As we head into mid-August my wife and I have started to look at the back-to-school lists that came home with our kids at the end of June. We like to freelance a bit from the recommended list of supplies, especially if we can find deals on similar items early in the summer.

We utilize the Flipp app to check out the latest store flyers and compare prices on everything from stationary, electronics, facial tissue, and more. From there, my wife usually takes over (she loves back-to-school shopping with the kids!) and rounds up all the items to try and save the most money. That means buying in bulk when the supplies on our kids’ lists overlap, shopping at multiple stores, and even ordering online.

Back to School Shopping Edition

Another way to save money during the busy back-to-school season is by cashing in rewards points, or leveraging your rewards program to get deals on the stuff you need to buy anyway.

I’m an RBC Rewards member and I noticed they are offering a number of exciting deals for clients from now until August 26, 2018, including savings on the latest tech, merchandise, gift cards and more.

You don’t have to be a student to take advantage of great back-to-school deals. RBC Rewards gives you the flexibility and choice to redeem points at back to school time for whatever they want – or whatever you want.

RBC Back To School

Visit rbcrewards.com to get back to school deals without the hassle of going back to school.

One smart redemption option that I wasn’t aware of is the ability to turn your unused RBC Rewards points into financial rewards, including contributions to your RRSP, RESP, or TFSA – even to pay down your mortgage or line of credit.

From August 13 to 26, 2018 you can get 20% more in value when you redeem your RBC Rewards points for contributions towards your RBC RRSP or RESP.

That means you can redeem a minimum of 10,000 RBC Rewards points (worth $100) to contribute to an RRSP or RESP, and then contribute in increments of $25 or 2,500 RBC Rewards points after the $100 minimum.

Imagine you’re sitting on 100,000 RBC Rewards points but you don’t have any immediate travel plans for which to redeem them. Instead of cashing in your points for electronics or merchandise, turn your point stash into a $1,000 RRSP contribution!

This Week’s Recap:

This week I wrote about why you should avoid group RESPs and scholarship trusts, and instead set up your RESP at a bank or credit union.

Many thanks to the Globe and Mail’s Tim Kiladze for interviewing me for his latest piece on the bizarre Aeroplan saga – this one about TD’s puzzling message to its cardholders slamming Aimia’s decision to reject the Air Canada led takeover bid. For Globe subscribers only.

Next week I’ll review a new entrant into the robo-advisor space that ticks all the right boxes for me: ultra-low cost, simple portfolio construction, and hands-off, automatic investing.

I’ll also have a mortgage renewal update in my Smart Money column at the Toronto Star. My mortgage comes up for renewal September 1st.

U.K. Trip Update

I revealed last week that we’ve book flights to Scotland for our dream family vacation next summer. We still have lots of details to fill in but we were excited to find and book an Airbnb for seven nights in Inverness. Check out that view!

Inverness Airbnb

Over the next two weeks I hope to book our return flights home from Dublin and secure hotel accommodation in Edinburgh. What’s the hold-up? I’m waiting for:

  • United Airlines to release its inventory for our mid-July return home. They open up their flights 330 days out, so I should start to see something in our desired date range in the next 7-10 days. We’re hoping for business class seats.
  • Marriott and Starwood to merge rewards programs. Marriott purchased Starwood Hotels a couple of years ago and they’re merging the two loyalty programs on August 18th. Once this happens I’ll look to redeem points for free nights in Edinburgh.

I’ll keep you posted when we have any more significant updates to share about our trip.

Weekend Reading:

Reporter David Lazarus kept a Nigerian scammer on the hook for weeks to uncover the lengths to which they’ll go to swindle people out of thousands of dollars. A lively read!

How much money will you need after you retire? Likely much less than you think.

Steadyhand’s Tom Bradley explains why you should embrace ignorance when investing:

“The next time your adviser or portfolio manager wants to make a change based on an economic view or market action, push the pause button. Ask about his long-term track record on such calls and if you get a soft answer, suggest he too embrace his ignorance.”

Two professors issued a challenge to behavioural economists suggesting that their biggest idea is not correct. Barry Ritholtz counters this and explains why loss aversion isn’t dead.

Cleveland Browns defensive end Carl Nassib gives his teammates a lesson on compound interest and the tyranny of fees.

A Wealth of Common Sense blogger Ben Carlson does his best Morgan Housel impression with this terrific take on the layers of the brain.

Speaking of Housel, here’s his latest post where he tries to explain the often irrational and bizarre behaviour of Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

You probably haven’t talked to your grown kids about where you bank, how much you’ve saved, and other key details. Here’s why it’s urgent.

Kristine Hayes lists her five money mistakes (really, only five? I’ve made many more over the years). Here’s a big one:

“It wasn’t until I was 45 years old that I became aware of the importance of being financially literate. Educating myself at a younger age would have saved me from some of the mistakes I made. It also would have increased the likelihood that I could retire at a relatively early age.”

Relevant to me right now is this piece by RateSpy’s Rob McLister who explains how to determine when you’ll pay more for a mortgage.

Common Sense Investing’s Ben Felix gives a thorough analysis of holding a mortgage alongside an investment portfolio and why you should consider a higher equity allocation if you carry mortgage debt.

Finally, the Star’s Kerry Taylor shares the ins and outs of Registered Disability Savings Plans (RDSPs) – a difference maker for Canadians with disabilities.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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