Saturday, August 22, 2009

Canada's Next Cheap Traveller- Cheap Travel to Iceland

"Takk fyrir" the airline stewardess thanked us as we left the plane. It was early June, and the sun was still shining full strength at 5 AM as the land of the midnight sun came into full view. Tired travellers shuffled their feet as they made their way through the airport, but there was an excitement that could not be denied- we were in Iceland!

Iceland, like the rest of the world, is in the midst of an economic recession. Hence, cheap flights can be found, and we were lucky enough to find a return flight for only $580 from Halifax to Rekjavik, Iceland's legendary capital city. But just because we found such a cheap flight didn't mean we had extra cash to blow; we were students and had bills to pay. How could we possibly avoid spending a lot of money in a place known for being one of the most expensive countries in Europe?

There are many ways to save some dough when travelling, and the surefire best way to save money is on accommodation. There are certainly a multitude of hotels and hostels to choose from, but for those of you who don't mind roughing it in rugged terrain, why not pack your tent along with you? There are designated camp sites, but we just ended up pitching our tent wherever we felt like it. Our favourite site was in Borganes, not only because it is the location of the Vikings in the legendary Egils saga, but also because it seemed to take the edge off our mood. We had argued on the trip from Rekjavik to Borganes, but once we set our tent up in this beautiful land it seemed as if all was forgotten. The tent was surrounded by flowers, the ocean was to the west, and the mountains were our backdrop. What a beautiful picture!

Another great way to save some money is to bring some of your own food from home. There are certain limitations on what you can bring on the plane and into the country, so it's a good idea to check what's allowed beforehand. We brought items like cereal, dried toast, and tuna, and during our stay we also shopped at the local supermarket and bought some of their famous skyr yogurt. By shopping at local supermarkets, we were able to talk to friendly locals, but we also saved $100 per day!

So you can save money on food and accommodation, but what about other fun stuff like getting around and seeing the countryside? By taking public transit instead of renting a car, we saved about $125 per day. In fact, our 2 hour bus ride from Rekjavik to Borganes cost us $2 CAD (or 200 kronurs for you Icelanders). The added bonus? The busdriver taught us how to say "goodbye" in Icelandic!

Even though we only spent about $250 each for the entire week, we still managed to have a great time. The atmosphere, the people, and the beautiful views- what's not to like? Saving money is part of the fun too!

Friday, August 21, 2009

How to Get More Clients to Make More Money

You can make a lot of money in sales positions; that is, if you know what you're doing. Whether you're a financial adviser or salesperson, making money for you is like investing in stocks- the more options you have, the better your chances of winning big. In other words, the more clients you have the better. But how do you go about getting more clients, especially if you are just starting your new position? Don't worry, it isn't that scary at all; just follow some of these pointers and you are well on your way to making more clients!

  1. Get out there! It's hard to make clients when you're sitting at home in front of the T.V., unless you somehow think that telecommunicating with Tyra Banks is going to get you somewhere. Take a class in something you like- painting, sculpting, french - whatever it may be, they are certainly a great way to meet people. Plus you get to learn something new!
  2. Be the Teacher. You could either be a student or a teacher. You can offer to host a free, one-time "class" whereby you teach others about some of the services you offer. For example, if you are a financial adviser, teach others about proper financial management. If you are a beauty consultant, host a class on how to do a smoky eye. This way, you can advertise the service or product you are promoting.
  3. Start a blog. By blogging about your services, you are more likely to spread the word about what you do and how well you do it. Send the link to your blog to everyone you know because they may pass it to their friends, who may pass it to their friends... you get the point.
  4. Advertise. Put an advertisement in your local paper, or some other free online service like Kijiji. You never know who may see it- maybe Tyra Banks is looking for a beauty representative....
  5. Reply to advertisements. Likewise, look in the papers or online to see if someone is requesting your services in your area.
  6. Cold Calling- not for the faint of heart, and a little less personal than meeting someone in person. But it can be worth a try.
  7. Take care of your appearance. Would you buy something from Oscar the Grouch? It may seem harsh, but people are influenced by what they see. Just like you wouldn't buy rotting flowers from a florist, people want to see a professional as someone who takes care of themselves.

Remember, you don't have to lie when you are selling, and indeed it's best if you don't stoop to such a level. People will see right through you, and everyone hates a liar! Be honest, and avoid a MSM (Martha Stewart Move). Otherwise, you'll need some serious PR to repair the damage done,

Monday, July 20, 2009

When the Government Wants Your Money and You Profit- Bonds

Your country wants to grow financially.

Sounds good right? You love your country and you want it to grow; after all, this will help you too. But in order for it to grow, it needs money to finance investments. So the governments turn to you in order to take even more of your money than what you already pay, albeit in some cases they actually give it back to you. But you can make money this way too if you decide to obtain a bond. In this case, the money that you make is chiefly the rate of interest from lending your money.

Essentially, if you're looking to make a safe investment than you usually can't get any safer than bonds. In the battle between bonds and stocks, you'll be much safer if you choose to put your money in a bond. There are different kinds of bonds, the safest in Canada being the Canada Savings Bonds. Some bonds, however, can be kind of risky. In fact, if you try to take out the money you already paid before the bond matures (i.e when you can safely get your money back without economic penalty), you could lose quite a bit of money. Plus, you might not get much money back at all if the company goes bankrupt.

How on Earth do I Buy Bonds?
You can buy them at banks, credit unions, trust companies, brokerage firms, the Canada Investment and Savings agency, and online at the Canada Savings Bonds website. Thinking about buying the Canada Savings Bond? You better check your calendar, 'cause they aren't sold all year. Usually you'll find them sold from October until the beginning of April.

Really the best thing that you can do when you're thinking about bonds is to find a trusted personal finance advisor. This person will know how to properly spread out your money by choosing a wide variety of bonds. And make sure you hold onto the bond until it matures. Just remember too that just because they are low risk investments, they are still investments- the very name suggests instability.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The BEST Way to Save the Leaves on Your Money Tree

A friend was commiserating with herself the other day, worried about her money woes. She felt like she had spent too much money shopping, recently dropping nearly $200 on stuff. And that's what it was- just stuff. She bought jeans that were similar to the ones she owned, shoes that she didn't need, and shirts that I knew she would never wear. But she doesn't make that much money, and she has rent, food, and student loans to pay for. It got me wondering about the best way to save money- how can you avoid a costly outing like that?

Avoid it.

Simply put, don't go shopping unless you absolutely need something. And I do mean absolutely. If you already have two pairs of black shoes, why do you need another? Lois Frankel, author of Nice Girls Don't Get Rich: 75 Avoidable Mistakes Women Make With Money, made an excellent point in this book. She reasoned whether or not you would get the job - or a raise for that matter- just because you went in to see the boss with new shoes on. And you know what? She's right! Unless your shoes look like the Grand Canyon, your shoes are probably fine. Some might argue that point, saying that "new shoes will give me that extra confidence boost!"? Well why don't you gain confidence by paying down your debt with the money you would have spent on those shoes?

That's it- plain and simple. It's a lot like weight loss- if you want to lose weight, you have to consume less calories than you utilize. That's how my aunt lost so much weight (almost 40 pounds)- she just started using a smaller plate size. And that's what you need to do too; use a smaller plate size. Spend less than you earn. Take up an inexpensive hobby, like running (outside, not in an expensive gym). Go for walks with your friends. Make some of your own jewelry together. Discuss politics over a pot of tea or coffee, 1800 style. The list of cheap, fun activities are endless.

Cheers to saving those leaves!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

10 Things You Should Know About Your Student Loan (OSAP)

Ah yes, the infamous student loan. Many of us have one, many of us are thinking about getting one. Education may be almost a necessity in this day and age, but that doesn't mean that it comes cheaply. I'm specifically dealing with the "wonderful" (disgruntled look on face appears) folks at OSAP- the Ontario Student Assistance Program. But many of these points apply to all student loan receivers. Either way, these loans aren't exactly fun to deal with, and here are a couple of things you should know about your student loan:

  1. You have to pay it back (duh!): Ok, so this may seem like a trivial point, but its really the most important point of a student loan. When you first receive your student loan, it may seem like a lot of money, but try not to spend all that you receive. Instead, try to live cheaply throughout the year, and the money that you have saved, pay it back. The same goes for those of you who are done school- pay that OSAP back ASAP!
  2. Find money for your schooling: search for grants, scholarships, and bursaries to help pay for school.
  3. There is good news for those of you who fall below the poverty line (hurrah!): If your loan is greater than $7000, you will not have to pay the remainder, at least under OSAP. For example, if your loan is $10,000, you will only be required to pay back $7000. Check to see if this is the case for your student loan.
  4. Don't lie: on your application to try to get more money (ie. don't say you're poorer than you are), 'cause it will cost you in the end (see #1), especially if they find out.
  5. Pass your class: "really?" you say with a sarcastic undertone. Classes are expensive, and so you should do your best to avoid failing because not only does it mean you may be shelling out $1000 or so per class, but you might end up having to take a summer school course, which is also expensive. The summer is the time when you should be making money to pay off your student loan, which brings me to my next point.
  6. Set aside a portion of your money to pay off your loans: seriously, just do it! If you can afford it (i.e you've moved back home where you get free rent and mom buys you your favourite groceries), set aside at least 15% of your monthly cheque to paying off your loans. For example, if you make $700 a month, you should at least pay $105 per month to paying off your loans. This means you will still have money to do whatever floats your boat. This is the minimum though, and you'll thank your lucky stars for it later.
  7. You get interest free status in between your studies, as long as you're going back to school. For example, if you're enrolled in a 4 year program with the summers off, you won't be charged interest during those carefree summer months.
  8. You will be charged interest AS SOON AS your studies are finished. Literally, the day after your studies are finished, interest starts accumulating. And its not at all nice interest, contrary to what you've probably been told about OSAP. Rather, depending on the size of your loan, it can amount to amost $5 per day. This ends up costing about $155 a month and $1860 per year just in interest. That's enough to take you on vacation!
  9. Pay off your loan- FAST! The faster you pay your loan off, the less you pay for interest. For example, if your debt is $20,000 at a floating interest rate and you decide you want to pay it off in 10 years, the total amount you will pay back will actually be approximately $24,890 because of interest. That means you're paying about $5000 just in interest! However, if you are able to pay that loan back in 5 years it will only cost you about $22,380, indicating interest will only be approximately $3000. That means you are actually saving about $2000 by paying it off faster! Calculate how much it will cost you by visiting the National Student Loans Service Center Loan Repayment Calculator at
  10. It's not always that bad: if you can't make payments at all, you can apply for "interest relief status". This means that you won't be charged interest on your loan for a certain period of time because you aren't making enough money.
Good luck paying back your loans :)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Super Cute, Super Beautiful- Beauty & Money Woes

Every woman is beautiful, n'est pas? And that seems to be showcased even more so in the midst of a recession. Women are still willing to pay the big bucks to be "beautiful" but you certainly don't have to shill out a whole paycheck for beauty supplies! Read on for some tips to keep you feeling HAWT!

  • Learn to be happy, confident, and smile a lot. Although this may seem like an overly cheesy statement, it's true. Isn't that one of the things that you find most attractive about the opposite sex? Identify your strengths, and focus on them. Do the things you like to do. These activities bring confidence and happiness alike :)
  • If you want to delve into the exterior beauty, start with a moisturized face. Wash your face, and while your face is still slightly damp (not sopping wet) use a mixture of your favourite moisturizer and foundation. This will give you a nice, even coverage. Once you have rubbed this mixture in, dust a light layer of powder over, and you'll have a fresh, stay all day cover!
  • Next, curl your eyelashes using an eyelash curler, and make sure you get right to the base of the lashes to give them that extra boost. If you're feeling extra sparky, apply some black or coloured mascara. Purple mascara works wonders on green eyes.
  • Finally, for the ultimate natural look, just use a bit of lip balm or clear gloss. This look is perfect for summer!
Voila! The beautiful, natural look for cheap!

Fashion in the Midst of a Recession- How to Stay Fashionable Amongst Recession Woes

Talk about a lousy economy! There are numerous people who have experienced financial hardships in this day and age, such as losing their job or losing money on the stock market. If only there was a mystical tourniquet that could prevent the economy from further bleeding!

Although the economy isn't exactly the best right now, you can make the best of this situation in terms of your fashion choices. All without spending muchos dollaros! Here's some advice for looking good when the going's tough:

  • Stick to classic pieces. Although there are some minor changes that occur in the fashion world, much stays the same. Make sure you buy quality pieces, and remember that quality doesn't always have to mean uber-expensive. Some classics that look good on every woman include:
  • Light Trench coat for spring and fall, wool peacoat for winter
  • Jeans (dark wash)
  • Jewelry (simple, like a necklace and earrings. Just wear one or the other, and try to avoid wearing matching sets as it looks outdated).
  • Purse (black goes with everything)
  • Black shoes (high heels if you can stand them)

  • Timing is everything too. If you really really REALLY want those super-cool red pants, just wait until the end of the season. Not only will that give you time to think whether or not you actually want them, but they will be on sale by that point too! After all, it's not a deal if you're not going to wear it! The best time to buy isn't actually Boxing Day either, but rather the first week of January. That's when stores want to get rid of all their old stuff, and pass the savings onto you!
  • If you don't like it, change it. So you bought those red pants and now decide that you don't like them? Change them. Cut the material up and use it to make something funky, like a fabric coffee cup wrapper. Or make them into a mini skirt, you foxy diva you!
  • Go shopping ONLY for what you need. If you don't need bracelets, avoid jewelry stores! Don't buy the first thing you see either, unless you know it's a good deal. Just be patient and keep searching, again only for what you need.
  • Second hand shops seem like no brainers, but you need to be careful sometimes. Sometimes second hand shops sell for MORE than the actual store they were sold in! Just keep your eyes open, and be wary.
  • Make your own! Learn how to sew, embroider, or make jewelry! Its also a great way to turn old stuff into new! For example, if you have an old shirt that you got a little stain on it that you just can't get out, try embroidering a simple pattern or sew some seed beads onto it. You'll get a reputation for being even more fabulous than you already are!
Good luck in your shopping!