A Money Coach in Canada

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When I was debating between a month in England or in Halifax, on a whim I checked to see what train prices would be. Being a good money coach, I clicked the “deals” link and nearly fell off my seat.

$350 (instead of the usual $1200+ or so) for a late-June ride from Edmonton to Halifax (actually, it may have been Toronto, but still!)
First Class
Private cabin
All meals (legendarily gourmet) included
Private washroom; access to shower
Sleeper berth at night

My point is: Via Rail continuously offers fantastic deals. You can find them here. Why fly when you can sit back and glide through the Rocky Mountains, or across the Prairies and into the lush land of Southern Ontario or further?

Photo Credit: Madbuster77

News Corp (as in, phone-hacking, police-bribing, bully parliamentarians News Corp) stock rises. Yes, rises. Clue: Live by the sword, die by the sword.

Euro-Zone lightens up the repayment terms for Greece’s debt, in part because the private sector (aka BANKS) also had to help out (Germany insisted). If you don’t get the whole Greece-In-Big-Trouble thing, my story will help.

Microsoft’s net income increased by 30% compared to last year’s Q2. It ain’t dead yet (although the article was rather gloomy) — have you *tried* Kinect??

We’re all still biting our nails about the US debt ceiling and potential default.

And in Canada? Well, < yawns > the Bank of Canada held their lending rate at 1%.


We’ve covered the UK, Russia, and today it’s Thailand with some on-the-ground money advice by folks who know whereof they speak.  Check back on Saturday for a post about being savvy with your money in Nicaragua!

How to keep your wallet happy in Thailand – “The Land of Smiles” is brought to you by a former colleague, Heidi.  She is a teacher-turned-banker-turned-teacher and is currently teaching primary school at the British Columbia International School of Bangkok.


Probably the most expensive part of your trip to Thailand will be the airfare over here, but once you land, here are a few tips to help you save some Baht along the way.

Cash is King

Before you fly over here, order some Thai Baht and ask for a mixture of denominations (20’s, 50’s, 100’s). The exchange hovers around 30 Baht to the Dollar, so about $100 worth of small bills will be plenty – otherwise you’ll need a briefcase to carry away all the Baht!

7-11 the Unofficial Bank of Thailand

There is no problem using your ATM or Credit Card in ATM machines in Thailand, but the problem occurs in that they only spit out 1,000 Baht bills, and you’ll be hard pressed to get 970 Baht change from the streetvendor who just cooked up some Pad Thai for you. So “Oh Thank Heaven” there’s 7-11, where I believe it is their unspoken duty to change a 1,000 baht note for that 7 baht bottle of water you just bought (yes, only 25 cents for bottled water!) Not only will you appreciate the sub-arctic temperature they keep the store at, but you won’t get a deathly stare when you present them with a 1,000 baht bill. And 7-11 over here truly is like a bank – you can pay your cable, internet and electricity bills or even pay for a flight that you booked online, all while you buy your slurpee!


Getting around Thailand is pretty cheap, but you can make some costly mistakes. Let’s start with when you first step off the plane in Bangkok – they’ve just completed a high-speed train directly from the International airport, so now it’s cheap, easy and fast to get into downtown Bangkok. If you’ve been flying for hours on end though you may just want to hop in a cab – just make sure you follow the signs outside to the official “Meter Taxi” stand – you do not need to negotiate this fare as the meter taxis are on a fixed rate per kilometer.

Getting around Bangkok you’ve got multiple modes of cheap transport: skytrain, bus, taxi, tuk tuk, or if you’re really brave – a motorcycle taxi! One of my favourite modes of transport though is the water taxi. For about 50 cents you can get an hour-long river boat “cruise” on one of the traditional Thai longboats. No need to pay a huge amount for a river cruise when you can hop on their water-transit system for 14 baht!

Everything is Negotiable

I’ve never really been much of a haggler myself, but I’ve had to get into the game here, because I quickly realized that if there’s no sticker price on something (which there rarely is!) then the price is open for debate. Many foreigners come here and feel like they are constantly being “ripped off” because they see the Thais paying a different price, and I felt that way too until I put a few things into perspective, namely that the Thai minimum wage is 300 baht per day (about $10 a DAY!) As a foreigner living in Thailand we would never be paid that low, and as a traveler, you would have brought money with you for your trip, so in their eyes we get paid more, so we should pay more. Saying that though, there’s a difference between paying the “farang* tax” as I like to call it and being taken for a ride.

My advice on making sure that you are paying a fair price is to shop around a bit to get a sense of what the item is worth before making your final purchase. And when it comes to taxis or tuk tuks, either make sure they turn their meter on, or you negotiate the price of the ride before you drive away – otherwise they literally will take you for a ride…like to their cousin’s restaurant or brother’s gift shop!

Overall, your money will go a long way…it’s just a matter of saving up so that you can buy yourself that plane ticket here!

*farang (or sometimes pronounced falang) is the Thai term for a foreigner. The term derives from the word Francais, as the French were some of the first foreigners to come to Thailand. And Francais in Thai is Farang-set…hence anyone who doesn’t look like they come from Thailand is instantly referred to as a farang.


Want to travel to Thailand but need the money?   My business helps folks get organized and in control of their day-to-day finances to obtain such goals!

It’s not often you get the chance to directly compare service from 3 different banks on the exact same customer-service issue. But I did yesterday.

You may recall I was nearly stranded without money during my UK holiday, since my cards were not set up with chip technology.

Sure enough, upon my return, there were three, count ’em, 3, very discreet envelopes in my mail containing new cards from Vancity, ING and Royal Bank of Canada respectively. Each one had a different process for activating them. Here are the (drum roll) results:

I heart that bank.
As always, they were slick. I called the phone number which was a direct line for card activations, followed about three quick prompts and…. DONE. Just like that.  5 minutes tops.  Except trying to memorize the new pin will be a pain in the neck.

SECOND UP: Vancity Credit Union, (aka seller-offer-of-formerly-best-bank-in-Canada)
I got the card, read the letter and … nothing. I had to do nothing. Did you read that? Nothing. Zip. It was all taken care of for me and I could keep the same pin. “That was easy”.

LAST UP: Royal Bank of Canada

  1. Call Toll-Free number.
  2. Got “this number is temporarily unavailable” kind of message
  3. Called Toll-Free number again
  4. Entered Card number.
  5. Got put through to agent
  6. Had to verbally give my number again to agent.  It took her three (3!) tries.
  7. Agent then asked “how old are you” as a security question.  I said, “Uh… can you ask me something else?”  She then asked my date of birth which I gave, albeit aware it was essentially the same question.  Somehow at least it *sounds* more respectful though.
  8. Agent then said some kind of activation was taking place and meantime she started to pitch me on insurance I don’t want.
  9. “I don’t want that insurance”, I said, loudly and clearly
  10. “Uh, Well, Anyway….” the agent said then continued exactly where she’d left off on the pitch
  12. I put the phone on speaker and carried on with some paperwork while she continued
  13. “Are you still there?”  agent asked
  14. “Is my card activated?”  I replied
  15. “Yes” she said.
  16. “Great, thanks a lot,” I said, and we politely said goodbye.

I totally understand she was just doing her job.

Guess, just guess, who won the customer service showdown, and who lost.

psst — want to know why I have 3 bank accounts?  Because I know how to rock them to reach my goals.  So do my clients. You can too.

Photo Credit:  24oranges

Yeah, that sounds kinda nuts.

But here’s where I’m coming from.   In 2009 I saw the film Food Inc., and have never really been the same since.  I went without pork for a year, and bought only free-range meat when I could.  I even valiantly tried to learn to fish and fillet them. Thankfully, a group of Yellowknifers went together to buy organic beef, pork and chickens from a pretty cool farm in Alberta, so bacon’s on the table once again.

This is all very good, but I have been aware of how utterly disconnected I  remain from my food (which has possibly prevented psychosis).

This summer was different.  In the UK, animals and farms are extraordinarily visible.  Again and again I was within yards of sheep, cows, pigs, goats and chickens.  They were how I like to think of livestock:  ranging freely, in lovely green pastures and rolling hills. If only that were the norm in North America!   I was even able to pet some of the cows and sheep!  While I’m still confounded about taking their lives eventually, at least knowing they had reasonably natural and peaceful grazing lives eases my discomfort.

When is the last time you drove by your future food?

And as ridiculous as it seems, this was my first time that I can recall that I ever saw cows chewing their cud! (ignore the talking in the clip).