Switching Banks

By Robb Engen | October 7, 2010 |
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A few weeks ago Boomer wrote about having all of your financial eggs in one basket.  This got me to thinking, what would it take for me to switch banks?

I have banked with TD Canada Trust all of my life.  My mom worked there for years and she opened up a children’s savings account for me when I was 7 or 8 years old.

What Would It Take To Switch Banks?

I think there are many advantages to having a relationship with a full service bank, such as negotiating for a free chequing account when renewing your mortgage, or getting a preferred rate on a loan or line of credit.

Related: Why More Banks Are Extending Hours, Opening On Weekends

Lately I’ve received many offers from different financial institutions trying to entice me to open an account with them.  Some offer a free iPod, a $200 sign-up bonus, or a “best in market” GIC.

Typically I ignore these limited time offers, and I think it’s based purely on convenience.  I hear of people who have accounts all over the place, and for me I prefer the convenience of dealing with one financial institution.

Who cares if you can get a half percent better rate on a savings account?  If I am really attracted to a particular offer I will go to my bank and see if they can match it.

So why do banks even try to go after individual accounts?  To me, luring someone from an existing banking relationship to a different bank has to be one of the most difficult tasks in the industry.

Related: Canadian Chequing Account Comparison

Unless you manage to get someone who is opening a chequing account, or discount brokerage account, or a small business account for the first time, it is very unlikely that your limited time offer will actually produce results.  And all the time and money spent trying to get you to switch banks couldn’t possibly be worth the effort if they only land a few individuals who are just chasing incentives and not spending any real money.

The only way that I would consider leaving my existing relationship with TD Canada Trust would be if their customer service was so terrible that I couldn’t get what I needed out of them, or if they weren’t at all competitive with the other big banks when it comes to basic products and services.

And since I can literally do almost everything online with EasyWeb, I don’t even need to speak with a representative until it’s time to negotiate and sign paperwork.

Have you ever taken advantage of a limited time offer to switch banks?  Did they manage to keep your business?

Sweating The Small Stuff

By Robb Engen | October 6, 2010 |
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I’ve been known to be rather “careful” with my money, which is a polite way to say that I can be cheap at times.  One of the drawbacks of tracking every penny that you spend is that when something comes up that you didn’t plan for, you have to make a decision whether to stick to your budget or to loosen your purse-strings.

Tracking Every Penny

When planning a monthly budget, you take into account your large monthly expenses such as your mortgage payment, RRSP contributions, car payment, groceries, monthly utilities, and insurance.  But not every expense is fixed.  And unless you know exactly to the day that you will run out of household staples like toilet paper or cleaning supplies, some unplanned purchases can sneak their way onto your shopping list.

Not only that, variable expenses come up in other ways too.  Pitching in for an office retirement party or fundraiser, catching up with a friend over lunch, or grabbing an ice cream with your family are all spontaneous activities that are most likely not accounted for in your budget.

And making a habit out of living in the moment with no regard for your budget can wreak havoc on your finances if not kept in check.

Related: Why Budgeting Is Not A Waste Of Time

So how do you avoid financial misery without becoming a miser yourself?

In your budget you should set aside some petty cash for any of those unexpected expenses that do inevitably come up throughout the month.  Decide what you can afford that amount to be and then take this cash out from the bank right after you get paid and keep it in your wallet.

If you spend it all, that’s fine…it was accounted for.  But if you don’t spend it all, throw the left over cash in a jar and save it for a rainy day.

How about the readers, are you also “careful” with your money?  Do you track every penny and sweat the small stuff?

Early House Hunting

By Robb Engen | October 5, 2010 |
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As I have mentioned in previous posts, my wife and I have been house hunting.  One of my medium term goals is to upgrade our house, and if you’ve been keeping an eye on the news, you would have noticed that this is an interesting time in the Canadian real estate market.

Not only is there talk of a real estate bubble bursting, but now the Competition Bureau has successfully challenged the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) practices of forcing consumers to opt for an entire slate of services in order to list their property on the MLS.

This settlement could save consumers thousands of dollars when selling their homes, as a home seller can now pay a nominal fee to have their house listed on the MLS without having to use the full services of their real estate broker.

So with all of this to think about, we’ve already decided on a floor plan for a house that we want to build.  We are currently in the process of aggressively paying down our mortgage, which is prudent in this low interest rate environment.

House Hunting: When to buy?

What we need to decide now is what the best time will be to start building a house and when to put our existing house up for sale.

This particular builder will take between 4-5 months to complete the house.  Given the fact that there are currently 120 houses for sale in the price range of our house, I’m thinking we will have to put our house on the market as soon as we start the building process.

We will also be using our existing home equity as our down payment for the new house, so we will need to figure out how that process works.

The home builder will require deposits at 3 different stages of construction (initial, framing, and completion).  We will be meeting with our mortgage representative soon to determine what our time line will look like to get started.

Related: My Biggest Home Buying Regret

This will be an exciting time for our family, and I plan to keep you posted on the progression of our new housing adventure.

Are any of you actively house hunting right now?