Is Your CAA Membership Worth It?

Every year for Christmas my Grandmother used to get me a Canadian Auto Association membership. You Americans reading this have something similar, called AAA. I’ll let you figure out what that stands for.

Here’s how it works. For a minimum cost of about $83 per year in Alberta (certain plans are more), you get all sorts of perks. The big one is free roadside assistance, which covers locking your keys in your car, tire changes, battery boosts, towing to the nearest garage, and running out of gas.

They offer other stuff as well. If you want information about a certain place, CAA will send you maps and guidebooks. Members qualify for special hotel deals and other travel perks. Cheap car insurance is offered. The club even has an app that’ll tell you where the cheapest nearby place is to fill your tank.

After a few years of getting this membership, I realized something. I wasn’t using the darn thing. Using CAA to get travel deals is a thing of the past, since it’s easy to use the internet to find cheap hotels and flights. I get maps on my phone; the last thing I want to do is crack out a big cumbersome piece of paper you need a degree in Physics to fold back up.

I was using the auto insurance, at least. After having my membership for a year, my car insurance stayed stubbornly high even after I completed another incident-free trip around the sun. I called up my local CAA branch, and 15 minutes later I was saving close to $500 per year.

That went well for a few years, until I decided to shop around again. The CAA-branded insurance wasn’t even close to the cheapest. So I dumped it faster than my first non-imaginary high school girlfriend got rid of me.

I was left with a service I wasn’t even using. Paying $83 per year for that was silly, even if it wasn’t my own money.

Should you do the same?

About 10 years ago, when booking hotel rooms online really started to surge in popularity, my Grandmother was booking a room for a family reunion in a medium-sized city. She got some information from CAA, and made a couple of phone calls. A few minutes later, she had a room for $149 per night after getting her CAA discount.

I didn’t have anything pressing to do, so I went on her computer to see what kind of deal I could find. Less than five minutes later I had pulled up the hotel’s page on Expedia which was offering rooms at… $129 per night.

Grandma wasn’t stupid, so she called up the hotel and explained how I found the same room on Expedia for $20 per night less. The hotel reacted exactly how you’d expect–they matched the price found online, once they verified it existed.

I can remember when booking hotels was stressful. You often had nothing to go on besides a black and white accommodation guide and the reviews of friends. CAA was a valuable tool back then.

These days, there are a dozen big hotel booking sites all with hundreds of reviews about every hotel in a city. The information advantage that was formerly enjoyed by hotels is long gone. That’s a good thing for consumers, and a bad thing for hotels. It’s also a bad thing for CAA.

Having the CAA seal of approval used to be a big deal for hotels. These days, nobody cares.

It’s the same thing with roadside assistance. Most people who can afford an extra $83 per year in insurance can also afford newer cars, vehicles that don’t tend to break down on the highway. And even if your car does break down, finding a tow truck on your smartphone isn’t very difficult. Phone GPS makes it easy to tell the tow truck driver where you are, too.

So to review, CAA coverage gives you, essentially, three things. It gives you peace of mind when driving, travel assistance, and cheap insurance. But technology has also given us peace of mind while driving, travel assistance, and ways to easily shop around for cheaper insurance. Why pay $83 per year for something you can easily replicate for free using the technology you already own?

How to Eat Healthy Under Budget

Health can be easily linked with a great lifestyle, reduced stress and good eating habits. People spend hundreds of dollars trying to embrace the right choices. They spend on buying organic food items, vitamins and on gym memberships. If you are struggling to balance between your budget and right eating habits, you’ve come to the correct place.  

You have to understand that eating healthy is not for the affluent portion of the population only. It is unfortunate that healthy food is often more expensive compared to junk food. If eating healthy is what you want but you are afraid you cannot afford the lifestyle, this article will guide you through. You can eat clean and simultaneously save cash.

It is not impossible to eat healthy on a budget. You need to plan well and select food items that will provide more nutrition for the money you will pay. You must always stick to the list and never stray away from your budget.

Decide Menu Beforehand and Try to Buy in Bulk

It helps to have the week’s menu decided beforehand as you can buy all the ingredients from the grocery store together. While shopping, stick to the list and do not make any impulse purchase. One trip will save gas and might also help get special discounts for bulk purchase. You can even look for coupons and discounts codes for local grocery stores.

Buy Local Fruits and Vegetables in Season

While fruits and vegetable are great for a healthy diet, they may cost a lot when bought during off-season. Select fruits that are in season to avail best prices.

Another great advice is to buy local items. Local business owners who work with native growers are able to negotiate better deals.

Do not Buy any Pre-Packaged, Processed Food

Pre-packed items have high preservative content. They are loaded with sodium and offer empty calories. It doesn’t make any sense to spend so much on these.

Avoid Spending on Packaged Drinks

In addition to the fact that bottled soda, tea, coffee and juices are all very unhealthy, they are very expensive. You should avoid spending on these and drink water instead. It will reduce calorie intake. Also, never buy bottled water. It is a better idea to make a one-time investment on a good water filter.

Buy Frozen Produce

In case you find that fresh produces are not affordable, buy the frozen ones. The frozen fruits and vegetable aisle offers a variety of grocery at dirt-cheap price. They are frozen right after the produce is picked.

When You Cook, Cook for the Entire Week

Finding time to cook meals every day is not easy. It is also not the economically right decision. The best thing to do would be to cook a lot of food at once and refrigerate for rest of the week. This way, you will only have to prep your kitchen one time every week. As food will be prepared already, you will avoid eating out.

Grow Your Own Fruits and Vegetables

You can plant your food in the garden. You can grow all kinds of vegetables and fruits and also plant various herbs and peppers. Most commonly grown items include tomatoes, strawberries, spinach, lettuce and cilantro. This method can really save a lot of money.

Order Healthy Meals from Reliable Companies

On days you cannot cook at home, you can order from companies that can have homemade meals delivered to your door. While selecting a home delivery service, select one that offers best price.