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The smart money is renting stuff, not buying it

By Rob Carrick

Admit it – there's a fancy power tool, kitchen implement, article of clothing or something expensive that you bought on a whim and used once or twice. This type of money-wasting is easy to stop in today's sharing economy. In Toronto, for example, there are "libraries" where you can borrow tools, formal gowns, kitchen gear, camping equipment and more. The latest version of the sharing economy? Restaurants in private homes.

OK, the term sharing economy is kind of PR-ish. "You're not really sharing anything," one critic says. "You're paying for services." Something else to consider is the way the sharing economy is changing certain industries. In some cases, you give up consumer protections in exchange for lower prices.

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Let's give the sharing economy its due, though. By allowing people to buy what they need – powertools or a formal gown for a day – it saves them from spending big bucks on items they don't need to own. That's progress in a heavily indebted country like ours.

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> Here's a sign that will trip up a lot of people: You spend over 40 per cent of your income on housing.

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Are real estate agents worth it?
> The guy behind the blog talks about his experience both using and not using a real estate agent to buy and sell homes.

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Pets are more expensive than you think
> Think twice about buying a pet if you're a millennial with big debts or struggling to get by. Good info here on how much it actually costs to be a pet owner.

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> The reason why may surprise you in that it doesn't have much to do with money.

Helping an elderly parent travel
> Good advice here on helping a senior deal with the challenges of taking a long trip somewhere. "Flying has become a real chore and for elders it has many challenging components."

Today's featured investment tool
This is the mortgage payment calculator I use for all my columns on how expensive it is to buy and own a house.

Ask Rob

The question: "My financial advisor seems to prefer mutual funds. I hold 10 mutual funds in my portfolio and the range of MER is 2 to 2.75 per cent. My portfolio is approximately $400,000. I never get to know how much the companies take off the top, just what I make at the end of the year. What would you suggest? I have brought this up several times."

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My reply: I wish more investors would think about how much they're paying, so well done in raising this question. I suggest one more go-round with your adviser. Explain that you simply want, as any good consumer would, to know how much you're paying in fees. A rough dollar amount should not be hard to calculate based on the fees for the funds you own and the amount you have invested. Note: Investment firms will this summer start showing clients how much they're paying for investment advice in dollar terms. Part of the cost of owning mutual funds goes to advisers, so you'll see real world numbers on part of the money being taken off the top of your fund returns.

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Questions and answers are edited for length.

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A bigger wedding will not make you more married: Tips to keep wedding costs down.

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