These are a Few of My Favorite Things

Since I’m the biggest personal finance nerd I (and some of my friends and family) know, I usually get asked for my recommendations on anything money related. While I don’t profess to be a financial expert, I do love talking about different methods that people use to manage their finances. The following are a few things that I usually recommend to people during my geeked out money conversations. 

Favorite Budgeting Program – You Need a Budget (YNAB)
It’s no secret that I’m a huge budget geek. I wrote about my love for YNAB here. That post led me to doing a guest post on the YNAB blog about how YNAB has helped change our future. YNAB isn’t simply a budgeting software, it is a philosophy and a method that shows you—teaches you—how to actually stick to a budget. Since we’ve started using YNAB we’ve saved more, invested more, and put a lot more into my daughter’s college fund. We still don’t live paycheck to paycheck despite me recently being laid off. We’re living a month ahead thanks to the awesomeness that is Rule 4: Live on Last Month’s Income.

Favorite Way to Track Net Worth/Consolidate Accounts – Personal Capital
Personal Capital
While YNAB is great for budgeting, you still need to reconcile it against your banks and credit card statements. Enter Personal Capital. Like Mint, you consolidate all your accounts into Personal Capital. This includes all your checking, savings, investments, and assets like your house and cars. What differentiates it from Mint is that Personal Capital is focused more on investing. Personal Capital tracks your investments over time and analyzes your accounts to see if you’re paying high fees. We have since moved some of our retirement accounts to less expensive accounts at Vanguard and Betterment.

Personal Capital also is great for tracking your net worth. Put simply, your net worth is all your assets (cash, investments, house, cars, etc.) minus everything you owe (loans, mortgages). Your net worth is the one number that best sums up where you stand financially. While there may be fluctuations in this number over time due to changes in the market value of your investments, you should try to get this number to consistently move up. So far our net worth hasn’t decreased since I got laid off. 🙂


Favorite Checking Account – Charles Schwab Checking Account
schwab logo
This is the best checking account hands down for it’s one killer feature – being able to pull out cash anywhere from any ATM. As much as we’re moving towards using credit/debit everywhere we go (PS – don’t use debit cards for purchases), sometimes cash is needed. If you’re someone like me and my wife that frequent cash only restaurants and shops, then you need this account (yes, places like that still exist). You won’t need to Google where the nearest Chase or Wells Fargo is. You can go to 7/11, the gas station, liquor store, or any other bank to get cash. Every ATM is your ATM – WORLDWIDE. Schwab will reimburse you for any ATM fee you incur at the end of each month. I wrote more about why I love this account in a previous post that you can revisit here.

Favorite Way to Invest – Betterment
I know a lot of people who don’t invest because it seems so intimidating. Betterment makes it super simple for you. If you have no idea what asset allocation and diversification means, use Betterment. You input your money, set your goals, determine your risk, and you’re done. Betterment diversifies your portfolio for you and suggests how much you need to deposit each month to attain said goals. They use Vanguard ETFs so fees are low. Another great thing about Betterment is that you can have several longer term savings goals. For example – I have an Addie’s Wedding Fund, Addie’s Car Fund, and General Wealth Goals. My wife and I also keep our Roth IRAs at Betterment.

Addies Car

Get a month of Betterment free here with my referral link. 

Favorite Way to Get Free Gift Cards – Swagbucks
I previously wrote about how I love Ebates, but I have since moved on to Swagbucks. You collect points (known as Swagbucks) for doing various online tasks like answering surveys, watching videos, or shopping through their portal. It seems a little gimmicky and spammy (which I thought at first), but it totally works. I make about $50 in gift cards a month. The key is to multitask your “swagging”. Most of the Swagbucks I earn by constantly streaming videos in the background on my phone, iPad, and computer while I get on with my day. Admittedly, it does take a bit of work to monitor this, but if you make it part of your routine it becomes second nature.

If you’re interested in trying out Swagbucks, you can do so from my referral link 🙂

These are just a few of my favorite things that make our lives a little bit easier or better. There are plenty of other financial services I’m sure I’ll get to in the future. I may eventually do future posts detailing Betterment, Personal Capital, and Swagbucks, but I figure there are already a billion other reviews online about them that you can Google away.  😉

What are some of your favorite money apps/services/programs?

*PS: Vic does not get paid to recommend these companies, but will get a little bit of change if you sign up off some of the referral links above. Vic only writes about services he actually uses and defines as “on fleek”.

Cover Image Credit: Online Trading Academy

15 thoughts on “These are a Few of My Favorite Things

    1. Betterment makes investing a no brainer!

      Swagbucks can get a little tedious if you focus on trying to score Swagbucks. If you can get in the habit of having videos streaming on your phone and computer, at minimum you can make $25 a month with a little bit of effort. DM me if you need any tips swagging! There’s a lot of tips online to do it as easy as possible! The easiest one for me is downloading the SBTV app, marking a few videos from the Home and Garden section that starts with “10 second tip…” and just letting it run anytime I’m not using my phone or ipad.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve always struggled so much with Swagbucks. I want it to work for me, but I’m seriously failing. You should totally do a post on how to score with little effort because that is right up my alley. I hardly have time to spend an hour trying to get myself a $3 Starbucks gift card.

        Streaming while you’re not using is smart, I’ll have to give that a shot. Thanks 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

    1. You’re welcome!

      The hardest part for me with investing was just getting started. There’s way too much info out there! I started off with a CD which is crap but got the ball rolling for me. I’d like to get more involved with investing in 2016 once I get another job or start a new venture!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes! Getting started is hands-down the hardest part. I sat around for like two years after deciding I wanted to start investing, partially due to some HORRENDOUS advice from my then-bank, but largely because there are such huge barriers to actually getting started. I use a Canadian service that’s a lot like Betterment, and I have nothing but great things to say. Their whole focus is getting you started as seamlessly as possible and making it easy for the average person (which I totally am when it comes to investing!)

        Liked by 2 people

  1. Yes, such a great list of tools Vic! Betterment is by far my favorite – I say this because their entire interface & customer service experience has been incredible! If you ever need to call in to complete something (for example: I needed to roll over an old employer’s 401(k) to an IRA at Betterment) – their customer service representatives are so amazing & not intimidating whatsoever! I definitely like using services that have great customer service. Thanks for sharing your financial tool kit, Vic!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’re welcome! I love Betterment too! I’m working on transferring my old 401k now so I can convert it into a Roth. It’s pretty simple! I try to tell people all the time that your money is gonna get eaten by fees if you leave it at your old employer.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m honestly on the fence. I am running both at the same time while I get used to the new changes. I thought YNAB4 was pretty flawless, so I’ve been hesitant to dive right in. There are some changes into the method – you’re no longer living on last month’s income but instead aging your money to see how much of a financial cushion you actually have. I was perfectly fine with the cushion of one month. 🙂 Some of the features and functionality in the new version haven’t been implemented just yet (search, reporting)

      That being said – I’m pretty optimistic that the YNAB team will correct all the issues I have. The feature I’m most excited about is direct import – makes reconciliation a snap!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, the direct import is awesome. And I’m with you, the bottom line is that I trust the YNAB team to deliver a great product no matter what, so I think that’s why I dove head first into the new version.

        Liked by 2 people

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