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How much attention do you pay to the prices you’re charged when your purchase is rung up in a retail store checkout? May I suggest a laser-like focus? Twice in a day recently, my wife and I were almost overcharged in a checkout line.

The first time, we were buying something in an outdoor store that was clearly marked on the shelves as being 25-per-cent off. At checkout, the cashier told us a price that reflected the full price without the discount. When my wife asked about the discount, the cashier asked a colleague and was told, yes, it applied. Our purchase was rung up again, this time with the discount.

The second time was at a food store checkout line where the scanner was malfunctioning in a way where items were double-counted in some cases. The cashier noticed and deleted some duplications, but others made it through until we pointed this out.

Both glitches were fixed graciously, but I realized something. If you’re not watching as a cashier rings up your purchases, you’re vulnerable to mistakes that can cost you a lot. The 25-per-cent discount on the outdoor store purchase came to almost $70. The duplicated grocery items were far cheaper, but not insignificant. Vigilance saved us a bundle.

I blame the technology for these pricing issues. Scanners can be temperamental, and they only apply the pricing data fed into them. If no one inputs a 25-per-cent-off sale on winter sports equipment, then customers won’t get this price break unless they ask.

So, eyes on the cash register when you’re paying for your purchase in a retail store. Find another time to catch up on People magazine and the latest candy selection.

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Rob’s personal finance reading list

The search for cheap flights

A detailed introduction to Skyscanner, a website that helps you find cheap flights, hotels and rental cars. Demand for travel has fallen lately, and that suggests there are deals out there.

Driving your vehicle to an early grave

Driver habits that can undermine your car’s reliability and longevity. One that jumped out at me is using regular grade gas when your car’s engine is designed to run on premium. This has to be happening.

‘Let’s stop lauding underspending in retirement’

An article on the benefits of lifetime giving as opposed to leaving assets behind when you die. Look around in your life, the author says. A little money now could make a difference in the life of somebody in your life.

Top cities for debt

A list of the top 20 cities for household debt. You’ll never guess the three names at the top. Interesting side note: There are plenty of small cities on the list.

Ask Rob

Q: I have several thousand dollars in my RRSP, cash account and TFSA from various dividend stocks. The market is volatile and I just don’t know where to put it. Will I be taxed if I take my cash from my RRSP and cash account and put it in a GIC? I know it’s probably a simple answer for you but not for me. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

A: You should be able to buy GICs within any of these accounts – RRSP, TFSA, non-registered – using cash accumulated from dividends. There’s no need to take the cash out of any of these accounts, and thus no issue with tax. By the way, you can take cash out of a TFSA without tax consequences. Same with a non-registered cash account. Tax would apply to money taken out of an RRSP.

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 and clarity.

Tools, Explainers, Guides and Charts

Wondering what the right account is for your needs – RRSP, TFSA, FHSA and so on? Here’s a helpful rundown on each.

The Money-Free Zone

One of my favourite deep soul cuts is a song by The Moovers called Someone to Fulfill My Needs. No way you’re not singing along to the chorus.

On social media

The financial benefits of hanging onto your cellphone for a few years – obvious, but worth seeing in graphic form.

In case you missed these Globe and Mail personal finance-related stories

– Despite tough times, it’s been a good year for those who use robo-advisers

– Six year-end tax planning strategies that shouldn’t be left to the last minute

– Ask a planner: Can an RRSP help pay for my unpaid leave?

– What is your probability of living past 90? The answer could change your retirement planning

More Rob Carrick and money coverage

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