August 6 to 12 is National Bargain Hunting Week in the U.S., and since we love a good bargain we thought we’d celebrate too! FCNB staff are great at finding a steal of a deal, so we’re sharing some of our best bargain shopping tips this side of the border!
Second Hand Shopping and Online Shopping
Join your local “Buy nothing” group on Facebook. The premise is simple – there’s no buying or selling, it is a place for people to offer up items they no longer use. I’ve used my local group to find Christmas gifts, vintage glassware, and also to donate many things that I no longer need. (Bargain hunting AND decluttering?? Sign me up!)
The great thing is you can also borrow from these groups for those times when you need that weird shaped cake pan that you’d only use once and don’t want to purchase your own.
“Most of our toddlers’ gifts are second hand. As soon as yard sale season starts up, I look for sales in our neighbourhood. This year, I found two massive bags of magformers, which normally retail for around $60. I bought the bags for $5. I also found second hand skateboards for my twins.”
“Typically, if I am looking for something, I will reach out to my network of friends with older children and ask if they have what I am looking for.”
“Shop at thrift stores for clothes.”
“The second hand market is full of school supplies, including backpacks. I’ve gotten an LL Bean backpack at a second-hand store, and even though I’m not the one who bought it when it was new, LL Bean still honored their lifetime warranty and fixed the zipper when it broke 3 years after I purchased it!”
“Hosting clothing swaps with friends is a great way to revamp your wardrobe and give away some of your clothing that no longer fits or isn’t your style anymore.”
An added bonus to this tip is that there is no cost to you, and it’s better for the environment!
Catherine and Deb both recommended online places, such as Kijiji and Facebook Marketplace as excellent resources for buying items second hand at a fraction of the price.
Before buying online, here are some tips to not be scammed when buying from online places:
Where possible deal with buyers/sellers that you’ve dealt with in the past, or that your friends have experience with.
Avoid transactions that don’t involve local buyers/sellers.
Don’t pay before you pick it up.
Do any bartering before pick-up.
Ask questions about the product before you head to see it, ask if all pieces are there, is it in good condition?
Take the time to learn the terms, so you know what people are advertising. PPU = pending pick-up, EUC = excellent used condition. NWOT = new without tags, etc…
Meet in a public place and bring exact cash.
If you are unable to meet in a public place (the product you are buying is too big, etc…), take someone with you.
Deb had some great ideas for seasonal and back to school shopping!
“When you buy off-season, you can get reduced prices. For back to school clothes, I buy well in advance, size up and put it away. It’s the same with bug spray, sunscreen and bathing suits these can be very cheap off season, however in the late winter, early spring when more people are going South, you could see an increase in prices.” Note: Be sure to check expiration dates when buying off-season.
“Take advantage of post-special occasion sales to buy for next year. For example, I waited until two weeks after Canada Day this year and then bought t-shirts a size up for my kids for next year. ”
“I always follow stores I like online, and when they have summer sales I start buying stuff for Christmas. Signing up for newsletters and notifications allows you to take advantage of alerts and sales.“
“Watch local seasonal places, such as fruit stands, at the end of the season. You can usually buy their stock very inexpensively. For example, our local fruit and veggie stand was selling off cases of peaches for $6, and that can be perfect for canning or freezing.”
“Look for when stores are doing renovations. Since most of the stock has to be moved around, most will usually try to sell off stock instead of having to move it.”
“Black Friday in Canada is a great time to get good deals.”
“After Christmas, I use the post-holiday sales to stock up on toys, baby clothes etc., for gifts.”
Catherine’s tips include:
“Make friends with the vendors at your local Farmers Market. If you shop at the end of the day, some vendors will give away their produce for a fraction of the price (because if they don’t sell it, they throw it out!)”
“Shop in bulk. This could also work for school supplies, for example buying a pack of 48 pencils and splitting it with 4 other families.”
“Buy marked down groceries at the grocery store. If you have food that is about to go bad, you can also team up with friends and have a “Use-it-Up” supper. It’s a great way to spend time with others while cooking some yummy food and also ensuring your food purchases don’t go to waste!”
Lisa has similar tips about buying in bulk and marked down food. She says:
“One tip that stands out to me is to shop for groceries at the end of the day. Often things are marked down and the expiry date hasn’t passed yet so it is still good or you can freeze it and thaw for a later date.”
“Buy supplies that you use often, in bulk, when it is on sale. I check flyers once a week for that and stock up on those items with my groceries. I keep a fund to shop for those items and that way I always have a surplus on hand. It takes a few times to have a stockpile of each item but I don’t buy at full price and never run out. Win-win!”
Speaking of checking the flyers, Janique shared that the mobile app Flipp helps her keep her family’s budget inline by taking advantage of bargains. Flipp, and other similar apps, search flyers in your area by brand, item or category and find the best deals on your shopping needs.
And finally, Andrew, our pragmatic voice of reason writes:
“You know – the real bargain is research. You have to know what a fair price is for the item that you need. Too many times we will see an item; on Kijiji, at a yard sale, or at a discount store and think – Wow – I could use that. But it is an impulse buy that is not well researched. We buy stuff on impulse we don’t need and later don’t want. Not a true bargain after all; regardless of the price we paid.
The best bargain is to buy what we truly need at a fair price at a time when it is useful for us to own it.”
As a student, you might have a huge load on your shoulders which can amount to a lot of stress. Keeping up with schoolwork, having a part time job, managing your time and money – it’s natural to get overwhelmed!
Money can often be the source of this stress. Managing it can sometimes be a hassle, but it doesn’t need to be. There are several ways to set money aside that can help take away some of the stress amassed as a student. Here are a few tips you can use to save money:
Apply for as many scholarships, bursaries and grants as you can. More than $5 million dollars goes unclaimed every year in Canada, which is enough to cover a full year’s tuition for 700 students.
Start budget planning using our handy student budgeting tool. Keep in mind how much money you have, how much you need to spend and how much you can spend. From there, start a weekly budget for groceries and other weekly expenses.
Buy used books or borrow them from the library. Many universities have dedicated Facebook pages where students can sell their used books or even post requests for specific books. It’s also good to ask your teachers and see if a previous version of a book is still compatible with your class. This can be another way to save a lot of money versus purchasing new.
Never do a grocery run when you’re already hungry. You are more likely to spend more money and make impulse purchases that will dip into your budget.
Don’t buy name brand items. Most of the no-name brand items contain the same ingredients, but at a much cheaper price. This is a very easy and effective way to save money when purchasing products.
Try to limit how often you eat in restaurants. Most universities and colleges offer meal plans, so check with yours to see which meal plan meets your needs.
If you shop often at a particular store, consider getting a membership card or points card for that store. Some retailers offer points cards that help you save money through discounts or other benefits.
These are just some of the ways that you, as a student, can save money and help relieve some of the stress associated with your studies and your budget. Most of these tips cost nothing or nearly nothing to do, so go on out there and start saving!
What happened next was an exercise in exposing how scam artists are using text messages and new banking features to dupe consumers out of their money.
In this particular case, James*, an FCNB employee, exchanges text messages to arrange for the purchase of a bike over nearly nine hours. Notice the time stamps on the screen shots. It shows how much time and energy they invest in their scams.
For James, it was energy well spent. Last year, scammers like this one defrauded Canadians of more than $110 million. The hours spent baiting this scammer were hours the scammer wasn’t defrauding someone else.
It started with James posting an ad on the online classified site to sell his bike. Shortly after, he receives a text message – a “potential buyer” who claims he is interested in buying the bike. The catch: the buyer is out of the country, but will pay with a bank certified cheque.
Working in our enforcement division, James is quick to spot the first red flag.
Red Flag #1 - Scammers sometimes say that they are outside the country and will require the item to be shipped.
He knows he’s communicating with a scam artist. But he pretends to fall for the ruse.
Funnily enough, the scammer says he needs James’ address to send the cheque. Happy to oblige, James provides his name and the mailing address for the Financial and Consumer Services Commission.
The scammer, who identifies himself as Edward Orcalos (likely a fake name) from Montana, doesn’t clue in. He proceeds to lay out the heart of the scam. He will write a cheque for more than the purchase price with the extra to be used to pay the shipper.
Red flag #2 – Scammers will send a cheque with an overpayment – money over and above the asking price for the item they are supposedly purchasing. Once you have deposited the cheque they’ve sent, the scammers will instruct you to send the overpayment amount to the shipper they have lined up, using Western Union, MoneyGram or a bank transfer. The scammers provide the shipper’s contact info. Although the scammer’s cheque has not cleared the bank or been deposited into your account, you have just wired your own money from your bank account to a “shipper.”
In this case, the scammer says he will email images of the front and back of his cheque. To deposit the cheque, he suggests James take a picture of both sides of the cheque and use his mobile banking app to deposit it.
A false sense of victory sets in and the scammer gets greedy. Before he sends the cheque images, he informs James that the shipper now requires an extra $1,000. So the cheque will be for $4,850 − $1,200 to cover the cost of the bike, $3,600 to pay the shipper and an extra $50 for the hassle of arranging the shipper.
Then he sends PDF images of the front and back of the cheque.
Red flag #3 – Oddly enough, the front image of the cheque shows it is issued from the Laurentian Bank of Canada. Yet, the back image of the cheque has the CIBC logo.
Our fraud fighter quickly points out the discrepancy. And so the scammer sends a second PDF image of the back of a cheque. This time, it carries the Bank of Montreal logo. James points out the discrepancy again.
Red flag #4 – Although the buyer suggested he’s based in Montana, a review of the metadata from the cheque PDFs indicates the PDF were created in a time zone east of London.
Finally, the scammer sends an image of the back of the cheque from the Laurentian Bank. But James claims to have difficulties with the mobile app because the image is not clear. This is all an attempt to waste the scammer’s time. An hour later, the scammer sends him another image. James continues to lead the scammer on, saying the bank advised him to be careful of online scams, but that their app was secure. The scammer’s reply: “That’s good. I told you they’re safe and secure.”
The scammer then asks for proof that the cheque has been deposited. Our quick-thinking employee writes up a false message on his computer stating the cheque has been deposited, takes a screen shot and sends the image by text.
James continues with his own con. He pretends he’s gone to his bank to withdraw the $3,600 overpayment. He claims the teller won’t provide him with the cash, but will give him a bank draft payable to Edward Orcalos – the supposed name of our scammer. This causes our scammer some frustration. Of course, he wouldn’t be able to cash a cheque in someone else’s name. He tells James he needs the overpayment in cash. So James suggests a direct deposit transfer to a bank account. It takes our scammer some time, but he forwards a Canadian bank account number.
That’s when James calls the scammer’s bluff – almost nine hours after that first initial text. When the scammer realizes he’s wasted an entire day trying to defraud our employee of $3,600, all communication stops.
James reports the incident to the Canadian bank to advise them he has the bank account of a scam artist. He also reports it to the Saint John Police Force. Then he delights in how he wasted a scammer’s day, preventing him from scamming someone else.
“It was time he wasn’t scamming someone else,” he said.
Watch for these red flags when using online classifieds to sell or buy items:
Beware of buyers who send more money than your asking price. If you receive a cheque or money order that is more than the agreed amount of money, refuse the payment.
Never send money to a third party.
Instead of a cheque or money order, request a certified cheque, or better yet, an electronic payment such as an email money transfer. This way, the funds are deposited into your account and are guaranteed right away.
Meet in-person with the buyer or seller to thorough inspect the product and then exchange funds. Meet in a public place.
Wait, what? That’s right, it’s time to start thinking about the holidays!
Before we lose you, give us a minute to explain why now IS the best time to start planning for December revelries.
According to a December 2017 (1) survey, half of Canadians expected to go over their holiday budget, and 59 percent of Canadians expected to use credit cards to make up for budget shortfalls. This was the case, even though most agreed that holiday spending is out of control and that they would rather save money.
Taking steps now will allow you to stay on track with your spending and help you be in a good financial position after the holidays. No-one wants to wake up to an over-inflated January credit card bill! The good news is, we have a video that gives you a basic how-to for how to plan for the holidays.
Want the quick step-by-step instead?
Know your limits: Talk with your friends and family about what the limits will be for money spent on gifts for one another. This is super important – it will help you come to a final number for how much you will need to save.
Channel your inner Santa: Make a list and budget for each person you’re buying or making a gift for. (This may also be helpful for some of the more ambitious DIYers among you. If you want to crochet a blanket for your mom, you don’t want to have to rush through it on December 23rd.)
Don’t save all of your shopping until Christmas: If you know what you’d like to get for certain family members and friends, keep an eye out for the best deals and buy periodically throughout the year. This will help you cut down on trips to the busy shops and malls when the snow is piling up and you’d rather curl up with a hot chocolate.
Don’t budget just for gifts: Be sure to factor in things like gift wrap, gas to travel to family, groceries, snacks or beverages if you’re entertaining, office parties, decorations, Christmas trees, postage, shipping costs – be mindful of what you’ll realistically need for your holiday.
When you have a final number for how much money you’ll need to save, divide it by the number of weeks left until the holidays. That number will be the amount you can start setting aside every week for your holiday savings.
Liked these tips? We have plenty of other ideas for holiday budgeting. Check them out:
Cost neutral holiday: This neat little experiment is great for families who have some clutter they’d like to clear.
Why you shouldn’t comment on nostalgic question posts
If you spend any time on social media – especially Facebook –you’ve probably seen a picture like this:
And most likely, hundreds or thousands of people have commented on it. “Of course I remember! Here it is!” Nostalgia is a strong motivator.
Seems harmless, right? But it isn’t.
Sharing personal information online – even if it doesn’t seem important or relevant anymore – can make you vulnerable to fraudsters.
Just imagine you’re a scam artist trying to access a stranger’s bank account online, but all you have is their name. No problem – you can look through their Facebook page. In many cases, a little time and research can reveal lots of information – such as your email, the names for childhood pets, relatives, schools attended, best friends, even the dates for important events like getting married or having kids. This is all information you might have used for security questions on your online banking profile.
You might be thinking, “I know better than to share all of that online.” If you are, that’s great! But are all your friends as careful? Have they tagged you in pictures saying you’re their best friend? Do they list their hometown and high school on their profile? Does your mother have her maiden name on display?
If all of this information is available, it wouldn’t take very long for a fraudster to know a whole lot about you and use that information to try and access your hard-earned money.
Commenting on pictures like the one above makes it easy for scammers to fill in the blanks on what they know about you. Cst. Sebastien Lee with the Kennebecasis Regional Police Force weighed in for us.
“Some people think the popular trends on Facebook are just for fun – for example, sharing the street you lived on growing up, your date of birth, or your phone number,” he says. “But if you post personal information online, it’s really easy for a stranger to track you down and get more information about you. With a phone number or maiden name, we can find somebody online really easily.”
Sebastien also had a great example for how quickly personal information can spread online.
“One year ago, I posted a picture of myself on the KRPF Facebook page. I was asking people to share my picture. In less than 24 hours, over 6,400 people shared my picture and over 200,000 people saw my picture on Facebook. A year after, we got over 10,500 shares and over 350,000 people saw my picture. It was shared all over the world.”
He continued: “The Internet is a great tool, but people need to understand that once you share something, you actually lose control of it the moment you click POST.”
Our advice? Put on your detective hat and look at your online profile through the eyes of a fraudster. You just might find a weak spot that can easily be fixed. You can also review your privacy settings to see if there are ways to tighten the security on your social media account.