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Personal Finance

  • 10 Tips for Saving Money at Restaurants

    How to Save Money at Restaurants.

    Saving Money at Restaurants

    Do you find that cooking just isn’t your forte and that it’s easier said than done? Perhaps your working life cuts into your personal time and limits your ability to pick up ingredients for a complete meal. Or maybe you’re hoping to travel and dine at famous restaurants while still being able to afford all the other tourist attractions.

    Eating at restaurants can be a strain on your budget, but doesn’t have to be. You can save money at restaurants. There are simple methods of ensuring that you save your hard earned money, while still having the freedom of choosing to eat at almost any restaurant of your choice.

    1. Purchase group buy coupons in advance

    If you’ve participated in these deals, you will understand how easy it is. One of my favourite daily deal websites is OneSpout.com; it allows you to view deals from over 300 different websites all in one place.

    Simply purchase a group buy coupon (be sure to check for restrictions ahead of time), bring it to the restaurant for your meal, and mention it to your server prior to your meal to ensure validity.

    On average, you’ll be able to save about 50-60% with these promotions. Be sure to keep tabs on the expiry date to make the most of the promotion value. You can also take advantage of these group buys while travelling, just be sure to purchase them for the city you are visiting before your trip.

    One Spout Group Buy

    2. Eat prix frixe (Summerlicious/Winterlicious)

    Another way to save money eating out is with “prix frixe”. Some restaurants offer in-store prix fixe promotionss that are unadvertised. These are menus that will cost you a flat rate and will include an appetizer, entree, dessert and if you’re lucky, a drink as well.

    For example, in the summer and winter, residents in the Greater Toronto Area have Summerlicious and Winterlicious to look forward to. They’re semi-annual Toronto food festivals where participating restaurants offer limited prix fixe menus for an impressive discounted price. The prices range from $15-$25 for lunch and $25-$45 for dinner.

    3. Eat at buffets

    If you’re hungry for a meal that provides 3 courses or more, buffets are your best bet. You’ll be able to have an appetizer, entree and dessert – and go back for more if you really want to, all for one set price.

    Be careful with drinks, though (ask for a drink menu before ordering, just so you are aware of the additional cost of your beverage). You will notice that beverages such as soda pop will cost a lot more than other restaurants. However, there are select (sushi) buffets that do offer beverages (pop & tea) in the all-you-can-eat price of the meal.

    Tip: Beware of over-ordering. Some buffets will charge you extra for wasting food!

    Save Money at Buffets

    4. Time your buffet visits

    The cheapest times to eat at a buffet are on weekdays (Monday-Friday), and the cheapest meal is lunch. Saturdays, Sundays and holidays (does not have to be statutory holidays; Mother’s day & Father’s Day are considered holidays) are the most expensive at dinner time.

    For example, lunch on a Friday will cost you about $15, whereas dinner on a Saturday will cost you approximately $28. However, you have to be careful because some restaurants will charge Friday dinners at the weekend rate. Be sure to check the restaurant’s website or call to ask for pricing prior to visiting.

    You could also go for an all-you-can-eat lunch later in the afternoon so that when dinner rolls around, you’ll be a lot less hungry and require a smaller meal.

    5. Prepare yourself

    Save the restaurant coupons that you receive in your mailbox – these will come in handy the next time you’re in a rush to grab a bite to eat. If time permits, use the internet as a research tool prior to dining somewhere for the first time.

    You can check out customer ratings, reviews, and tips about a restaurant. It can save you a from disappointment as well as money! If you are using a website/phone app such as Urbanspoon – you can sort local restaurants by price and find cheap and delicious eats!

    Urban Spoon

    6. Avoid certain menu items

    To save money at restaurants, there are some things you should avoid purchasing altogether. Whether you’re thirsty for an alcoholic beverage or a non-alcoholic beverage, a drink can cost you the same amount as an appetizer, or even a portion of your entree. All restaurants provide free tap water, but you may want to purchase bottled water if you’re travelling.

    Desserts are the perfect wrap up to a delicious meal but they can be very pricey. Unless you’re a returning customer, the desserts are usually a risk anyway. You might end up with a slice of cake that just isn’t what you expected, or an over-sized slice that you might end up wasting because you just can’t eat it all in one sitting.

    Try this – say ‘no thanks’ to the dessert menu and head home to your favourite dessert waiting for you in your freezer.

    7. Eat value menu Items

    While eating at fast food restaurants, it’s a good idea to pay attention to current promotions or “Value Pick Menus”. The items that fall under these lists are usually snack size burgers or fries.

    Take a second to review the value items prior to ordering because there are times that it’s a much more cost effective way to simply “create your own” meal, rather than asking for their default combos.

    8. Split your orders

    When dining with family, check out the family deals that the restaurant is offering. These deals are usually plenty of food for a reasonable price – then, split all up and enjoy.

    Another option is to split appetizers, entrees, and desserts when dining with friends and family.

    9. Take advantage of “return customer” promotions

    Some, but not all, restaurants offer some sort of loyalty program where they provide you with a card to collect stamps for every visit. These offers are not always advertised and are usually discovered by word of mouth or by simply asking your server.

    The offers are usually along the lines of “purchase 10 meals and get one free” – though they are not the most amazing deals, they’re worth collecting if you’re a return customer.

    Tip: Oftentimes, there are customer surveys that are printed on the back of your receipt; simply share your opinion and you can receive a free treat or even an appetizer on your next visit.

    10. Pay with cash

    There are some restaurants that will provide discounts on cash purchases. If there are ever any indicators that cash will lower the total of your bill, take advantage of the deal!

    Save Money on Dining Out

    Although there are many ways to save money at restaurants, it’s important to remember that your frugal methods should not affect the waiter or waitress’s tip. Be sure to tip your server to thank them for their good service!

    What are you favourite ways to save money at restaurants?

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  • Make Extra Money with Facebook Groups

    Facebook Buy and Sell

    Facebook Buy & Sell Groups

    Have you heard of Facebook Buy & Sell Groups? Or Facebook Garage Sales? Facebook Resell Groups?

    This is just another way to get rid of your unwanted stuff and make some money in the process. Think of them as online thrift stores.

    So how do you find these Facebook groups?

    Log in to Facebook and in the search bar, type your location and add “buy & sell” or something similar. For example, if you live in Ottawa, Ontario, search for “Ottawa Buy & Sell”, and if there are any groups available, they will pop up.

    You can then click on the group, and click the “Join Group” button. Some groups will allow anyone to join right away, but most require approval, and it can take up to a week to get access to the group (but it’s usually 24-48 hours, in my experience).

    Once approved, you can post a photo and description of your item for sale, then arrange to meet with an interested buyer. If you’re interested in someone else’s item for sale, leave a comment on their post to let them know.

    A couple of things to note:

    • Always meet someone you don’t know at a public place.
    • Remember to remove your item once it sells.
    • If you have more than one interested buyer, make sure to put PPU (pending pick up) on your post.
    • Make sure to read the “Rules” before posting anything. You can find these under “files” on the group page.

    Do you use Facebook buy & sell groups?

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  • Tipping Etiquette in Canada

    Have you ever come across a situation where you didn’t know whether or not to tip someone, and if you did want to tip them, you didn’t know how much to give? You don’t want to give too little, but you also don’t want to give more than what is normal, especially if the service provided was mediocre.

    If you’re ever found yourself asking the question “how much do I tip?“, this post is for you.

    Tipping Etiquette in Canada

    How Much to Tip

    10% of the fare. More for exceptional service or if they bring you to a location that is hard to get to.

    Airport/Hotel Shuttle
    $2 per trip, per person.

    Hotel Bellman
    $2-$3 per bag, $3 if the bag is particularly heavy.

    Hotel Maid Service
    $3-$5 per day. Leave a note that says “Thank you” with the cash, so they know to take it.

    Room Service
    15% of the bill, unless they are bringing free items like extra pillows, then tip $2 or $3.

    Parking Valet
    $5 when picking up your vehicle.

    15%-20% of the bill, after tax. 10% for poor service.

    $0.50-$1 per drink.

    Coat Check
    $1-$2 per coat.

    Hair Stylist
    10%-15% of your bill. $3-$5 for support staff like the people who wash your hair.

    Tour Guides
    $5 per guide.

    Food Delivery (Including Pizza)
    10%, more for a difficult delivery, such as bad weather or a hard to find location.

    Washroom Attendant
    $0.50-$1 per visit.

    10%-15% of bill.

    Food Retailers with Tip Jar
    Optional, but not necessary.

    10%-15% of bill.

    Shoe Shiner
    $2-$3 per person.

    Furniture Delivery
    $5 per person, especially if delivering something large and heavy.

    Moving Company
    $20-$25 per person seems to be the norm.

    Tattoo Artists
    10%-20% of the total cost.

    Pet Groomers
    10% of the total fee.

    Airport Skycap
    $1-$2 per bag, $2 if the bag is heavy.

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  • 4 Credit Card Fees You Should Never Pay

    Many people think that credit cards are evil and should be avoided at all costs. I am not one of those people.

    With a bit of discipline, I truly believe that credit cards can actually be a very useful financial tool (especially if you use a card that gives you rewards). However, you could be charged a bunch of different credit card fees if you’re not careful.

    4 Credit Card Fees You Should Never Pay

    Credit Card Fees You Shouldnt Pay

    Annual Fees

    There’s just no reason good enough to pay annual fees on your credit card. There are a ton of cards out there that are absolutely free to use.

    If you want a credit card, stick with those that don’t have an annual fee attached to them.

    Late Fees

    If you’re paying late fees, it’s likely because you just don’t have a good schedule for getting your card paid off.

    Make sure that you are paying the minimum payment on your credit card each month, at least.

    Interest Fees

    Though sometimes you can participate in a 0% interest promotion, most of the time, if you’re carrying a balance on your credit card, you’re paying interest.

    The first thing you want to do is contact your credit card company and ask for a lower interest rate. Then, call some other credit card companies and ask about getting a 0% balance transfer. Finally, get your balances paid off as quickly as possible!

    Cash Advance Fees

    In case you’re unaware, a cash advance is when you withdraw cash against your remaining credit card balance.

    Cash advance fees are one of the worst credit card fees you can pay because you’re charged immediately after you use the cash advance. Don’t take advantage of these cash advances!

    “Your goal should be to pay off your credit card bills in full at the end of each month and set aside money toward your emergency savings.” – Suze Orman

    Do you use credit cards? Why or why not?

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  • GasBuddy – An Easy Way to Save on Gas

    Save on Gas with GasBuddy

    Have you heard about GasBuddy? It’s a fantastic website that allows you to find the lowest gas prices in Canada and the USA.

    You’re able to search by city, province, and postal code – make it super simple to save money on gasoline!

    Not only can you find the lowest gas prices by location, but they also post daily posted gas price average to assess prices in any geographic area.

    Check out their mobile app, which is free, and every time you use Gas Buddy to report gas prices, you earn points that enter you to win prizes!

    This app is available on:

    Do you use GasBuddy to save money on gas? Let me know your thoughts!

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  • Canada Tax Deductions & Tax Credits To Take Advantage Of

    Canada Tax Credits

    Have you filed your taxes yet? All tax returns are due on or before April 30 (or April 15 if you or your spouse are self employed), which means there are just about 2 months left to file your paperwork.

    Do you normally get a cheque or are you the one who always ends up having to pay the government in the end?

    Below is a list of tax deductions and tax credits that you can claim on your tax return.


    • Moving Expenses (Car Rentals, Plane Tickets, Meals & Lodging)
    • Tuition Fees
    • Textbooks
    • School Parking
    • Transit Passes
    • $400 worth of education expenses for every month that you were in university full time, or $120 per month part time.

    Note: Student loans are non-taxable and students can claim a tax credit on any interest incurred on loans.

    Note: If a student received a research grant, any expenses accumulated while completing the research can be deducted.

    Parent & Child Tax Write-Offs

    • $2,089 per child, per year, for each child under 18 living at home. If a child has a disability, the Canadian Child Tax Benefit is increased.
    • Up to $500 in registration costs for each child if they are registered in a sport or fitness activity and are under the age of 16. Children with a disability receive an additional $500.
    • Tuition or Private Schooling Costs
    • Recreational Activities (Camp, Ballet): If the fees were paid while the parent was in school or working.


    • First time home buyers can claim a personal amount of $5,000 when qualifying to buy their first home.
    • Medical Expenses (Pharmeceutical Prescriptions, Eye Exams, Glasses, Hearing Aids, Medical Insurance, Chiropractic Costs, Massage Therapy Costs, Dental Work)
    • Transit Passes for: Buses, Ferries, Subways or any other local transit

    Note: For individuals moving or relocating for a job, they can claim moving expenses as well (moving trucks, storage, temporary lodging).


    • Advertising
    • Subscriptions
    • Internet Fees
    • Office Cleaning Materials
    • Website Fees (Domain Name, Hosting, etc.)
    • Computer
    • Meals & Entertainment (50% only)
    • Office Supplies (paper, pens, etc.)
    • Employee Salaries
    • Telephone Bill
    • Accounting, Tax Preparation Costs, Legal Fees
    • Business Travel Expenses
    • Home Office Expenses: Rent, Utilities, Property Taxes, Mortgate Interest, Repairs & Maintenance (Note: If your home office space is 15% of the total square footage of your home, then you can deduct 15% of your home office expenses.)
    • Company Car(s), Gas & Oil, Repairs & Maintenance, Lease Payments, Toll Charges, Insurance, Parking, Vehicle Registration Fees (Note: If you drive 20,000KMs for the year, and 50% were for business, you can write off 50% of your car expenses. If you own your vehicle, you can write off 30% of the cost of your vehicle each year – prorated for the business use portion of your car.)

    What is a Capital Asset?

    A capital asset is something of tangible value, which will last a long period of time (1 year or more).

    Capital assets are written off over a period of time based on the CRA’s specified depreciation rates, which are:

    • Equipment (a camera for a photographer, a computer for a blogger, paint for a painter, etc.) = 30% per year
    • Furniture (computer desk, filing cabinet, etc.) = 20% per year
    • Software = 50% per year
    • Computers & Computer Equipment (printer, scanner, etc.) = 100%
    • Vehicles = 30% per year

    Preparing your taxes doesn’t have to be an expensive endeavor. Get back as much money as you can and always file on time to avoid late fees.

    Be sure to hold on to any receipts you may need, because you never know if you will end up being audited (but let’s hope you want).

    Visit the Canada Revenue Agency’s website for more information on tax credits and tax deductions.

    Related: How Long to Hold on to Financial Records in Canada

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  • Dear Parents of Adult Children – Start Charging Your Kids Rent!

    I am always amazed at how many grown men & women are still living with their parents and not paying a dime in rent. This is one of those subjects that I feel so passionately about, that I will argue with you for hours about how I’m right and you’re wrong.

    If adult children are not out on their own, they should be paying rent (at a minimum!). Are your adult children giving you rent money every month? If you’re an adult living at home, are you coughing up any cash for mom and dad? If not – it’s time to give your head a good shake, because you’re doing it all wrong (sorry, I told you I’m passionate about this!).

    Charging Kids Rent

    Why should adult children living at home pay rent?

    In the majority of cases, parents are the ones to blame in this situation. I know you think that allowing your child to live at home rent-free is helping them, but what you’re really doing is hindering them. And you’re hindering them quite a bit.

    By the time your child does move out on their own, they are going to be punched in the face with reality. Not only are they going to have to pay rent, but they will have to find the cash to pay for heat, electricity, groceries – and a multitude of other things.

    When you make sure your child pays rent each month, you are teaching them to be responsible with their money. When they live at home, working, and you don’t force them to give them any cash, they are learning to live on a disposable income that they will never, ever have once they leave the nest.

    And that’s not what you want your kids to be learning, right?

    I can’t take money from my kids!

    Oh, but you can, and you should. Remember, by taking rent money from your children, you are teaching them financial responsibility. You are showing them that they can’t just indulge in themselves until they first take care of their responsibilities. That’s life. That’s what the real world is all about.

    Kids Living at Home

    They won’t like it. They will hate it, actually. But one day down the road, they will thank you for it. I promise you that.

    “We may not be able to prepare the future for our children, but we can at least prepare our children for the future.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt (Click to Tweet)

    When should I start charging rent?

    As soon as your kids have a full time job, it’s time for you to get paid for allowing them to live in your home. If they’re still in school and struggling financially, and you’re secure enough to help them out, then go for it.

    Otherwise, they need to fork over the cash.

    But they’re living at home to save money!

    I hate this excuse. I really do. Of course they’re living at home to save money – what other reason could there be?

    The fact of the matter is that everyone should be saving money anyway, whether you live at home or not. Saving money should be a part of your life, just as much as paying your other bills is.

    Paying Rent to Parents

    As a parent, it’s your responsibility to teach your kids about life. How they should behave, what they should expect, and everything in between. By not charging your kids rent, you’re creating a false sense of reality for them. The real world requires rent – so start making your child pay!

    Would you ever charge your kids rent? Why or why not?

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