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I’m still digesting some of the restaurant meals I’ve had in the past few months.

The prices. The portion sizes. The tipping expectations. Am I starting to lose my appetite for restaurant dining? I do wonder.

In no way do I blame restaurants themselves for what’s happening today. Rising costs for food and labour have forced them to raise prices, yet one-third are operating at a loss. Now, the cumulative effects of inflation and rising interest rates are causing people to cut back on spending of all kinds.

My wife and I have pared back our restaurant spending somewhat, mostly by going to places where the cost and value match up well. There’s a new spot in our Ottawa neighbourhood where you can get a first-class smashburger with cheese for $10, and fries for $5. A bar we like has mussels and the best fries in town for less than $20.

The rise of the $40 entrée at premium restaurants is a big hurdle to get over, especially with portion sizes on the decline. We had a great meal at a new Ottawa restaurant recently, but left a bit hungry and amazed at the tipping options on the payment terminal – 18, 20, 22 and 25 per cent. Everyone talks about rising food prices, but tip inflation is a handful, too.

Restaurant meals are a non-essential, discretionary purchase that some people today flat out can’t afford because of inflation and high interest rates. But restaurants are core small businesses in our communities that employ people, pay property taxes and offer a needed diversion in these stressful times.

I want restaurants around me, and I’m willing to support them. But I’m rethinking how to do that.

Your homework: Send me an e-mail at with the name of a restaurant where you live that offers great value. What do you like at this restaurant, and what’s the cost? I’ll collect answers and report back.

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Q: I am considering investing in HSAV-T. How secure are these funds?

A: HSAV is the Horizons Cash Maximizer ETF, a kind of exchange-traded fund that holds investor assets in savings accounts at big banks. Investments in the likes of HSAV are not protected by deposit insurance, but you do have the security of knowing your money is parked in an account at a big bank. Overall, I would say HISA ETFs are low risk, not zero risk.

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.

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I’m turning the Money-Free Zone over to a reader today: “This is a suggestion re your music recommendations, which I enjoy. One of my all-time favourite albums is Atlantic Crossing, by Rod Stewart, from 1975, but only the second side of the LP from songs six through 10. Concludes with the fabulous song Sailing.”

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