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How to Start Investing When You Have No Money

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Investing advice is often crafted for high earners. What about the rest of us? We have investing tips when you don’t have money to invest.

The most important component of investing is not having a lot of money to invest; it’s the amount of time whatever money you can scrounge up is invested. So start checking your coat pockets and couch cushions.

How to Grow Real Wealth

Most of us don’t have salaries that are enough to make us wealthy so how do all those “millionaires next door” get rich? They invest. You can do many other things to help grow your wealth but investing is the cornerstone.

You don’t need a lot of money or a lot of knowledge to get started but the longer you wait, the more money you’re leaving on the table, and it may be impossible to make up that time with extra money. If you don’t have a lot of money to invest, these investing tips are made for you.

Rule #1 of personal finance is to pay yourself first.

You want to learn how to start investing, you mean to start, you have every intention of doing so but the end of the month comes, and you don’t have any money left to invest with.

If you don’t pay yourself first, you will never have money “left over” to start investing.

Ideally, you’re saving 15-20% of your income, but we’re talking to the people who don’t have any money to invest so 15-20% isn’t realistic. So we are going to make 10% our goal.

What?! You don’t have any money, how are you going to invest 10%? There is already a lot of money coming out of your paycheck, if you bother looking at your pay stub, you already know that. All kinds of taxes and stuff.

What if your tax withholding suddenly went up 10%, what would you do? Not pay it? You don’t have a choice; it comes out automatically.

But, you need that 10%. You really don’t. Have you ever gotten up at 7:00 am and made it to work by 9:00? Have you ever gotten up at 8:00 am and still made it to work by 9:00? You had an extra hour or one less hour, but you still got to work both days at 9:00.

Money is kind of the same way. Ever how much we have is how much we use.

If Uncle Sam were taking that 10% out of your check automatically, you’d figure out a way to live without it.

Here’s How To Find 10%

We can almost guarantee that every person reading this already has that 10%. It’s just that it’s not in your checking account at the end of the month so you can’t quite see it. Here’s how to find it.

If paying yourself first is Rule #1 of personal finance, Rule #2 is budgeting. If you don’t have a budget, you can’t know how much money is coming in or going out. And more importantly, where it’s going out.

So go to Mint and start an account. It’s free, it’s safe (Mint is owned by Intuit, the same company that owns Turbo Tax so if it can keep your tax information safe, it can keep you budget information safe), and it’s easy to use.

Once you link your bank and credit card accounts, Mint will automatically pull in every transaction. Next, you set up your budget categories. If you’re not sure how to break down your budget, we like the 50/30/20 method because it’s simple.


The 50% represents the essentials in your budget, expenses like housing, utilities, transportation, insurance premiums, and groceries among them. The 30% is to be budgeted on nonessential, things that you spend money on but could live without. The 20% is for investing.

But we’re only looking for 10% to invest, so you have an extra 10% to spend in either of the first two categories.

That’s basically all you have to do, open an account, connect your accounts, and set up your budget categories. Mint does the rest.

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Now Take That 10% Back

Once you have a month’s worth of data to look at, sit down and go through it. We guarantee there is at least one area where you are spending way more than you realized. Two of the usual suspects are food and entertainment.

You don’t have 10% to invest but how often do you go out to dinner? We won’t tell you to stop entirely; we know that isn’t realistic. If you want to go out to dinner, use Seated to make a reservation. For every completed reservation, you will get a $10-$50 credit at Amazon, Lyft, or Starbucks.

You can use those credits to buy staples on Amazon like paper towels and toothpaste and use the money you save to start investing.

How much are you paying for cable?

You could probably pay for all the streaming services, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Netflix, etc. and it still would be cheaper than cable. Okay, for some reason you don’t want to get rid of cable. You can at least lower your bill.

Do you have a gym membership, Spotify, Audible, and makeup subscription? If you claim to have no money but pay for these things, you have plenty of money. It’s a pain to cancel these things, but you don’t have to. Trim will do it for you.

When you shop online, use Swagbucks. When you join Swagbucks, you can get cash back when you buy online from more than 1,500 retailers including places you probably already shop like Amazon, Target, and Starbucks. You earn points for each dollar you spend and also get exclusive coupons and deals exclusive to their shoppers.

Make Your 10%

Saving money is great but making money is better. If the money you saved from taking the above steps wasn’t enough, here’s how to make your 10%.

We know that you’re probably tired of the term side hustle, but in fairness, it does have a different connotation than the term second job. A second job traditionally was something you had to do on someone else’s schedule like working weekends in retail, restaurants or bars. That doesn’t work for everyone.

But a side hustle is something you can do on your schedule or at least a less rigid schedule. You can drive for Uber,  babysit, answer surveys, rent your home, mow lawns, or teach English.

Time Is On Your Side

How much time do you spend a week reading social media or Reddit, watching TV, or playing video games? Like wasting money, you’re wasting more time than you realize. Even if you just spent half that time doing something to bring in some extra money, you’d have your 10% in no time.

Another area we tend to waste money is on fees. They’re everywhere; banks charge them for accounts and ATM withdraws, credit card and utility companies charge them for late payments, investment accounts charge them.

Stop paying fees! An online bank like Chime charges almost no fees, Fidelity refunds ATM fees, set reminders for your bills, so you don’t make late payments (which also hurt your credit score).

Personal Capital can show you hidden fees on your investment accounts. If you’re paying a fee, there is almost certainly an alternative provider that won’t charge you fees or charges lower fees.

Personal Capital retirement fee analyzer

The Gateway Drug

You got your 10%, and it was easier than you thought. Now, what are you going to do with it?

Betterment is the gateway drug to investing. If you thought you had to have a lot of money or to know a lot about investing to get started, Betterment is here to prove you wrong.

There is no minimum. If you have $1, you can get started. The fees are low. The best part is, you don’t have to know anything about money or stocks or investing. You will just answer a few fundamental questions to determine things like your risk tolerance and time horizon.

Remember pay yourself first? That’s what you’re going to do with your Betterment account. You can set up automatic deposits into your account. The money is gone before you get a chance to spend it.

What If You Legit Have $0

Okay, we’re not sure we believe you, but if you really have not a single dollar to spare right now, there are still things you can do to invest.

Invest your time in things that will improve yourself. There are boot camps, both in person and online, that will teach you to code for free, or at least defer payment until you find a job. And the camps often have a program that will help graduates find jobs.

You will never go broke from investing in yourself.

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Start attending networking events in your industry or the industry you would like to be in so you can meet the person who might give you your next job. Polish your resume so when that person calls, you’re ready.

If you want to go back to school but don’t have the money and don’t want to take out loans, start applying for every scholarship you’re even remotely qualified for. Not all scholarships are based on academics so you don’t have to have sterling grades to get a few.

If you have no money at all, you need to do what you have to do in order to improve your situation.

And there is a way you can invest without feeling any pinch. Acorns. Each time you spend, Acorns rounds up to the nearest dollar and invests that amount for you. So, if you spend $2.50 on a cup of coffee, Acorns will automatically invest $.50 for you.


Acorns also have found money partners program that rewards app users for shopping through specific retailers. When you make a purchase with one of their partners through the app or web portal, the retailer will send the rebate, cash back rewards, and loyalty programs cash into your account.

Acorns round ups alone aren’t enough to retire on but it’s a good start for those who aren’t investing at all.

Investing is For Everyone

Have we not persuaded you? Here’s a little extra incentive. The Saver’s Credit is a tax break for low and moderate taxpayers who save into retirement accounts.

Depending on your adjusted gross income and filing status, you can claim the credit for up to 50% of the first $2,000 you contribute to a 401k, 403(b), 457 plan, a Simple or SEP IRA, and a Traditional or Roth IRA.

The maximum AGI to be eligible is $61,500 for married couples who file jointly, $46,125 for a head of the household filer, and $30,750 for everyone else.

You don’t need to be some rich person in a monocle and top hat to invest. You don’t need a fat bank balance, an intimate knowledge of the Wall St Journal or an expensive advisor to invest. Anyone with an internet connection and $1 to their name can invest. 

So what are you waiting for? Take these investments tips on how to start investing and get out there!

Show Notes

Chimay Pierre Trappist Grand Reserve Ale: A dark ale.

Raspberry Lemonade Milkshake: An IPA from WeldWorks

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Candice Elliott - Senior Editor Candice Elliott is a substantial contributor to Listen Money Matters. She has been a personal finance writer since 2013 and has written extensively on student loan debt, investing, and credit. She has successfully navigated these areas in her own life and knows how to help others do the same. Candice has answered thousands of questions from the LMM community and spent countless hours doing research for hundreds of personal finance articles. She happily calls New Orleans, Louisiana home-the most fun city in the world.
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