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If you’re going to write a book about personal finance, Job One is to say something different than the hundreds of books already covering the topic. Novice author Gordon Stein aced this test.

“Most personal finance books say save 10 per cent and invest it,” the author of Cashflow Cookbook told me when I met him recently for a coffee. “But most people would say, I don’t have 10 per cent. My book shows how to carve out money for saving, without being cheap.”

Mr. Stein is a sales executive in the tech industry, an MBA and an engineer. Appalled at the financial mistakes he’s seen people making, he has written a book with 60 “recipes” for saving money in all aspects of everyday life. Car repairs, grocery shopping, the daily commute and home maintenance are among the subjects he tackles. .

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Some of the ideas were inspired by the financial moves of people he’s worked with over the years. “People buying lattes when we have a perfectly good coffee machine in the office, and then buying a snack of chips and coke in the afternoon. You could be leasing a Honda Civic for the price of all that.”

That’s sort of the idea of Cashflow Cookbook. Find a bunch of different ways to save and then use the money to improve your finances. Mr. Stein suggests paying down debt first and then investing for the future.

Mr. Stein’s book is available from Amazon.ca as well as his website, where you can also find free spreadsheets for tracking debt, net worth and the long-term wealth you can build by saving money every month. He’s also started a blog where he’s recently covered topics like dividend stocks and how parents can help financially launch their adult children after graduation. One recent post looks at whether budgeting may actually be damaging your finances.

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Attention, current and wannabe ETF investors

I know from my interactions with investors that many people are keen to invest in exchange-traded funds, but also overwhelmed by the vast selection. That’s my motivation for putting together the annual Globe and Mail ETF Buyers’ Guide. Here are the six installments of the 2018 edition, covering bonds, Canadian, U.S. and international equities and dividend stocks from Canada and around the world.

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Rob’s personal finance reading list…

Advice from five women on negotiating a raise

Lots of good thoughts here on how to make the case with your boss for a pay increase.

Attack of the HELOCs

Some alarming new stats on a surge in use of home equity lines of credit. Come on, guys. Interest rates are rising, and a lot of people are maxed out of debt. It’s time to pay these suckers down.

Ten reasons to love the latest in balanced funds

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The director of research at a wealth management firm talks about the benefits of three new balanced exchange-traded funds. Each one is a fully diversified portfolio of ETFs for a particular type of investor.

A history of frozen pizza

Can’t stand this stuff, myself. But my 23-year-old son used to know a fellow student who basically spent his food budget on frozen pizza. He had a freezer full of pizzas – he’d pull a pie out in the morning, slam it in the oven and then eat it through the day.

Today’s featured financial tool

The Canada Revenue Agency produced this quick guide on what your tax obligations are if you’re flipping houses or condos. “The profits you make from flipping real estate are generally considered to be fully taxable as business income.”

Ask Rob

Q: “I’ve held TD e-index funds for many years. To simplify RRIF withdrawals, I decided to switch my TD RRSP to Scotia (I had two RRSPs, one with TD, the other with Scotia). This means I’ve had to say goodbye to my TD index funds. Any suggestions on what I can replace these with? I don’t know anything about ETFs, but would like your suggestions if I were to try to mimic the Dow Jones and Canadian index.”

A: It’s a shame to have to give up those low-cost TD e-series index mutual funds, because they’re a true investing bargain. ETFs are a good substitute, though. If you want to track the Dow, there’s the BMO Dow Jones Industrial Average Hedged to CAD Index ETF (ZDJ). There are also a lot of funds that track the more diversified S&P 500 index. For the Canadian market, the ETFs with the lowest fees include the BMO S&P/TSX Capped Composite Index ETF (ZCN), the Horizons S&P/TSX 60 Index ETF (HXT), the iShares Core S&P/TSX Capped Composite Index ETF (XIC) and the Vanguard FTSE Canada Index ETF (VCE).

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

Is social media damaging our finances? Financial planner Shannon Lee Simmons emphatically says the answer is yes.

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