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Carrick on money

Is your food bill eating you alive? Add to ...

Remember the $7 cauliflower? Food prices have fallen back since the price shock that began the year, but a lot of people are still worried about how to pay for groceries. In the B.C. town of Saanich, a survey found that a substantial number of people spend between one-quarter and half their household income on food.

One of the reasons why food prices have climbed is the weakness in the dollar – it makes imports more expensive. A stronger dollar would help lower food costs, but that doesn’t seem likely right now. So let’s look at some ideas for saving money on groceries:

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Ask me your housing questions
These are scary times for first-time home buyers. Mortgage rates are rising, Ottawa has introduced new rules to cool the housing market and there's a wave of uncertainty following Donald Trump’s win. I will be online, answering your housing-related questions in a live chat on the Globe and Mail's Facebook page at 12:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday November 16. Ask your question here: https://www.facebook.com/theglobeandmail/

The dark side of gift cards
Read this before you scoop up some gift cards for holiday season presents. Note that some Canadian provinces have banned the sort of fees mentioned in this article. The bigger problem: A lot of people never use the full value of their cards, which means a windfall for retailers.

Trump and Toronto’s housing market
A real estate agent offers a view that Americans fleeing a Trump presidency will come to Toronto and buy houses. The ultimate message here is that now is the time to invest in real estate, which I dispute. The time for that was eight to 10 years ago. Zoocasa.com, a Canadian real estate website, reports a big increase in traffic from American visitors. Here’s a comparative look at house prices in U.S. and Canadian cities, and the annual salary needed to afford them.

Need-to-know stuff about credit card medical insurance coverage
A useful look at the medical coverage provided by reward credit cards. There’s a chart here showing how widely they vary in their coverage of people 65 and older.

The hottest restaurant seats in the world
Presented strictly for your amusement – a list of global restaurants that you can’t get into without making a reservation long in advance. “You’ll need every minute of the wait to save up for the bill,” say the people who put this list together.

No-spender November
I think employers could do a lot more to encourage their staff save more. Here’s an example of one company that is trying to help employees become more aware of their finances.

Today’s featured financial tool
Have you tried our Million Dollar TFSA calculator? See how feasible it is for you to accumulate $1-million in a tax-free savings account.

Ask Rob – a follow-up
I took a question last week from a guy on a church finance committee who asked about savings accounts for businesses that offered a decent rate of interest. I pointed out Tangerine, which pays 0.5 per cent on business accounts. Readers offered a couple of suggestions for getting more interest in a business account – Oaken Financial at 1.75 per cent and Meridian Credit Union at 1 per cent for balances above $100,000 and 0.75 per cent for less.

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can’t answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length.

Featured Video
Ready to haggle for lower prices in stores? The proprietor of a vintage lighting shop in Toronto tells you how.

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