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My wife and I will head somewhere warm in January to celebrate our 30th anniversary. It’s actually our 31st this year, but we missed out on taking a trip last winter because of a little event you might have heard of called the pandemic.

There will be beaches where we’re headed, which means I’ll need a bathing suit to replace the raggedy one I have now. No problem, I thought. I’ll just order one on Amazon. What arrived a few days later was essentially a plastic bathing suit. Made of nylon, with the consistency of the tarp you used on your last camping trip. Where’d I go wrong?

My wife has some thoughts. She ordered a bathing suit online a while back and was 100 per cent happy with the purchase. Here’s what she told me about ordering clothes online:

Be prepared to invest some time. If I were shopping in-person for a bathing suit, I’d probably drive to a few different stores and try on a number of suits. I saved a lot of time shopping online but buying a swimsuit wasn’t a 10-minute decision for me. I surfed different sites, reads reviews, bookmarked suits I liked and went back to them later. Bathing suit shopping is a bit of an emotional roller coaster, so it was good to shop in many moods.

Dig through reviews. I looked for reviews with photos of people who looked like me wearing the swimsuit. Did it look good? What did they say about the fit? Colour? Comfort? Bonus points if they’d actually gone swimming.

Expect failure. I bought two swimsuits and love them both. On the other hand, I bought a pair of shoes online that I wore once, and ended up giving them away a couple of months later. They were too big and clunky. Get ready to either return items or eat the cost because you really can’t know if something’s right until you try it on.

As for my own bathing suit, I bought one this weekend at a Hudson’s Bay store at a mall. Talk about an old school retailing experience.

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Rob’s personal finance reading list

Best cheap airlines

A look at the surprisingly diverse options available to discount airlines in Canada. Starts with this sensible warning: “While the ticket itself might be cheaper, you’ll often be charged for everything else, including baggage, seat selection, refreshments, and more. Another thing to be wary of is the airports that discount airlines in Canada use. They may not always be central, which can incur more costs in transportation.”

Beware the trunk slammer

Trunk slammer is a derogatory term for fly-by-night contractors who work out of their car and have no office or licence. Here are some tips for avoiding trunk slammers in the heating and cooling business, where proper accreditation is vital because of the health risks of dealing with amateurs (carbon monoxide etc.). I included this item in the newsletter because I imagine people may be looking at upgrading old furnaces as home heating prices rise to something more efficient.

Buy now, pay later with regrets

A must-read if you’re open to the idea of buy now, pay later. A service offered by a growing number of retailers, BNPL lets you make equal payments for a purchase over a period of weeks or months instead all at once. The downside becomes apparent when you miss a payment.

How to be more productive in 2023

From the Time Is Money File: 15 ideas to help you work more efficiently. Eating breakfast is on the list – here’s some guidance on choosing a healthy breakfast cereal. Me, I’m an overnight oats guy.

Ask Rob

Q: In a recent article you commented that some people might have a concern about a financial institution that does not have Canada Deposit Insurance Corp. protection. I’m wondering what that concern is if an institution has credit union insurance. Are they equally good insurance plans?

A: Here’s something I wrote not too long ago on the deposit insurance plan backing the many credit unions in Manitoba that have online banking divisions with competitive interest rates.

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.

Today’s financial tool

A head to head comparison of the different indexes tracked by two popular exchange-traded funds focused on the Canadian market. ETF investors, this is worth a look.

The Money-Free Zone

For my fellow runners and anyone who likes a hard workout: Thoughts on how Pop-Tarts are the ideal pre-run fuel. Lucky Charms cereal also gets a shoutout.

Watch this

A nicely uplifting TikTok video from twogirlsinvesting: “You’re definitely capable of getting yourself into a better financial situation.”

From the Twitterverse

An Ottawa ice cream store on becoming a Certified Living Wage employer and what that has meant to the price of a cone.

What I’ve been writing about

– Mishandling boring old cash as an investor will cost you the easiest 3 to 4 per cent you’ll ever make

– Don’t make this GIC buying mistake – it could limit your CDIC protection

– A reality check – for good and bad – on how well homes have performed as an investment

More Rob Carrick and money coverage

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