Tag Archives: Canada

Image of Canadian cash in multiple denominations

Cheap Smartphone Plans in Canada

After managing to snag myself a Google Nexus 4 in the second round of offering, I found myself searching for a suitable cell phone plan here in Canada. As an avid Mr Money Mustache reader, I was astounded to see that he was able to get a $10/month plan in the US. Seeing as I’m cheap, I had to find the best cheap smartphone plan I could in Canada. This has proven difficult.

In Canada, there seems to be two main factors when trying to determine what is a suitable cell phone plan:

  1. Your Location
    • If you live in a major metropolitan area in Canada, you have a couple really fantastic options that give you pretty much unlimited everything.
    • If you live outside those metropolitan areas, or leave them on a semi-regular basis, you’re screwed.
  2. Your Usage
    • If you are a reasonably heavy user, there are lots of plans that offer huge blocks of minutes and multiple GB of data (or even unlimited everything) for all roughly the same price. It’s not exactly cheap but if you plan on using the smartphone that much, you’re stuck paying the price.
    • Unfortunately, if you are  a rather light user who only makes the occasional call when you’re late for a meeting or trying to arrange who’s picking up the kids from where ever, you’re screwed.

Now, if you are one of the “lucky” ones, you live (and work and stay) in a major metropolitan area and are a reasonably heavy user. In that case, just go get yourself one of the unlimited plans from Wind Mobile or Mobilicity and stop reading this post since you aren’t going to find anything cheaper. For ~$40/mon (or less depending on the current offering) you’ll get unlimited everything. I’d be all over that and we’d get rid of the home phone if we could get those smartphone plans for those prices where we live.

If you are a heavy user and don’t live in an area covered by Wind Mobile or Mobilicity, well, you’re screwed. Rogers* or Bell* might be your best options, especially if you can bundle your service with existing home TV or internet to get discounts. Telus* is another option. You can keep reading and consider one of the options below but heavy users are going to pay a lot. Sorry!

For those of us who aren’t heavy users and/or who don’t live in major metropolitan areas in Canada, keep reading.

Analysis Criteria

Due to the two main factors, I’m going to create a hypothetical user who we’ll call, uh, Jeff. Yeah, hypothetically.

Jeff needs coverage both in a metropolitan area and in a more rural area. His voice usage is typically less than 5 minutes per week because he is either at work with a desk phone or at home but he does have a very non-Mustachian commute. Due to his need for rural coverage though he does need to make or receive an occasional long distance call, lets say once a week for 1 minute. He averages 10 outgoing texts a week (and receives more than he can count). Since Jeff is typically bathed in the warmth of WiFi at home or in his office (and he hunts for free WiFi everywhere), he doesn’t really need much in the way of data. 100MB or less of data in a month would be more than sufficient.

Now, one feature I, err, hypothetical Jeff, has to have is call display. If the plan doesn’t offer call display, I haven’t even considered it as I won’t pay extra for a basic service like that.

All in, this is a very basic user that seems very typical based on my sample of co-workers and friends. If this isn’t the type of user you are then what follows probably doesn’t apply fully to you.

Cheapest Prepaid Option with Data

For $5-10 you can get a prepaid SIM card from Virgin Mobile and get the $0.35/min and $0.20/text prepaid plan. Another $10/mon for the 100MB/mon data add-on and presto, you have what might be the winning cheap smartphone plan available in Canada. Well, sort of.

Based on Jeff’s usage, this is going to cost him $10 + ($0.35 * 5 + $0.35 (for the 1 minute of long distance) + 5 * $0.20 ) * 4 weeks = $22.40/month. WTF? That’s not cheap!

No, it’s not cheap and if you happen to increase your voice usage or texting for any reason, you can quickly chew up your prepaid credit. And of course, 100MB of data isn’t going to go far if you aren’t careful so be prepared for the $0.15/MB overage fee.

Cheapest Prepaid Option with No Data

If you decide that you don’t need data at all, the cheapest basic cell phone plan I could find with no data was from Petro Canada Mobile. Well, as far as I can tell they don’t have a data option. There is a $10/mon browsing add-on but those typically don’t allow “full data access” on a smartphone.

Anyways, for $15 you get a prepaid SIM and their rate is $0.25/min for voice and $0.10/text. There appears to be a $1.25/mon fee for “911 services” but it’s not clear on the website how that is billed.

Cheapest Postpaid (Monthly) Option with Optional Data

At the moment this appears to be Virgin Mobile with their $20/month plan – 50min/month, unlimited text. Although Koodo Mobile offers a very similar plan.

Now, it’s not actually $20/month as that plan doesn’t include data but it does have the “Pay Per Use” data option so if you don’t use data in a month, there is no cost. It’s $5/mon for up to 25MB and $10/month for up to 100MB of data but if you go over that, the tiered rates aren’t too painful. So lets call it $30/month.

One nice feature with the current Virgin offer is that the 50 min/month is also valid for long distance calls within Canada. Very handy for Jeff’s situation.

As mentioned, Koodo Mobile offers a very similar plan but their tiered data rate sort of sucks in the off chance you “need” to use more than 250MB of data one month. Some of the other carriers also have a similar $20/mon plan but they don’t seem to offer the tiered data which means they become $30/mon plans for 100MB with hefty overage charges.

Finally, Virgin Mobile is currently offering a 10% discount on monthly plans if you bring your own phone. That’s a nice little differentiator which would turn this into a $27/mon plan with <100MB of data. That’s a whole $3/mon less than anywhere else I could find.

It looks like Virgin Mobile’s offering is the (current) cheapest smartphone plan in Canada.

Some Final Notes

I’m currently a Virgin Mobile prepaid customer and have been for a really long time. I’m currently using my Nexus 4 on Virgin Mobile Canada Prepaid but I haven’t enabled the data plan yet. It is possible (I checked before getting the Nexus 4) but they make it sort of difficult to do and I haven’t had enough time to set it up.

This exercise to find a cheap cell phone plan surprised me as I wasn’t expecting Virgin Mobile to be the “cheapest” option, especially considering they are now fully owned by Bell.

$20/month appears to be the cheapest option for 50-75 minutes of voice with unlimited texting and no data. Multiple companies have this but Virgin and Koodo have the tiered data rate whereas the others don’t.

I’d love to hear your feedback and if you have any comments and/or corrections. If you find anything cheaper, please, add it in the comments below.

Title Image Credit: feverblue

* I won’t give any direct link love to Rogers, Bell or Telus. I don’t think any of them offers reasonable pricing for any of their services. Oddly, Virgin is owned by Bell and Koodo is owned by Telus so I’m not sure how they can offer such different cell phone rates.

Goodbye Zip! Hello Zip!

Yesterday I cancelled our Zip.ca account. Why? Because Zip.ca now has competition in town – itself!

We’ve been with Zip.ca for well over a year now on the 1 DVD unlimited plan and it worked out quite nicely. We’d (typically) get a new DVD from our ZipList to watch every weekend. All for the low price of ~$13/month. That’s much better than the ~$6 the local rental place charged for a night. Things went smashingly for a year and then Zip.ca changed their plans…

Due to rising costs (understandable), they increased the monthly charge for the 1 DVD plan so now it was just over $14/month. That’s a reasonable amount considering we were getting 4-5 DVDs a month. Again, much less than the ~$6 the local rental place was charging. BUT, the biggest change that screws up the whole thing for us is that they no longer allow DVDs to “cross in the mail” on the 1 DVD plan. Bummer.

When DVDs can “cross in the mail”, you’d mark the DVD as returned the day you toss it in the mailbox. Usually at the end of that same day (sometimes the next day), Zip.ca would send you a new DVD. This way if I tossed a DVD in the mailbox on Monday morning, a new one would be sent out Monday or Tuesday. That means we’d actually get it on Thursday or Friday (for some reason, mail takes a long time to get into our PO Box at the Post Office in our town, but that’s a rant for another time).

The Zip.ca red envelopes that DVDs are mailed out in

The Zip.ca red mailer envelopes that are used to send DVDs to customers.

Without the ability for DVDs to “cross in the mail”, Zip now won’t send a new DVD until they receive our old one. That means if I drop it in the mail on Monday, they get it Tuesday or Wednesday, send us a new one Wednesday or Thursday and we might get it the next Monday, most likely Tuesday. Well, that just doesn’t work very well for us as we typically want the DVD for the weekend. Bam, now we’re basically down to only getting a DVD every two weeks. That ~$14/month is no longer a good deal if that’s how we use the Zip.ca account.

Well, we had a slight problem (was actually a mistake on my part – Ooops!) in December and I contacted Zip.ca. They were kind enough to help me see what I had done wrong but they also pointed out something we didn’t know – there was now a Zip rental kiosk in one of the local grocery stores. I’m sure you’re saying “so what?” right about now so I’m, going to tell you.

The Zip Kiosk rents DVDs for $1/day, or Blu Ray and new release DVDs for $2/day. DAMN! Not only is that a better deal than the local rental place, it’s a better deal than Zip.ca itself!

On our Zip.ca plan, we can only get DVDs and new release DVDs are nearly impossible to get. With the Zip Kiosk, we can drop in Friday or Saturday and grab a DVD <angelic choir>or even a Blu Ray!</angelic choir> for $2! Then we just take it back the next day. Some would consider this inconvenient but given that we don’t have home mail delivery, we always had to go out to get our Zip DVD anyways and after you watched it, you have to find a mailbox ASAP to toss it in so you could get the next DVD sent out.

Yeah, so Goodbye Zip! Hello Zip!

Yes, we might not be able to get the exact movie we want but that’s no different than Zip.ca right now. If there’s nothing we want to watch, we save ourselves $2. And this way we always get something that The Boss (or the Princesses)  is in the “mood” to watch.

At the moment you can also go to the Zip website and request a free rental code via email. Yeah, it’s only worth up to $2 but it’s a free rental!

Click to go to the Zip Kiosk locator tool

Ontario Hydro Rate Hike to Cover Fines Approved by OEB

File this one in the “You’ve got to be kidding” pile. The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) has approved a rate hike to cover approximately $18 million in fines and court costs associated with various hydro companies overcharging interest on past due accounts.

So, not only are we potentially seeing a 6.2% increase starting March 1, we are paying extra because the hydro companies were breaking the law.

Come on! Give me a break!

It’s bad enough I’m paying $0.051/kWh in off peak times and $0.091/kWh in peak times when the average market price is $0.0342/kWh for February 2011.

In 2009, Hydro One had a net income of $470 million (pdf link) on $4.744 billion in revenue or approximately 10% margin. WTF? I understand it operates as a private company and has to produce profit for it’s shareholders but shouldn’t it be attempting to pass some of that income back to the consumer through lower rates? We’re already being dinged for debt reduction, delivery, line loss, and whatever other things they can think of to squeeze more money out of Joe Average electricity user. Why not reduce that margin to 5% (which is still a huge net income of $235 million for Hydro One) and return $50 to each of the approximately 4 million homes in Ontario.

Stop trying to take more money from my pocket and bring your income to a more reasonable level.

10 Rules of Winter Driving

Wonderful Winter Driving

Wonderful Winter Driving

There are 10 rules of winter driving.  Don’t get intimidated, they are really easy to understand and remember.  I’ll even help by providing a reason why each of the ten rules should be followed.

  1. Follow at a safe distance
  2. Follow at a safe distance
  3. Follow at a safe distance
  4. Follow at a safe distance
  5. Follow at a safe distance
  6. Follow at a safe distance
  7. Follow at a safe distance
  8. Follow at a safe distance
  9. Follow at a safe distance
  10. Turn your lights on (specifically your tail lights)

See, I told you that it would be easy to remember the 10 rules. ;)

So why do I think these are the 10 rules of winter driving?

Well, in my observations, most of the time people end up in a ditch or in an “accident” because they had to do some panic braking because they were following too close to the car in front of them.  A couple days ago I observed as groups of cars would drive down the highway, only a few feet from each other.  As one driver touched his brakes, the trailing vehicles would all slam their brakes on harder because they suddenly realized it was slippery conditions.  Eventually, one of the trailing vehicles spins out and ends up in the ditch because they have discovered one of the laws of physics really does apply to them.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not a “conservative” driver.  I’m probably the guy passing you in the left lane on a snowy day, even without snow tires!  **gasp** What I won’t be doing is following too closely to the car in front of me.

Which brings us to rule number 10.  Turn your lights on so that your tail lights are also on.  I could care less about the front end of your car when we’re driving in the snow.  I’m more interested in the front end of my car.  When you turn your tail lights on, it provides trailing drivers a visual cue as to where you are.  They can see you through the snow before they will be able to see your vehicle.  In a sudden white out condition, this can make a huge difference.  I can judge my following distance based on your tail lights so I’m not suddenly on top of you as you slam your brakes on due to the white out.

Image credit – hint of plum

Forever on Street View

The Winnipeg Free Press has an article on a group of co-workers who managed to get themselves captured by Google Street View in front of their office. Apparently one of the other employees was on his way to work when he saw the standard grey Google Street View car and he called ahead to the office to get the gang all out in the street to ham it up for the camera.

Co-workers from ManLab in Winnipeg, MB ham it up for the Google Street View car.

Co-workers from ManLab in Winnipeg, MB ham it up for the Google Street View car.


Image Credit – Winnipeg Free Press