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November 19 2014

Hot Holiday Gadgets for 2014

By Kate Musgrove

Almost everyone has someone on their holiday shopping list that would love the latest and greatest gadget – the question is, what are the latest and greatest gadgets? Here’s a look at the top three things we’ve been hearing about:

Wearables: this category includes everything from the FitBit-style activity trackers and smart watches to the much-hyped Google Glass. Unfortunately, the high-end of wearable tech is a bit out of reach – Google Glass is available to US shipping addresses only (and costs $1500 USD) while the Apple Watch still doesn’t have a firm release date. Apple has only said it will be early 2015. So if your gift recipient is set on the Apple Watch, you’ll have to make do with an IOU!

Drones: Really! Drones have a surprising number of real-life uses, especially when they’re equipped with photo/video capabilities. Then you can do everything from taking a photo of a large group, grabbing the best pics at your kid’s soccer game and getting previously-impossible nature and wildlife shots. Pricier drones with come equipped with the ability to livestream to your phone, which is pretty darn cool.

Smartphones: Phones are getting lighter, thinner and more advanced every day. And while the recent trend seems to be bigger, rather than smaller phones (we’re looking at you, iPhone 6), the point is that the huge advances made mean that a lot of people are interested in the latest models. And while you can get a cheap tablet for $99, the latest and greatest smartphone will run you more like $400-$700. Which is all the more reason to ask for one as a gift!

There are a few things that aren’t on the list. For one, tablets! It seems like everyone and their grandmother has one already. And like we said above, in general, prices are dropping on them. And while last year was huge for the PS4 and Xbox One (both released in mid-November 2013), it’s likely that a lot of people who want one already have one. On the other hand, there was a pretty limited selection of games available for each console at launch, but tons of great games have come out lately and both consoles have had price-drops. So it could be another console Christmas after all.

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November 17 2014

Holiday Shopping Survival Tips

By Kate Musgrove

The holidays are a whole lot of fun – there are parties, snacks, presents, and tons of merriment. There’s absolutely no downside! Unless, of course, you have to go to the mall. The mall can be hot, crowded and unpleasant this time of year, but have no fear – we’ve got some pro shopping tips for you.

Layer up: in our completely (un)scientific opinion, the mall runs about 65 degrees Celsius all winter. So if you’re headed in to shop, dress in light, easy-to-remove layers. And if you drive there, consider leaving your winter coat in the car.

Go against the flow: going to the mall on Saturday or Sunday means crowds, crowds, crowds. If you can, try to hit the mall before regular work hours for more convenient parking, less people – and the first crack at the newly restocked shelves. Many malls across Canada have extended hours during the holiday season, check this page to see if yours does.

Good things come to those who wait: for friends or relatives you won’t see until after the holidays, consider holding off on shopping for their gifts. Yes, if you go to the mall on Boxing Day it will be hot, crowded and unpleasant, but just think of the money you can save! Or, you can do the very smartest thing and…

Shop online: it’s convenient, it’s comfortable, and you’re allowed to bring your own snacks. If you do have to shop in-store for anything, try to get as much done as you can before you leave the house: price-compare and research, at least, and order and pay (for in-store pickup) if possible.

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October 21 2014

Quick Black Friday Tips

By Kate Musgrove

For years, Boxing Day dominated the retail scene in Canada. But each year since about 2010, Black Friday has grown (and grown… grown). This holiday was originally an American tradition, with retailers using the date to kick off the holiday shopping season with big sales and deep discounts. Black Friday is always the day after American Thanksgiving but Canadians haven’t seemed to let the fact that we celebrate Thanksgiving about six weeks earlier stop us from taking part.

If you haven’t shopped Black Friday before, here are a few tips:

  • Online Black Friday sales will typically start the instant the clock ticks from Thursday to Friday –12:01 AM – so grab a cup of coffee after work to stay up.
  • If there’s a site you think you’ll want to shop at, be sure to set up an account with updated shipping and payment information in advance. If there are only a few of your most coveted item in stock, you don’t want someone else to snap up the last one while you’re painstakingly entering your Visa number.
  • RedFlagDeals.com will typically have flyers from retailers as much as a week before the sale starts, so keep an eye on the flyers section and you’ll have a huge leg up on your shopping.

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October 21 2014

Secret Santa Gift Ideas

By Kate Musgrove

It’s coming up on that time of year – you’re buying presents for your very nearest and dearest family and friends… and that one weird guy at the office. For reasons we can’t completely figure out, offices often hold a random draw gift exchange which means that in addition to buying gifts for the people you love, you’re also buying a gift for someone you don’t know (or worse – someone you know but you don’t like!). Here are a few Secret Santa shopping tips to help you out:

Boss: buying presents for your boss can be awkward. If you give an extravagant gift you may look like you are currying favour. Pick something small but meaningful instead – a framed photo from a work event, or some homemade sweets to share.

Complete Stranger: keep an eye on their desk for clues. For example, if they are never far from their coffee, you could do something like a mug, a coffee shop gift certificate or even some gourmet coffee beans. If their desk is covered with photos of their kids, you might give them a board game they can play as a family.

Office Nemesis: a forced gift exchange is a great time to kill with kindness – even though the temptation to give them a Dating for Dummies book or an introductory Weight Watchers membership may be there, a thoughtful holiday gift could go a long way to bridging this gap.

Intern: typically, interns aren’t well-paid. This is definitely the time to skip a gag gift and give something genuinely useful, like a gift card for a store you’re sure they’ll like or a pair of movie passes.

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September 03 2014

Student Credit Card Basics

By Kate Musgrove

If you are just entering university, this is probably the first time you can get your own credit card. It’s a good opportunity to establish a credit history, but you should do your homework first. Think of your credit score like a GPA for your finances – having a good one will open doors! And if you don’t start building a credit history when you’re an undergraduate, you may find yourself freshly graduated, employed and unable to rent an apartment or finance a car without a co-signer.

RFD has a credit card comparison tool to help figure out which card is best for you. Or you just browse all of the Student Credit Card options here. Some basic features to look at are annual fees, interest rates, and overdraft policies. Beyond that, you might look for perks – there are options out there for cash back, reward miles, extended warranties on purchases, and more. Personally, I was glad that the credit card I had in college had a $1000 balance limit -- I suspect I would have consistently spent more if I had a higher balance limit.

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August 20 2014

Laptop Buying Tips

By Kate Musgrove

Aside from the cost of tuition, new tech is probably the most expensive part of starting college. If you’re in the market for a new laptop we’ve got a few tips to help out.

Remember, price isn’t the only factor: certainly, you don’t want to spend too much on a laptop, and we regularly see Chromebooks or other similarly barebones units for $250-$300. But if you actually need more power, more storage and more programs than your bargain computer can accommodate you might find yourself upgrading to something bigger, better and more expensive. So our suggestion? Really assess what you need in a computer before you start shopping. If your area of study is likely to have special requirements (like graphic design or field biology) you may even want to ask the professors in your future program if they have tech suggestions. Similarly, you might hear that your programs require a basic word processing program and not much else.

Don’t forget to consider the cost of accessories: Tablets, we’re looking at you. While going ultra lightweight and portable with a tablet is tempting and the tablet itself might be around the same price as a laptop, remember that you’ll have to buy a keyboard and a case at the very least. Very good Bluetooth keyboards can easily run $100 and that might be enough to break your student budget. (And if you are planning on taking notes and writing papers using only the onscreen keyboard, well, good luck.)

Don’t buy if you don’t have to. Your laptop from high school or last year might be in decent shape and if that’s the case, go ahead and start the school year with that! Sure, when you were off to grade five a new year meant new outfits, a new backpack and an unbelievably clean pair of shoes, but you’re older now (and a laptop costs a lot more than a basic backpack). So use your old machine as long as you can (ensuring that you backup frequently to a cloud service or an external hard drive, of course) and pull the trigger on a new machine later.

Above all? No matter when or what you're buying, don't forget to check RFD for the latest deals!

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August 13 2014

Back to School Tips for Parents

By Kate Musgrove

If you’re a parent, getting out the door in the morning – to school or daycare – can feel like an absolute marathon. Here are three tips from RedFlagDeals.com to make your mornings just a little easier.

Shoes: If your child doesn’t know their right foot from their left it can take ages to get their shoes on the right feet and get out the door. One suggestion we’ve seen is to cut a sticker in half and put half on the inside of each shoe so they make a complete image when the shoes are lined up to go on the right feet. While they sell stickers designed for this, we bet you’d be fine with any large sticker.

Clothes: If your child has a school uniform or simply doesn’t care about what he or she wears to school, you may find that getting dressed is the easiest part of their morning. But for little kids with big opinions, we suggest letting them pick out five outfits on Sunday night. Each outfit can be put in a reusable Ziploc bag complete with socks, underpants and even hair accessories. Then you can assign a day to each one – or just pick one from the pile each morning. It cuts down on decision-making time (also known as stalling) and eliminates the possibility of the dreaded “I want to wear X [but it’s in the dirty clothes hamper]” tantrum.

Paperwork: Kids of all ages come home with forms, permission slips, school supply requests and other paperwork. We suggest giving each child a spot in a wall file or in/out box (something like this would be nice if you have three kids) where they can put anything that needs to be read, reviewed or signed. You can look at it in the evening, sign what’s needed and put it back in their backpack for the next day. You'll never be blindsided by three permission slips and one test two minutes before school starts again.

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August 06 2014

Budgeting 101

By Kate Musgrove

According to Statistics Canada, Canadian full-time undergraduate students paid an average of $5,772 in tuition fees in the 2013/2014 academic year. And that’s just tuition – the cost of living on your own for an 8-month academic year will probably fall in the neighbourhood of ten to fifteen thousand dollars (or more)! If you’re lucky enough to stay at home while you’re attending school, you’ll save a lot of money, but frankly, no matter where you live, when college starts it’s time to learn to budget!

Before school starts, make a list of your anticipated monthly income. In addition to any traditional income from working, don’t forget to include money from scholarships, parents, and loans. Then take a look at your monthly costs. It’s easy to forget what expenses might come up if you’ve never lived on your own, so remember: in addition to the books and school supplies, you’ll have to cover your cell phone bill, clothes and personal care, any food costs not covered by your meal plan (or your parents’ generous open-fridge policy) and, if you’re not living on campus, a transit pass or a parking spot. If your monthly expenses are greater than your monthly income, you’ll have to spend less or bring in more – but think carefully at how you go about it.

If money is tight, you might be tempted to take on another job or rack up extra shifts at your current job. But remember – all your efforts won’t mean much if you do poorly in your classes because you are too busy babysitting, waiting tables and washing floors to hit the books. Graduating with great grades, strong professor recommendations and a small amount of student loans is preferable to graduating debt-free with weak grades and no professors who will champion your work – or not graduating at all! If you’re in college your goal is likely to graduate and secure a good job – don’t let an obsession with getting through school debt-free derail you.

At the same time, we can’t recommend holding half a dozen credit cards and throwing big parties every week while telling yourself that you’ll pay it all off when you’re older.

In budgets, like life, we like to think of the old expression “all things in moderation…including moderation”. So, some months you might spend three weeks of entertainment budget on a great night out – and eat a lot of ramen while your bank account recovers. That’s definitely okay, as long as it balances out over the course of the month.

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August 02 2013

Back to School Laptop Buying Guide

By Brian Chin

Back to school season is here and, while the concept of returning to class might not be all that exciting, shopping for new gadgets is always fun. For the students in need of a new laptop for the coming year and beyond, here are a few tips from us here at RedFlagDeals.com.

Determine the primary use. If you're in the market for a laptop primarily for school, you can definitely find one that fits almost any budget between $350-$400. It might not be the latest and greatest but it'll probably have an i3 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive; enough for getting down to work, putting together presentations and more. Gaming laptops with lots more hard drive space, RAM and a graphics card will cost hundreds more so you'll want to spend some time looking at what you actually need your laptop for.

Shop around. This can be said with anything, really, but you want to give yourself as many options as possible to find the best deal available. Once you figure out what kind of laptop you want, check out every possible retailer to compare prices, warranties, features, return policies and anything else you deem important. A laptop is an investment for most and you don't want to spend hundreds of dollars without first doing your due diligence. And don't forget, if you're part of the RedFlagDeals.com community, we offer 2.25% cash back on purchases from Dell, 1.25% cash back from Apple, 3% cash back from Lenovo and 2.5% cash back from Tiger Direct.

Keep in mind: the right Refurbished model isn't a bad idea! While the 'used' label that often comes with refurbished laptops is a legitimate concern, there are also very good deals to be had if you buy from a reputable retailer. Right now, brand new third-generation i3, i5 and i7 laptops can cost anywhere between $450, $550 and $650 with a decent amount of hard drive space and RAM. Refurbished models, on the other hand, will probably cost you around $100 less, at the very least. They're not for everyone but every bit of saving helps during this time of the year. Check out the latest deals on refurbished electronics here.

Size: Supersize your RAM and hard drive space. Most notebooks now will come with a standard of 4GB of RAM and around 500GB of free space which is good but certainly not great. While that might be enough for the casual laptop user, we'd definitely recommend upsizing to at least 8GB of RAM and 750GB of space if possible. If you have room in the budget, both are worthwhile upgrades to make. And in purely physical terms, size really does matter. All jokes aside, technology has come a long way in a few years where the advent of ultrabooks and the Macbook Air has allowed for some lightweight and very compact computers. If you must travel light, remember you're paying a premium for size and weight when it comes to ultrabooks. Yes, they're just a few centimeters thick and under two pounds but those specs can get a little heavy on the wallet.

Accessorize: Now that you have some new hardware in hand, here are some common post-laptop purchases to help you get the most out of it. For those of you living abroad, a laptop lock ($40) is an absolute must, an external monitor ($130) gives you some more screen space and a carrying case ($30) is pretty much a no-brainer. An external hard drive ($50-$100) is also recommended as a way to maximize storage space.

Explore Alternatives. Remember way back when people used to take notes with pencil and paper? Yeah, neither do we. If a laptop is a little out of your budget, you can probably get by with a tablet and a Bluetooth keyboard. If you can afford it, though, a laptop offers much more in terms of productivity potential so you might be better off buying a low-end laptop over a high-end tablet which might cost you just as much.

Following these tips will undoubtedly make laptop purchasing a lot more fun and less of a financial burden. Remember, by doing your homework, there's no reason you can't pick up a laptop that suits your needs and won't add to your student debt.

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July 22 2013

Back-to-School Survival Guide - Shopping With Young Kids

By Amanda Aikman

From toddlers to tweens, back-to-school shopping with the younger kids can be a battle – but it doesn’t have to be. Whether you’re prepping them for pre-school or beyond, here are some simple strategies for surviving this annual shopping blitz.

  • Forget play dates, plan a shopping date. Invite another parent and let your children distract each other – or get grandma to tag along for backup.
  • Don’t shop ‘till they drop. Most malls offer children’s play areas, so avoid the stroller stir-crazies by letting the wee ones out to burn off some energy. Older kids along for the ride? Let them decompress for a bit in the food court, arcade (if available), or at a music/video game store for a change of pace.
  • Do your homework. Don’t get sucked into the mall vortex with screaming kids in tow – know what you need and where to get it. For tips on finding the best sales, stay tuned to the RedFlagDeals.com deals homepage, Back to School section flyers page, and forums.
  • Just say yes (well, once anyway). Kids get just as tired of hearing no as you get of saying it. Give in to one of their must-have-or-die clothing wishes and bask in their gratitude and compliance for the rest of your shopping trip – just don’t let them wear it on school-photo day if it’s something they’ll really regret!
  • Have snacks; will travel. Bring food and beverages from home instead of letting the kids fill up on overpriced, under-nutritious mall food.
  • What’s good for the goose is good for the gosling. You’ve made them try on shoes and endure line-ups all day, so take some time to check out the latest action figure or vampire novel they’re dying to show you. Looking doesn’t have to lead to buying; it’s the effort that counts!

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