Give Me Back My Five Bucks - a quest for financial independence

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How I started investing: Part 1

Often I’m asked to write posts about investing. I haven’t wanted to write about investing on this blog because I’m afraid of giving wrong advice. I’m obviously not a professional, but at the same time I think a lot of you have been in my position before: in your twenties, wanting to start investing, but not really sure where to start. Right? So I’m more than happy to share my story about how I started investing, the problems I ran into along the way, and how I taught myself to manage my own portfolio (it’s an ongoing process). :)

So here’s Part 1 of a 3 Part series.

Part 1: The Beginning

When I graduated college in 2006 I was 23. I owed over $20k to student loans and credit cards. Debt was my first priority, but I knew I wanted to start saving as well – even if it was just a little bit. I was making about $30k/year so I was only able to put aside $50/month ($25 into an Emergency Fund, and $25 into an RRSP) – but it really helped me establish a pattern of saving. And in the future, when I was finally out of debt, saving was already something I was used to doing. It made the transition from making payments on my debt, to making payments into my savings account pretty seamless.

When I first decided I wanted to save for retirement, I was really clueless. There wasn’t a lot of information out there on the internet that I could understand, and there were only about 4 or 5 Canadian PF blogs out there. All I knew was I wanted to start saving for my future, but I didn’t know how to start. So I went to TD Canada Trust (my only bank at the time), and spoke to someone about opening up an RRSP mutual fund account.

I remember sitting in her office, feeling very intimidated. I wondered what she thought of me, and the fact that I could only afford to save $25/month. But everyone has to start somewhere, and she was helpful in answering any questions I had. We went through a questionnaire to determine my risk-tolerance level, and eventually she signed me up for the TD Balanced Growth Fund (MER of 2.24%).

After that meeting, I was really pleased with myself because it seemed like this was the first step to becoming financially savvy. It made me feel grown-up to be investing in my future, and I became obsessed with tracking my little mutual fund’s progress. I set up a spreadsheet and tracked its performance on a daily basis. Seriously.

I understood that I wasn’t going to need the money for at least another 35 years, but I didn’t really get what 35 years meant. I wanted to see my money start to grow immediately. So I continued to check on my mutual fund on a daily basis. My stomach would drop every time my fund wasn’t doing well, and I’d cheer whenever it was doing well. This went on for about 6 months before the stress became too much and I told myself that 35 years = 13,000 days, and there was no way I could continue on like this. I needed to chill out. So I did. :)

It was about a year later that I first heard about the TD e-series Funds. I remember reading about it on a blog, and the big discussion was around Management Expense Ratios (MER) and how bad they were. I remember a few people referencing the TD e-series Funds in the comments and acknowledging how low their MERs were, and how they were likely the best mutual funds around.

When I went to check the MER on my Balanced Growth Fund, I was horrified and a bit embarrassed. How dare TD take so much from me! I felt like they were stealing profits from me, and the more I looked into the TD e-series Funds, the more I wanted to give it a try. Not just because I wanted to get away from funds with high MERs, but because I really wanted to learn how to manage my finances on my own. I wanted to know where my money was going, and I wanted to be doing it myself. The idea of DIY investing was really starting to appeal to me.

Part 2 coming soon…






Spending Recap: July 21-27, 2014

Monday 21st
No Spend Day!

Tuesday 22nd
$44.03 Milestones
$10 parking

Wednesday 23rd
$48.88 gas

Thursday 24th
$120 Ticketmaster
$26.36 groceries

Friday 25th
$8 Bella Gelataria

Saturday 26th
$16.68 brunch at Twisted Fork
$7.98 groceries

Sunday 27th
$37.78 brunch at Yolks (for 2)

Freelance Income: $0
Expenses- $324.92

TOTAL: – $324.92

Best thing purchased this year? 2 tickets to see Ryan Adams. Tickets went on sale on Wednesday at 10am. I was logged into Ticketmaster, ready to go… and then the site crashed WHEN I HAD FIRST ROW TICKETS IN HAND. I kept getting errors every time I tried to pay for my tickets. 10, 15, 20 minutes went by and the site kept crashing. I was really upset when they fixed the site because the best seats I was getting were 20-30 rows back. Not acceptable! Then, by some fluke when I refreshed the screen, I was able to snag a pair of first row tickets in the dress circle! AND I was actually able to pay for them without the website going down. Maybe they’re not first row seats, but the first row in the dress circle at the Orpheum might even be a better view.

Okay enough about that. :) The rest of the week was pretty normal.

On Tuesday, BF and I decided it was an excellent evening to go for cheap bellinis and chocolate cake at Milestones. So we sat on the patio for a few hours sipping ultimate bellinis and watching the sunset. Such a great evening.

Friday, we met up with his parents before the BC Lions game, and they treated us to dinner at a pub by the stadium. Afterwards, we walked home along the water, stopping for gelato at Bella Gelataria. Yum!

The weekend was perfect. Saturday morning I met up with Cait for brunch at Twisted Fork. It was nice to catch up, and the place was yummy, but we both agreed that Yolks was much better. Saturday evening was the first night of the Celebration of Lights fireworks. BF had his friends over for dinner and drinks, and we had a great view from his balcony. :)

On Sunday I took BF to Yolks for brunch as a treat because he had spent so much energy and money into hosting the party on Saturday. It was nice to relax and enjoy ourselves. Then, we headed to RONA where he bought material to pot some veggies, and I panted some herbs on his windowsill. We then spent the afternoon at the beach.

Spending Recap: July 14-20, 2014

Sorry, this was supposed to publish last Friday… I’m having issues with WordPress at the moment.

Monday 14th
+ $18.73 Great Canadian Rebates
$6.50 groceries

Tuesday 15th
$28.14 sushi (for 2)

Wednesday 16th
No Spend Day!

Thursday 17th
+ $200 freelance income
$17.99 groceries

Friday 18th
+ $50 Tangerine referral (thx!)
$10 lottery ticket

Saturday 19th
$17.61 groceries
$2.75 SkyTrain
$2 Richmond Night Market entrance fee
$13 Richmond Night Market food
$2.75 SkyTrain

Sunday 20th
$47.51 pub (for 2)

Freelance Income: + $200 (+ $68.73)
Expenses- $148.25

TOTAL: + $120.48

Sporadic posting at its finest. :) I’ve been spending a lot of energy focusing on my full-time career – what do I want out of it, and how do I get there? In fact, I’ve set up a coffee date for this coming week with someone who I think will be able to give me some good insight into what I need to do to get to the next step.

As for last week in spending, it was hit and miss. I do try to keep spending to a minimum during the work week, because weekends are usually pretty social for me. On Saturday, BF and I went to the Richmond Night Market, and on Sunday I went hiking with my friend Nic, and then headed to the pub to celebrate his 30th birthday. :)

Making the most of summer weekends

photoDespite the up-and-down weather, this past weekend was a lot of fun.

Friday evening was pretty quiet. BF and I went for a walk along the seawall in Stanley Park, and then went back to his place to try out some new beers that were recommended to us. We’ve been on a bit of a fruit beer kick, so we shared a peach cream ale, as well as a blood orange. (On a side note, if anyone has any fruit beer suggestions, I’d love to hear them! Am currently loving Pyramid Apricot Ale.) We also watched Enough Said on Netflix, which I was skeptical about, but actually turned out to be an ok movie.

Saturday we waited out the rain, and then spent the afternoon at the tennis club that BF joined recently. My tennis skills aren’t good enough to play in a match yet, but it was really nice just to watch others play, read my book, and just relax outside.

photo 1After tennis was over, we took the SkyTrain out to the Richmond Night Market. It was a lot of fun people watching, looking at the fun things that were on sale, sampling the different food, and spending an evening out of the city. It was really hard not to get tempted by all of the delicious meats and seafoods around. Even though I’m happy being a vegetarian, I still definitely find myself craving certain things that I no longer eat – like takoyaki, ramen, or shrimp dumplings. :) But we were able to satisfy our cravings with a tofu noodle dish ($6), a couple of taiyaki ($3.50), and an ice cane ($3.50) – which tasted exactly like a Dairy Queen soft serve ice cream cone.

Once we were done with the Night Market, we naturally headed over to the River Rock Casino. Ever since I played roulette for the first time in Vegas, I’ve been a bit obsessed with playing the game again. But the $10 minimum was too rich for our blood, so we stuck with the penny slots. I ended up with $10 extra in my pocket once the evening was over, so can’t complain about that. :)

photo 3On Sunday, my friend Nic and I attempted to go hiking. Our objective was St. Mark’s Summit, but once we got to the top of Cypress, we realized it was too foggy to even attempt it. So, a bit defeated, we headed back down the mountain and decided to head over to Squamish and do The Chief instead.

The view from the top was… foggy. And even though we were both craving a hard hike, it was the best we could have done with the weather the way it was. It was also kinda nice to do The Chief without the trail as crowded as it usually is. We then went to the pub for a post-hike burger and beer to celebrate Nic’s 30th birthday.

The next two weekends will be great because of the Celebration of Lights fireworks and the Pride Parade! Fingers crossed the weather gets nice enough for a couple more beach days before the summer is over.

How was your weekend?

Spending Recap: July 7-13, 2014

Monday 7th
$6.97 Booster Juice

Tuesday 8th
$41 dinner (for 2)

Wednesday 9th
$1.45 sparking water

Thursday 10th
$5.25 Subway
$0.75 postage

Friday 11th – Victoria, BC
$16.75 ferry
$9.80 dinner
$5.24 bubble tea

Saturday 12th – Victoria, BC
$6.25 gym
$16.21 brunch
$29 Victoria HarbourCats tickets (2)
$5.80 beer

Sunday 13th – Victoria, BC
$6.25 gym
$21.56 brunch
$16.75 ferry
$22 parking
$11.29 Thierry Cafe

Freelance Income: $0
Expenses- $212.52

TOTAL: - $222.32

The summer months come with a price tag, don’t they? I’ve been enjoying the outdoors so much that we haven’t been cooking our own food as often. This week we went out for dinner a lot: Tuesday we spent the evening at the beach and then went for Chinese. Thursday we again spent the evening at the beach and then picked up pizza for dinner. The weekend was spent back in Victoria where all my social activities involved food, and when I came home Sunday, I had dinner with BF and his family at Milestones – he paid, and I bought the dessert later on in the evening.

The bad news is, all of this has hurt my wallet. But the good news is that we have been fully enjoying the summer so far, and that we realize what we’re doing and are looking at ways of correcting it. I am going to make a conscious effort to cook more meals in, and have social activities revolve around free/frugal activities. It also helps that next week’s weather isn’t going to be as nice as it has been the past two weeks. :)