Cross border shopping has hit the news in Canada recently, especially in border cities like Vancouver – it’s only 30-minutes (depending on where you live) to head down to Bellingham, WA or 1-hour to drive down to Seattle, WA and the numerous stores along the way.
The Vancouver Sun has an article in todays edition Cross-border bargains and the Internet or shop local?
Craig also notes in his story:
Even with the price of shipping and uncertainty over brokerage fees, the price gap, the ease of shopping from home and the increased variety beats the local alternatives. My latest purchase was a new battery for a cordless drill, which was $80 plus tax from the local Home Depot and $55 from Amazon.com. Even after shipping and duty, I saved $15 and it came to my door.
I’ve lived in Vancouver for about 8-years now, and only started cross-border shopping in the last few years. Initially for gas as it was $0.30 – $0.50 per litre cheaper in the US (an average savings of $15.00+ for my Toyota Camry 2.2l 4cyl) every week or two. Then it escalated. We discovered stores like Fred Meyer that ran sales weekly and prices were upto 50% less than what we pay in Canada for the same items – and I’m talking everyday items that we would like like home cleaning products, paper products, cereal, snacks and even soda pop (we pay NO deposit fees in the US vs $1.20 [which you get back]+ $0.60 [which you DON'T get back] per 12-pack of cans in BC).
On average we’d spend $200 – $300 per month in BC with about 1/3 or less of that buying meat/chicken. We now spend that much every three months by shopping in the US and timing it right to catch the sales, though you still need to be a smart shopper and know your prices (my wife is good at that).
Another example – about two years ago I had to get the shocks/struts on my car changed. Head over to Canadian Tire and the shocks/struts worked out to $205.00 each (with tax for a total of $820.00). Bought them on Amazon and drove down to Point Roberts, WA (about 30-60 minutes with my Nexus card) and picked them up for a total cost of $565.00 – $255.00 less for the exact same item. It’s difficult to support the large chains (and other local businesses) when you can get the identical products for so much less and in this case a difference of 45% which allowed me to take my car to the mechanic and get it repaired for what I saved in parts. So while I did not spend the money in the economy directly buy buying the parts, I did get it repaired here and put part of my savinga back into the economy (and still walked away with some cash in my pocket).
This year I needed to get additional parts for my car to repair the EGR system. US price for all three items under $150.00 – Canadian price over $200.00, another savings of atleast 33% over Canadian prices for the identical items.
In addition to the price differences you get much more selection in the US since it is a much larger economy and population (compare 30 million people to over 300 million in the US). I can easily find size 13w runners in the US, not so common here in Canada and when I can find them here they are rarely below $100.00 – I just found them in the US for $25.00; so I bought four pairs. I’m good for a few years.
Now we don’t get everything from the US, some of our money is spent in Canada but it is definately just a fraction of what we spent previously.
Here is one more example for a cleaning product; you know those things that turn your toilet water blue? They are normally $1.97 in Canada and on sale you can get them for $0.99 however in the US they are regularly priced for $0.99 and on sale for $0.69 – a price difference of between 50% and 65% – I’ve not taken the exchange rate into account but it’s quite nominal right now.
There is a great report by BMO about cross border shopping – http://www.bmonesbittburns.com/economics/reports/20120517/sr120517.pdf – read the full report (it’s only 3-pages long) to get an idea of the price differential between Canada and the US on a sample set of items such as magazines, Blu-ray Movies, Books, Cars, Huggies Little Movers, Gap Kids T-Shirt — you know, stuff that you would potentially use every day.
An interesting point made in the report:
The steady drain of Canadian shoppers heading south is weighing on retail sales in this country. For the first time in years, U.S. retail sales growth is running faster than in Canada (Chart 3). The better spending growth backdrop stateside is no small irony, given the wave of U.S. retailers heading north to seek greener pastures. Research by the Bank of Canada finds that cross-border shopping accounts for less than 2% of consumer spending, and is thus likely not a major macroeconomic issue Others complain about the long line-ups – yes, they can be long. This past Victoria Day weekend they were up to 2-hours long, but getting a Nexus card can chop that down to under 15-minutes at the worst of times.
So while cross-border shopping isn’t significant it is taking roughly $20b from the Canadian economy, according to a report on the CBC (based on the BMO report).
There was a news story last week (either on CBC or News 1130) about a home owner who ended up buying siding for his home that was made in Canada CHEAPER in the US than he could purchase it here. How can that be?
I’ve also noticed though that the gap is closing on some items with the difference being only a few dollars — however that gap only seems to exist when items go on sale at Canadian retailers and it never seems to be consistent.
The report from BMO says that with the new increased limits on how much you can bring back duty-free, cross-border shopping will potentially increase; I’m not sure about that. While it makes it easier to bring items back from the US those that are already crossing that limit will continue to do so and pay any duties and taxes owed on those items. They did it before the limits, they will continue to do it even with the newer increased limits. As the Finance Minister stated the limits were increased to bring “reality” into the duty-free amounts. I would agree.
For Canadians that are close to the border and where it makes sense for them to shop either online (and have it shipped to them) there are several websites that cater to cross border shopping, one that I found is called (quite simply) Cross Border Shopping, also Cross Border Shopping Deals – which is a forum based site, Cross Border Shopper. Click the links to visit them.
Cross border shopping is here to stay, so long as the Canadian dollar is at or above parity with the US dollar. Most analysts don’t expect the dollar to drop in value anytime soon.
Did you see the cool video of the gentleman that “drove” the Google Autonomous Car from his home to a few places (he is legally blind with 95% of his vision gone)? More recently Google-Supported Autonomous-Car Legislation Passes California Senate.
From the YouTube video:
We announced our self-driving car project in 2010 to make driving safer, more enjoyable, and more efficient. Having safely completed over 200,000 miles of computer-led driving, we wanted to share one of our favorite moments. Here’s Steve, who joined us for a special drive on a carefully programmed route to experience being behind the wheel in a whole new way. We organized this test as a technical experiment, but we think it’s also a promising look at what autonomous technology may one day deliver if rigorous technology and safety standards can be met.
Senator Alex Padilla mentioned, after the bill passed:
“Thousands of Californians tragically die in auto accidents each year,” Padilla said after the bill’s passage. “The vast majority of these collisions are due to human error. Through the use of computers, sensors and other systems, an autonomous vehicle can analyze the driving environment more quickly and accurately and can operate the vehicle more safely.”
Not only in California, but around the world would this technology be useful. I want one.
In fact it is conceivable that within 30 years more and more individuals will opt for this type of technology and will make use of it.
My son was a bit scared though, he wants to be able to drive a car!
While we’re still a long way from the autonomous cars as seen in the movie Minority Report – we’re slowly seeing the technology being developed and eventually will be using it. But not all the technology is science fiction we’ve already seen some of it in cars today, think self-parking cars and adaptive cruise control. A great article on Wired featured what the 2013 Ford Fusion would bring in Driver Assisted Technologies.
I mean – how cool would it be to get into your car, program where you would like to go and then sit back and have it take you there?
But on my way to work this morning, as I was turning right or left, or when the car door was open and you hear that irritating “bling-bling-bling” tone my son made his own sound effects – which got me thinking. Why not develop vehicles are are customizable? Much like Microsoft Windows where you can change the background of your screen, select custom themes and sounds. You should be able to pick the tone for turning right or left; if you leave your car door open and lights on select the tone you’d like. With the gap between vehicles and technology sufficiently closed, you could develop cars where the dash is one big wide LCD/PLASMA screen and you could configure what you would like to see on the screen. Something (sort of) like this… Toyota Fun-Vii.
So I never received a pre-release copy of the book entitled The $100 Startup – Reinvent The Way You Make A Living, Do What You Love, And Create A New Future by Chris Guillebeau. It must have gotten lost in the mail; but that said, I did pre-order a copy from Amazon and picked it up the other day.
Having just thumbed through the book – it looks like a fantastic read.
Here is some information from the Amazon page for the book:
In The $100 Startup, Chris Guillebeau shows you how to lead of life of adventure, meaning and purpose – and earn a good living.
Still in his early thirties, Chris is on the verge of completing a tour of every country on earth – he’s already visited more than 175 nations – and yet he’s never held a “real job” or earned a regular paycheck. Rather, he has a special genius for turning ideas into income, and he uses what he earns both to support his life of adventure and to give back.
There are many others like Chris – those who’ve found ways to opt out of traditional employment and create the time and income to pursue what they find meaningful. Sometimes, achieving that perfect blend of passion and income doesn’t depend on shelving what you currently do. You can start small with your venture, committing little time or money, and wait to take the real plunge when you’re sure it’s successful. In preparing to write this book, Chris identified 1,500 individuals who have built businesses earning $50,000 or more from a modest investment (in many cases, $100 or less), and from that group he’s chosen to focus on the 50 most intriguing case studies. In nearly all cases, people with no special skills discovered aspects of their personal passions that could be monetized, and were able to restructure their lives in ways that gave them greater freedom and fulfillment.
Here, finally, distilled into one easy-to-use guide, are the most valuable lessons from those who’ve learned how to turn what they do into a gateway to self-fulfillment. It’s all about finding the intersection between your “expertise” – even if you don’t consider it such — and what other people will pay for. You don’t need an MBA, a business plan or even employees. All you need is a product or service that springs from what you love to do anyway, people willing to pay, and a way to get paid.
Not content to talk in generalities, Chris tells you exactly how many dollars his group of unexpected entrepreneurs required to get their projects up and running; what these individuals did in the first weeks and months to generate significant cash; some of the key mistakes they made along the way, and the crucial insights that made the business stick. Among Chris’s key principles: if you’re good at one thing, you’re probably good at something else; never teach a man to fish – sell him the fish instead; and in the battle between planning and action, action wins.
In ancient times, people who were dissatisfied with their lives dreamed of finding magic lamps, buried treasure, or streets paved with gold. Today, we know that it’s up to us to change our lives. And the best part is, if we change our own life, we can help others change theirs. This remarkable book will start you on your way.
I really like this last paragraph, the emphasis is mine.
There is a website associated with the book as well called, fittingly enough, The $100 Startup at http://www.100startup.com. They will be heading to Vancouver, BC on June 211, 2012 at 7:00pm just not sure where right now.
Once I’ve gone through the book, I’ll share my thoughts with you.
If you have already received the book, or ordered the Kindle version (which, by-the-way was MORE expensive than the actual book) share your thoughts with us.