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Blue Jays Survival Guide (Part 2 of 2) – Tips for Travel, Food, and Freebies at the Game

Blue Jays Survival Guide (Part 2 of 2) – Tips for Travel, Food, and Freebies at the Game

By Simon Hung

It’s an exciting time to be a Toronto Blue Jays fan. Whether by blowout or grinding out victories, the team has captivated fans across Canada, and the thought of playoff baseball north of the border for the first time in over 20 years is thrilling.

It's hard to contain our excitement about the Jays.

In Part 1 of our Blue Jays Survival Guide, we gave some tips on different methods to snag tickets and what to look out for to avoid overpaying or being scammed. Now that you have your tickets, you'll need to make plans for the game itself. Here are some of our tips on how to get to the game and make the most out of your time at the ballpark.

Travel

When making travel arrangements to get to Rogers Centre, make sure you plan accordingly, taking into account different factors such as traffic and weather. Gates typically open two hours before game time, and it’s always better to be early to ensure that you can easily find your seat and don’t miss any of the action.

  • Transit
    The best option for many people heading downtown to a game is to take public transit. It’s cheap, avoids Downtown Toronto traffic, and takes you within a ten minute walk of the stadium. Take the subway or GO Train to Union Station, and follow the signage within the station to head to Rogers Centre. When in doubt, use the CN Tower as a visual landmark and it will lead you to the right place. Those with more familiarity with the TTC network can also take the 509 Harbourfront or 510 Spadina streetcars to stops on Rees Street or Bremner Blvd., which are within a couple of blocks of the stadium.
  • Driving
    For those driving in from further away, take advantage of commuter parking offered at 14 TTC subway stations and then take transit down to the game. Parking for weeknight games is only $2.00 between 5:00PM and 2:00AM, and free on weekends. The price of parking and TTC fare will likely cost less than parking near the stadium itself. But, if you are driving all the way, use a tool like Parkopedia to map the cheapest parking in the vicinity of Rogers Centre. Keep in mind that parking prices on game days are often inflated, and the cheapest lots usually fill up quickly. Also, the closer you park to the stadium, the messier the traffic will be before and after the game.
Troy Tulowitzki, Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and the Jays are cruisin' right now.

Food

Food and drink are notoriously expensive at sporting events, and it’s no different at Rogers Centre. Once you’re inside the stadium, you have little choice in terms of affordable options. There are a plethora of food choices available, ranging from pizza to gourmet poutine, but you’ll likely be paying a hefty price for them. But, you aren’t out of luck. There are a couple of tricks to get food into the venue, without having to pay exorbitant stadium prices.

  • Bring Your Own
    Here’s a Rogers Centre policy that few people seem to take advantage of – you can bring in your own food. That’s right – as long as your food is covered and your drinks are non-alcoholic, 600ml or less, and in a plastic bottle (cans, glass and metal bottles are not allowed), you’re free to bring them in with you. Stop by one of the many restaurants or a grocery store near the stadium before the game to buy food and drinks and save yourself a lot of money.
There are five grocery stores within walking distance of Rogers Centre.
  • Save on Drinks

    Like food, most drinks (especially alcohol) at Blue Jays games are wildly overpriced. But, there are two Tim Hortons booths on the 100-level (near Sections 114 and 128), where they sell coffee, Iced Capps and fruit smoothies at regular price! In a place where bottled water goes for $5.00 each, these Timmies locations are the place to go for affordable refreshments. There are also 12 water fountains (four on each level) scattered throughout the stadium that are free to use.

    If you aren’t driving after the game, head over to a Guest Services booth (two locations on each of the 100, 200 and 500 levels) and fill out a designated driver form. Lines at these booths are usually short as they don’t receive much attention, but once you’ve filled out a form, you’ll get a voucher for a free fountain drink, which would otherwise cost $7.00. As a bonus, you’ll be automatically entered for Blue Jays prize draws for the rest of the year.

Additional Tips

  • The WestJet Flight Deck
    This standing-room only section is in the middle of the 200-level outfield, free for anyone who owns a ticket. For comparison, tickets for neighbouring sections average $40.00. But, even if you own the cheapest ticket available, you can enter this area and stay the entire game. Spots are first-come-first-serve, so head to the stadium early if you want a prime location and take advantage of the great atmosphere here.
The WestJet Flight Deck is a fun area to take in a ballgame.
  • Souvenir Hunting
    Make your way to field-level or the left-field seats during batting practice (usually 1-2 hours before the game starts) and you may be able to get a photo or autograph with certain players, or catch some foul balls and dingers from players taking batting practice. You’re free to roam any seat in the building during warm-ups, as long as you’re in your own designated seat when the game starts.
  • Giveaways
    There are three giveaway games left on the Jays’ schedule this season: free replica jerseys August 30 vs. the Tigers; free t-shirts September 18 vs. the Red Sox; and free hoodies September 27 vs. the Rays. Giveaways are limited to the first 15,000 or 20,000 fans that enter the stadium (depending on the game), and devoted fans will usually line up two hours before game time in order to guarantee themselves some free swag. If you’re going to one of these games, avoid entering at gates near the south side of the stadium. Lines at these gates are always the longest and more likely to run out of their allocated supply, since they’re along Rogers Centre’s main thoroughfare (Bremner Blvd.) and close to several tourist attractions. Enter at gates along the north end of the stadium, where lines are shorter and are less likely to run out of supply.
  • Sun Protection
    On a hot and sunny day, one of the hottest places in the city is the open cauldron of concrete and metal that is Rogers Centre. Unless the forecast calls for rain throughout the day, bring sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, and fluids to fight the heat. Even on days when the game begins with the roof closed, officials can choose to open the roof up to six innings into the game if weather permits.
  • Activities for Kids
    If it’s their first trip to a Jays game, visit Guest Services to receive a free ‘First Game Certificate’ along with a Jays button as a keepsake. Also, “Junior Jays Saturdays” is a promotion that runs during every Saturday home game, with many activities throughout the stadium for kids, including the opportunity to run the bases on the field after the game. It’s free to participate, and will give your young ones a great memory. Lineups for this program are located in Sections 108, 208 and 508.
  • Stay Connected
    Cell service is notoriously poor inside Rogers Centre, even with an open roof, giving rise to conspiracy theories of Rogers blocking cellular service inside the dome. Save your data bandwidth and connect to the free Wi-Fi available within Rogers Centre.
  • Not in Toronto?
    We’ve got you covered. MLB.TV Premium is only $9.99 for the rest of the season. The service is great for fans and cable-cutters, as it allows you to watch live and archived games on your TV, computer or mobile device. Plus, Rogers does not enforce any broadcast blackout restrictions in Canada, so as long as you’re watching from a Canadian IP address, you’ll be able to watch all MLB games, including the playoffs. Just be sure to cancel the service via phone or e-mail before March 1, 2016, as it is an auto-renewal subscription and normally costs $129.99.

With these tips in mind, you should be all set to watch your Toronto Blue Jays down the stretch run. With a month left in the regular season, sports fans across Canada are keeping an eye on the Jays, and with upcoming games at home against each of their division rivals, there’s never been a better time to see the Jays’ new acquisitions, solid pitching and lethal offense in action.

The Jays face Carlos Beltran and the Yankees in seven pivotal games that will likely determine who wins the division.

Have any tips of your own? Leave a comment and help out your fellow Jays fans at the ballpark.

Sony Store Online Will Stop Taking Orders This Friday Afternoon, August 28‏

Sony Store Online Will Stop Taking Orders This Friday Afternoon, August 28‏

By Kevin Ngai

Following the exodus of their remaining 14 retail stores earlier this year, Sony Store Canada posted the following notice at the top of its home page this month:

"As we evolve our Canadian business, Sony Store Online will stop taking orders at 4:00pm (EST), August 28, 2015. We're working with our Retail Partners to bring new Sony Experience to shoppers across the nation in store & online. We're excited to share the launch of our new electronics product site with you soon!"

Sony has decided to shut down its online store this Friday afternoon. Sony will no longer sell its wares directly to Canadian consumers. You'll have to find your Sony products elsewhere. Until then you can continue to make purchases online. If you have any remaining Sony gift cards, I suggest you use them now, for they may be useless after August 28.

I could not find any official press release for the reasoning behind this decision. The same notice does appeared on the Sony online store in the US as well. Sony is keeping quiet for now, chances are they are streamlining operating costs and it's just not financially viable for them anymore. Generally the cost of operating an online store is much less than a brick & mortar storefront, so the closure of the Sony Store Online is surprising to me but speaks to the continue declining state of Sony and the retail industry in general.

Last year, Sony closed its eBooks Reader Store and transferred their customers accounts to Kobo. They sold off the VAIO PC division and spun off its Bravia TV operations into its own subsidiary. More recently Sony has been under performing on the smartphone side where it competes against other Android competitors, not to mention the Apple iPhone. Just last month, Sony Mobile Canada announced on Facebook that the new Xperia Z3+ and the Xperia Z4 tablets will not be released in Canada to the dismay of Sony fans. On July 30, Sony did report its best first quarter profits since 2007, thanks in large part to the Playstation 4 and its camera sensor business.

The Sony Store Online will switch to an informational one, that educates consumers and directs them to authorized Sony resellers. On the flip side, this may actually be good news for Sony's existing partner relations. They no longer have to compete with Sony operating a direct-to-consumer business model which will help boost their own sales.

Music is, and has always been a major part of my life. Growing up, the Sony Walkman brought music into my life every single day. It saddens me that one of my favourite brands that was once synonymous with portable music is closing its retail doors. It seems all good things must come to an end.

Sony was one of the first major manufacturers to introduce a brand specific store. Today, Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, and other CE brands have followed Sony's lead.

Is Online Shopping Becoming Too Detrimental to Consumers?

Is Online Shopping Becoming Too Detrimental to Consumers?

By Elaine Jair

I was reading an article on Amazon Dash the other day and while I was pretty fascinated at how advanced technology has become (Replenishing our household products without even needing to go to your computer/mobile app to place an order? Amazing!), I was also reminded of the movie WALL-E. Those who have seen the movie may remember this:

(For those of you who haven't seen it, the backstory of the movie is that humans have become so dependant on technology that they become morbidly obese and spend their days doing nothing but eating and chilling.)

The Internet has undoubtedly been an extremely useful tool in facilitating the whole shopping process for many of us -- it's easy to just pop online for 5 to 10 minutes to purchase something before carrying on with the rest of your day. Personally, I love online shopping and it's definitely made shopping a lot easier for me, but I sometimes question how much the detrimental side effects of the convenience of online shopping -- mainly how it is spoiling us and its potential to contribute to making us lazy shoppers and desensitizing us to the value of money.

Take Amazon Dash Buttons, for example. Amazon.com just recently introduced these buttons that will allow you to place them around the house and order refills of select products automatically. You don't even need to physically go to your computer to make a purchase anymore -- the buttons are already linked to your account and will automatically charge your credit card. While it is a super convenient service, it encourages impulsive shopping, which is detrimental in a few ways. Craving some Gatorade? You can stock up easily with the press of a button but consider this: this process skips an important part of shopping: price comparison. Maybe Gatorade is on sale at your local grocery store, but why go through the hassle of changing out of your sweatpants, making yourself look presentable, taking the car out and driving all the way there when you can just order some at the push of a button? Sure, it might be a little pricier, but the button's right there! Previously, you'd have no choice but to head out to the store if you're running low on laundry detergent -- now, all you need to do is remember that you need to go to your front porch in two days to pick up your parcel. Yes, since Amazon Dash Buttons are available only to Prime members, it means you'd get your order in two days, which further exemplifies Amazon's attempts at satisfying our need for instant gratification.

Another consequence of impulse shopping is that while it's easy to decide you want some Kraft Dinner now and place an order immediately, your order will take a couple of days to arrive and you'll be turned off from shopping at a local grocery store even if it goes on sale because you already have an order on the way. Plus, your KD craving may pass in those few days and you might not even want it anymore by the time it arrives. I might be getting a little ahead of myself as Amazon Dash Buttons are currently available only to Prime users in the States, but I think it's only a matter of time before similar services pop up in Canada and it becomes a tangible issue to consider.

In regards to our general laziness, services like Uber are also looking to meet our demands for efficiency and instant gratification. Gone are the days where you can only get delivery from a handful of chain restaurants -- with UberEats, smaller, local restaurants are also jumping into the delivery business. Now you can order lunch from your favourite local restaurant and skip the line-up, something that wasn't possible before. The service is super convenient, but in return, you're likely to spend more time waiting for your food to arrive at your desk as opposed to taking a walk and checking out different restaurants if your local favourite is too packed with people. As UberEats becomes more prevalent, you'll soon be able to order food from just about any restaurant, whether it be a chain restaurant or a local ma-and-pop store.

I may be an irresponsible shopper, but I've personally found spending money online to be a lot easier. When I head to checkout, the subtotal is just a number -- it's illogical but I don't really feel like I'm forking over a huge sum of money when I hit the "Checkout" button. It's a little like Monopoly money -- it doesn't feel real until it's too late and I'm staring at my Visa bill wondering what in the world possessed me to make those purchases. On the other hand, when I stop at a brick and mortar store and need to pay with cash, I'm limited by how much money I have. Plus, when I walk around the store, I have more time to mull over whether or not I actually need the stuff in my cart. Most of the time, I end up pulling something out -- when shopping online, the process is too easy and quick that I barely have time to think twice about what I'm buying. It's not uncommon for me to receive a shipping notice and realize that I don't actually really want whatever it is that's arriving at my door in a couple of days.

As I said before, I love online shopping and I could just be a very unsavvy, irresponsible shopper, but those are some of the general concerns I like to ponder upon from time to time (not that they would stop me from continuing to shop online!).

What are your thoughts on online shopping, RFD?

Blue Jays Survival Guide (Part 1 of 2) – The Best Options for Buying Tickets

Blue Jays Survival Guide (Part 1 of 2) – The Best Options for Buying Tickets

By Simon Hung

The Toronto Blue Jays are the hottest sports team in Canada. After acquiring stars David Price, Troy Tulowitzki, and others at the trade deadline, the team has surged up baseball power rankings and have become favourites to win the World Series. With a little over a month left in the regular season, the Jays are in the midst of a tight battle for the division lead, which means that there will be meaningful baseball played at Rogers Centre SkyDome in September for the first time since 1993.

The Blue Jays bandwagon is filling up and the Rogers Centre crowd should be electric for their remaining home games, and it’s a great time to catch a game live and watch baseball’s highest scoring offence make their push for the playoffs. Here’s our guide with tips on ways to save time, money and have a great time at the ballpark.

All aboard! The Blue Jays bandwagon is quickly growing.

Tickets

Blue Jays tickets are becoming a hot item in Toronto (tickets for the Tigers series at the end of August have already sold out!), and unlike in past years, getting seats requires diligent planning. You’ll want to plan ahead and buy tickets well in advance of the game, since the earlier you get them, the cheaper they’ll be. Discounts are rare with Jays tickets, but with careful preparation, you can avoid paying considerable markups. The two primary ways of buying tickets are via Ticketmaster and third-party resellers.

  • Ticketmaster
    Ticketmaster sells tickets at face value (not including the blasphemous $2.00 ‘order processing fee’ for each ticket) and you have free choice of any available seat. Prices range from $16.00 - $350.00 CAD, depending on the game and how close your seat is to the field. Check with your employer or look for student/alumni offers with your alma mater for any potential savings, though savings via these programs are usually reserved for select games. Once tickets sell out, you’ll have to use other methods to find tickets.
  • Reputable Third-Party Resellers (StubHub, SeatGeek)
    Third-party ticket resellers like StubHub and SeatGeek are a great resource for finding tickets for games that are sold out or that are no longer available on Ticketmaster. The major downside is that prices aren’t fixed – they’re set by whomever is selling their tickets and can fluctuate – and are usually priced in USD (StubHub also includes an even more blasphemous service charge of 15% per ticket). Given the hype surrounding the team, expect to pay a large markup on these sites, as tickets usually start at around $30.00 USD. You’ll get a choice of which section to sit in, but seat selection is based on whatever ticket the seller has listed. Plus, reputable resellers often offer a ticket guarantee that gives you excellent buyer protection.
Some listings on StubHub are a little very inflated.
  • Others
    Another method of purchasing tickets includes buy/sell forums (like the RedFlagDeals BST forum) and eBay. However, make sure there is a system of tracking seller reviews to ensure that you’re buying a ticket from a reputable individual. While these methods won’t usually have large amounts of tickets for sale, and you won’t have a choice of seats like Ticketmaster or StubHub, you may be able to find a solid deal and snag tickets without having to pay additional fees aside from a small markup.
  • Avoid Scalpers and Questionable Third-Party Resellers (Kijiji, Craigslist)
    Scalpers stand in front of the stadium on game day and sell tickets to fans looking to buy tickets before the start of a game. While some scalpers do sell legitimate tickets, it’s best to avoid them. Scalpers tend to use fan desperation to significantly markup the prices of their tickets. For example, $20.00 tickets for a game against the Yankees on August 16 were reportedly being scalped for over $100.00. Plus, you have no control of where your seat is, and given the demand, there is a large chance of scammers selling fake tickets – since digital tickets can be easily duplicated – and transactions are often in cash and untraceable. Similarly, sellers on sites like Kijiji can pull similar cons, as sellers list counterfeit tickets for what appears to be at a discount or at-cost, then take your money and disappear without a trace. These methods offer little to no buyer protection, and given the possibility of getting scammed and the ensuing headache, avoid buying your tickets this way. In fact, Toronto Police Services have reported an increase in fraudulent ticket sales, so be vigilant and take precautions when buying tickets from third parties. Read our tips on how to look out for possible scams when shopping online.
Avoid using untraceable third party resellers. You never know who is selling you tickets.

So now you know how to get yourself a set of Blue Jays tickets. Marvelous! Check out Part 2 of our guide, where you'll find advice on what to do on game day – including tips on travel, food and freebies at the game.

An appropriate reaction to getting Jays tickets.

Have any ticket-buying tips of your own? What warning signs do you look for when shopping online? Let us know in the comments and help out your fellow RFDers. And of course, Go Jays!

Introducing the RedFlagDeals Android App 3.0

Introducing the RedFlagDeals Android App 3.0

By Lawrence Bautista

We’ve got exciting news: Today we’ve launched a complete overhaul of the RedFlagDeals Android app! This update brings you the long awaited adoption of Google’s Material design. Our small mobile team has been working hard, and within the last few months every single part of the app has been improved, with most of it rewritten from scratch. We’ve made it a faster, simpler, and a much more pleasing experience than ever before. Plus we’ve included a few brand new features! Download it today for free or update your old version from the Google Play Store.

We’ve followed Material Design guidelines, and the result is a sleek, simple style with much more colour than before (of course we use a lot of red!). Try it on Android Lollipop for the best experience! We’ve also gotten rid of a lot of unnecessary bloat to better present the content you care about. The app is also fully functional in Landscape mode, just to please you tablet users (and those of you that like holding your phone sideways).

Once you open the app and set your location, you can navigate through the app using the drawer menu on the upper left corner of the screen.

Deals, Flyers, News

These sections make up the heart of our app. There have been many visual changes as well as performance improvements to each of these so try them out and tell us what you think! We’ve also added a special Back to School category for Deals and Flyers to help you with your back to school shopping!

Stores

This new section will let you browse through a list of stores. Tapping on a store will show you all our information about it: Deals, Flyers, nearby store locations, and a link to the store website.

Favourites

This is also a new section, and it’s very useful! You may have noticed all the hearts next to deals, flyers and store listings. Simply tap on the heart, and they’ll be added to your favourites. All of these will then show up in the Favourites section, giving you a central place to view your favourites so you don’t forget about them.

Search

We have a new search experience! Search for any keyword and you’ll be able to see Deals, Flyers and Stores (and News very soon) that contain your keyword. It’s really simple and really powerful!

Forums

The Forums section remains largely the same. We’ve added a Share button at the top so you can easily send forums links to your friends. Unfortunately, we haven’t drastically improved the forums in the app yet, but we know you all want a better mobile forums experience, and we’re working on it!

So what’s next?

This is a huge update, but we’re just getting started. Expect updates and new features soon including:

  • Better notifications
  • New Home section
  • Holiday stuff
  • More improvements to existing sections
  • Forums

As always your feedback is welcome. To suggest features or if you have other comments about the app feel free to use our Forums. And don’t forget to give a review on the Play Store. As for you iPhone users we already have a great iOS app so make sure to check that out!

Back to School

How to Build a Better Lunch Box

How to Build a Better Lunch Box

By Amanda Aikman

Before you can even tackle the decision of what to pack in your child's lunch box every day, you need to figure out which lunch box to buy. Or lunch bag. And what types of containers to go inside that box or bag. And then there's the water bottle.

When I was in school, I got a Wonder Bread bologna-and-mustard sandwich wrapped in plastic and tossed in a brown paper bag. With a banana and a Jos Louis cake. And a juice box. And it was all stuffed into my backpack until it became warm and mushy. And, if I'm honest, it was actually pretty good. But now that I'm packing my son's lunches, my standards have gone up. His bananas are encased in a BPA-free protective covering so they make the journey to the cafeteria bruise-free. And his sandwiches contain hormone-free organic ham and are cut into cute shapes. And instead of the chemical sweetness of Jos Louis he gets homemade whole-wheat organic banana muffins. And juice isn't even allowed at his school, just water, which he transports in a stainless steel Thermos container designed to look like R2D2.

When it comes to school lunches, having the right gear on hand goes a long way towards smoother preparations for parents and happier, healthier kids come lunch time. Here are some things to consider to help you build a better lunch box (or bag) this school year.

Box or bag?

The first step is figuring out the best container for your child's lunch. You want something big enough to hold their meals and snacks, but not so big that it won't fit in their backpack or become too cumbersome to carry. You'll also want to be wary of style over substance: yes, that Monster High tin box looks cool, but it won't keep yogurt cool without any insulation. A compartmentalized bag is a handy option for dividing snacks from lunch, or hot items from cold items, and some bags come with storage for a water bottle and are designed to accommodate modular containers for an efficient use of space.

Keep your cool (or warmth)

You want to provide your kids with nourishing and tasty meals they'll want to eat, but with school lunches sitting in backpacks and lockers until the lunch bell rings, how do you keep perishable food items safe, let alone at the tastiest temperatures? There are a few options. Packing foodstuffs in an insulated lunch bag or box will help to keep them cool, and adding a frozen gel pack is a good way to ensure dairy or meat items won't overheat. You can even create your own inexpensive ice packs, like these ones made from frozen sponges. You can also opt for lunch bags with the freezer pack built in, like the PackIt Freezable Lunch Bag or the affordable Chill It Lunch Bag, their freezable gel liners keep food cool for hours.

Kids will appreciate the Thermos FUNtainer Food Jar, which keeps food hot or cold and has an easy-to-fill extra-wide mouth and fun themed graphics. To ensure food stays warm, fill the container with boiling water first, seal it, wait a few minutes, then empty it out before placing hot food inside. And for something a little more advanced, the Zojirushi Mr. Bento Lunch Jar lets you pack a stackable multi-course lunch of both hot and cold items in one vacuum-insulated container.

Containers that actually contain

Making the lunch is one thing, ensuring it arrives at school without spilling or getting crushed is another. Many schools these days have "litterless lunch" programs as well, so buying in bulk and packing in reusable containers instead of purchasing a lot of pre-packaged goods not only makes financial and environmental sense, it's also in line with what your children will be learning in class.

There are plenty of options for food storage out there, from the humble sandwich bag to the Lock & Lock Lunch Kit with its four-sided locking system for air- and liquid-tight storage. These compact Rubbermaid Lunch Blox kits are a convenient choice, with multiple containers of various sizes and a freezable ice pack that all click to fit neatly together. Or this Genmert Bento Cory Lunch Box Container with its sleek look, multiple compartments to keep food safe and separate, and coordinating utensils for eating. For the little dippers, this Fuel Snack N Dip Container is small and easy to pack, and keeps snacks and dips together without mixing or spilling.

Beverage basics

It's important to keep hydrated during the day, so providing your child with a handy, safe, reusable beverage container is a must. Plastic bottles are light and affordable, just be sure the materials are free of toxins such as Bisphenol A (BPA). BPA, a common chemical used in plastics, could have potential effects on the brain, behaviour, and prostate glands of young children. While the evidence of these effects is not yet conclusive, it's best to err on the side of caution and look for BPA-free bottles. Other factors to look for are durability, reusability, leak-proof seals, light-weight construction, and the ability to keep drinks cool.

The Thermos FUNtainer bottles are vacuum-insulated with a durable stainless steel interior and exterior. They can keeps beverages cold for hours and come in a variety of kid-friendly patterns, but the straw and tube apparatus can be difficult to keep clean (I usually take a cotton swab dipped in boiling water to get into the nooks and crannies). The Contigo Autoseal Water Bottle doesn't keep drinks cold like the stainless steel bottles, but it is a lightweight, easy-to-clean option that provides AUTOSEAL no-spill protection in a BPA-free container.

Another fun, and environmentally friendly, option is the Eco Vessel Scout kids' stainless steel water bottle with flip straw. It is BPA and phthalate-free, it keeps drinks cold, it features fun designs, it doesn't leak, and it's recyclable. For those who don't want plastic or steel, there's the LifeFactory glass bottle. These bottles are BPA/BPS and phthalate-free and dishwasher safe, and you don't have to worry about the metallic taste of stainless steel or be concerned about leaching from plastics.

It may seem like an expensive investment at the outset, but building a better lunchbox is an investment that will pay off. Not only in the money you'll eventually save by not needing to replace low-quality items, or in the reduction of waste from disposable packaging, but in the satisfaction you'll have knowing your children are enjoying a fresh, healthy, meal even when you're not there to share it with them.

Wedding Etiquette: To Gift or Not to Gift?

Wedding Etiquette: To Gift or Not to Gift?

By Elaine Jair

Lately, I've been getting all kinds of emails to remind me that wedding season is still in full-swing and it got me thinking about the Big Day. While I'm not any position to be getting married anytime soon, my sister recently got engaged and so the wedding planning is definitely a lot closer to home, which means I'm checking out more and more of these wedding-themed emails than I normally would. One of the emails I received was from Kleinfeld at Hudson's Bay and since Kleinfeld is forever imprinted in my head as the place to buy wedding gowns (Say Yes to the Dress, anyone?), I ventured to their bridal collection, just to look around. Instead of stating the exact dollar value, Kleinfeld labels their prices in the form of dollar signs. Five dollar signs signifies a price tag between $10,000 and $30,500, while one dollar sign meant a price tag between $2000 and $3000. One thing led to another and I found myself on a virtual tour at Tiffany to check out engagement rings. Let's just say that you should expect to spend roughly $15,000 if you're looking at a 1 carat diamond ring.

Of course, there are more budget-friendly alternatives to Kleinfeld and Tiffany, which would definitely help slash costs. However, there are still other things to consider, including booking a venue, catering, and entertainment, which all add to your total costs. According to WeddingBells.ca, the average cost of a wedding in 2014 was $31,685 with 75% of brides surveyed agreeing that they are likely to spend more than what they had budgeted for.

It's no surprise that the bride and groom have to spend a ton of money when planning a wedding. However, what most people may not realize is that weddings are also a huge cost to the bridal party. Not only do you have to purchase a bridesmaid dress, accessories and shoes, and do your hair and makeup, you also have to complete your bridesmaid duties of planning and attending all pre-wedding parties, such as engagement parties, bachelorette parties and bridal showers, which are major time investments. Furthermore, the bridesmaids are expected to foot the bill for the bridal shower and bachelorette party. Since these expenses tend to happen over a span of time and they are usually in the form of smaller transactions, it's easy for the bridal party to lose track of how much they're actually spending on the wedding. According to American Express' Spending & Saving Tracker Archive, wedding guests can expect to spend $673 USD on attending weddings while those who opt to attend the bachelor/bachelorette parties will spend $923 USD. Bridesmaids, on the other hand, will spend around $1500 to $1800 -- and this is all before including the price of your gift.

Generally, wedding etiquette dictates that you either bring a gift (from the wedding registry or of your own choosing) or gift the happy couple cash (enough to cover the cost of your meal). However, when bridesmaids are spending so much of their time and money on the wedding, is it fair for the bride and groom to expect them to also purchase a wedding gift? According to this bride, yes. But, I disagree.

If I were a bride and I spent the past year or so yakking my bridesmaids' ear off about my wedding and taking out my bridezilla-related stress out on them, I'd be more than happy to just have my bridesmaids still standing there at my side on my wedding day. Personally, I think it's important to recognize that it's not easy being a bridesmaid and at the end of the day, your bond with them and the experience of having them with you on the journey to your wedding day should take precedence over any material gift or cash. But, as shown above, it's clear that others feel differently.

What are your thoughts on wedding gifts, RFD?

Back to School

Back to School Money-Saving Tips: Kid Edition

Back to School Money-Saving Tips: Kid Edition

By Amanda Aikman

The back-to-school shopping season is a big deal for students, parents and retailers alike —second only to the Christmas/holiday shopping season in terms of revenues. From clothing to loose-leaf, backpacks to laptops, the cost of gearing up your kids for September adds up quickly. According to commercial real estate company Cadillac Fairview, in Canada, the average student will face approximately $500 in back-to-school expenses this year. For parents with two or more children this can be an especially pricey commitment.

However, as every good RFD'er knows, there are always ways to lighten the financial load. So in that spirit, we'd like to share five of our favourite back-to-school savings tricks and tip with you.

1. Host (or attend) a clothing swap

When your children seem to outgrow clothing faster than you can supply it, what do you do with the perfectly good items that no longer fit? Handing them down to younger siblings, family members, and friends is a good way to keep them from gathering dust, but a clothing swap is another eco-friendly option that can save you money and double as a fun evening with friends. Gather up some like-minded parents, have them sort through their gently worn children's clothing items, then get together and swap away. Nobody has to battle the mall, the kids can come and hang out together, and you can get some back-to-school clothing checked off your list without spending a dime, let alone $500.

2. Save your receipts for price-protection

Of course, saving your receipts is a good idea for a number of reasons: so you can see how much you're spending and stay on budget, so you can make an exchange or return if an item doesn't fit or isn't liked, and so you can wave them in your children's faces and say, "Do you see how much I've spent on you this year? Now go clean your room and make me dinner!" But price-protection is another important reason. Back-to-school sales are coming hot and heavy this time of year and the sweater you purchase for $29.99 today might be priced at $9.99 next week. At many stores you can take your receipt in and get that $20 back.

Old Navy offers a 14-day price protection policy (as well as a 90-day return policy... so after 14 days you could just return and repurchase to get the difference back), The Children's Place offers price adjustments on items purchased at full price within seven days, and The Bay and Club Monaco also allow adjustments within seven days (on non-clearance items). Over at Walmart you'll have 30 days and Best Buy takes it up a notch by offering price adjustments within 30 days even if the sale price is being offered by another retailer.

3. Score some second-hand sports gear

Enrolling in team sports can be a great experience for kids; they can learn the value of teamwork and good sportsmanship, enjoy the benefits of physical activity, and spend time interacting with others away from screens. It can also be expensive. Particularly if your child is involved in an equipment-heavy sport such as hockey or football. Purchasing second-hand gear is a great way to cut down on costs while still making sure your little athletes are safely prepared for athletic battle. Sporting-goods swaps are often held in community centres and second-hand sports stores such as Play It Again Sports, Sports Junkies, and Second Chance Sports offer quality used gear for less. You can also pick up bargains through Craigslist, Kijiji, and UsedEverywhere.com, as well as at garage sales and thrift stores.

4. Rent musical instruments instead of buying them

So Bobby has decided he's going to master the accordion and Sally fancies herself the next Jimi Hendrix. Your ears may be in trouble, but your bank balance doesn't have to be. While it's great to see kids taking an interest in music and it's wonderful to encourage them by providing them with instruments, you might want to hold off shelling out for that grand piano until they've mastered their craft (or at least not changed their mind two weeks later and decided they'd rather be a gymnast than a pianist). Music stores like Long & McQuade and Tom Lee Music offer special school-band rental programs that allow you to affordably rent to own an instrument (either monthly all year or just during the school year). If your little virtuoso decides the instrument is not for them, you can return it, cancel your contract, and stop paying.

5. Choose a trusted refurb over new electronics

For older students who require tablets, laptops, or a desktop computer for school, the expense of back-to-school season really starts to climb. While there are discounts available to students (such as these offers from Apple and Microsoft Store) another way to save on tech is by purchasing refurbished items. When purchased from a reliable retailer, refurbished products are usually as good as new ones, but come at a lower price. Refurbished products from the Apple store, for example, can be more than $300 less than their new counterparts. They are tested, certified and come with a one-year warranty, and you can also purchase AppleCare on refurbished Apple products for additional peace of mind. At Best Buy, they offer a selection of refurbished laptops at reduced prices, all of which come with a minimum 90-day warranty (or one year for all Lenovo refurbished laptops).

These days, back-to-school season may require more than a couple of number two pencils and an econo pack of bologna and brown-paper lunch bags, but if you check the weekly flyers, buy only what you need (and not what your child insists everyone else has), and follow the five tips above, you can cut back on the expense. Which is good, because holiday shopping is just around the corner!

Tipping Etiquette: How Much Do You Tip?

Tipping Etiquette: How Much Do You Tip?

By Elaine Jair

The other day, I was out with a group of friends when we called for the check. The waitress promptly delivered our check and something struck me as odd: there was a piece of paper stapled to our receipt where the waitress had handwritten "15%" followed by the total amount of our bill with an additional 15% tacked on to account for her tip.

Sure, it was convenient for her to do all the calculations for us so we didn't have to whip out our phones and pull up the calculator app. However, it also seemed to be quite presumptuous of her to assume that we were going to tip her 15%. After all, what if she was a terrible waitress? Of course, we had the option to not tip her 15%, but seeing as she wrote the expected amount down, it would make us look bad if we left anything less than that -- which, in retrospect, is probably why she did that. Don't get me wrong -- she provided good service, but I've never seen a server pre-calculate a tip and it just made me want to play Devil's advocate a little bit.

While tipping is a common practice in Canada, how much tip to give seems to be a pretty controversial topic (currently, the standard seems to be 15% for good service, 20% or more for exceptional service and 10% or less for mediocre/poor service). Some people are completely against the notion of tipping; some feel that the amount you tip is highly contingent on the service you receive; and others (typically those who have worked as a server or understand the restaurant business) are more generous with their tips, regardless of the service they receive. Servers typically make minimum wage and the rest of their income is supplemented by tips, which explains the heavy emphasis they place on tips. However, it seems a little unfair that we as consumers should have to pay a little more in order to provide servers with a better income when better wages in general would solve that problem. Of course, with higher wages comes increased costs to the restaurant owner and as a result, food prices will have to go up or they risk going under. And also, there are other individuals making minimum wage and aren't privy to receiving tips (retail employees and fast food employees, I'm looking at you) -- which is a whole other can of worms that I won't get into right now.

Personally, I feel that tip is still something that is completely optional. To my understanding, tip is something that is earned and is for customers to show their servers appreciation for great service and a great experience. I always leave a tip, but the amount I tip depends on the service that I receive; so it's a little strange to me when servers automatically assume that you're going to tip them a certain amount, regardless of the quality of their service.

So, out of curiosity, how much tip do you usually leave at restaurants and bars, RFD?

How Are Canadians Shopping?

How Are Canadians Shopping?

By Kevin Ngai

A new survey by PwC spoke to Canadian consumers about their needs, wants, and desires when it comes to shopping, and the trends affecting their retail experience.

According to the findings in the Total Retail Study, in order for Canadian retailers to succeed in an omnichannel world, they need to understand and engage customers by creating an exceptional total retail experience -- in-store and online. Whichever the channel, Canadian retailers need to adapt new customer-centric strategies and change operating models to evolve along customer expectations or risk becoming irrelevant.

In Canada, 3 disruptive forces stood out that are influencing purchasing decisions and altering the retail landscape. This includes the in-store model, mobile technology and social media.

The Evolving Role of The Store to Provide More Than Just Products

As online sales continue to grow with 54% of Canadians making purchases online at least once a month, there’s no reason to believe physical stores will become obsolete. Over 40% of Canadian consumers continue to shop in a store at least once a week. Instead, these two channels are merging into a single omnichannel shopping journey for the consumer where online is viewed as an extension of the in-store experience. Canadians shop online to find better deals (53%), shop at any time 24/7 (43%), or simply out of convenience (38%). Why in store? Canadians want to shop in store for the ability to see, touch and try the merchandise (59%), as well as have immediate access to products (53%), or to be certain on the size and fit (33%). Technology is a key way for retailers to enhance the shopping experience. When asked, Canadians want the ability to quickly check inventory at all other stores (38%), the option of self-serve checkout (33%) and free access to Wi-Fi (26%).

Using Mobile Technology to Engage Customers and Blur The Lines Between Shopping Channels

Mobile purchasing is still in its infancy in Canada with only 20% of Canadians planning on using a smartphone as their main purchasing tool in the future. There are a significant number of Canadians who haven’t yet used a mobile phone (66%) or tablet (64%) to shop. While Canadians may not be making many purchases using mobile technologies, they do use them during pre-purchasing to compare prices with competitors (45%), research products (45%), and locate physical stores (30%). Mobile connectivity is changing the world by providing easy to access and endless information to the consumer. It’s through mobile technologies where retailers need to set the stage for a purchase by transitioning from a multichannel into an omnichannel retail experience. As a result, these technologies, especially mobile phones are blurring the lines between traditional and non-traditional shopping channels.

Building Connections Between Consumers and Retailers Through Social Media

As social media continues to grow and become more widespread, it’s important for retailers to have a clear understanding of how their customers interact through social media. Many Canadian consumers (60%) regularly use Facebook (47%), Google (29%), and YouTube (23%) as part of their shopping experience. More importantly, 46% of those interactions have led to consumers making more purchases. The research reveals that Canadians will visit social media sites of brands and retailers for the allure of potential deals (52%), to learn of new product offerings (33%), and to research products before buying them (24%).

PwC’s Total Retail Survey included over 19,000 online shoppers in 19 territories from around the world to compare consumer shopping behaviours. In the Canadian portion of the study, 1000 Canadians participated in the report.

Other Highlights from Canadian Respondents Includes:

  • 78% have been shopping online for three years or more
  • 75% say they've intentionally browsed online before making a purchase in-store
  • 66% shop in-store to avoid paying for delivery
  • 25% are more comfortable buying perishable products in-store
  • 19% shop in-store to support local retailers
  • 51% shop on-line at their favourite retailer
  • 23% access loyalty/rewards program using a mobile device
  • 24% envision using a digital currency in the future
  • 32% followed some of their favourite brands or retailers through social media
  • 22% discovered brands they didn't know about through social media
  • 24% visit a social media page because they received a promotion via email or text
  • 54% say the first thing they do when researching a product or service is to use a search engine
Last Minute Travel: Low Cost Alternatives to Hotels

Last Minute Travel: Low Cost Alternatives to Hotels

By Vincent Lui

As summer winds down, many of you may be contemplating squeezing in a vacation or two before school starts again. The downside of this, though, is the cost of accommodations will most likely eat up a large part of your travel budget since last minute hotel and AirBnB bookings usually result in inflated rates. However, if your travel plans are to a sizable city, there’s a low cost accommodation option that few people are aware of – university summer guest housing.

Many universities and colleges offer their residences up to the public for short term stays in the summer season and some even extend it to the fall. While you may be picturing dorm rooms and hostel-type living conditions, most also have full suites with all the amenities of a hotel and more. The standard suites will usually sleep four comfortably with a bed, sofa bed, in-suite bathroom, and kitchen/kitchenette and the rates are generally standardized and won’t fluctuate due to events or availability like conventional hotels, which makes them great for spur of the moment trips and high season plans.

While most university guest houses don’t have that many suites compared to regular hotels, they also don’t appear on the standard hotel search sites and are surprisingly available even when all the other hotels in the area are booked up due to events and festivals. They do require more leg work in terms of research, though, as there’s no search engine or database for them but it could be the difference between $100/night and $350/night.

University Summer Guest Housing

Pros:

  • Availability in high seasons with non-fluctuating rates
  • Usually close proximity to downtown/within the city
  • Much cheaper for last minute bookings
  • Full suites with kitchens
  • Can usually sleep four in a suite

Cons:

  • Requires more research to find than conventional hotel bookings
  • Will usually be on or near the university campus
  • May not always be as cheap as booking a hotel six months ahead of time
  • Usually only available during the summer months/winter break

Some of the summer housing available in Canada:

Vancouver:
University of British Columbia
Simon Fraser University

Toronto:
University of Toronto Chestnut Residence
Ryerson ILLC

Montreal:
McGill
Concordia
(Montreal does go up on Osheaga and Grand Prix weekends)

Back to School

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

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. Comb the Back to School section for deals and make a plan before you even leave the house.
  • 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!

Back to School

College Budgeting 101

College Budgeting 101

By Kate Musgrove

According to Statistics Canada, Canadian full-time undergraduate students paid an average of $5,959 in tuition fees in the 2014/2015 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!

If you've never made a budget before, here's what you should do: 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 or other family members, 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 perhaps a transit pass or a parking spot. (And if you need a parking spot, we're assuming there are other vehicle expenses as well like gas, insurance and upkeep -- so don't forget those either!) 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. If you start to struggle, don't ignore your bank account in the hopes that your problems will magically resolve themselves -- be proactive and take steps to right your spending habits immediately.

2016 IKEA Catalogue is Available in Canada Now!

2016 IKEA Catalogue is Available in Canada Now!

By Kate Musgrove

The 2016 IKEA catalogue is finally available in Canada! It's a hefty 328 pages long and you can view or download it here or you can request a physical copy after September 1. Here are the five best things I saw:

Helmer Metal Drawer Unit on Casters - $39.99

From page 12 of the catalogue. I like metal furniture and being organized so I love everything about this. It's petite, it has wheels, it's under $40 and it comes in five colours (grey, green, orange, red, white). I think it would be equally great in an office or a kid's room.

Knapper Standing Mirror - $49.99

From page 261 of the catalogue. For $50, it's a nice standing mirror with added storage. (You can't see it in this picture, but in addition to the clothes bar, the back has hooks for hanging jewelry and accessories.) The catalogue suggests using it to hang your outfit for the next day; if you are that organized, I salute you.

Ingatorp Drop-Leaf Table $139

From page 59 of the catalogue. This table just had a $20 price drop, making it an extra-affordable $139. I like how compact it can be when you're not using it but you can still seat at least four people when you have the leafs up. It comes in black-brown and white.

Raskog Utility Cart - $69.99

Page 44 of the catalouge. The Raskog cart was all over design and home decor blogs last year, and for good reason -- it's cute, practical, and you can use it basically any room of the house. It's decently priced at $69.99 (although if you're looking for a metal storage cart for less, check out the Draggan Cart for $24.99).

Wireless Charging Furniture

Page 104 of the catalogue. I'll admit to being a little skeptical about the idea of wireless charging furniture (I mean, you have to plug the furniture into something, which doesn't feel super different from just plugging your phone into something) but I'm happy to see this is on the market and available for purchase. Next stop, robot butlers, right?

Changes to How You Earn and Redeem SCENE Points Start November 4

Changes to How You Earn and Redeem SCENE Points Start November 4

By Elaine Jair

If you're a SCENE member, here are some important updates for you!

Starting November 4, Cineplex is changing the way you can earn and redeem SCENE points. These changes were first reported on RFD by forum user chimaican a couple months ago, when Cineplex reached out with a survey regarding proposed changes. The changes have been finalized as of August 5 and here's the lowdown on what to expect.

Currently, movie tickets for General Admission, 3D, UltraAVX, IMAX, D-Box and VIP tickets all earn you 100 points each while a child's ticket will earn you 50 points each. This upcoming change will differentiate between general movies and premium movies, and the points you earn and need to redeem for these tickets will change accordingly. Here are the changes:

  • General Admission: Earn 100 points per ticket; Requires 1000 points to redeem
  • Premium Movie Ticket (3D, UltraAVX, IMAX, D-Box): Earn 150 points per ticket; Requires 1500 points to redeem
  • VIP Cinemas Movie Ticket: Earn 200 points per ticket; Requires 2000 points to redeem

For child movie tickets, you'll earn 50 points for a General Admission movie ticket and 75 points for a Premium movie ticket. You'll require 1000 points to redeem a free General Admission movie ticket and 1500 points to redeem a Premium movie ticket.

In addition to these changes, how you earn and redeem points to Front Row Centre events will change starting November 4 as well. For example, tickets to Family Favourites will now earn you 25 SCENE points, while tickets to the Digital Film Festival will earn you 100 SCENE points and cost you 1000 points to redeem. You can see the list of all changes here.

Everything else about the SCENE program will stay the same, including your 10% discount on movie snacks and Tuesday tickets and bonus points events.

On the one hand, it's great to be able to earn more SCENE points when you're paying a little more to watch films in 3D or UltraAVX. On the other hand, you'll need to shell out more points to redeem free tickets to those premium shows as well. Personally, I have around 3000 SCENE points right now and will definitely be using them to redeem free "premium" tickets before November 4 rolls around and my points are devalued.

How do you feel about these proposed changes? Let us know in the comments below!

How Has the Weaker Dollar Affected Your Spending Habits?

How Has the Weaker Dollar Affected Your Spending Habits?

By Elaine Jair

While it isn't news that the value of our loonie has been dropping, it might be surprising to some of you to learn that our dollar is now trading at only 76.23 cents US! Earlier this week, it traded at 75.90 cents US, which is the lowest since August 30, 2004.

So what does a lower dollar mean for Canadian consumers? For one, you can stop thinking about cross-border shopping for a while. With the dollar so low, you'll be multiplying all US prices by roughly 1.32. Spot a deal that looks pretty hot? Check again -- that $14.99 USD price tag actually translates closer to $20 CDN. Tack on shipping costs and that hot deal looks a lot cooler.

And it's not just shopping at US retailers or physically visiting the US that you need to worry about. Even if retailers deal strictly in Canadian dollars, we'll still feel the effects of a lower dollar through price hikes. We import groceries and other commercial goods from the U.S., so you can count on an increase in prices for those items as well. In fact, groceries are probably where you'll notice a price hike the fastest. Similarly, back in January, the Apple App Store increased all prices for Canadian consumers to reflect the falling dollar.

Travel is also something that will be directly affected by our lower dollar. If the location you're travelling to only accepts US dollars, you'll need to consider the exchange rate when purchasing US dollars or booking hotels.

On the other hand, while a lower dollar can seem quite dismal for us, there are some indirect pros to consider as well. With the dollar so low, we'll be able to attract some foreign investment, which should help boost our economy. Tourism, for example, should do well in this current state as Americans will flock over here to shop items at a lower price. Because most of us will avoid cross-border shopping and even travelling, that means we'll redirect most of our shopping to Canadian retailers, which again, would help boost our economy. Our lower dollar means Canadian goods will cost less, so demand for our goods should increase and in turn, exports should go up. Consequently, an increase in the production of Canadian goods can lead to an increase in employment.

As a consumer, I definitely have cut back on some of my spending online. Even minor things, like my Twitch subscriptions, which used to cost a comfortable $4.99 USD ($5.98 CDN), now seem slightly pricey at almost $7 CDN. Similarly, I used to shop at Amazon.com and GreenManGaming.com for video game deals, but the deals now are definitely not as great as they appear. I can't even count the number of times I put things into my online shopping cart, went to checkout, calculated the total cost after the exchange rate and went like:

So, RFD, how has the lower dollar affected your spending habits?

PSA: Microsoft is Not Upgrading to Windows 10 via Email

PSA: Microsoft is Not Upgrading to Windows 10 via Email

By Kate Musgrove

As we covered last month, Windows 10 is here and it's free to upgrade for existing Windows 7 and 8 users. Here's a quick PSA, though: the update will appear on your computer task bar, not via email!

Cisco reports that spammers are currently sending emails that claim to offer a free upgrade to Windows 10. Although the emails are pretty clumsy, with incorrect character display and some awkward language, they spoof a Microsoft email address and have even attached a message saying the email has been scanned for viruses and is clean. The email actually links to a zip file containing ransomware which can disable your computer until you pay a hefty fee to the hackers.

In summary: Windows 10 is available from Microsoft only and you can initiate the update directly from your task bar.

How To Get What You Want

How To Get What You Want

By Kate Musgrove

I've been with RedFlagDeals.com for more than seven years and over time, I've gotten pretty good at getting what I want from most retail situations. Here are five things I've found helpful:

  • If you want something, ask for it. It's an incredibly basic tip, but one that can be easily overlooked. If you wish the price on an item was lower or you wish what you were buying came with some bonuses, ask for them. You may be surprised at how frequently it works. Recently I had to get some USD cheques from my bank. The standard policy is to charge $6 for each USD draft, a fee I would rather not pay. So I told the bank teller that I'd like her to waive the charges. And she did.
  • Be polite. Even if you are dealing with a total mess of a situation (genuinely terrible service or a total lemon of a product) you're going to get more accomplished by being firm, informed and polite. Even if the business has completely fouled up their dealings with you, it's better to point that out in a reasonable and rational tone. (In all honesty, I'm great at yelling -- but I promise, it's more effective to be calm and polite.)
  • Do your research. Calling your telecommunications provider and asking them to lop $30 off your bill right then and there probably won't be effective. But if you research what their competitors are offering, you may be able to get them to match the deal. And don't forget to research what your current provider are advertising as well. Pointing out that great deal they're offering to new customers might get them to adjust your plan to match.
  • Call, call again. Sometimes you can't get what you want because you're asking the wrong person. Or sometimes, a store employee can't help you, but the store manager can. And if you're not having any luck with a customer service agent over the phone, call back later and speak to someone else. Or try another angle completely. A couple of years ago I booked plane tickets to Mexico through Orbitz. The flight was on WestJet. While I was there, the friend I was staying with asked if I wanted to stay a couple more days. I said yes, absolutely -- as long as I could get my ticket changed. The information I got with my booking said to call Orbitz in the event I needed to make any changes, so I did. They said nothing could be done. Then I called WestJet. They were able to move my return ticket three days and they only charged me the difference in fare -- which was less than $10!
  • Don't be afraid to walk away. This can be a hard tip to adhere to if you're an impulse shopper, but if you're not getting the kind of deal you want, walk away. Sometimes your willingness to leave spurs an employee to make one last, low-as-they-go offer. Sometimes it doesn't, and that's okay too -- you can come back later and deal with someone else. In a broader sense, pointing out that you're willing to cancel your services with the company is often a huge motivator.

What's your best tip for negotiating?

Ways to Keep Cool During a Heat Wave

Ways to Keep Cool During a Heat Wave

By Chris Van Loenen

It’s been scorching hot in Toronto this week and for those who are unfortunate and without air conditioning, chances are you’re thinking of ways to cool down. So, whether you live in The6ix, or in another one of our lovely cities without such a catchy Drake-given nickname, read on and stay cool!

1. Buy a Fan

This is a no-brainer. If you don’t have AC, you’ll need a fan. Chances are you already own one. Turn it on now. Plus, you can amuse yourself by doing the Darth Vader voice!

fan

2. Create a Cross-Breeze

If your place has windows across from one another, open them to create a cross breeze. Imagine the possibilities if you have a fan oscillating at the same time?

3. Go to a Mall

The AC in shopping malls is always cranked. If you’re able, go for a walk, grab a cold drink, and take advantage of the free AC. Plus, malls are always filled with interesting people! (Okay, you got me, that last one might not be a perk.)

mall 4. Stay in the Shade

Another no-brainer. But important especially if you’re like me and want to be outside as much as possible in the summer.

5. Put Buckets of Ice in Front of a Fan

I’ve never heard of this before today but apparently it’s a thing. Give it a go.

6. Find a Pool or a Beach

Water. Cool, refreshing water. Surely your city has numerous indoor and outdoor pools you can visit?

7. Cold Shower

If you can't get to a pool or a beach, you can hopefully get to a bathtub.

popsicles

8. Close all Your Drapes/Curtains/Blinds

While you’re at work or lounging by the pool, keep all your window coverings closed to help diminish that pesky heat from entering your abode. Then when you get back home you can open everything up and get those cross-breezes going.

9. Eat Popsicles!

Eat popsicles all the time. They’re delicious. Or ice cream, or anything in this family of delectable treats.

10. Turn off Unnecessary Electrical Items

Electric objects generate heat. Try to limit your use of appliances and lights at home when it’s blazing hot outside.

Optimum Points 101: How To Master the Optimum Program to Maximize Your Savings!

Optimum Points 101: How To Master the Optimum Program to Maximize Your Savings!

By Elaine Jair

It's not uncommon to see many RFD-ers go crazy over Shoppers Drug Mart's 20x the Optimum points offers or bonus redemption days. However, it has come to my attention that aside from a handful of savvy RFD-ers, a lot of individuals are still unaware of how to properly use Optimum points to earn maximum savings from Shoppers Drug Mart. Oftentimes, it is said that the items at Shoppers Drug Mart are priced at a premium so there's no way that it would be worth it to purchase anything there. But, as some of you may already know, knowing how to collect and spend Optimum points is a great way to get tons of deals from Shoppers Drug Mart. For your convenience, we've compiled a handy How-To guide to Optimum points!

What are the Benefits to Using the Optimum Program?

If you've perused our forums, you've probably come across some community members that somehow managed to purchase an Xbox One or PS Vita at a ridiculously low price by using their points. Not every Shoppers Drug Mart has an electronics department, but if your local one does, using Optimum points is a great way to score deals on consoles, video games, cameras, and other electronics. After all, if you've been diligent in collecting points, you can save up to $170 on your purchase. Ladies, you can use your points to grab huge discounts on prestige cosmetics that would otherwise be out of your budget. The savings on these big-ticket items is precisely what makes it worth it to take advantage of the Optimum program. Of course, you can also redeem points on minor purchases and get free groceries and the like, which is valuable in a different way.

Introduction to the Optimum program:

The Optimum program is free loyalty program offered by Shoppers Drug Mart. Once you sign up, you'll receive a physical card and emails that alert you to any deals and bonus offers that you may be interested in. Recently, Shoppers Drug Mart has launched an app that will allow you to immediately load your offers to your phone for redemption. By using this app, you can also forgo the physical card and scan your phone instead to earn points.

Each dollar that you spend at Shoppers Drug Mart will earn you 10 Optimum points. According to Shoppers Drug Mart's current redemption rates, you can save a whopping $170 on your purchase if you have spend 95,000 points! 95,000 points is not a small sum and normally - based on this conversion rate - you'd have to spend $9,500 at Shoppers Drug Mart to earn that many points. Seems like a crazy amount of money, but this is where bonus points days and bonus redemption days come in handy.

Best Ways to Earn & Spend Your Optimum Points:

Regular/Personalized Offers: Shoppers Drug Mart sporadically sends out daily or weekly bonus points offers when you purchase specific items. For example, purchasing items from Shiseido may net you 10x the points; or you may receive 8000 bonus points when you purchase a fragrance from another brand. These are the most commonly seen offers from Shoppers Drug Mart and are a quick and easy way to earn bonus points, especially if the specific items in question are ones that you actually need.

Bonus Points Days: Every so often, Shoppers Drug Mart has a bonus points day that goes something like this, "Spend $50 or more on almost everything and earn 20x the points!". In other words, when you spend $50, you'll earn 10,000 points instead of the customary 500 points. In other instances, Shoppers Drug Mart will award you with 18,500 points when you spend $75 or more. With this offer, you'll earn a total of 19,250 points (18,500 points plus the points from your $75+ purchase). In our experience, these bonus events happen around twice a month. When you take advantage of these events, it's suddenly a lot easier to save up to 95,000 points, especially if you stock up on certain items or make multiple purchases. If we had to choose between these two offers, the 18,500 bonus points with a $75 purchase is probably the better deal.

Bonus Redemption Days: Another way to maximize your savings at Shoppers Drug Mart is to spend your points during bonus redemption days, which is especially great if you earned your points through a bonus points day. Roughly once per month, Shoppers Drug Mart will have one weekend where you'll get more value out of your points: e.g., spending 50,000 points will get you a $100 discount instead of the customary $85, while spending 95,000 points will get you a $200 discount, instead of the normal discount of $170.

Mega Redemption Days: A third promotion that Shoppers Drug Mart hosts occasionally is an event that allows you to spend X amount of points and earn Y back. For example, you can spend 90,000 points and earn 30,000 points back -- so you're basically redeeming 90,000 worth of points for just 60,000 points. On even rarer instances, Shoppers Drug Mart will combine this type of promotion with a bonus redemption offer. For example, you can spend 95,000 points and get $170 off your purchase and receive a bonus 30,000 points back. This is one of the best offers we've seen from Shoppers Drug Mart as you're essentially getting $170 off your purchase by spending only 65,000 points. These events happen relatively rarely, but are a great way to get some extra bang for your points.

One thing to remember when redeeming points is that taxes will be applied to your purchase before discounts are applied. For example, if you make a $150 purchase, the discount will be applied accordingly: $150 plus tax minus the discount.

Why You Should Be Nice to Mom and Dad:

Thursdays are Seniors' Bonus Day at Shoppers Drug Mart, which means it's time to bring mom, dad or a grandparent over the age of 55 along with you on your shopping trip. On this day of the week, you'll automatically get a 20% discount on your purchase of regular priced items, including groceries and daily necessities. Plus, in case you can't wait for a bonus redemption day to spend your points, Thursdays are your next best bet to save on your purchase. Not only will you get a base discount of 20%, you'll save even more on your purchase by redeeming points on this day.

This is just a very basic guide to the Optimum program and a way to get new users' feet wet. Once you understand the basics behind the program, you can start being more creative on how you earn and spend your points to get even more savings.