Day Zero #4: open a brokerage account to trade my own stocks

Working part-time left me with so many unplanned hours of freedom, that when I was not using my time off to do yoga or drink on summer patios, I did what any good little PF blogger would do: read about finance.

I decided I really wanted to learn about the stock market, and read anything I could find. By the end of my binge, not only had I devoured a view books and visited endless websites and blogs about investing, I took to my natural route and made gorgeously detailed spreadsheets of P/E values and EPS for the next 5 years for nearly 30 companies. I think this all appears extra-beautiful to me, because I never knew what these terms were before, and now I peruse Yahoo! Finance with appreciative understanding. I’ve been eyeing the stock market for awhile. I wanted to get in on the game, but 1) I didn’t know how and 2) I didn’t have the money to do it. I went ahead and tackled both those problems at the same time:

First, I created an account on last year. I built a mock portfolio, pretending to buy stocks in a variety of companies. I chose 7 different ones, ranging from businesses I liked and understood, to ones I had never heard of recommended by stock analysts. I fake-invested in Victoria’s Secret, Apple, and some chemical companies I don’t really even remember the name of. Then I watched and waited. For a whole year. This is what happened:

Do I feel good about my stock picks? Yes. So good I’m a little pissed I didn’t invest real money! I don’t think my real portfolio will actually approach anything near this, fall 2010 was just a really good time to buy in. Nevertheless, I still learned some valuable lessons and gained experience, even though I was only playing make believe. Maybe most people eager to invest in stocks aren’t willing to create and monitor a mock portfolio for 12 months, but at least do it for 6 or even 3 before you start putting real cash in. I’m really happy I did this because it was basically a “test drive” before investing my own money.

Secondly, while I was watching and waiting my mock profits and pitfalls, I started saving. I contributed to my TFSA and mutual funds every month, even when it was painful (ie. summer 2010 when I was making a whopping $1400/mo as a research student, and paying 90% of that to essential expenses and consumer debt). Nevertheless, a year later I had some liquid cash in my TFSA.

I used Fabulously Broke‘s referral code for Questrade, and opened an account (though I’m still waiting for my $50 bonus…). Success! I had a brokerage account! Not sure if anyone remembers, but right before I left for France, I met with a representative from TD Canada Trust about opening a brokerage account with them. While the woman was exceptionally helpful, I was horrified by their fees. $30/trade? Not for me, thanks. At Questrade is $5-$10 per trade, and with a small portfolio like what I’m starting with, keeping the costs low is essential to ensure they don’t eat up my returns. Likewise, I opened a TFSA trading account, so my returns go un-taxed.

Anyway, I feel so authentic about personal finance now. I’m so excited to add stocks to my personal finance repetoire. More blog entries to come once I get the hang of this…

Day Zero #69: Sell my Herve Leger dress

You know when people buy designer clothes and insist they’re an “investment” because they’re so “high quality” and “will never go out of a style”?

Well, I was never one of those people, but I was pleasantly surprised this week when the sole designer item I owned netted me a 10% profit in resale. As you might remember, I first attempted to sell my Herve Leger dress before I left for Paris. The listing was pulled from eBay on grounds of the item being counterfeit. After an endless array of emails between me and BCBG Max Azria Group, with numerous photos of every stitch on the dress to prove its authenticity, I relisted the dress nearly 3 months later. This time my ad was permitted to stay up and it sold!

I had paid about $600 or $650 for this gown 2 years ago. The retail value is somewhere around $1,300 so while paying $650 for a single piece of clothing can only be described as supremely idiotic (hey, I acknowledge that I was young and stupid then!) it’s only half as idiotic as paying $1,300. I bought the dress, it fit, I wore it out 4 or 5 times, and then I was bored with it. Moreso, I had been on the minimalism bandwagon for nearly a year now and was a bit ashamed I had something in my wardrobe that really just took up space. It was a novelty item, and I was ready to part with it.

I listed it on eBay with a starting price of $0.01, but my reserve price was $250. I figured I could cope with a $400 loss (about $200 per year of ownership, which is want a really adorable average dress costs anyway, and I was wearing a designer gown). I was expecting to get around $300 for it, since that’s what most Herve Leger dresses were selling for on eBay. I hadn’t cared at all for the brand since buying my dress, so I didn’t even know if it was still a hot item to own. God bless my ignorance.

It sold for $710.

If you’re surprised, I was too. The price jumped from $422 to $710 in the last 9 seconds.

It was almost too good to be true, and I briefly worried about the buyer not paying up, but the $740 ($710 dress + $30 shipping) was in my PayPal account less than 5 minutes later. I packaged and shipped the dress the next day. I almost wish I had given it a hug or something before we parted; it was like giving up a puppy for adoption. I hope that it has gone to a good, loving home.

But the best part is I sold the dress for more than I paid for it, earning a ~$60 profit or about 10% — that’s a 5% return each year, better than GICs right now! Who knew designer dresses were a good place to keep your cash? I almost wish I had more to sell..

On my Day Zero list, this was item #69 — hilarious because on my old Day Zero list “Buy a Herve Leger dress” was one of my goals. We’re full circle here ;)

The Day Zero Project

I first stumbled upon the Day Zero Project a year and a half ago. As an OCD, type-A personality I LOVED the idea: you get to make lists! You get to set goals! What more could anyone want?

I made my list of 101 goals, tracked my progress, and then somewhere along the lines forgot about it (my guess is probably around the same time I forgot everything fun I used to do). Before I left for France, I stumbled upon it again by accident. It was weird to read the things that were important to me more than a year ago. Some of my goals were so ridiculous (buy 2 designer purses), entirely too many depended on someone else (get engaged, get married), but some were still good (take a cooking class). I laughed out lout when I peeked at my “someday” list and saw go to France, see the Eiffel tower, go to the Louvre. I wish I could talk to my past self and give her the heads up that graduate school is not going to work out, neither is that relationship, and in 12 months you won’t care at all for designer anything because you’re going to hock all your stuff on eBay to boost your emergency fund. I would also give her a hug and tell her that it all works out.

Oh, Bridget. You are so very different now.

I decided to start my Day Zero list over again. Some of the parts were salvageable, but I deleted nearly everything else. I tried hard to create the right goals for me: ones that involve doing this I love (taking a French class), trying new things (learn to play the guitar), trying weird or silly things (ride a segway). I kept the big bucket-list goals (climb Mt. Kilimanjaro). I tried to push myself (turn $1,000 into $10,000) and I’m trying to nourish myself (get a hot stone massage). I made sure NONE of my goals depend on someone else — they all must be individual, accomplishable (that’s not a word…), and do something to make me healthier, happier or more skilled.

Anyway, I only have 73 goals right now, which is a bit short of the 101 I wanted to have for the 1001 day countdown but I’m trying to reduce my OCD tendencies and allow me to add to the list as I go. Maybe I’ll have more than 101 goals that I completed by the end of it! The end date is February 27, 2014. I’ll be 28 years old (yikes!) and hopefully with a lot of great experiences and stories to tell — also some impressive language skills and a whole lotta cash in the bank ;)