything. So if you’re like me and on a budget, chances are you can’t afford to stay in the best hotel, eat at the fanciest restaurants, and do all of the touristy things in the city. This means that when I’m creating a budget for any trip, I try to figure out what the priority is for me. Usually it’s being outdoors and sightseeing – which means I need accommodation in a central location, and a mode of transportation to get me to where I want to explore (whether it’s walking, transit, taxi, or renting a car). So I create my budget around that kind of trip, and everything else – like fine dining and fancy amenities – don’t really get much thought.

How are you planning on celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday this summer?

1 Apply online and when you receive your PC Financial Mastercard credit card, you will also receive four welcome coupons or offers each worth 5,000 PC points. Use your PC Financial Mastercard and redeem each coupon or offer to receive 5,000 PC points with any purchase at the checkout in participating grocery stores where President’s Choice® products are sold. See coupons or offers for full details. Coupons or offers have no cash value. For all offers, allow 2-3 weeks from qualifying purchase for bonus PC points to be awarded. Each offer is limited to one per new PC Financial Mastercard account and may be terminated or changed at any time without notice.

How I’m saving for travel this year

Note: this post is sponsored by EQ Bank, but the views and opinions are my own.

In about 10 weeks, I will be boarding a flight to Portugal for an amazing vacation. I’ve been wanting to go back to Portugal since I was first there back in 2012, but with so many other financial priorities this year (namely aggressively saving for our down payment), we weren’t sure if a 3-week European holiday was something we were going to be able to pull off. Was it the responsible thing to do, and could we even afford it?

We had a fairly big discussion about what our priorities were, and we realized that while buying a home is something we really wanted to do, living a balanced lifestyle was more important. And that meant travel. So I created a few spreadsheets and budgeting scenarios which would get us to our savings goals. Because RD isn’t as involved with his finances as I am, creating these scenarios helped him to better understand what we could (and couldn’t) afford as we started to plan what our trip would look like.

It was around this time that I really wanted to separate my down payment and my travel savings into two separate accounts. Because my travel money is always fluctuating depending on how much I spend and save in a given month, I wanted to be able to visualize exactly how much I had. But I also wanted more than the 0.8% interest that my bank was giving me.

After taking a look at the different banking options I had, I decided to keep my current bank for daily spending (and some of my investments), and move all of my cash savings (except my Emergency Fund) over to the EQ Bank Saving Plus Account, which has the highest interest rate I could find, at 2.30%. And even though it had the highest interest rate, there was no minimum balance requirement, and you didn’t have to lock your money in for any sort of time frame. These were two keys I was looking for, if there’s a good travel deal happening, I didn’t want my money locked away for a specific amount of time!

If you’re unfamiliar with EQ Bank, it’s a digital bank with no minimum balances, no monthly fees, and unlimited day-to-day transactions. So yes, it’s a high interest savings account, but it also comes with a lot of features that you’d find with a chequing account – like the ability to pay bills, transfer money between EQ accounts instantly (and for free), as well as 5 free Interac e-Transfers® per month.

I’ve been a customer for about 18 months now, and have been using it as my primary cash savings accounts for the last 6 months. The transition and implementation has been pretty seamless, and I can’t really see myself deviating from this set-up anytime soon. I really like how it works as a companion product to my current banking system, so I don’t have to decide which bank to use – I can use both. :) I’ve been able to transfer savings to and from my everyday bank and EQ, pay my credit card directly when I’ve spent money on travel, send money to RD with Interac whenever he’s paid for something, and I’ve been using the mobile app to deposit my freelance cheques directly into my savings – eliminating the need to have that money touch my chequing account.

I don’t have that much cash savings at any given time, but the money I do have, I want to be helping me get to my savings goals sooner – so for me, the 2.30% interest rate is a huge bonus. It’s almost 3x what I’m getting right now, and my travel savings combined with my down payment savings means I’ve been earning almost $120/month in interest alone this year. Not too shabby for a savings account!

So as a special treat for my readers to get your own summer savings started, new accounts opened have the chance to win one of 10 $150 deposits into your new savings account! That’s enough for a nice dinner out on your next vacation! :)

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