… a few minutes later. This is sickening and don’t I feel stupid. Looks like I found our LATTE FACTOR and it’s coffee! Coffee house coffee is often really bad, even when fairtrade organic. The best coffee – by far – I’ve ever had is the one my husband prepares at home from freshly ground beans. Why do I always fall into the trap of buying a cup of crappy coffee, most of the time it’s in a paper cup coated with plastic and drunk on the go? What is the apeal of this?

I lumped coffee and eating out under the same category, but it’s really mostly coffee. Sad thing is that every month I saw just how much we spent on coffee and coffee shop deserts (I use Quickbooks to track spending), but it didn’t hit me until just a few minutes ago, when I looked at how much we spent on this stuff in a YEAR. $516 is more significan than $43, wouldn’t you say. A lot harder to take, too.

$516 per year, saved for 3 years, compounded at 4% would yield $127 of interest (this is before taxes but still impressive compared to a loss of $1548). I resolve to not buy coffee house coffee.

I wanted to say “Thanks!” to Canadian Capitalist for the tip about asking for discounts. I got our Sympatico (high speed DSL internet) bill lowered to $29.99/month + tax, that’s down from $49.93! I didn’t even have to blackmail them. I didn’t dispute the 12-month contract but we don’t mind it for now. It will automatically expire in a year, and if I want to renew and go back to the lower rate, I’ll have to call in again.

If you ask them to match someone’s price, they’ll ask for the company name. But you can just call in and say – provided you’re OK with it – “I want to sign up for a 12-month contract if you lower my fee to $XX”. Their standard lowest contract is at $34.99 at the moment, but you can negotiate further. Be prepared for lots of uncomfortable silence while the operator types a lot. The entire call took 15 minutes with very limited dialog.

I think this must be the best kept secret in Canadian banking: credit unions. We’ve always, always had a credit union account, because they offered the best terms when it comes to:

Checks: they’re free. Last time I wanted to have checks printed with TD, they wanted to charge me $18.50!

Insurance: only now CDIC is insuring your bank deposits up to $100,000 but credit unions have always had it at that level (your bank deposits were only insured up to $60,000 until recently). I’m not sure this is a deal-breaker, considering that we haven’t yet had that much cash stashed at the bank. Also, for the most part it’s probably a theoretical thing. I mean when was the last time a bank in Canada defaulted?

Free personal accounts. And the only requirement/minimum is that you buy shares of the CU. In our case, it was $150 per account (personal and business share cost are the same).

– Very, I mean VERY, low business account fees. We pay $1-5 in fees monthly on our business account, and we typically have about 20-30 transactions per month. If I did everything online it would only be like $1.50 at most. Sometimes I just like to call in and chat with the teller 🙂

Truly personal service. Most credit unions are fairly small, with only a few (sometimes just one) branches, so you really get to know people. I always feel comfortable dealing with them just knowing that if there ever is a problem, people who know me personally will help me resolve any issue.

Best interest rates. They’ve always had the best rates, especially for $US term deposits and GIC’s. Now they will match and beat any online special high yield savings account for $CAD accounts, too. Right now we’re getting 4% on $CAD deposits, with no limits, restrictions or fees! On top of that, they have special rate offers on deposits $10,000 or more. I know, I know, always wiser to get a higher return via investing, but what if you have cash sitting there while you make up your mind re: what to do with it? (This is the situation we’re in right now).

The downside is usually high Interac charges (65 cents per transaction) and, like I already mentioned, few branches. Not a problem for us 99.9% of the time. I mail checks to deposit, and do the rest online.

More info on Ontario credit unions here. Opens in a new window.