Archive for December, 2007

Holiday Gift Guides

December 5, 2007


With only eighteen days left to get all your Christmas shopping done, I figured I’ll do a fun post on some more gift ideas:

  • GPS Navigators are dropping in price and you can find one with a small 3.5″ screen for under $200 these days. We don’t have one because with young kids, we don’t drive around much but colleagues at work mentioned that it is better to spend a bit more and buy one with a larger screen.
  • The iPod Touch, which lets you listen to music, watch videos or surf the web looks like another winner from Apple. Or is it just a glorified PDA?
  • Wal-Mart sells the Air Hogs miniature remote-controlled helicopters for $20 and you can have hours of fun flying with the kids.
  • We are casual gamers at best and the only gaming system we have is a Nintendo DS. Here is an article in The Globe and Mail that compares the main gaming platforms: Nintendo Wii, Sony PlayStation 3, XBox 360, Nintendo DS and the Sony PSP. However, there are reports that soaring demand for the Ninetendo Wii has resulted in shortages.
  • I’ve always fantasized about replacing our 27-inch tube TV with a sleek flat screen TV and when brand-name 37-inch TVs started selling for just under $1,000, we splurged and bought one for our living room. If you do buy a TV with a built-in tuner (which almost every new TV does), don’t forget to connect a pair of rabbit ears and you can watch CBC’s Hockey Night in glorious high definition for free. Here’s a review of popular TVs from The Globe and Mail.
  • Digital Cameras and Camcorders are always popular gift ideas. Both The Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail feature an extensive list of articles, buying guides and reviews on point-and-shoot cameras, Digital SLRs and digital camcorders.
  • And last but not least, don’t forget this season’s popular toys for kids.

Have you done your Christmas shopping yet? Any tips for us who are yet to hit the malls?

Getting a Good USD Exchange Rate

December 3, 2007


I have a business trip coming up and since it snowed heavily last night in Ottawa, I dropped into the nearest TD Canada Trust Branch instead of a RBC Branch (where we hold all our chequing accounts) to exchange some Canadian dollars into US dollars. We have our investment accounts with TD Waterhouse and I was really surprised when the teller offered the TDW exchange rate for the conversion. I’m not sure if it makes any difference but I estimate paying a 2.25% conversion fee, which is comparable to the rates charged by specialized foreign exchange dealers.

Airport Currency Exchange

You should avoid the currency exchange booth at the airport as much as possible because it usually is the absolute worst place to exchange your loonies into Greenbacks. For example, here’s an indicative exchange rate at the Ottawa International Airport recorded in March 2014:

1,000 Canadian Dollars will fetch 852.37 US Dollars.
852.37 US Dollars will fetch 879.56 Canadian Dollars.

The two-way exchange rate at your local airport currency exchange will therefore cost you $120 per $1,000 or 12 percent.

Your Local Bank

If you walk into your local bank branch and convert your loonies into US dollars you will pay a steep fee, albeit one that is much less than you would pay at the airport. For example, here’s a quote obtained from TD Canada Trust in January 2014.

1000 Canadian Dollars will fetch 897.67 US Dollars.
897.67 US Dollars will be converted into 963.02 Canadian Dollars.

The two-way exchange rate at your local bank branch will therefore cost you $37 per $1,000 or 3.7 percent.

You can do slightly better if have a brokerage account with the bank by asking the teller to give you the discount broker rate.

Your Discount Brokerage Account

If you have a discount brokerage account, you can obtain a slightly better exchange rate than you can at your bank. Here’s a quote obtained from TD Direct Investing in January 2014:

1000 Canadian Dollars converted to 900.50 US Dollars.
900.50 US Dollars converted into 971.50 Canadian Dollars.

The two-way exchange rate in your discount brokerage account will cost you $29.50 per $1,000 or 2.95 percent.

If you are not pressed for time and you want to exchange larger amounts, the smart folks at Financial Web Ring have a recipe for converting currency for close to the spot rate. How do you pay for your cross-border shopping trips? Do you have a strategy for paying the cheapest exchange rate?

And the Winners are…

December 3, 2007


Thanks to everyone who participated in the Third Blog Anniversary Giveaway, which received a record 224 comments and an extra 65 comments and blog entries. The winner of the iPod is Peter from Calgary and the winners of the gift certificates are Antonie from Toronto and Tavis from Calgary.

I would also like to thank the following bloggers for participating in the group-writing project:

  1. Loonies and Sense lived frugally during his student days but got into debt as soon as he landed a full-time job and he shares what we can learn from his mistake.
  2. Growth in Value regrets accepting less than he has paid for and is diligently working on fixing it.
  3. Thicken My Wallet reports how he suffered from “analysis paralysis” in researching a stock.
  4. Plan Your Escape got suckered into buying a Universal Life Insurance Policy just out of University but he isn’t crying over spilt milk.
  5. Renaissance Canuck is still working on avoiding impulse spending that throws a wrench in her budget.
  6. The Financial Blogger shares the mistake he made in selling his house through a realtor.
  7. Blessed by the Potato shared several mistakes where he didn’t take the time to stay on top of his money situation.
  8. The Money Gardener hasn’t made many mistakes but he did note that he tended to ignore small, repetitive expenses.
  9. Buying or leasing a shiny new car as soon as landing a new job after graduating seems to be a common money mistake. But Canadian Dream also found a bright side to the mistake.
  10. Fecundity tells us why it took a smart person like her eight years to graduate from university.