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6 Ways To Shop Safely Online

With Halloween over, we inevitably go into the gear up period to Christmas. You might say that it’s too early, but my bet is that many of you are already starting to compile your shopping list. Thankfully, with online shopping now taking over, gathering all your Christmas gifts is easier than ever. Of course, that ease comes at a price as there is an increased risk of falling victim to online theft. However, that’s no reason to avoid online shopping, as your personal information can remain perfectly secure so long as you shop safe and smart. Here are a few tips for safe online shopping.

Choose the right websites.

So many websites now offer the online purchase options, but not all of them offer the same safety. When you’re searching for a specific item online and finally find it, your excitement can cause you to make rushed decisions. But before you click that purchase order, do some investigating into the website. As always, look for that all important key symbol next to the address in the search bar. This indicates the site is secure and your personal information is safe. If it is not a well-known site like Amazon, do a little research. Specifically, look for comments and reviews from others who has purchased through the site to gauge the average level of consumer satisfaction.

Pay attention to the information you’re giving.

Putting in your credit card information online is always a little scary, but if you’ve taken the proper steps in vetting the website you’re using then you should have nothing to worry about. However, it’s when websites start asking for a little more information than usual that you should start to become suspicious. Some sites, under the guise of collecting the proper personal information, may even ask for your social security number. That’s a big red flag as that’s something that should never be given online. Even if you think you trust the site, when information like that is asked for, you should step away.

Use multiple passwords.

It’s understandable, passwords are not easy to remember and having multiple passwords makes it harder to keep them all straight. But using the same password for all your online shopping makes it very easy for anyone who happens to get a hold of your computer to go on a major shopping spree on your dime. In related business, don’t have websites remember your password. It only takes a few seconds to type it in each time you visit the site and it helps keep your information and money safe.

Look for realistic deals.

If it’s too good to be true that it probably is. That’s the somewhat pessimistic attitude you’ll need to adopt while online shopping. Because you don’t have the luxury of seeing the item in person, you need to be more skeptical about what it is you’re buying. Again, user comments are a great indicator of other people’s satisfaction with the product. Failing that, the price should give you some idea. If you’re paying much less than you anticipated, you should be prepared for the quality to be much worse than anticipated.

Keep it confined to your home.

Not to start sounding paranoid, but online shopping is certainly something that should only be done from the safety of your own home. With wi-fi available in so many locations these days, it can be tempting to get a little shopping done while you’re out and about. Unfortunately, that’s putting your information a great risk for others to steal it, whether through observing you as you shop, or through the unsecure public wi-fi.

Check your statement.

As always, regular and thorough checking of your bank statements is a great way to stay on top of any irregularities. After each online shopping spree, be sure to check those statements to make sure the charges are correct and your money is going to the right place.

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5 Tips For Increasing Your Online Security

Some weeks ago, it was announced that hundreds of thousands of Canadians had their personal online information put at risk die to a data breach from Equifax Canada. Online security is of paramount importance in this digital age, especially for older online users whom hackers tend to target most often. Part of the reason older individuals are targeted by so many online thieves is that they are less familiar with online security and its risks. If you want to avoid being a victim, you need to educate yourself on the risks and ways to protect your information. Here are a few simple steps to strengthening your online security and giving yourself a piece of mind.

Choose strong passwords.

While saying that older online users are not savvy enough to secure their personal information is not true, there are many indicators that boomer aged users may not be taking appropriate measures in protecting themselves online. The password is a good example of this. Your password is meant to be your strongest defense against hackers, and yet, so many people see it as an inconvenience and put little effort into creating a strong password. You need to put some real thought into securing your online information. Don’t select a password based on personal things like birthdays or pet names. These can be too easily guessed. Choose a totally random password and memorize it. While some may be content with one strong password for all their accounts, they are setting themselves up for a great deal of risk going forward. If your password falls into the wrong hands, all your personal information is exposed. Choose strong passwords for each individual account. It meant be difficult to keep them straight, but password management tools can help you with this.

There’s a time and place for personal information.

The internet is so accessible now that you can log on in just about any location. But that convenience can cost you if you’re not careful. You need to be wary of what you do online when on public wi-fi. Public wi-fi is the kind of internet access at coffee shops and other businesses, where any patron is free to log on to their network. It’s a nice service to have but the problem is that these networks are not encrypted like your wi-fi at home and that means your information is more at risk. Online thieves can monitor your online activity on these unsecure networks. That doesn’t mean you can’t use public wi-fi at all. It’s perfectly fine for general internet use, but when it comes to accessing personal information, like online banking and personal emails, you could be unnecessarily exposing yourself. Keep all sensitive online business to a secure network where you can be sure it’s only you eyes that will be allowed to view.

Check your bank statements routinely.

When you are able to safely and securely go to your online banking, this is where you want to be especially vigilant. It only makes sense that your online financial information is one of the biggest targets for hackers, which means you need to be extra sensitive about ensuring everything is secure. Part of this means keeping an eye on your financial activity. These online thieves can be very sneaky, sometimes you won’t know they are stealing from you until they’ve done some real damage. That’s why it’s always a good idea to keep a close eye on your regular bank statement. Watch for any irregularities or purchases you don’t remember. Even if it’s not big, you should be on the lookout for any unusual activity so thank if someone is stealing from your account, you’ll be able to spot it quickly and hopefully deal with it before too much damage is done.

Watch for unsecure sites.

In the era of online shopping, you might not think twice about buying something off a random website, but not all of these sites are as safe as others. Before entering your credit card into any site, make sure it is secure. Usually, there will be a small icon to the right of the address in the search bar. For secure sites, the icon will be a key. If the icon is the key with a red X over it, that indicates that the site is not secure and it is not safe to give any personal information.

Beware of emails.

One of the most common tactics of online thieves is email phishing, and unfortunately it is also one of the most effective when it comes to targeting older online users. Email phishing is when hackers send out emails with some offer or emergency situation and try to lure victims into giving up personal information. These can be very dangerous and it’s important to know how to spot them. First and most importantly, never give out personal information through email. No matter how convincing the email might sound and how much you think you trust the sender, no legitimate institution would ask you to email them personal information, as it is far too unsecure. If the email provides a link to a website where you can give your personal information, look to see if the link matches with the actual address. Often times scammers will provide something that looks like a legitimate address in the email to lure you in. Also, look for poor spelling and grammar, because evidently, these scammers are too good at proofreading. Overall, be suspicious of any unsolicited or unprovoked emails of these type and be smart online.

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5 Steps To Starting Your ‘Rainy Day’ Fund

The unexpected happens. That’s a part of life we all need to be aware of and prepare for, and a big part of preparing for it is having the financial aspects covered. Recently we had an article detailing recent retirees’ biggest regrets when planning for retirement and one of them was not saving for those “rainy days”. You can map out your retirement savings plan perfectly, but if you didn’t plan for one unexpected incident, that could be trouble. Don’t get caught off guard. Here are some steps to starting your rainy day fund.

Understand its purpose.

Saying you’re creating a rainy day fund does not automatically make you good at saving money. There absolutely is a discipline to effectively saving money, and for some it comes easier than with others. Before you begin your savings, ask yourself what its purpose is. Why do you need a rainy day fund? What does it do for you? What could happen if you don’t have one? Taking a serious approach to this kind of savings means you need to have an understanding of it beyond it would be nice to have some money. Once you establish that sincerely and have respect for it, it will help prevent you from neglecting the fund or dipping into it at inappropriate times.

Decide on the best vehicle.

The next step in this process is deciding how and where you are going to save. There are many options for you and your decision will be based on a mix of personal preferences and financial advice. Many people have an idea of the type of savings they want and certainly the kind they would rather avoid. In the end, the decision is yours and it’s your money so you should feel comfortable. That being said, advice from an expert is always a very good idea. Don’t take friendly advice blindly (including this), but rather speak to a professional – better yet, speak to a few. Understand the options so you can make informed decisions on your savings.

Make a deposit plan.

Next comes the actual saving of money and this will require some planning. You need to understand how much you make, how much you need to live and how much you can afford to save. Again, some professional help in coming these conclusions is never a bad idea. Once you figure this out, you need to establish a schedule for when you will deposit into the fund and how much you will deposit. Without such a schedule, it can become to easy for these regular deposits to fall off and therefore your savings never really grow. Come up with a reasonable schedule (most people use their pay cheque as a marker) and be sure to stick to the deposits.

What is realistic?

Understanding how much of your income goes into your savings can be very difficult to figure out. If you don’t put enough into your regular deposits then your rainy day fund remains stagnant and will likely be useless when needed. If you are putting too much in your savings then you may be struggling in your other financial areas. Be realistic about your savings deposits. Know what you can afford and what will actually make a difference over time.

Control you spending as well.

Your savings can only grow if your finances are in good order and that means you have to be conscious of your spending habits. Review your spending and see where your money is going. Are there areas where you could be spending less? Are there indulgences that you could lose? This might require having a frank conversation with the whole family about spending habits but it’s important that your money is being used in the best way possible to ensure your savings grow while you also continue to live comfortably.

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7 Easy Tips For Spending Less

We all worry about money, but some of us need to worry a little more than others. Sometimes it can seem like when your paycheck arrives, it’s only a matter of days before it’s all spent and you’re back waiting desperately for the next payday. This can become an even bigger problem in retirement when those paychecks aren’t as regular or as big as when you were working. It’s times like these that you need to look at your spending habits and determine possible changes that need to be made. If you’re having spending problems, don’t fear; there are plenty of ways to curb the problem and keep your money where it is needed most.

Use cash more often.

You might be surprised about how much a few small changes in your shopping habits might help control your spending. One way is to use more cash when shopping for certain things. Credit cards and debit cards make for quicker trips to the cash register, but due to their seemingly limitless spending potential, we tend to overspend when using them. Try to use your cards only for big items or where you’ll get the most reward points. For smaller shopping lists, stick to cash. This will put a limit on your spending and keep you from going overboard.

Ask yourself “Do I really need that”.

One of the most common and identifiable problems among those with poor spending habits is the impulse buying. This is when you go into a store with a plan of what to buy but end up wasting money on random expenses they made on a whim. We’ve all been guilty of this but when it happens too often is when it can really affect your bank account. If this is a problem you identify with, start asking yourself before you make a purchase if this is really something you need. Impulse buying is not a rational thought and therefore doesn’t stand up well to scrutiny.

Keep track of your spending.

When you have poor spending habit, the negative impacts of that can often sneak up on you. These small purchases you make every now and then seem harmless, but then all of the sudden you’re struggling to make the mortgage payment before next payday. Don’t be caught off guard by these things. Keep track of where your money is going with a regular spending report. This not only gives you an idea of how your finances are looking but allows you to see where you could make necessary changes.

Examine the unnecessary services.

In those moments where you decide to cut back on your spending, you start to examine what expenses can be eliminated. In many cases, those regular but costly services get overlooked. You consider them to necessary without a second thought and move on to other areas you can make cuts. Give some more thought to those services like your phone plan and cable. How much do you really use them? Are you getting the most for your money? Are there better deals out there? Try looking into a pay-as-you-go plan for your phone if you aren’t using it as much, or try a family plan. As for your cable, consider switching to one of the streaming services like Netflix for your viewing entertainment. They offer plenty of great content and are much more affordable.

Keep your bill payments in line.

No one like paying bills but they are a necessary part of life. What would make them even less fun to deal with is if they came with extra fees due to late payments. Avoid that nightmare and keep your bill payments in line. Make sure you put aside the necessary funds each month to take care of the bills, set up reminders about payment so you don’t miss the due date, or better yet, sign up for pre-authorized payments.

Make your grocery shopping more cost-effective.

Grocery shopping is another thing that is just an essential expense, but there are still ways you can save money at the store. One easy method is to always shop with a grocery list and stick to it. That will save you from filling your cart with impulsive and unnecessary items. Also, try using frozen produce. Buying it fresh is nice but how much money do you waste on fruits and vegetables that end up just going bad.

Discuss finance openly with the whole family.

It’s difficult, in fact nearly impossible, to deal with your household’s finances if the whole family is not on the same page. If you recognize that the spending habits in your house need to change, you can’t expect to make much progress unless you discuss the topic openly with your family. Let them understand the situation and what will need to be done by all of them. Allow them to bring up their own concerns and opinions. Once you are all aware of the situation, things can progress a lot more easily and a lot more effectively.

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5 Good Credit Card Habits To Stick To

No matter how old you are, debt is always a scary thing. As you get older, credit card debt becomes a very real fear. Many purchases we make in our adulthood are made with credit cards, and they remain a very efficient financial option. However, if you do not use the right practices with you credit card or are carless with them, then you can find yourself buried in debt. So if you think you need to take a step back with your credit card spending and find some more effective ways of using it, there are a few habits that can help ensure you use your cards responsibly and wisely.

Choose the card that fits your spending.

One of the most confusing aspects of using credit cards is which one you should choose. You’ve likely been approved and offered just about every card under the sun, but you want to be sure to choose the one that works best for you. Review your spending habits and see where most of your money is going, or where you are making regular big purchases. This will help you determine which cards match best with your spending habits. You can get cashback for your spending, receive travel points, or any number of valuable rewards if you choose your card wisely.

Know your rewards and use them.

Once you choose the right rewards card, understand what you get from it. A lot of people see these types of cards as more hassle than they are worth, therefore they often fail to reap the benefits that come with them. Get to know the rewards package that comes with the cards and take full advantage of them. Shop in places that offer the most rewards, use your credit card rather than your debit card for expenses that will get you a lot of points. Also, keep track of your points and be sure to use them, because what is the sense of having a rewards card if you don’t use the rewards?

Check your statement regularly.

Too many of us take our bank statements for granted. We regard them as junk mail when they are tossed in with the rest of our mail and we don’t even look at them online when we make our balance payments. If this sounds like your general practices then you need to start paying closer attention to your statements. These are very helpful tools in ensuring you have not been made the victim of any credit card theft, and it helps you keep track of your spending. Check your statements on a regular basis for anything irregular or to get a better sense of where your money is going.

Pay on time.

Keeping track of your statements is not just good practice for keeping an eye on your spending, but it’s also a good way to ensure you are paying your balance regularly and on time. Using your credit card for all your purchases is so easy that you can sometimes forget you actually have to put some real money towards it. Neglecting or forgetting to pay your balance on time is not a good idea and can lead to some pretty devastating penalties. You might think that letting it go a little longer, until your next pay cheque comes in is alright, but you don’t want to find yourself suddenly with bad credit. Set reminders for yourself to make the regular payments and make a habit of diligently sticking to a payment schedule.

Pay your full balance.

It is not just a matter of making payments on time, but also paying the entire balance on time. This is another way people think they are saving money with their credit cards. They make smaller payments and let the rest of the balance carry over into the next month in order to give them a little breathing room. However, the balance will still be there next month (along with a whole new balance) and all you’ve done is accrued interest and lost rewards points. Know how much you can afford to spend each month and don’t go over that amount just because you have a credit card. That way you’ll have a monthly balance you can manage.

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Encore: Acclaimed Economist David Rosenberg

Welcome to Encore, brought to you by BoomersPlus! On this weekly show, hosted by Costas Halavrezos, we examine the world of the baby boomers through a variety of exciting avenues. We are joined each week by an expert guest to discuss their field and how it relates to the audience of the boomers.

Canada’s economy is humming, concerns about President Trump’s statements about NAFTA are overblown, and the Canadian dollar is due for a huge rally. So says out next guest, chief economist David Rosenberg with Gluskin Sheff & Associates in Toronto. Mr. Rosenberg is the author of the daily economic newsletter, Breakfast with Dave. He was the only economist recognized for his accurate economic projections in Fortune magazine’s “Best and Worst of Wall Street 2011” and was ranked most accurate forecaster for that year by MSNBC.

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6 Tips To Avoid Credit Card Fraud

Your credit card information is highly sensitive and unfortunately, it’s frequently at risk. You should be guarding the security of your credit cards the same as you would guard your most valuable possessions. In order to ensure your information is protected, you need to know about the risks and how to avoid them. Have a look at some of these helpful tips for avoiding credit card fraud and give yourself piece of mind.

Keep track of your cards.

If you had a substantial amount of cash in your wallet, you would be very careful with it. You would know exactly how much money is in there and you would certainly know if any of it had gone missing. When it comes to credit cards however, people seem to take a more at-ease approach to keeping track of it, even though there’s much more at risk. Keep your credit cards safe when they’re on your person and keep a close eye on them so you’ll know when they go missing. If you do lose track of any cards, don’t hesitate to cancel them. A lot of damage can be done in a short time.

Shred sensitive documents.

It may seem like it’s a little paranoid to shred bank statements and purchase orders, but you’d be shocked at how much information thieves can get by digging through your garbage. Anything that has your credit card number on it should be destroyed rather than thrown out with the rest of the trash. If you like to hold on to those records, make sure you keep them in a secure place.

Be extra cautious online.

Online shopping might be very convenient but it can also put your credit card information at risk. You need to be extra careful about which sites you are buying from and which sites ask for your credit card number. Before entering in any sensitive information, check if the site is secure. Is there a lock icon next to the web address? If so, the site is safe to use, if not don’t use that site.

Create a strong password.

Your password is your first line of defense against credit card thieves, therefore it is essential to create a strong one. This goes for both your pin number and your online banking password. Don’t get lazy with picking one that will be easiest to remember. Put some effort into building a strong password to keep yourself protected. 1234 just does not cut it nowadays.

Be on the lookout.

Knowing the dangers that put your credit cards at risk can help you to spot them quicker and avoid situations that leave you vulnerable to attack. For instance, some of the more knowledgeable thieves use credit card scanners on ATM machines or credit card terminals to steal the information of unsuspecting patrons. Use your best instincts and if something doesn’t seem right, trust that feeling.

Monitor your statements.

Many of us get our monthly credit card statements and don’t give them a second thought. But there’s a lot those statements can tells you and keeping track of your spending will help you to spot any irregular spending or inconsistencies. Credit card companies are usually pretty good about detecting unusual spending, but for smaller more frequent purchases, you are most likely to stop the problem.

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5 Simple Ways To Save Money On Groceries

When you’re trying to save money, the weekly trip to the grocery store can really be painful. We all need food, but if you’re not paying attention to your shopping habits, those grocery bills can really start to add up. So if you’re looking to save a bit on your next trip to the store, consider some of these simple tips.

Check the sales flyers. So many people walk right past these helpful flyers at the entrance of the store. And yet inside these little booklets they is filled with savings. A breakdown of all the sales in the store that are ripe for you to take full advantage of. Granted, on any given day there might not be a single item in the flyer that you need but they are always worth checking.

Stick to your list. Before you take any trip to the grocery store, be sure to make a list of all the things you’ll need. Firstly, these lists are handy for helping you remember everything you need and prevent you from coming back home without milk. Secondly, if you have a list and you stick to it, it will help you avoid piling your grocery cart with impulsive and unnecessary items.

Don’t shop hungry. The biggest mistake you could make as a grocery shopper. When you’re walking around a grocery store in between meals, your stomach is rumbling, just about anything and everything in there will look good. This is a sure-fire way to find your cart filled to the brim with those expensive and unsatisfying instant meals just so you have something to eat quick.

Plan meals ahead. When you know what you’re going to eat, you know what you need to buy. When you do the reverse and try to make meals out of the various things you bought, it rarely works out as well. You can buy a lot of produce with all the intention in the world of eating it, but then other meals come up and suddenly you have a crisper full of rotten veggies. Plan your meals ahead of time then you can buy exactly what you need.

Stick to the supermarkets.

While it’s always nice to support smaller stores and buy local, if you’re looking to save money on your groceries, stick to the big stores. Smaller specialty stores and convenience stores need to up their prices, while the chain grocery stores are able to provide the same items for much lower prices.

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5 Tips For Making A Personal Budget

More and more we hear about boomers and the troubles with their retirement savings. Whether it’s due to paying for their children’s college, caring for their elder parents or simply not having a good retirement plan, boomers aren’t saving enough. If you feel as though you’re heading down a similar path and want to make a change before leaving work, putting yourself on a budget is a great first step. However, many of us might not know where to start and what steps to take, so to ensure your budget will be effective, take a look at some of these helpful tips.

Have a plan

This one should really be a no-brainer. You can’t just say, “I want to save money” and then start a budget. You need to do a little work to determine what your budget will look like and how it will work. Find out how much you have, how much you make, how much you owe and how much you want to save. Make a schedule. You may want to speak to a professional to get this all in order, but just don’t take a lazy approach. There’s no sense in doing it if you’re not going to do it right.

Take a simple approach

Anything related to finances can be very overwhelming and making a personal budget very much falls into that category. You want to make it as stress-free as possible and that means taking an honest look at your spending. Often times, people who are putting together a budget for the first time start making cuts in the wrong places. The point is not to deprive yourself but identify problem areas. Are you eating out too much? Are you spending too much on online shopping? These are the easy changes to make and came make a big difference.

Be realistic

Sticking to a similar thought, your budget needs to be realistic or you’re just setting yourself up for failure. Cutting things that are necessities aren’t doing you any favours, nor is making a savings goal too high or a timeline to short. These may be points you want to reach, but you need to consider what you can reach.

Discuss it with others

As I mentioned before, speaking to a professional is not a bad idea. Since this is a personal budget and fairly simplistic, it’s probably not entirely necessary, but if only to get some advice on how to do it effectively, you may want to consider it. however, it is essential you talk at length with your family about the budget. If an entire household is not on the same page in terms of the budget then it is likely to fail. Discuss the changes that need to be made and listen to their input. They may have suggestions that you never considered.

Remember it’s not concrete

Chances are you aren’t going to build the perfect budget the first time. The good news is, there’s absolutely no reason adjustments can’t be made. Evaluate you progress and success regularly. If you’re not meeting your expectations, make some changes accordingly. It’s doesn’t mean it’s a failure, it’s just a work in progress

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7 Things You Can Buy Second-Hand

When looking to save money, being thrifty with things you used to indulge in can be difficult. Some people have blinders on for what they think is exceptable to buy used or second-hand, but there are quite a few big ticket items that you can get cheap without worrying about the quality suffering. Check out our list and save a few bucks.

Bicycles

When it comes to leisure activities, any of the more expensive equipment is a good example of the kind of thing that can be purchased second-hand with little risk. Bikes are perfect examples of that. Now if you take your biking more seriously than most people and are looking for a slick racing bicycle or a solid mountain bike, than you’ll probably want to put down some serious cash. However, when looking for a bike to get yourself around town, look at buy/sell forums like Kijiji to find a reliable but affordable ride.

Children clothes

I’m sure you grandparents out there will be shaking their head at this one. Sure, it’s nice to spoil the grandkids with new clothes every once in a while, but if you’re looking to save a little money, there’s no shame in filly the baby’s wardrobe with items from the thrift shop and hand-me-downs. The infantile stage of life is not one in which fashion is all that important and kids to tend to grow faster than you might think. If the clothes are only going to fit them for a few months, no need to spend a lot on them. Wait until they get to high school, then spoil them with new clothes.

Cars

Buying a new car is not necessarily a bad way to go if you can afford it, but not all of us can. So instead of wasting money on leasing a new ride, make an investment that won’t break the bank and buy used. Now, a car is a big purchase so even when you’re buying second-hand, you want to make sure you’re getting a good deal. Do some research, talk to friends or family that might have some insight and try to go in knowing what you want so you’re not stuck walking around the sales-lot with a pushy salesperson. It will be a new car to you, just without that new car smell.

Tools

They say the man who has the most tools by the end of his life wins, but they don’t say anything about what kind of condition those tools need to be in. The direct purpose of tools means that they will be getting a little wear-and-tear pretty quickly if you’re using them right, so why should it matter If their new or used. Every household should have at least one complete toolbox, but those things can cost a pretty penny. Search for used tools so you can avoid some of those higher costs and also so you know these tools been to work already.

Musical instruments

Much like bicycles, musical instruments fall into the sort of miscellaneous category. Unless you’re a professional musician, you’re probably looking for an instrument for a hobby. If that’s the case, there’s no need to throw all your money at the best quality instruments. If you have concerns over germs then may want to buy a brand new trumpet or saxophone, but with the grander instruments like guitars and pianos, best to go with a starter. When you become a pro, you can indulge in a Stratocaster.

Books

Any book you want to find, even those on the bestseller’s lists, you can almost certainly buy used. And really, what are you losing for getting a used book. The story doesn’t get worse if someone read it first and it’s even easier to read a book once it’s been broken in a little. Amazon is great way to find just about any book you want at a reduced price.

Furniture

Chances are you half agree with me on this one. While some people wouldn’t think twice getting certain used furniture, but others may draw the line at things like used beds. That’s all fair enough, but we all know trying to refurnish a house with new furniture can quickly become very costly endeavour. You can find used couches, tables, and furniture of all sizes which could easily pass as brand new. And if you’re still hesitant to buy a used mattress, there are discount store which sell cheap ‘flawed’ beds—usually it crooked stitching jobs that will be hidden by bedsheets anyway.