|If you were to create a Venn diagram where one circle was labeled "cheap" and the other labeled "awesome", the middle point where they cross over could be labeled "Vancouver on the Cheap". In other words, this is a weekly series on things to do and places to go in Vancouver that fall into that magical category of being both cheap and awesome.|
This is a less-glamorous post, but an important one for people looking to really live on the cheap: you've got to check your fees. There are some things that we take for granted that we have to pay for, because generally, we just do. Bank accounts, cell phones, and the internet - most of us have admitted defeat to these giants and let them do their fee-changing-randomly-charging-us-for-things-that-cost-them-nothing thing. The thing is, that usually all it takes is a phone call to save some money.
Bank fees can sneak up on you without realizing it. You got a bank account when you were 10 years old, and then at some point they sent you a letter saying "congratulations! You're a grown up now and get a grown up bank account!" Turns out that just means you have to pay for things that used to be free.
You aren't necessarily getting ripped off, but it's a good idea to just have a closer look at your account and see what you're actually paying for. Pay attention to how many fees you get charged each month and what they're for. Then, if it's more than you'd like, talk to your bank. They have plans, just like cell phones, so you can customize your account for things like how often you like to use your debit card.
We all know a few bucks a month adds up quickly, so why not make that a few bucks a month of savings instead of a few bucks you give to your bank?
Here's another place where it seems other people just admit defeat and move on - and admitting defeat is no way to live. Even if you signed a contract, that doesn't mean you're really locked into anything. For example, I'm about a year into my contract and I recently moved into a more-expensive apartment (living on my own for the first time has reinvigorated my desire to save money elsewhere) and I just called Fido up and said "I can't afford my plan anymore." Right off, they offered to take $10 off and keep my plan the same.
I've actually been on special customer retention plans for the past 4 years, and have had some pretty killer phone plans. All you have to do is keep tabs on what other companies are offering and if there's a legitimate plan that competes with what you've got, call and let your company know. Don't be a jerk about it (nobody likes a jerk), just be firm on the fact that you could be getting a better price elsewhere and see what they offer you.
This was the biggest "admit defeat" one out of all of them for me. With two internet providers in town that charge pretty much the exact same rate, I figured there was no hope for anything else. However, I just learned that there are other options besides Shaw and Telus for internet in Vancouver! I haven't made the switch yet (because naturally Shaw needs a whole month to turn off your internet), but From what I've heard, TekSavvy is the best alternative for customer service and quality of connection. And their prices are significantly better.
There are others out there too, though, so do some homework before you set up your next internet connection.
As a general rule, anywhere you're paying a regular price for something, you can probably negotiate. All you have to do is call and ask what they have to offer - the worst that will happen is that they say no. The "I may leave you for someone cheaper" tactic is pretty effective, except, it turns out, when it comes to internet. I was amazed when I spoke with Shaw about cancelling my account - once I told them the rate I'd be getting from Teksavvy the rep I was speaking with actually said, "well, I understand that." That is something I have never heard before! In general, however, keep an eye on what you're actually paying for and watch out for what competitors are offering. You could save a lot.