Oct 142013
 

Some say Canadians are being charged too much for our cell phone plans 😯 I used to think the same 5 years ago, when Bell, Telus, and Rogers were the only options for most people. But not anymore 😉 Because today there are so many less expensive alternatives out there to choose from.

To compare, let’s look at what the “big 3″ are offering on their websites. (as of 10/14/13)

  • Bell offers $70/month for unlimited voice + 250MB data
  • Rogers has pretty much the same $70/month plan
  • Telus tries a different approach by breaking up their voice and data package, but with a $55 phone plan, and a 250MB data plan that costs $15, the total still comes to $70/month

Now let’s look at what some of the alternative wireless companies are offering. (as of 10/14/13)

  • Manitoba Telecom Services (MTS) offers a 1000 min voice + 1GB data plan for $55/month
  • The crown corporation SaskTel offers a comparable plan for $45/month
  • Public Mobile offers unlimited voice + data for $40/month
  • Wind Mobile also has unlimited voice + data for $40/month
  • Mobilicity has a similar package for $35/month or $55/month for upgrading to their 4G network

I’m sure there are other companies I’ve missed but in general it appears for a standard voice + data package, the smaller wireless players offer a 43% discount over the larger companies (~$40 vs ~$70.) 5 years ago when I got my first cell phone I paid $40/month, and that was talk only with limited minutes 😡 But today, I can get so much more for the same price! According to fellow PF blogger Stephen Weyman, even when it comes to add-on packages for traveling to the U.S., the smaller players offer better value. So I think prices have gone down, not up 😀 My current wireless package is only $20/month because I have no data plan, just unlimited talk + text.

So it’s a bit perplexing when I read reports like this one by J.D. Power and Associates that claim in 2013, 49% of Canadian wireless customers who have data packages pay on average $86/month, and the other 51% who do not have a data plan (oldschool people like me) pay $65/month. Good heavens! (;゚д゚) Who is still paying $65/month for just talk + text? No wonder people are so upset 🙁 But don’t get me wrong, I actually like it when consumers pay more 😉 Here’s a look at how our telecom sector’s average revenue per user compare with other countries.

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May 142013
 

To become rich we should try to maximize our earnings and minimize our expenses. Here are two simple ways to do it by adapting.

13_05_comtower adaptFirst, on the earnings side, we can take advantage of unfair market forces to increase our investment potential. For example Canada’s telecommunication sector is an oligopoly with over 90% of the wireless market owned by just 3 companies, and they have quite a lot of political influence. According to J.D. Power and Associates, Canadians are spending 13% more on their cell phone bills now than last year. But that’s okay. Less competition and higher prices for consumers also mean higher profits for those wireless companies 😀 Over the years I have learned about the anti-competitive wireless landscape in Canada and have slowly bought stocks in all 3 major tel-cos, Bell (BCE), Telus (T), and Rogers (RCI.B) All 3 stocks have outperformed the S&P/TSX Composite for the last 1 year, 5 year, and 10 year periods 🙂 Even if I don’t like to invest in tele-com businesses in general like Vodaphone or Verizon from other countries, I would still make it a priority as a Canadian to have some exposure in Canadian tele-com stocks because they are given a competitive advantage in this country. Non Canadian investors however may not receive the same preferential tax treatment on dividends and capital gains from these companies so you should adapt your investment strategy based on where YOU live.

And second, on the spending side we can save money by adapting our shopping habits to where we live. For example I enjoy both dairy products and seafood. Relatively speaking Canada has expensive cheese, and other dairy goods, but we have pretty affordable seafood (especially near the coasts.) So whenever I want to treat myself to something fancy I usually favor seafood over dairy. In Canada, eggs, chicken and dairy aren’t sold like most goods. Competition is kept out. Tariffs on imports can be more than 200%. A $10 French cheese will be hit with a $24.50 duty for example. Exports are restricted because they’re subsidized. Again this means higher prices for consumers. I still eat cheese occasionally but it’s not a big part of my diet because I can find better value from other products. On the other hand, I do eat a lot of summer produce from the Okanagan Valley, spot prawns, sushi, and other locally sourced foods that are cheap and delicious 😀 13_05_superstoreflyer

If I lived in the US I would probably eat more cheese, but would consume less maple syrup. If I lived in France, a larger part of my diet would probably be wine because of how cheap and plentiful it is there. By adapting our shopping tendencies to our surroundings we can choose what we want and still maintain our standard of living without spending more than we have to 😀

Financial acumen requires the ability to adapt to change 😀 Every country will be different. By using the investment opportunities that are specific to a jurisdiction, and by being mindful of what we buy relative to our surroundings, we could greatly enhance the returns on our investments while being cleverly frugal at the same time, creating more savings for our pockets, hurray! (^_^)