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
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
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.
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.
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