Monday, 30 January 2012

Cash Back Credit Cards

I do not think that enough people are fully aware of what a tremendous way to make money that their credit cards are.On most personal finance sites you will read about people who misused their credit cards and ended up with tens of thousands of dollars in debt. These are the only stories that get told to students though.

I know in high school that I had two teachers who thought they were doing their students a favour by trying to educate us a bit about real life concerns and gave their opinions on credit cards. My English teacher gave us one commonly heard side of the story. He told us that we should apply and get a credit card as soon as we could and use it for small amounts and be sure to pay it off fully every month. He wanted us to know that when we would inevitably go into a bank for a loan that if we had a credit history of paying off the balance of our card each month we would be more likely to be approved. In his thinking, right or wrong, a credit rating was very important and we should start building ours as soon as possible.

Having heard this I thought I would try to show off my impressive knowledge and tell my economics teacher how I was going to get a credit card and use it wisely (I was a dumb kid and I think I stretched the link between that day's lesson and credit cards). She laughed at me.She said that she had seen too many of her friends and classmates from university bury themselves in very high interest debt to think that was a good idea. She took the pessimistic stance that a 17 year old kid will not be able to control themselves when they have such easy access to great amounts of money all the time.

And from what I have read and heard elsewhere, neither of my teachers were explicitly correct or incorrect. I have lots of sources to see that it is important to build a good credit rating for a variety of reasons, and I am just now seeing first hand the damage that an improper attitude towards credit can do to students in particular. Luckily I have not seen any students here badly abusing their plastic, but I can't say that I would do some of the things that my classmates have.

I got a line of credit from TD instead of applying for OSAP, mostly because of the convenience. but when I was in the branch to apply for the line of credit, I got the idea to also get my first credit card. TD has one student card, or at least only gave me one option. But there did not appear to be any downside to the card. My TD Rebate Rewards Visa card had no annual fee, a $1,000 limit and a 19.99% interest rate. That last part hurt but I made the good intentioned plan of not carrying a balance so I could avoid the interest. My dad was most pleased with the limit on the card, since he had to cosign for it. In his mind, no matter how dumb I was, I could only spend $1,000, after which I would probably get a stern talking to and more. But I liked the idea of Visa giving me money to use the card.

This card offers 0.5% cash back on the first $3,000 you spend, and then 1% on all purchases above that. So since I got the card in August I have used it for every purchase I can. I use to pay cash for everything, but now I also ask if where I am takes Visa. The rewards balance got added to my January statement. So I saw how much the idea paid off. I got $16.08 simply for making purchases I would have made anyway. I thought this was awesome. I used the card at restaurants, online, at the bookstore, everywhere. It only made sense, I save up to 1% on any purchase I make.

I am usually the only one when we go out in a group who pays with Visa, though I know for a fact that some of the others have a card. I know though that I am more disciplined, I only use the card if I know that I have enough in chequing, or can get the money before the end of the month. This allows me to pay no interest while enjoying the benefits of the program. If you told people they could pay 1% less for everything they buy, not one person would say no. So why isn't everybody taking advantage when the people who usually ruthlessly take your money (credit card companies with their insane rates) are willing to give you money?

Some people may not have the self control, which is unfortunate. There is nothing you can do if you do not trust yourself. But I think a lot of people suffer from ignorance on the matter. I made $16 in four months, so I know it is real. And I just passed the threshold so if I had had more time I would have been getting 1% back. But when I do the math, this means that I spent $3,108 in those four months. Now I did use the card for books and a part of my tuition, but I still spent a lot more money than I wanted to, and than I should have. But it was money i was going to spend whether I had a credit card or not, I am very aware that I have to have the money to make the purchase or else it will end up costing me hundreds of dollars more than the retail price.

Using a rewards credit card is another great way to get something back for things you need to do anyway, in this case spend money. And after looking around my card is not even the most generous in terms of cash back, so the possibilities are even more impressive than I can attest to.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Yakezie Challenge

I am somebody who is always up to a challenge. I am always more motivated to accomplish something when I am told I can't or if there is any challenge at all. This is one of the reasons that I liked the Yakezie challenge when I read about it. It requires me to obtain a page ranking of 200,000 on Alexa in six months (I am at 15,920,114 right now). I need to post 2-4 times a week for the next half year, and I need to promote others.

I want to be part of the group of Yakezie personal finance bloggers, and this is the first step to that. I have my doubts that my blog will be one of the 200,000 most popular websites in a mere six months, but when I shoot for the moon and miss I will still hot the stars. The only downside to this challenge is possibly having to admit in July that I did not make the top 200,000. But my rank should be considerably higher than it is now, so even that negative is negligible.

Proud Member of the Yakezie Challenge

Thursday, 26 January 2012

How I Make Money Online

Being a university student, and also not having money to spend by going out, I spend a lot of time sitting in front of my computer. I am not here to endorse this behaviour, most of the time I would rather be elsewhere. But as long as I am at my computer I thought I might as well get paid for it. There are lots of ways to do this apparently, and only a few of them involve foreign royalty needing you to send them money.

I have several ways that I make money online. I have already written about Swag Bucks, which is probably my favourite site for making money. It rewards you for doing things that you would do anyway (using their search engine) as well as having a very easy site to use to get paid for other simple things.

I also use Superpoints, which can make you money simply by clicking on a button. You area allotted a certain amount of clicks each day and are rewarded periodically when you click. You won't make much but you can just have the page open in the background and click it periodically, very easy to do.  This site has roughly $3 in its account which I have not cashed out yet (need $10), but my mom swears by this site. They have other ways to get points too, such as watching videos and surveys, but it is easiest just to hit the button.

I just recently started using a site called Fusion Cash, and while I have not cashed out on this site, in six days I have made almost $15. This site has offers to complete for you to get paid. There are lots of different types, but some are riskier than others. The site is not a scam, but some out there may say it is. Fusion Cash awards you for registering to other sites. The offers I have done have included signing up with online survey sites and confirming my email. This is easy, and you can just close your account after you get paid for it, or have the emails go to your junk mail. But there are other offers that require you to give your credit card to sign up for a free trial of a paid service. These offers are reward more, and can be a great way to make money as long as you remember to cancel your service at the end of the free trial. The people who claim it is a scam probably got roped into a year of Netflix or something. But Fusion Cash has surveys and a forum that you get rewarded for posting in too, so if you are uncomfortable with the idea of giving your credit card out, like I am, you do not need to do those particular offers.

Then there are the survey sites that I have signed up for. I signed up to a bunch of sites because you do not get sent surveys very often by a couple sites. These are for the most part easy money, the longest surveys can be torture to sit through but even they only last 40 minutes absolute tops. Those surveys usually pay the most and if you don't want to do them you don't. Or you wait until you have time to sit down and complete it, or do a bit, leave your browser open and come back to it, which most surveys allow.

My favourite site is Web Perspectives. I found that their surveys are the best combination of reward and regularity. I get emails with surveys from them pretty often, and I think the lowest paying survey I have gotten from them was for $1. I have cashed out $20 to Paypal from Web Perspectives in the 4 months since I joined, and will be cashing out another $10 shortly.

The site that is the most generous with their rewards is Pinecone Research. This site is invitation only, but there are sites out there that keep track of the exclusive link. These two sites have it here and here. Pinecone pays $3 for every survey and pay each time, they will send you a $3 cheque or deposit $3into your Paypal account. I have made $18 I think in 4 months. Pinecone also will send you products to try in your home, which is pretty cool, and will reward you for these too. The one negative to Pinecone is the surveys come infrequently. You will get them, but not very often. But since they pay so well it is still great.

I am signed up with Ipsos - Isay too. This site is another good one. I have made $20 in 4 months. Surveys come very often but sometimes only pay small amounts. It is a very good site though.

Opinion World is another good one with which I have made $10 in 4 months. Leger Web has made me $10 in 4 months, but require $20 to cash out. They also send surveys very infrequently but the surveys pay $1 each and are always very short. The one site that hasn't really worked out for me is Global Test Market. I have about $3 after 4 months of surveys. The surveys pay like 15 cents each. I realized this too late so I am going to wait until I have the $10 needed to cash out and then quit doing the surveys from them. Then again that will still be in another year or so at this rate.

One last way I make money, well not money but almost as good is from Petro-Canada. At the bottom of your receipt from them is a website that leads you to a survey about your experience there. What it doesn't say is that you can do the survey every three days without an additional purchase. If you have a Petro Rewards card this is a very easy way to get rewarded. The survey takes maybe 2 minutes, and you can say that all you did was go to the bathroom. As long as you have the store number off the receipt you can get 200 Petro Points every 3 days, which works out to over 24,000 a year.

Individually these may not seem impressive. But all these added up is a very easy and very rewarding way to spend your computer time. I have made $80 from surveys in 4 months, $175 from Swag Bucks, a little bit of money waiting for me from Fusion Cash and Superpoints and quite a few easy Petro Points. This easy income is out there waiting for anyone willing to take it. This is not the huge dollars most people are looking for when they go looking for money online but it is real money that I made without a lot of effort. That is about as good as I could ask for.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012


Whether you want to run a marathon, be a millionaire, or be a musician, goals are an important step to not only mark progress but also to motivate you by creating a concrete finish line to which you can look forward. On that note I thought I would list my financial goals not only for this year, but also my long term goals so you get a sense of what it is I am trying to accomplish.

1. I want to invest my entire tax return once I get it in April
This is an easy goal to accomplish. It is only one thing I need to do once and there are no obstacles to keep me from succeeding. It almost shouldn't be listed, but I think by investing the money before I have a chance to mindlessly spend it I will put myself ahead towards a lot of the other goals I have, so you can look at this instead as a step.

2. To earn $200 from dividends in 2012
This one should not be all that difficult either, but I think it is a lofty accomplishment all the same.  When I first started thinking up my goals I thought $100 would be impressive. But then I decided to check how much dividends I collected last year, starting when I bought my first mutual funds in August. Well to my pleasant surprise I found I made $21.11, all of which I reinvested using a dividend reinvestment plan (DRIP). So those two mutual funds alone may bring in $100. I also have 55 shares of a dividend paying ETF which I just recently bought, and I plan to invest the money I make from my tax return into this fund or another dividend paying equity. So even $200 may be underestimating myself. This is one of the things that excites me most about the upcoming year.

3. Get a part time job for the fall semester
My first year I thought would best be spent focusing on my schoolwork and getting acclimated to the university life. That was a nice thought but as I am sure many people have found out intentions such as these get left behind by the many ways to have fun . So next year I want to find a part time job where I can work 10-15 hours a week. That should not interfere with school or my free time too much, and it should be enough to pay for an expense that I pick. I would like it if I could pay for my housing from a part time job, but that may be unrealistic.

4. Have a net worth of of $10,000  by the end of the year.
As of this writing Mint tells me that I have a net worth of $8,142. From that number it may not seem like I am poor, but of that, I have $8.00 in my checking account, an estimated $500 from my crap car, and most of the rest is money I either can't touch (RRSP) or do not want to touch for a long time (TFSA). Gaining $1,900 in the course of 12 months does not sound unreasonable, but with the money I make in the summer I need to pay all my school expenses next year, no help. So I need to make a lot of money this summer.

5. Pay for school with no debt this year
I do not want to use any debt to fund my education next year. I have a student line of credit and will be applying to get a higher limit on it, but that is merely for peace of mind as well as maybe being available after I graduate to buy a home. I want to make enough money in the summer to pay all the expenses I will encounter next year. This may be the hardest goal because next year is going to be expensive. I have a May-May lease on an apartment close to campus for $575 a month plus utilities.  Say that is $600 a month. For 12 months that is $7,200. All my tuition and school expenses this year minus room and board were $7,724.65. So I am at 14,924.65 of expenses to pay for next year. That total does not take into account groceries or any fun costs. So I am going to assume a cost of $17,000. Another assumption being made here is that I can manage without a car for next year. The plan is to let my insurance expire and bum rides from my parents and others to be able to visit home. That is how much I want to make this summer. I am going to fall short of that for sure, but hopefully my part time job next year will cover some costs. This may be my most ambitious goal for the next while.

6. Make $100 from online surveys this year
I am a member of several online survey sites. I think 5, but I do not receive offers from a couple very often. I would like it if I could make $100 from these sites in the next year. I have no idea how much I made in the 4 or so months that I have been doing these surveys so I do not know if this will be difficult or not. But I think the round century mark for the year is not something to sneeze at for doing next to nothing. It is very easy to do the surveys and most do not take longer than 20 minutes. If you have to be at the computer anyway you might as well get paid, right? I think more people should know how simple it is to make money online from surveys.

7. Make this blog a success
I do not know how to measure it, but I will know it when I see it. I would love if I got hundreds of page visits a day. My lack of writing ability, intellect, interesting things to say, etc. all make that unlikely. But if I started to get a consistently increasing number of visitors I would be unable to complain. This would be really cool.

8. Graduate Debt Free
I am guessing that this may have been obvious. I have heard and read horror stories of $70,000 student loan debts upon graduation. I would love to be in the black when I am done school. Simply having more money than I owe would put me ahead of lots of my fellow students, but I would like to have as much money as I can. The more the better.

9. Pay cash for my first house
Almost guaranteed that I will not do this. But I would like to pay as much of a down payment as I can so saving to pay for the whole thing, even if I do not reach that, I will still have a significant amount saved up. The idea of a mortgage is unappealing to me, so I want to get rid of one once I have it as fast as I can. By paying a large down payment I make that more realistic.

10. Retire by 35
I think, while this seems like a pipe dream, that this will be easier to accomplish than many people think. That could be the obnoxious cockiness of a 19 year old but, given 15 years to save enough money to have my investments be able to pay my expenses, I honestly expect that I can do this. Lots of things are going to come up to interrupt my progress to this, but it is something I really want to do. Or at least be able to work at a job not for the money but because it is something I want to do. I am going to school to get a well paying job, but if by 35 I have enough money that I can instead get a job I am very passionate about, such as personal training, without being worried about paying the bills, I will be incredibly happy. The money to pay my expenses will likely mostly come from dividends,  perhaps real estate because I like the idea of renting rooms or houses that I own. I do not know yet, but because I am starting so early, I have a better chance at succeeding and also a little leeway to make some adjustments if not outright mistakes.

These are the things I hope to accomplish. Some of these are things to help me get more money, some are things to do with money I get. It turned out to be a much more extensive list than I thought it would be, and it could be a lot longer. I will be updating my progress on some of these later, hopefully with good news.

Monday, 23 January 2012


For the last four years I have only worked during the summer, in theory so I could concentrate on school, in practice I just like having lots of free time. Luckily I have connections to score a very well paying job (for a student) and am able to keep my expenses very low because I am at work 12 hours a day and after that just eat and go to bed almost.

I managed to save lots of the money I earned the last four years, so in August I decided to get my money working for me after rereading The Wealthy Barberover the summer (on my lunch breaks at work). The advice in the book said to put my money into mutual funds, so that is what I did. I did not do the research into which one was best or why mutual funds were a good idea. I learned from the book that it was giving my money to a pro so he could invest it, preferably wisely invest it. So I went to TD and opened a TFSA and RRSP and invested $1500, $1000 into the TFSA and $500 into the RRSP.
The book, written for an older audience, really advocates RRSP's, which is good, but the way I figure is that one of the biggest benefits of it is the tax deductions, but I never make enough to pay income tax. Because of this I thought putting $500 in would be enough to experience some growth, but really I just wanted it opened so I don't wake up in 10 years and realize I haven't.

And The Wealthy Barber was written before the government implemented TFSA's so I had to research those on my own. I love them. I made automatic payments every two weeks into my TFSA mutual fund. I only just recently stopped because the price somehow increased quite a bit and I wanted to invest in some stocks while everyone was afraid of the markets.

That is where being a young investor is on my side. I will not need the money I invest now for 10-15 years. So I can buy shares while there is a lot of volatility and fear. It was a bit of a hassle opening a discount brokerage account, which is the reason I unwisely did/have not opened a QuestTrade account. For simplicity's sake I opened a Waterhouse account because all my other investments were already with TD. Unfortunately I paid $29 for the privilege of buying my own equities. But I did, I put $1000 in my TFSA trading account and bought 55 shares of a preferred shares exchange traded fund (ETF).

I chose to buy an ETF because I did not want to put my time into reading all the financial statements of companies, at least right now for such a small investment. And I chose the ETF that I did not because of the preferred shares, although from my admittedly rudimentary knowledge I understand that these have a tendency to be less volatile than common shares and get first dividend priority by companies, but because of the dividend payments.

I have been reading lots of blogs written by people older, wiser and wealthier than myself and it seems to be a fairly universal opinion that dividends are the bee's knees. Companies send me money every couple months simply because I own a bit of their company. Plus with luck the shares still increase in value. This was just my initial investment, and I hope to invest more, not only into this ETF, but also into other dividend paying ETF's or stocks. I think it is safe to say I have jumped on the dividend band wagon. I will let others explain more specifically and in depth why they are so great. My go to dividend blog is The Dividend Guy, but there are many others out there that I have read and you should give a read too.

These are the choices I have made in my very brief investing career, and are just the beginnings of what will one day hopefully be a very large net worth.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Meal Plan

Because I at least try to eat healthily I often find very few options on campus where I can use my meal plan money, money I need to use or else it gets wasted and that I can't get back anyway. But last semester, because of my mind set of trying to spend as little money as possible, I ended up with lots of money left over, meaning I now have to spend that money this semester. Part of my eating healthy is eating a good breakfast in the morning. I like to have two eggs on toast with a little cheese, ketchup and hot sauce if I have it. But this means that I need to buy that food with my own money. This is often problematic because a dozen eggs and a loaf of bread does not last very long. Breakfast becomes an expensive recurring cost.

To my pleasant surprise though I have found that the little convenience store on campus, which accepts meal plan, stocks bread. Saving that cost at least. As well, since I have so much money left to spend, I no longer buy my milk at Zellers like I used to, I now just buy single serving milk cartons at the Dining Hall, saving even more of that cost. Next year I am going to be living in a fairly expensive apartment ($570 + utilities), so saving money on food is going to be even more important. I am hoping that I can mooch as much food as I can when I go home, but I will still end up spending money on food. Spending money on food is not in the least bit fun. Luckily, at least for the next three months, I have found a way to minimize the cost.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Swag Bucks

Swag Bucks has been one of the solutions to my money crunch. Swag Bucks essentially is a search engine, like Google, but it randomly awards for search results. Every once in a while you will earn Swag Bucks, which I use to buy Amazon gift cards. For Christmas I was able to fully buy two gifts from Amazon using my Swag Bucks, as well as a new watch for myself. I use it as fun money, because the best deal is to buy the Amazon gift cards, although they also offer many items in their Swag Store, as well as Paypal credit. But I usually redeem my Swag Bucks for $5 Amazon gift cards, which cost 450 Swag Bucks, making a Swag Buck worth a little over a penny each. This doesn't sound like much but when you search you win, at the very least 7 Swag Bucks, and I have won up to 59 Swag Bucks for a search. They also offer surveys, games, special offers, codes, videos and small tasks, all of which reward you with Swag Bucks.

If this is the first you are hearing of it, I assure you to look up other reviews, everybody I know loves it. My mom has gotten me hooked on it. Even if you only use the search engine, it is an easy way to get paid for something you needed to do anyway.

Search & Win

The Wealthy Barber Returns

When I saw David Chilton wrote a new book, I knew that I needed to read it. The Wealthy Barber was the first financial book I ever read. I read it when I was maybe 10, did not understand much of it, then read it again this past summer. After reading it I went straight to the bank and opened a RRSP and a mutual fund account with the little money I had. I love how simple that book made it for a kid such as myself to understand what to do with my money so eventually I would have lots of it.

After I scraped the $16 or so that it cost I went and bought the book. I was very pleasantly surprised to see that since I live close to the author that Mr. Chilton managed to go to the Chapters and sign every copy of the new book, free of charge. After I got back to my dorm I tore into it, I read the entire thing in two days. I actually liked this book a lot more than his first one.

The man is hilarious, not something you would expect from somebody telling you to spend less money and save more of it but he manages it well. I think I liked this one more because it is more modern. It talks extensively about Tax Free Savings Accounts and comparing them to RRSPs. I liked this because I already had a TFSA and learned about better strategies to utilize it. While he does not touch much on the particular struggles of the starving student, a lot of the advice is applicable anyway. He warns about the dangers of using lines of credit frivolously as well as better ways to invest the little bit you have so it can grow for a long period of time.

I am not doing this book justice. If you are even the slightest bit curious about using your money wisely, read this book.

Friday, 20 January 2012

First Post

This is obviously my first post. I have been looking for ways to reach out and share my experiences to the maybe three people who will ever read this. As the title of this blog hints, I am a student with little in the way of money. I have been reading a couple of other blogs of people who want to retire early, which I will admit sounds awesome. I am hoping that by starting early I make it more likely that I will be able to achieve that. My ultimate goal is to be the classic definition of rich, big house, nice cars, traveling all the time. But I realize that the best way to accumulate wealth is by not spending it frivolously. And being a student now I do not really have the option to spend money. My chequing account has 29 cents in it right now.

Right now I am in the second semester of my first year at Wilfrid Laurier University. I have not worked since the summer and will not be working again until the summer, so there is a big gap between pay cheques. But I managed to have enough to survive the first year without selling a kidney (perhaps speaking too soon). I intend to post stuff here regularly, but to be honest, I am not sure I have a lot to say. I think I know a lot about money and how to save or acquire it, but then again I am pretty well broke. I am a very big sports fan too, so maybe I could BS a post or two about sports. I need to figure this all out yet. If you are still reading at this point of my babbling I am thankful and encourage you to suffer through whatever else I happen to write.