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.

Just look at my blog roll: Million Dollar this, Million Dollar that… Seems a lot of people are fixated on this round number. There must be a story behind it. Why a million dollars? (Seriously, if you know or have any ideas, please share). And how is $1ml different from $800,000? I think that most -average- people would find they actually need less than a million to feel comfortable and do what they please. There would most definitely be a threshold amount, after which their satisfaction with getting/making more would be diminished (I know, nothing new: Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin covered it pretty well in “Your Money or Your Life”,I still think it’s worth discussing.)

I would be comfortable enough if we had a 5-year cushion and a paid off house (in Europe, which may be a bit more than a paid off house in Canada). That’s it, nothing more. I enjoy my work very much and don’t even dream of retiring yet, not by 35, not by 40. I would like to have kids while in my 30’s so that might be sort of a temporary retirement, but the cushion would supposedly take care of that.

BUT….I’m not sure that aiming relatively low in terms of desired Net Worth is the right strategy. After all, they say if you wish for something bad enough, you’ll eventually get it, because all your actions – even if subconsiously – will be aimed at that desired goal. I should make myself want more, brush aside all the modesty and wish for a million.

Once I re-condition myself, I’ll rename my blog “re: Million Dollars”.