Monday, February 18

How to Save and Invest When You’re a Broke Student

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One of the most challenging times to start building wealth is when you have no income. But there are ways to save and invest when you’re a broke student.

Since I started working for Money After Graduation, the energy spent on money management skyrocketed. I’ve always loved budgeting and living my life according to a financial plan, but there was so much in the world of personal finance that I had never thought about before: the most significant aspect is investing.

How to save and invest when you’re a broke student

I’m sure you’ve heard it said before that you simply can’t afford not to invest. To be honest, my finances are so dismal that I typically ignore things like this. All the good financial advice: start saving, start investing, pay off your debt, used to fly over my head completely. In this way, I’m grateful for starting at MAG, because it forced me out of my denial. I now spend hours reading everything Bridget’s written, especially on investing. I learned that it is something I CAN do even while I’m still in school.

Now, let’s be clear: I am still depressingly broke. That aspect hasn’t changed (yet!). But the idea that investing is only for rich people (an idea I am guilty of endorsing) is not true. Through research and dedication, I’ve started building my financial profile without threatening my already-fragile financial stability. There is an easy, low-effort way to invest and save in a way that makes the most out of your money, regardless of how much/little money that entails.

Use GICs and high-interest bank accounts

When 20-somethings are just starting to get into saving, GICs (Guaranteed Investment Certificates) and high-interest bank accounts are often used as a stepping-stone into the world of personal finance. High-interest savings accounts are pretty obvious, and most Canadian banks have this option. It’s a great place to start getting yourself in the headspace of saving, but it isn’t one of my favourite methods. Mainly because GICs are so much better.

Currently, EQ Bank offers the highest interest rate on both GICs and Savings accounts:

However, EQ Bank doesn’t have Tax-Free Savings Accounts or Registered Retirement Savings Plans. So if you want to tax-shelter your savings in a TFSA or RRSP, check out Tangerine Bank for:

It’s right in the name – Guaranteed Investment Certificate. GICs are no risk, you’re not going to lose the money you put in, and you’re assured the steady increase of your funds. GICs have set rates as well as a set timeline, with an array of options offered by most institutions. Essentially, you leave a sum of money in an account that gains a certain percentage of interest over a pre-determined period of time.

For example, if you put $2,000 in a four-year GIC at 2.5%, in four years you will have a couple hundred extra dollars. My favorite part: it’s free money! You don’t have to do anything, which is ideal for investing as a busy student.

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Get into the stock market with Robo-Advisors

Putting your money into a robo-advising account essentially means handing your money over to a team of experts who will invest it for you.

These accounts (like Wealthsimple, for example) have taken some heat from investors because you aren’t actually able to see where your money is going. You only see the returns or losses at the end of it. But I must admit, as a beginner in investing, I don’t mind that aspect! I’m not sure I would be able to invest it myself anyway. The only downside is payment for the account, but if you sign up with Bridget’s link, you can invest your first $10,000 with Wealthsimple for free!

Open an account with at least $100 and get your first $10,000 with Wealthsimple managed for free.

One of the biggest benefits these have for me as a student is saving time. Once you set up your regular deposits, you need to do absolutely nothing more with your money. Just watch it grow! From someone who has either work or school for 12 hours a day, this is a much-needed blessing when I’m trying to invest. As a brand new investor, I simply don’t have time to sit down and research individual stocks to invest in. Having other people do it for me is exactly what I need. I add about $40 a month, and it’s actually surprising how much I’ve been making with just that!

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Keep in mind though: the key when it comes to accounts like these (and all savings/investing accounts) is dedication. It won’t go anywhere if you get to the end of the month and decide you’d rather spend that $20 on a pizza. Forcing yourself to keep to the plan is the only way you’ll see any form of turnout! Just eat the food you have in your fridge!

Roundup your savings

Although roundup savings accounts aren’t new, I’ve noticed them making an appearance more often in the last few months. Both Koho and Wealthsimple recently started offering a roundup savings option as part of their services.

Roundup your savings with:

For those of you who haven’t used this savings strategy before, roundup savings consists of rounding your day-to-day purchases to the nearest dollar, and stashing those extra cents away in a savings account. If you spend $2.20 on coffee, the remaining $0.80 will automatically deposit into the account you have linked to the service.

This strategy is a blessing for students. As someone with no extra money to spend, this is perfect for me. Just the few cents every time I swipe my card ends up making a huge difference, especially if it’s added onto an account that you already have regular deposits into. Similar to robo-advising and GICs, it takes no additional effort. It’s simply a saving strategy piggy-backing on your existing behavior. It is especially good when you have a small, unreliable income.

If you’re looking for a way to get the most money out of this strategy, link your roundups to an investment. My roundup savings go directly into my robo-advising accounts. This way, those extra few dollars a week are invested, and can be used to their greatest potential (within my means, at least).

A lot of people I’ve spoken to about roundups have the same critique: it’s not saving enough. Admittedly, watching $0.17 cents go into your account is not exactly rewarding. But trust me when I say it adds up quickly. When I started roundups I expected it to be a small financial change, but it’s pushed me in the right direction in a lot of ways. It really doesn’t feel like you’re putting money away, but you are, and you start to see the result quicker than you might think. All this, just for buying a cup of coffee!

Put simply, your money isn’t living up to its full potential unless you’re using it to make more money! This is an intimidating idea, especially when you’re broke and drowning in debt. But these accounts are actually the backbone of my debt-repayment plan. And even with a few bucks a month, introducing these habits can make a huge difference in your future.

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About Author

A professional writing student at York University, Toronto. A newbie in the world of personal finance, but writing with MAG I've got the perfect teacher! Literary nerd, writer, and wine enthusiast.

2 Comments

  1. Great suggestions. Another thing to keep in mind is that spending less and avoiding consume debt will be as valuable as saving and investing

  2. Michele Cooper on

    I have tried creative ways to save money. A challenge in saving money surely gets you to your goal. It’s important that you understand the difference between wants and needs. It’s basically learning where you can cut back if you have big money goal in your mind.