Make the Most of Your Money — My Favorite Resources
One of the hardest things to do is to make the most of your money.
I'm a big fan of putting money to work for you — rather than working harder for your money. I use a number of tools to automatically invest my money for various goals, including travel, long-term emergencies, short-term getaways, retirement, and more. Additionally, I've also come across a number of products and services that I wish had been available back in the day.
If you're looking for tools to help you manage your money and meet your goals, here are some of my favorites.
When you click on some of these items, I might get a small commission for referring you. But if you know me, I only recommend products and services I think are actually helpful.
Personal Capital: Do You Know Where Your Money Is?
Tracking your finances is one of the most important ways to stay on top of your money. Being able to manage your cash flow and use your money as a resource is hugely important if you want to avoid wasting money on things that don't matter to you. One way to do that is with Personal Capital.
In the past, I've manually kept track of my finances and used tools like Moneydance and Mint. However, I recently began using Personal Capital.
I like Personal Capital because it allows you to see everything — not just bank accounts and credit cards — including investments. I can connect my investment accounts, and see the big picture. Plus, there are some solid planning tools. You do have to be aware that they might try to get you to have a phone conversation and try to sell you wealth management services. But beyond that, Personal Capital really does have a lot to offer.
Start tracking your finances with Personal Capital
Betterment: Where I Used to Keep Most of My Portfolio
Betterment is a robo-advisor that provides you with a way to invest easily. Set up automatic deposits, and you can work toward various goals. Betterment offers taxable investment accounts as well as tax-advantaged IRAs. You can also take advantage of a savings-like product that offers a higher return than what you'll see with a traditional bank.
I use Betterment for multiple goals. Here's what I have with Betterment:
- Roth IRA
- Rollover Traditional IRA (from a former employer's 401k)
- Travel fund (taxable account)
- Savings (high-yield savings product)
Betterment has a low barrier to entry and is easy to use. I can set different levels of risk for different goals, and Betterment will put together a portfolio using index ETFs. As an indexer, I love this low-key approach.
Open an account with Betterment
Acorns: Invest Using Pocket Change
I actually use Acorns for my short-term getaway fund. Acorns will take your pocket change and invest it in a portfolio designed to reflect your risk tolerance. You connect accounts and arrange for roundups. So, if you spend $2.50, Acorns will round up to $3.00 and take the remaining $0.50 and invest it. My account has my roundups turned on to triple my roundups.
Using Acorns, it's also possible to set up additional automatic transfers as well.
For some folks, the fee of $1 per month is a bit steep — especially if you're only using roundups. For me, though, with my extra transfers and turbocharged roundups, it's been a great resource for spontaneous expenses. I've checked the account and used the money to buy a new smartphone, and also used it to pay for a three-day weekend.
Normally, because I use it short-term, and the gains I've received so far aren't big, it doesn't have a huge impact on my capital gains tax bill.
Ibotta: Get Cash Back on Planned Purchases
Your planned purchases can mean cash back for you. From your grocery store to Amazon, when you buy, you could get cash back.
I like getting cash back — whether it's from credit cards or from a browser extension. Plus, depending on the situation, you can even stack your rewards.
Another rewards and cashback site I use is Swagbucks. You can earn rewards points on purchases and for doing simple tasks. I usually redeem my rewards for Amazon gift cards, helping me reduce my overall costs.
If you want to learn more about how I get more from rewards, check out an article I wrote on rewards stacking.
Bestow: Protect Your People
Life insurance is a serious issue, especially if you want to financially protect your family if you're gone. I had my life insurance locked in before Bestow came around, but I like the model of affordable life insurance. I've got a term life insurance policy that will be done in a little more than five years, and when I'm ready to look for life insurance again, Bestow is probably one of the first places I'll look.
I like that the policies don't require medical exams, and you can get immediate coverage if you're approved. It's a different way to approach life insurance — one that's way different than when I purchased life insurance almost 15 years ago. If you're shopping around for life insurance, this isn't a bad place to start.
Tally: Get Out of Debt Faster
Honestly, I wish I had something like Tally when I was drowning in credit card debt. Basically, this app looks at your linked credit cards and helps you make on-time payments. Not only can Tally help you make your payments on time, but it can also help you pay down your debt in a way that saves you time and money on your total debt.
It's free to download and use the app to manage your debt payments.
If you qualify, you can get a Tally line of credit. With this feature, Tally takes care of your payments for you, and you repay Tally. You do pay interest, but if you might be able to get a lower interest rate overall and pay off your debt faster because it pretty much amounts to a debt consolidation loan.
It's worth checking out if you're in debt and looking for help making a payoff plan.
Blue Apron: Get Some of Your Time Back
It seems weird, probably, that I'm including Blue Apron in a list of resources to help you make the most of your money. However, I'm a huge proponent of buying more time through outsourcing — and Blue Apron helps you do that.
I use Blue Apron for meal planning and grocery delivery. It saves me hours a week since I don't need to as much shopping or even figure out what I'm going to make. It's not perfect, but it works for me.
Wealthsimple: Robo-advising — with a Personal Touch
I haven't opened a Wealthsimple account yet, but I know quite a few people who really like the personal touch offered by this robo-advisor. One of the things I like about the idea behind Wealthsimple is that you get a personalized portfolio and access to financial advice.
There are different plan levels, and some of them come with extra perks, like airline lounge access and in-depth financial planning. You can also get access to a low-risk savings product that has a higher yield than many traditional banks, so that can be a bonus as well.
Open an account with Wealthsimple
myFICO: Manage Your Credit
If you're looking for a simple way to track your credit situation and see what's going on, you can use free resources like Credit Sesame and Credit Karma. Additionally, many credit card issuers now offer credit information. However, if you want to go to the FICO source, one of your best options is myFICO.
You might be surprised at how many versions of your credit score there are, and myFICO helps you stay on top of the entire situation — for a fee. I've used myFICO in the past, and it's been fine. Carefully consider whether it makes sense to pay for this service when there are free services that can provide you with needed insight.
TurboTax: Prepare and File Your Taxes with Ease
We all have to pay taxes. Today, I use an accountant to prepare my taxes. However, in the past, I've found that TurboTax is a great resource. You're taken through questions that will help you easily fill out the forms and even file your taxes. Depending on the version you get, you might even get audit help.
You can even pay for help from CPAs and get a tax return review. You do need to carefully consider the cost as you get these add-ons, though. In some cases, it might make sense to do what I do and just hire a professional. Either way, though, there's no reason to make taxes harder than they have to be.
Start your taxes with TurboTax
What About Business Resources?
Sometimes, when you make the most of your money, it's also about business resources. What items can help you make more from your business? Here are a few resources that I've found helpful in the past.
Blue Host: Low-Cost Web Hosting
I'll be honest. This is not the best web hosting company out there. However, it works fine when you're just getting started. In fact, I did my time with Blue Host and it worked out ok.
If you're looking for something basic to start with, just to get out there and hosting, Blue Host can be a solid choice. You'll be able to host your website, and it won't cost you very much at first. Later, as things change, you can switch hosts if you feel like you need to.
Use Blue Host to start a website
Constant Contact: Email Management
While I actually use ConvertKit for email management on this website, I do use Constant Contact for email management with a non-profit political organization I work with. It's a reasonably-priced email management system that can help you create campaigns, track their effectiveness and manage sign-ups.
Since using Constant Contact for the non-profit, we've been able to increase our reach, see a higher open rate and boost the way we collect donations online. It's been a huge help to us as we move forward and grow.