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‘Date night needn’t bust your budget’

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Toronto-based author Gordon Stein drew on his personal finance expertise and his drive to help Canadians build wealth — and get out of debt — in writing Cashflow Cookbook.

His book offers 60 financial “recipes” and this month’s excerpt looks at less-expensive alternatives for date night that mix things up and help build wealth by investing the savings.

Dinner at a café after an evening walk or visit to an art gallery can be a refreshing, less expensive take on date night.
Dinner at a café after an evening walk or visit to an art gallery can be a refreshing, less expensive take on date night.  (Dreamstime)

Thursday night was “date night” for Bruno and Jodi. For years they had gone to the movies, indulging in greasy popcorn washed down with 28 ounces of fizzing sugar. It wasn’t doing their waistlines any favours, but it was a nice tradition.

One night in December, Bruno met Jodi for their date after her school board meeting. They jumped on the subway with no particular movie in mind.

As they strolled hand in hand, enjoying the festive lights and the tingle of fresh snow on their faces, they paused to look at the displays in the art gallery window.

Neither had set foot inside for decades. Their eyes met and they shared an unspoken “let’s check it out.”

Jodi pulled out her wallet at the admissions counter but the clerk pointed to the “Free on Thursday” sign. Bonus!

They started in the Canadian gallery and learned about colour, style and meaning as used by artists they’d barely heard of.

They shared their reactions to the canvases and their ideas about what would work in their house.

At 7:30, they attended a session by a cellist who shared her compositions, the inspiration for her pieces and her journey to become a soloist.

As they walked back to the subway hours later, they realized they had forgotten about dinner. They found a hole-in-the-wall café and discussed the art and music over a low-cost meal.

Jodi grabbed her phone and they started a list of other fun, low-cost, healthy date night ideas, including the museum, concerts in the park, pay-what-you-can night at the local theatre and Groupon cooking classes.

The bill came and Jodi slid it to Bruno. He raised an eyebrow. “I got the art gallery,” she said, smiling.

Savings don’t show up only in mundane areas like car insurance, gas bills and groceries. Here’s a delectable, easy-to-execute recipe for budget entertainment:

Ingredients

  • For high-end, live entertainment consider the savings of subscriptions vs. individual tickets — or check sites like for Groupon.com for deals.
  • For concerts, check for tickets on Kijiji. Be careful of scams.
  • Try BrownPaperTickets.com for reasonably priced local music, theatre and comedy, or watch for pay-by-donation nights and free preview performances.
  • Most movie theatre chains have a “cheap night,” and cinema loyalty points programs can save cash on admission and snacks.
  • For attractions, look at local sites like CityPass.com and provincial sites like AttractionsOntario.ca for coupons.
  • Do an online search for the name of the attraction you’re interested in and “coupons” before booking online. You might find a deal.
  • Check with Costco or other membership retailers to see if they offer discount vouchers.
  • Check with your employer, alumni association and automobile association for discounted tickets for events and attractions.

Hearty Serving for a family of five:

  • Originally seeing five, high-end theatre shows a year, two tickets at $130 each, or $1,300 annually.
  • Visiting family attractions (amusement parks, water parks, etc.) five times a year, for the equivalent of $125 monthly.
  • Bought theatre tickets to less-expensive shows at BrownPaperTickets.com for $25 each, totalling $21 monthly.
  • Used Groupon passes to save 25 per cent on family attractions, for $94 monthly.

Yield

  • 10-year value x 173 = $20,414.

Gordon Stein is a Toronto-based personal finance speaker, author of Cashflow Cookbook and contributor for the Star. Follow him on Twitter @cashflowcookbk.

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Victoria real estate agent disciplined for false advertising, encouraging cash deal to avoid taxes

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A Victoria real estate agent is facing $9,000 in fines and a 60-day licence suspension after breaking several professional rules during the sale of her father’s half-million-dollar property, according to a decision by the Real Estate Council of B.C. 

Whitney Garside’s missteps — outlined this week in a disciplinary decision posted on the council’s website — included falsely advertising the property as being almost twice its actual size and advising the buyer they could avoid the property transfer tax if they paid cash directly to the seller.

The property on Burnett Road in Victoria was being sold in 2016 by the real estate agent’s father. That relationship was disclosed and isn’t among the reasons she has been disciplined.

According to the disciplinary consent order, Garside told the buyer — whose name is redacted — that by paying $42,000 cash on the side, the value of the property could be reduced to avoid paying the property transfer tax.

That cash arrangement was not shared with Garside’s brokerage, Re/Max Camosun, a failure that contravened the Real Estate Services Act.

The council also ruled that she “failed to act honestly and with reasonable care and skill” when she advised the buyer the property transfer tax could be avoided by paying cash directly to the seller. 

The council’s discipline committee also found that Garside committed professional misconduct when she failed to recommend the seller and buyer seek independent legal advice, specifically regarding the property transfer tax and the cash agreement.

Another issue the council considered professional misconduct involved the size of the property in question.

The council ruled that Garside published false and misleading advertising and failed to act with reasonable care and skill when the property was advertised as 8,712 square feet, when in fact a portion of the lot belonged to the Ministry of Transportation, and the actual size was just 4,711 square feet.

The discipline committee ordered Garside’s licence be suspended for 60 days, which will be completed Jan. 3, 2021.

She has also been ordered to complete real estate ethics and remedial classes at her own expense.

Garside was also fined $7,500 as a disciplinary penalty and $1,500 in enforcement expenses.

She agreed to waive her right to appeal the council’s discipline committee’s decision in September.

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Frisco apartment community sells to Canadian investor

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A Canada-based investor has purchased a Frisco apartment community as part of a larger Texas deal.

The 330-unit Satori Frisco apartments opened last year on Research Road in Frisco.

BSR Real Estate Investment Trust bought the four-story rental community that was built by Atlanta-based Davis Development.

Satori Frisco was more than 90% leased at the time of sale. The property includes a two-story fitness center, a car care center, a dog park and a resort-style swimming pool.

The Frisco property sold along with Houston’s Vale luxury apartments in a deal valued at $129 million.

“BSR recently exited the smaller Beaumont and Longview, Texas, markets and also sold noncore properties in other markets,” John Bailey, BSR’s chief executive officer, said in a statement. “We are now using our strong liquidity position to invest in Vale and Satori Frisco, modern communities in core growth markets with the amenities our residents desire.”

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House prices on Prince Edward Island continue steady climb

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Residential real estate prices on Prince Edward Island continue to climb at a rate higher than the national average, according to the latest report from a national organization. 

The Canadian Real Estate Association released monthly figures for November 2020 on Tuesday.

They show that the average price for a resale home on P.E.I. is about 21 per cent higher than it was a year earlier. 

Only Quebec had a bigger year-over-year increase, at about 23 per cent. Overall across Canada, prices were up 13.8 per cent year over year in the ninth month of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For the fifth straight month, year-over-year sales activity was up in almost all Canadian housing markets compared to the same month in 2019,” the report noted.

“Meanwhile, an ongoing shortage of supply of homes available for purchase across most of Ontario, Quebec and the Maritime provinces means sellers there hold the upper hand in sales negotiations.”

That lack of houses coming onto the market compared to the demand means that in those provinces, there is “increased competition among buyers for listings and … fertile ground for price gains.”

There have been anecdotal reports for months that Prince Edward Island’s low rate of COVID-19 infection and looser rules around social activities have been encouraging people to buy homes on the Island. 

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