Archive for September, 2007

Bargain Shopping for Books

September 24, 2007


Tyler, the blogger behind Award Tour, mentioned in a comment on yesterday’s post that books are about 20% cheaper in the US compared to Canada. To compare book prices, I checked up on the prices of an unscientific sample of best sellers and popular finance books on Amazon’s Canadian and US websites. Here are the results:

  1. Age of Turbulence (Alan Greenspan): 21% cheaper
  2. A Thousand Splendid Suns (Khaled Hosseini): 16% cheaper
  3. The Shock Doctrine (Naomi Klein): 13% cheaper
  4. Eat Pray Love (Elizabeth Gilbert): 3% cheaper
  5. Random Walk Down Wall Street (Burton Malkiel): 23% cheaper
  6. The Little Book of Common Sense Investing (John Bogle): 23% cheaper
  7. Four Pillars of Investing (William Bernstein): 27% cheaper
  8. Unconventional Success (David Swensen): 23% cheaper
  9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (JK Rowling): 14% cheaper

On average, books are about 20% cheaper south of the border but there is a catch – while free shipping on orders over $39 from, books shipped to Canada from attracts a charge of $3.99 per shipment plus $2.49 per item. If you add the per item cost of shipping to the price of the book in the U.S., the average savings decreases to 4%.

One area in which significant savings can be had by shopping on U.S. websites is textbooks. Even with the punishing international shipping charges, savings of 75% off the list price are not uncommon when buying from third-party sellers. For current bestsellers, your local Costco has a limited selection but almost always has very good prices.

Bargain Hunting Across the Border

September 23, 2007


With the Canadian dollar reaching parity, the lead story in Sunday’s Ottawa Citizen is that many Canadians are crossing the border in search of discounts in clothing, books and electronics. One couple featured in the story mentioned that they spent $120 and estimated that they saved $60 by shopping at Target. It is questionable how much they really saved after accounting for the three hour round trip from Ottawa to Watertown in New York state, customs duties (if any) and New York sales tax (almost 8%).

Just out of curiosity, I wanted to see how much you could really save by driving to the US, by comparing prices on popular electronics goods on Best Buy’s online store in Canada and the United States. I am ignoring the cost and time in driving to the U.S., any local sales taxes but adding a 5% customs duty as most electronics gadgets are manufactured in Asia. Also, I’ll assume that 1 CAD = 1 USD and there is no cost in exchanging the currency. These assumptions may not be accurate depending on where you live, so your total savings (if any) could be much less.

Here’s how prices in U.S. compare to those in Canada:

  1. Sharp Aquos 52″ LCD (LC52D64U): 11% more.
  2. Samsung 40″ LCD (LNT4071): 2% less.
  3. XBox 360 Halo 3 Special Edition: 7% less.
  4. Sony PlayStation 3, 60 GB: 5% less.
  5. Apple 80 GB iPod Classic Video: 6% less.
  6. Apple 8 GB iPod Nano: 5% less.
  7. Nikon D40x Digital SLR Camera with lens: 9% less.
  8. Canon PowerShot Digital ELPH (SD850IS): 15% less.
  9. Canon MiniDV Camcorder (ZR800): 11% less.
  10. Sony DVD Camcorder (HDR-UX7): 3% less.

Based on a very unscientific sample set, it seems to me that not much savings can be had in buying electronics south of the border. While gadgets are, in general, lower priced they are not significantly cheaper.

This and That

September 20, 2007

  1. Our dollar zoomed ahead this week and is currently trading within striking distance of achieving parity with the US dollar. It is easy to forget that it was only five years back that the loonie was derided as a “Northern Peso”. Personally, with a high, unhedged exposure to foreign equities (similar to the 50% weighting of the Sleepy Portfolio), the gains in the stock market this week were offset by the rising Canadian dollar.
  2. In light of the appreciating loonie, Jon Chevreau offers his thoughts on whether you should still go global in your portfolio.
  3. Why did the US Federal Reserve have to cut interest rates by a surprising 50 basis points? This article from Wharton explains how we got into the subprime mess.
  4. Ellen Roseman reviews The Lazy Investor, a new book by Derek Foster focusing on dividend investing using DRIPs and SPPs.
  5. Money magazine is celebrating its 35th anniversary and Jazon Zweig recalls how much investing has changed over that time period and suggests three rules to follow for tilting the advantage in your favour.
  6. The system access fee ranging from $6.95 to $8.95 charged by cell phone companies has long been controversial. The Star reports that a class-action lawsuit has been launched in a Saskatchewan court over the fee. If you tend to use less than 100 minutes on average every month, you would save money by opting for a pre-paid plan instead of a monthly plan.
  7. I am thinking about replacing our trusty American Express Costco card with the one suggested by Million Dollar Journey – the American Express Gold Cash Back card.
  8. We are suckers for sweepstakes but Larry MacDonalds likes the odds of the BMO Dreamworld contest.
  9. TD Ameritrade (US discount broker partly owned by TD Bank) reported that hackers have stolen contact information of millions of clients. It is not clear if the breach affects customers of Ameritrade Canada (which was acquired by TD Waterhouse).
  10. Rob Carrick writes about the support for active investing from an unlikely source: Barclay’s, the purveyors of many fine ETF products.