Variability in 408-MHz flux density, over a 1-yr interval between 1995 and 1996, has been investigated using the DRAO Synthesis Telescope for a complete sample of 322 sources with S_408MHz>80 mJy at galactic latitude b=15 deg four sources are found to show significant flux density variations. These results, taken with those from a similar study at b=58 deg, indicate that 408-MHz variability over a time-scale of 1 yr is more uncommon than has previously been thought; variations at a level >10 per cent could have been detected in a statistically complete sample of about 150 of these sources and none was found. Variability over a period of 18 yr has also been investigated by comparing the DRAO data with those from the B3 catalogue for 182 sources with S_408MHz>200 mJy; five variables are found. Large flux density variations over a period of 18 yr are much more common than over 1 yr, with roughly one source in 15 showing variations at the 15 per cent level or greater. The statistics are not good enough to show any conclusive evidence for a dependence of variability on galactic latitude. Roughly half of the variable sources have spectra that are steep at high frequencies and flatten at low frequencies; the other half have flat radio spectra over the entire frequency range. Simultaneous observations at 1420 MHz, also with the DRAO Synthesis Telescope, have been used to investigate variability at this frequency as well, and indicate that over a period of 1 yr roughly half of the flat-spectrum sources vary at the 5 per cent level or greater.