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Want to save more? Stop wasting money on getting wasted

Drink at a bar.


By Rob Carrick

A gutsy personal finance blogger has tallied up her cost of drinking through high school, university and beyond, and the grand total was something like $35,712, or $2,463 annually for 14.5 years. She didn't quit drinking to save money, but she does see some lessons in her story about mindless spending.

For more on mindless spending, check out this story of a guy who spent $500 on clothes for a spur of the moment outing with friends, then another $300 on gin and tonics, tips and taxis. All charged to his nearly maxed-out credit card.

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If you're looking for ways to control any aspect of your spending, here are some suggestions. One I particularly like is looking at the context of your spending to see if there are any patterns. For example, if you have a tendency to overspend at happy hour with friends, change the dynamic. Another term for mindless spending is "comfort spending." Here are four ways to curb it fast.

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Rob's top web links

Here's where the Canadian dollar goes farthest
> The Canadian dollar has rallied nicely in recent days, but it's still low enough that you'll pay a huge premium when travelling in the United States. Open to other destinations? Then check out this list of countries where the exchange rate is favourable to Canadians. Argentina, Brazil and South Africa are on the list.

Millennials are humans, too
> A young woman pushes back on criticisms that her generation is lazy and entitled.

10 tips to save money on your wedding
> Please read this if you're planning to get hitched. The average wedding cost in Canada is more than $31,000, which seems high.

Can she afford to buy a house?
> Yes, this millennial money blogger can. Check out her very thorough analysis.

Millennials, it's your fault house prices are high
> Young adults aren't as politically engaged as the baby boomer generation, and that's why they live with housing policies that benefit boomers over millennials. Good, original analysis here.

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Today is Talk With Our Kids About Money Day
I hear parents talk all the time about how important it is to teach children about personal finance. Here's a chance to do just that by starting a conversation with your kids about money. You'll be joining about 4,000 schools and more than 500,000 young people across the country who are being encouraged to ask any questions they have about money, careers and more.  For ideas on how to engage your own kids, check here. Talk With Our Kids About Money Day is a program of the non-profit Canadian Foundation for Economic Education.

Can I get a tax deduction for the fees I pay my adviser?
> Investment firms often hold out the possibility that advisory fees are tax-deductible, but then they tell you to check with an accountant. Here are some guidelines to help you tell if you may be able to deduct fees.

Nortel and the gang
> A look at the companies that once ranked as the country's largest and then fell back. Good perspective for investors on not getting carried away with hot stocks.

Today's featured investment tool
Try your hand at building tax-free, million-dollar savings with The Globe's new TFSA calculator. Fill out the number of years you plan to contribute, your expected rate of return and the dollar amount you're starting with. Your input will generate the total projected value of your TFSA. Scroll down to see an annual breakdown of your finances.

Ask Rob
The question:
"We recently sold our home, maxed out our TFSAs and have a joint trading account. We invested some in stocks since November but are hesitant to invest more until the current uncertainty with commodities prices eases up. Which money market instruments are best while we wait it out – GICs or whatever bonds we can find? Trouble is, I don't like tying up funds."

My reply: How about an investment savings account? Zero risk because these products are typically covered by deposit insurance. Excellent liquidity because they're traded like mutual funds. Returns are modest, but competitive with other safe, liquid investments. Products from the likes of Manulife and Renaissance now offer 0.75 per cent.

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Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Questions and answers are edited for length.

Featured Video
Owe a fair bit of money to the CRA this tax season? In this video, I talk to a debt specialist about whether it make sense to use your home equity line of credit to pay the debt.

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