Friday, August 31, 2007

Tip of the Week - check out employee offers

We just returned from a few days up north. Thanks to an employee program at my husband’s office, we saved 30% off the regular price of our accommodations at Blue Mountain.

I work in an office tower. The property manager offers tenants (and their employees) discounts on all kinds of things, including my favorite: Cineplex movie tickets. I pay $8 each instead of the regular price of $11.95.

Many companies negotiate all kinds of special offers for employees. Does yours? It’s almost like social shopping. What workplace savings have you received lately?

Technorati tags: Blue Mountain, movie tickets, social shopping, vacations

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Weekly Wish: your help in the 1% Army Canadian Blogging Tournament

Okay, so you’re probably thinking what??? What the heck is she talking about now? Once again, Sean Moffitt aka Buzz Canuck has organized a friendly competition: The 1% Army Canadian Blogging Tournament for 128 bloggers covering a wide range of topics (e.g. marketing, communication, customer experience and social media.)

I kinda got into this whole thing by accident. I signed up as one of the Canadian blogs with related content since I cover some of the things on the list, particularly customer experience. I didn’t realize I was entering a competition of some of the best bloggers in the country, many of whom have inspired me!

So far, just by participating in the 1% army, I’ve met two other amazing bloggers and it’s only the beginning. But to stay in the game, I need your help. There are several rounds. The competition is steep.

For starters, Bargainista is in category C: Marketing, Communications and Research. I’ve been pitted against three impressive guys who’ve been at this much longer. Round 1 entries are due by September 8. I need to submit three blog posts written in 2007, including one written since August 11.

Entries are evaluated by an expert panel of 12 judges based on 5 criteria:
overall impact (20%)
clarity of thought (20%)
did it make me want to think/act differently (20%)
did it want me to comment/participate (20%)
originality (20%)

Since Bargainista has always been about YOU, the community, this is a team effort. You inspire me to write each and every word. And you guessed it… This week my wish is for your help in selecting the three posts for Round 1. YOU be the judge!

Here’s my take of the Bargainista Top 10 list in order of appearance:
Starbucks - the epilogue
Why I use Twitter and why you should too!
Are you Coach worthy?
After a Fashion, second excursion: the metamorphosis
Weekly Wish: shoes from Holts
Apples, lemon and honey: my iMac story
TaB energy falls flat
Special invitation for Bargainista readers: ChickAdvisor Shop Crawl
The Line Painter and online book offers
Online shopping: Neiman Marcus gets it

Choose the three you feel have best met the criteria. You may even want to add a brief note as to why. Or suggest another post altogether. The choice is yours. Only one catch, please let me know by September 5. You can leave a comment or e-mail me.

In return, I will do my best to involve you every step of the way. I’ve already made friends with Saul Colt (The Smartest Man in the World) and Kim Vallee (At Home with Kim Vallee), two wonderful bloggers you may want to add to your list of must-reads. More than anything, if together we can learn about other interesting blogs and meet other inspiring bloggers, we will all be winners.

Technorati tags: blogs, buzz canuck, Canada’s 1% Army, Kim Vallee, Sean Moffitt, Saul Colt, tournaments

Monday, August 27, 2007

Dove’s free offer on Facebook sucks

I’m usually not that blunt. Nor am I gullible enough to click on banner ads offering me free stuff but I have a lot of respect for the Dove campaigns of late so when I saw the offer for a “Free* package of Dove-beauty products” on Facebook, I checked it out.

Boy was I annoyed to find out there were all kinds of strings attached to the offer including having to pay for products. WTF? With the millions of Canadian women on Facebook every day and the opportunity for marketers to promote their products in interesting ways, did Dove miss the boat or what?

Do you agree? Did you click on this ad too? What bad promos have you seen lately? Please share, leave a comment.

Technorati tags: banner ads, Dove, Facebook

Sunday, August 26, 2007

My afternoon with Joe

I’ve been pining over Joe for a long time. He’s so good looking but I kept hearing he was cheap so I wasn’t sure if he was really for me. I’ve heard he's pretty fresh too. ; )

All kidding aside, my friend Cori edged me on. She told me how her fashionably chic friend draped in designer clothes wears Joe all the time. No one would ever know she only paid $6 for that t-shirt she’s wearing with her $300 pants.

Cori said the best place to find Joe was at the Real Canadian Superstore. I’d wanted to take my little guy to Joe Fresh since the kids’ line hit the market. So into the magic bus (aka minivan) we went.

To say I was overwhelmed by Joe’s presence would be an understatement. He was everywhere. I was duly impressed but truth be told, he was a little too cheap for my tastes. My nine-year-old thought otherwise. He wanted to take Joe home. I figured it couldn’t hurt. He found a fleece jacket for $10 and matching pants for $8 – a perfect fit. He chose a polo shirt for $8 and a graphic t-shirt for $5. His favourite find were the pj separates ($14 for both pieces).

To be honest, the separates look just as nice and well-made as other kids’ clothes at other value-priced chain stores: Children’s Place, Old Navy and H&M. I’m not sure if it’s up to par with The Gap. Joe kids had an impressive launch party and marketing campaign. The website has some interesting interactive features too. The line looks much better in the ads but then what do you expect for kids’ separates at these prices. Only time will tell if it stands up to the active-kid test. ; )

I was very impressed with the “Robeez” knock-offs for tots. And at $12, they’re less than half the price of the original.

So as you can see, Joe was just a bit too fresh for me but Joe Fresh kids’ line was a perfect place to start our back-to-school shopping.

Have you been to Joe Fresh? What did you think? Have you seen the kids’ line?

Technorati Tags: back-to-school, Joe Fresh, Robeez

Friday, August 24, 2007

Tip of the Week: back-to-school shopping

Now is prime time for back-to-school shopping. Have you been to the mall lately? Everyone is vying for your business. But what about the kids? If they’re like mine, there’s nothing they want to do less, especially if it’s sunny outside.

My advice, arrive as soon as the mall opens. It’s easier to find parking and the stores are less crowded. And, shop somewhere that has activities for the kids.

Today we went to Vaughan Mills. NASCAR Speedpark isn’t cheap (we were lucky to have some discount coupons on hand from a school fundraiser) but it’s lots of fun, especially for active boys. They got to have their fun and I found them some back-to-school clothes at reasonable prices. Everyone wins!

We were all disappointed Eggspectation had closed. We used to go their for a great sit-down lunch at food court prices.

Share your back-to-school shopping tips. Leave a comment.

Technorati tags: back-to-school, NASCAR Speedpark, Vaughan Mills

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Online shopping: Neiman Marcus gets it

Planning your fall wardrobe just got a whole lot easier thanks to Neiman Marcus and InStyle. The fashionable retailer and style magazine have teamed up to bring customers and prospective customers some of this fall’s hottest trends in a mix and match web tool called “Instant Style” in the v.i.t. section of Neiman’s website.

You can even customize the outfits piece by piece, view details including the designer and price, click through for more information, buy the entire outfit or just the pieces you want. The only trick is coming up with the $5k-$8k per outfit. ; )

Wouldn’t online shopping be better if every online retailer offered a similar service? What if you could even upload your own photo (and possibly body type info.) to get an idea of how the outfit would look on you?

For those of us who only wish we could afford shopping at Neiman Marcus, here’s a suggestion: Play around with the mix and match tool, see what pieces you already have in your wardrobe and which ones you’ll need to get the look you want. Then go out and find similar pieces elsewhere. (Did I hear someone say H&M or Zara?)

Have you tried Instant Style and if so, what did you think? What else could fashion retailers do to improve their websites? What other stores are doing it right? Leave a comment.

(Thanks for Mish for the heads-up.)

Technorati tags: InStyle, Neiman Marcus, trends

Toronto Fashion Bloggers Brunch X - Sunday, Aug. 26

You’re invited! Calling all local fashion bloggers:

Toronto Fashion Bloggers Brunch (TFBB)

Brass Taps
221 Carleton St. (map)

August 26, 2007

Special shout-out to Danielle for her terrific poster (more about that later) and co-ordinating this event (and picking up the ball in my absence.)

RSVP by logging on to

Technorati tags: blogging, Brass Taps, brunch, TFBB

End of Season Blowout Sale at r.u.

r.u. by rosemarie Umetsu
End of Season Blowout Sale
tops, dresses, jackets, pants & skits

96 Avenue Rd. (map)
416 961-3313

Wednesday, Aug. 22

Technorati tags: r.u. by rosemarie umetsu

Monday, August 20, 2007

Sucked in by Sephora

My make-up habits are routine. I had the benefit of having a Bobbi Brown make-up artist review my habits last May. I love Bobbi Brown but to be honest, with the exception of a regime of concealer products that cost a small fortune, my appearance is pretty much the same.

All that changed when I stopped into Sephora with my niece who was visiting me from Montreal. She loves Sephora and it’s a must-see every time she’s in town. This time, she thought about having a makeover and had cold feet ‘cause she thought she’d be obligated to buy the products they used on her face. I kept telling her she didn’t have to buy anything. So, she took my advice and tried a new look. The make-up artist was amazing and made sure to teach every step along the way.

I couldn’t just stand by and watch, so just for fun, I asked to try the new smoky eye look for fall. I had my choice of which type of smoky eye I wanted. I was open to suggestion. She demonstrated both an intense and not-so-intense look. They both looked great but involved a much more made-up look than I’m used to. My niece thought it looked amazing. And wouldn’t you know, CARGO has a limited edition smoky-eye kit exclusive to Sephora for $45. It includes a fabulous brush, black mascara and a grey SmokyEye Eyeliner Duo. Individually priced, the items total $86. What a bargain. I had to buy it. Luckily, a CARGO rep was on-site and she spent another 15 min. with me showing me how to achieve a smoky-eyed look suitable for the office.

But what lipstick would I use? NARS has a wonderful pale colour, Belle de Jour. It’s a perfect complement for the smoky-eye look. I usually wear MAC Viva Glam but I couldn’t pass this one up even for the hefty $30 price tag.

So there you have it… a little trip to Sephora with my niece cost me $75 big ones plus tax. My niece bought a couple sale items for her mom and sister – total costs: about $25. Oh well, at least she still thinks her aunt in Toronto is cool. ; )

Technorati tags: Bobbi Brown, CARGO, MAC, NARS, Sephora, smoky eyes

Sunday, August 19, 2007

H&M empire continues to grow in Toronto

Note: This guest post is courtesy of Sonja Andic, Managing Editor and Photographer of TorontoStreetFashion. Sonja recently attended the opening party for the new H&M store on Queen and shares an insider’s view.

Look for the new H&M store just opened on Queen Street West near Spadina Ave. It is a newer, fresher version of the other already established H&M Toronto locations.

For those on a strict diet of fast fashion this retail empire doesn’t disappoint. Prepare for the usual smorgasbord of cheap hipster fashions for men and women. Highlights include rip-off House of Holland slogan t-shirts, skull motif socks, afro comb pendant necklaces and skinny leg jeans in bright colours.

The opening night in-store party was a huge parade of the who’s who in the Toronto fashion community. Caught red-handed rummaging for bargains was FQ Magazine’s Editor-in-Chief Jeanne Beker and Fashion Design Council of Canada (FDCC) President Robin Kay. You couldn’t move for all the VIP stylists, photographers, fashion bloggers, designers and Queen Street hipsters.

Prepare to pack a light snack of energy bars to get you all around the massive two storey building with racks and racks of the latest trends for women. If you are a male shopper, the men’s section is a bit on the scrawny side, but don’t let that stop you from pilfering from the gals!

We’re you at the H&M Queen W. opening? What did you think? Been to any store openings lately? Share your event coverage with Bargainista? E-mail me.

Technorati tags: FDCC, FQ Magazine, H&M, Jeanne Beker, Robin Kay, Sonja Andic, TorontoStreetFashion

Friday, August 17, 2007

Tip of the Week: make friends with local retailers

Chances of getting a discount on regular merchandise at a chain store are slim to none. However, smaller independent retailers need your business and smart ones will bend over backwards to be your friend. They want you coming back for more.

There is a specialty store about a 10 min. walk from my house. The most I spend there is about $20 a visit. Usually, I spend less than $10. I don’t think I’ve spent more than $100 this year and I often wait for sales. I’m always friendly to the owner, lots of customers are.

I’m not sure why, but the last few visits, the owner has given me between 20%-30% off the regular price. He knows I blog but my readers are quite different from his target demographic. Needless to say, I’ve become a loyal customer. Once or twice a year, when his shop a sale or is involved in a special event, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, I appreciate the discount and I’ll stay a loyal customer.

Are you friends with any of your local retailers? What have they done for you lately? Share your experience, leave a comment.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Manny and the miniBookExpo

This summer I’m participating in the miniBookExpo for Bloggers. You can too. All I had to do was choose a book (or two) from a pre-selected list and write a review. Special shout-out to Lex for organizing this event.

The Manny by Holly Peterson (published by The Dial Press) was my first selection. I have very mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I found it quite trivial and trashy; on the other hand, I couldn’t put it down.

Jamie Whitfield is the main character in this fish out of water story. A news producer with a middle-class upbringing, we meet her as a flustered mother of three and married into the upper crust of New York’s Park Avenue high-society. Richard, her high-strung corporate lawyer husband, is never around and whines incessantly that his million-dollar salary isn’t enough for him to keep up with the Joneses.

Dylan, the eldest son, has some issues and at the suggestion of some of the other desperate trophy housewives in the school yard, Jamie decides to hire Peter Bailey, a “manny” (male nanny, get it?) so Dylan will have a male figure around the house (and she will too).

I’m sure you’ve already guessed how this story will end. There are a few plot twists and mid-way through, there is a whole other subplot dealing with Jamie’s career. At times, it seemed like I was reading two different stories.

Although Peterson does an excellent job of illustrating the lives of the uber-riche in NYC down to the finest detail, it seemed so superficial and shallow. However, when she focuses on Jamie’s career, her writing is more interesting and sophisticated. I’m sure the author’s own career in broadcasting helps give us readers insight only a person with first-hand experience could depict. Had Peterson focused more on Jamie’s career, it would have been a better book. Unfortunately, the story continues about an extra 100 pages, back to the predictable, trashy and mundane.

Much of The Manny was a rehashing of many girl-in-unhappy-relationship-meets-new-guy, new guy helps her confront her unhappiness. They realize they were made for each other, blah, blah blah.

The biggest disappointment was with Peterson’s perspective on personal wealth. As much as she mocks the wealthy Park Avenue lifestyle, in the end her bias comes across loud and clear: money does buy happiness. Read the book and you’ll know what I mean.

Have you read The Manny? What did you think? Which guilty pleasure(s) have you read this summer? Leave a comment.

Technorati tags: book club, guilty pleasures, Holly Peterson, miniBookExpo for Bloggers, The Manny

Monday, August 13, 2007

Queen Street Shop Crawl - the recap

Note: This guest post is by Kathryn Lagden who scored my event ticket to ChickAdvisor’s Queen Street Shop Crawl. Looks like she had a great time. If you have a chance, next time you’re on Queen West check out some of stores.

I’d by lying if I didn’t admit a little trepidation as I set out to start the Queen Street Shop Crawl last Thursday. Shopping? Me? I do buy clothes, bags, shoes, and many other accoutrements that keep my friends from shooting secret footage and publicly displaying my fashion idiocy on reality TV. But I view the actual shopping as one of life’s tedious chores more than a pleasurable outing.

So why did I apply to be the Bargainista reporter for the inaugural ChickAdvisor crawl? Well I’m always up for something new and who can resist discounts and freebies!

So with notebook in hand, and $100 burning a hole in my pocket, I headed down to the meeting point, Five on Spadina. I had set myself one rule for the event – I must try on at least one thing in every store. A daunting thought but I had to get the full shopping experience (and enough material to write this blog post!)

Five on Spadina was a bit dubious looking from the outside. Very much a discount warehouse with racks of clothes, a makeshift change room, and dim lighting. But once inside it was a treasure trove of brand labels neatly organized on racks with plenty of wiggle room in between. The clothes seemed to fall into either the office or club wear genre. Seeing as I work from home and prefer martinis and jazz to red bull and hip-hop, nothing really caught my eye. Remembering my promise I did try on a fairly basic cotton tee. Not so much.

Second store was Fraiche. At the end of the night I discovered just what a popular store this was when many of the crawl participants showed off their Fraiche dress in the grand prize fashion show. I opted for a green and orange skirt as I liked the print and at 20% off of $32 I really couldn’t lose.

Kiehl’s was the third stop and definite winner of best customer service. Upon arriving I was welcomed with bottled water and jellybeans. Only after I was entered into the draw and handed my freebie - a full size shower wash - was I asked if I needed any help with their products. I’ve been looking for a new moisturizer and have never really understood the point of toner so I took the plunge. A young sales associate with flawlessly smooth skin spent 20 minutes rubbing various lotions into my hands and asking how they felt. To be honest they all felt the same but the anti-aging option was twice as expensive. I can’t afford to stop aging but at least my wrinkles will be finely toned.

Crossing back over the street I entered Fashion Crimes. The frills, lace, beads, stuff, stuff, and more stuff were sensory overload but they did have a dress for every occasion. I don’t attend many black tie soirees so in the end I opted for trying on outrageously large sunglasses.

At first glance RK looks like one of those minimalist stores with very few racks of clothes and everything in black and white. Thankfully I was proven wrong and ended up with a funky little “tank top on top of a tank top” number that I’ll pair with a pair of pyjamas shorts for my office.

Last stop – Kazuo. Not a lot of breathing space and a line-up for the changing rooms made this store tricky to manoeuvre. The men’s side wasn’t as busy so I selected a stylish golf shirt for my hubby. At $25 minus 20% I really couldn’t go wrong and knew I’d get full ‘good wife’ marks when I got home! (Their 50%-off sale lasts until the fall stock arrives…definitely worth checking out)

As the shops closed we all gathered at Milestone’s for drinks, appys, and chatter. Loot bags added a lot of fun as we all routed through the really good stuff we’ll actually use. The evening ended with a fashion show of outfits purchased that night for under $100. Dresses from Fraiche were the clear winner.

Thanks ChickAdvisor for a great night! And thanks Bargainista for giving up your ticket! You just might have changed my mind about shopping...

More Shop Crawl pics

Technorati tags: ChickAdvisor, Kathryn Lagden

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The RedFlagDeals Bargain Hunter’s Picnic

RedFlagDeals Bargain Hunter’s Picnic
Fun for the whole family
Gourmet BBQ (chicken, ribs, salads, pop, and desert )
Special Guests
Live Music
Goodie bag full of freebies from event sponsors!

Varsity Stadium
299 Bloor St. W. (map)

Sunday, Aug. 26
12:30 pm.-4:30 p.m.

How Much?
$5 each - includes lunch (buy now)
Proceeds from ticket sales go to the Starlight•Starbright Children’s Foundation

Technorati tags: bargain hunter, picnic, RedFlagDeals, Starlight Starbright Children’s Foundation

Friday, August 10, 2007

Tip of the Week: stocking up at sale time

If you can still find them, now is time to score that fabulous pair of designer shoes you’ve been eyeing but didn’t want to buy at full price. If you can find something you can wear year round, bonus! It’s also a good time to buy special clothes you think will still be in style next year. If you’re lucky you can score some great finds.

Seems like my kids are growing like weeds. I’m constantly buying them new clothes to replace the almost-new ones they’ve just outgrown. It’s tough keeping up. If you’re good at estimating how much they grow within a year, end of season sale time is a great time to stock up for next summer.

Keep an eye out for non-seasonal items too. At sale time, I often stumble upon household or gift items at great prices too.

Some of my recent finds:
75% off
Linen shorts and t-shirts (Club Monaco)
Guest book and board games (Essence du Papier)

Board games and coffee mugs (Starbucks)
Greeting cards (Essence du Papier)

Remember, things are only a bargain if you actually need them. I used to have a bad habit of buying things just because they were marked way down. Problem was, I forgot I had them.

Do you stock up at sale time? If so, what do you buy? Have you ever stocked up then forgot you had something?

photo credit: enda on flickr

Technorati tags:

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Weekly Wish – a new Apple computer

I know this isn’t the first time I’ve blogged about buying a new computer. But this is the first time Apple has left me with such a big dilemma.

Here’s the scoop:
I’d like a new computer by September.
Originally, I thought I wanted a laptop. I’d really like a MacBook Pro but the MacBook is more in my price range.
Yesterday, Apple released a new iMac: new design, 20” base model, more goodies, and at $1,299 a pretty good value.
Next, some friends told me I should consider a refurbished one. Never done that before. I’m a bit nervous. Should I be?
Leopard is scheduled for release in October. If I wait ’til then, it will be included with my computer.

My weekly wish is for Apple just to shower me with laptop and desktop love. Wouldn’t it be nice if they’d let me take a couple for a test drive and let me share my experience with you? I’d even write a daily log. I know it’s just not their style but I like dreaming.

In case you’re wondering why I’m fixated on getting a new Apple when there are some other cool laptops out there at a fraction of the price, I purchased the educational version of Office and I have two extra licences.

But from where I sit, I’d be almost as happy if you share your opinions. What would you do if you were me? Please leave some comments. I know Linda needs some help too.

And by the way, if you’re a university student and you buy a new Apple computer between now and August 31, Apple will throw in a new iPod Nano.

Technorati tags: Apple, computers, iMac, laptop, leopard, Nano, MacBook, MacBook Pro

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

We picked a winner!

Congratulations to Kathryn Lagden, winner of a ticket to ChickAdvisor’s Queen Street Shop Crawl. Her enthusiasm and sense of humour won the judges over.

Judges chose the winning entry based on two criteria:
1) compelling case for why she should be a Bargainista reporter for a day; and,
2) most engaging writing style

Special shout out to judges Kate Trgovac and Bryan Person. Entries were sent to them without any personal identifying info so they didn’t know whose entries they were judging until after Kathryn was chosen.

Thanks to everyone who participated.

You can read Kathryn’s event coverage this weekend on Bargainista.

Technorati tags: Bryan Person, ChickAdvisor, Kate Trgovac, Kathryn Lagden

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Lifelong member of “It’s better in the US”

Note: This is another guest post courtesy of my co-worker, Linda.

I’ve always been a cross-border shopper–when you grow up less than 30 minutes away from the border, it’s a natural rite of passage. I’ve lived the days of our dollar actually being worth more than the US buck, and survived the days it fell down to almost 60¢. High or low, I haven’t been deterred–there’s just something about a US shopping trip.

At this stage of my life, it’s a mindset more than anything. When I try to shop in Toronto, I’m always on the clock–it’s almost always rushed. Get home to feed the family, pick up or drop off kids, etc. When you know you only have so much time, you just don’t have the same amount of patience. My trips over the border are usually more relaxed–leave the kids at home with their grandparents and come home when I decide I’ve had enough. Things have changed a bit the past year or so though–my 14-year-old daughter has caught the shopping bug (finally!) and my trips over the Niagara River are rarely solo anymore.

The biggest problem I have with Canadian retail is our department stores–they are just nothing compared to the US equivalents. While Holts may be the exception, it’s not a store I can afford. The variety of shoes you can find in a US department store, usually on sale, is incredible. Unlike most Winners, the brand name discount stores (TJ Maxx, Marshalls, etc.) actually have brand name, designer items (only certain geographic locations have high-end stock when it comes to Winners). If you’re looking for a suit, they often have racks of designer names for $100 or less.

Grocery stores are something else that amaze me–step into Wegmans flagship store in the suburbs of Rochester, NY and you won’t know where to begin–it’s like nothing you've ever seen (you can always spot the Canadian visitors–they’re the ones “oohing” and “aahing” every minute or so). It’s not just the variety of foods and food products, it’s the design itself–warm and bustling, not like the warehouse style superstores we have in Canada. For people with food allergies, the choices are ten times what they are in Canada (maybe excluding specialty stores).

Like I said though, I know some of it is a mindset–I just seem to have more time to shop in the US. Since this blog is about bargains, I’ll leave you with my latest and greatest find–I bought a pair of Prada black flats in TJ Maxx last weekend for $80. The MSRP was $600, they started at TJ’s for $230–after a couple of markdowns, I now own a pair of Pradas!

Do you agree with Linda? Is shopping really better south of the border or do you prefer shopping in Canada?

Technorati tags: cross-border shopping, Prada, TJ Maxx, Wegmans, Winners

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Dear Bargainista - #13

Jay from Toronto writes:
I like reading your blog. Do you know where one might find good packs and tents for hiking for a good price?
Dear Jay,
It's been long time since I’ve gone camping but here goes...

Summer is high-season for camping gear so if it’s a deal you're looking for, you’re probably better off waiting until the fall.

You may find different stores are better for specific items.

As for tents and packs, Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) is always a safe bet. They only sell to members but it's worth the $5 for a lifetime membership. Their products are pricey but you’ll be paying for value, plus you’ll get a bevy of other membership benefits.

Tent tip: When buying a tent, I suggest going to a store with demos and trying them out. Depending on your size, you may find some tents more comfortable than others. From what I understand, MEC has several floor models you can check out in-store and some tips online.

Camp Connection isn’t known for its packs and tents but it’s a fine place for filling in the gaps and finding the smaller items and other basics you may need for your trip. Last time I checked they were well-stocked with knapsacks, including Obus Forme ones at reasonable prices.

Camper tips: If you’re planning on spending at least $200 there over the course of a year, it’s probably worth splurging $50 for a membership - you’ll save 20% off all purchases! It’s a hopping place in June while parents and kids are busily getting all their gear for overnight camp. I suggest buying a membership in June (or July, if you’re kids don’t go to camp until August) so it extends over two camp seasons.

There are several other camping stores in Toronto. What are your favourite camping stores? Do you have any camping shopping tips? Leave a comment.

Dear Bargainista would love to hear from you too! Have a question about shopping, fashion or food? E-mail us.

Technorati tags: camping, Camp Connection, MEC, tents

Friday, August 03, 2007

Tip of the Week: to tip or not to tip?

BMO/Mozaik MasterCard recently released a study examining our tipping habits.

Canadians apparently are lousy tippers, except at restaurants. When it comes to other services, if we tip at all, it’s usually quite low.

Americans are very generous. In some European countries, it’s customary not to tip (sometimes tips are included in the price.)

Most of us (a whopping 78%) know a 15% tip is the standard for restaurant servers. What about other services? For example, do you tip your hair stylist? What if she owns the salon?

What do you think of tip jars? How much do you tip?

photo credit: Margaret Hall on flickr

Technorati tags: BMO, MozaikMasterCard, spending habits, tips

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Michelle Yorke Jewellery Designs

I discovered Michelle Yorke’s jewellery during my trip to Halifax. While at Lady Luck, a wonderful accessories shop located at the Historic Properties, I found a display case of Michelle’s collection. It reminded me of the fabulous Anita Cuff. It was my first full day in town and I wasn’t ready to part with my money.

I learned Michelle was a regular at the Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings. The market is a favourite brunch spot whenever I’m in town, this visit was no exception.

Thanks to my aunt’s pre-brunch scouting, I found Michelle’s table. I felt like a kid in a candy store – she had a ton of stuff – there was everything from bracelets, to rings, watches, hair accessories, necklaces and watches. Every piece is made by hand from beads (glass, semi-precious stones or wood) intricately woven together with nickel-free stainless steel. Best of all, she offers it at wholesale prices. I picked up a great watch and a barrette.

I saw other pieces of her collection in a couple other galleries at higher prices. She has made quite a name for herself throughout the province. She’s been a member of the Nova Scotia Designer Crafts Council since 2001, I can see why. I’ve had nothing but compliments on my watch. Best of all, it’s a one-of-kind piece of art from my hometown.

Technorati tags: Halifax Farmers’ Market, Historic Properties, Michelle York Jewellery Designs

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Weekly wish – Roots uptown bag

Every now and then, I regret some of my shopping decisions. Like last spring when Roots had weekend sale with 25% off everything in the store.

I thought I wanted a new purse, a black one similar to my Coach bag, small with a shoulder strap. I was rushed and figured I’d have another chance during the summer sale. Wrong!

By sale time, some purses in funky colours were available but the black ones were gone. Of course, Roots upped it’s game by introducing some new designs at regular price. I like the new Uptown Bag in black patent leather. I'd like it even more if it was in prince leather. No sale, no rush. I thought maybe if I wait...

I may get at least part of my wish after all. This morning I received a coupon for 25% off new merchandise from now through August 12. I haven’t found a prince version of the bag online, maybe I’ll find it in the store.

If you’re wishing from something new from Roots this weekend, you’re in luck. I’m also sharing my coupon with you. If you use it, let me know what you buy.

Do you have any regrets for not buying something this summer? What’s your weekly wish?

Technorati tags: Coach, Roots, Uptown Bag