2018 was a challenging year for a lot of people, financially speaking. The first day of January was marked by the introduction of the mortgage “stress test” that stopped thousands of Canadians from buying the home they wanted. Auto insurance rates reached record heights in Ontario and British Columbia. Interest rates crept to their highest levels since the financial crisis, the cost of living shot up across the board, people kept taking on more debt to stay afloat, and, as the year comes to a close, word of yet another, impending “economic crisis” in 2019 has popped up more than once — in conversations, in headlines, on social media.
If 2018 was good for anything, it was for showing us the innovative, weird, and even questionable ways that Canadians are trying to navigate the state of things. Over the past year, us writers at LowestRates.ca have done our best to tell what we considered the most interesting of these stories — and we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished. That’s why we want to take this time to revisit our favourites from the many stories that we published in 2018, and give you the opportunity to read them again.
Below, what we consider our six best blog posts of the year (we couldn’t pick just five, like we did in 2017) — plus some honorable mentions.
A briefcase full of cash, people trapped underneath a big curtain, a dance competition set to Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk,” and a hypnotist accused of fraud shilling CD-roms: it’s not a reality show, or even Las Vegas — just the annual Real Estate Bitcoin Wealth Expo, which our writer Alexandra Bosanac attended in April so that you didn’t have to.
The things she saw were predictably wacky (Sylvester Stallone giving a speech about how he sold his dog when he was broke) and even predatory (presenters selling multi-level marketing courses), but what was most striking was how much attention people were paying to the event, despite how obviously bad it was. “Despite all the mocking the expo receives, we, as a society, can’t turn our heads away,” Alex wrote. “We’re obsessed with real estate and wealth and the bombastic personalities who either get rich from it, or try to hawk it to us.”
It took me nearly two years to find a sustainable, full-time job after grad school, and the more desperate I became, the more I noticed a certain kind of ad popping up on my Instagram feed: they were low quality, tacky, and featuring women who claimed they could teach me how to make money. Each of these female “coaches” was allegedly an independent entrepreneur, but they always, without fail, used the same language and visual cues as one another. How was this possible? Was there actually more organization than they let on? Did their services actually work? Who was buying them? And was this all a huge scam?
I tracked down and talked to three coaches to find some answers, discovering an industry of women exploiting women — and more similarities between their stories and mine than I’d ever anticipated.
No, they’re not the post-hardcore, emo band whose lyrics you plastered all over your MySpace page in high school: they’re Brayden and Dustin Jones, two real-life brothers from Amherstburg, Ont. who also happen to be musicians — as well as the founders of one of Toronto’s trendiest craft breweries.
Vin Heney sat down with the Joneses this summer to talk about their journey from small town business owners, to rock musicians in Toronto, and finally, to their success at making a name for themselves in the city’s saturated — and wildly competitive — brewery market. “You see a lot opening more as a business plan to make money rather than as a creative outlet,” says Dustin of other companies. “What we originally opened this for was a creative outlet. And it just so happened to turn into a business.”
Speculators. Foreign buyers. Airbnb. Fentanyl syndicates. There are a lot of factors people like to blame for Vancouver and Toronto’s astronomically high home prices, but what if the reason was as simple as… ghosts?
Look, you’re probably thinking: it’s not. But aren’t you also thinking: maybe it isn’t not? It’s too late, in any case: the story’s published, I’ve already toured some of Toronto’s most upscale housing options with a medium, we found some ghosts, the real estate reps were annoyed, we learned a lot. So, was there actually a correlation between home prices and the presence of spiritual activity? You’ll have to read the story to find out.
If you think that our writing articles about the rewards credit cards with the best earn rates means that we actually own the rewards credit cards with the highest earn rates — think again. Some of us just carry around points cards from Guess, and have the audacity to claim that we never, ever shop there. We definitely believe you, John.
It’s not exactly nice to think about outliving your pet(s), but it’s probably more common than anticipating your pet outliving you. What would happen to your furry (or feathery, or eight-legged, etc.) companion if you left the world first? Who would take care of them? And how do you ensure that their new caretakers will have enough money to meet their needs? To find out, Lisa Coxon talked to a wills and estates lawyer who explains how to write your pets into your will, set up a trust fund in their name (yes, you read that correctly), and make other care arrangements to ensure your peace of mind.
“You can’t just leave your pet a sum of money when you go,” Lisa writes. “Adorable as it would be, your dog can’t exactly buy his own food from the grocery store... That leaves you, the pet owner, with some real decisions to make about how (or if) you’ll choose to include them in your will.”
- A follow up to that notorious Wealthsimple story about a couple deep in debt
- A column rallying against homeowners who preach the merits of renting over owning
- A guide on what to do if you get stuck in the Queen’s Quay tunnel (in spite of the many, many “do-not-enter” signs)
- A profile of Sam and Jared, who quit their day jobs to travel the world as digital nomads
- An impassioned argument for why socks make the best presents
- One writer’s look at why living in Toronto sucks
- A talk with Morgane Oger, activist-politician, about how faking your gender to get cheaper car insurance harms trans communities
- A look at how three people who don’t celebrate Christmas spend the holiday season