I’ve so many people ask me about checking and accounts, credit cards, cell phone plans, and budget tools that I’ve decided to keep all this information on one handy page so you can take a look and see which would work best for you and your family.
I’ve listed the products and services that we’ve used or are currently using to manage our finances. They have made things easier with handling our money. Just to be on the up and up, a few of these companies I mention offer commissions for online referrals (not all though). I’m recommending these companies because I enjoy them and their customer service, not because they offer a commission.
Don’t feel as if you have to use the links, they are there as an optional way for you to find a financial service you can use and help the site earn a little bit of money.
Banking and Budgeting
Most of our bill payments and savings are automated and with Mint, we receive updates on our progress on a weekly basis. That means more savings for us and less hassle with tracking the small stuff.
Capital One 360
Having the right checking account is essential for our family’s finances. We currently use Capital One 360 for most of our banking needs – paying bills, short term savings, and financial buffer. While it is an online only bank it is FDIC insured (up to $250,000) so your money is safe just as it would be with a brick and mortar bank.
Capital One 360 doesn’t have a minimum balance or monthly maintenance fee which means we get to keep more of our money. With Capital 360 using the Allpoint’s network access to over 50,000 free ATMs, it’s easy for us to grab our money whenever we need to without having to worry about fees.
I recently started using Simple for my personal checking account to help me save more of my money. Simple takes personal checking from being about just paying expenses and instead makes it a personal spending account with built in features that make it incredibly easy to save for short term and long term goals.
With Simple’s interface and automatic savings, you can being gently nudged towards reaching your goals. While it’s easy to pause on your automated deposits, you generally wouldn’t feel like doing that because you get to see your progress daily.
Ready For Zero
Ready for Zero helps users take all of their debts and helps them organize and manage them online on one site. Once you sign up, you can get all of that data pulled in and create a personalized plan to get you out of debt faster. With your personalized plan, Ready for Zero includes suggestions on how you can save money which can then be used to pay down your debts faster (this is one way they make money).
They have also partnered up with LendingClub to offer loan consolidation to get a lower rate for some users. The free option is a wonderful tool, I’m using it for paying down the student loan.
Investing and Tracking
If you’re looking for someone to manage and your investments, here are a few that we use.
I use Vanguard and find them to be a wonderful and low cost option for my IRA. Vanguard is known for having great customer service and being a valuable resource when it comes to investing. They offer investing advice in an understandable language.
Vanguard gives you a lot of freedom when it comes to picking out your individual funds (provided you meet the minimum investment) and ETFs.
Betterment makes investing simple as your contributions are easily deposited and invested. Your asset allocation remains on your plan because re-balancing is automated. That’s one less thing to stress about and a helpful way to help you maintain your personal investing goals.
There are no transaction fees which mean more of your money is being directed towards building your portfolio. The fees are incredibly low because your portfolio is invested in low cost index funds and bonds.
Credit Cards and Monitering
I have several family and friends who absolutely love using their Discover credit card. Cardholders can get 5-20% cash back on their purchases from online retailers like Apple and Best Buy. You can also use your cash back rewards instantly on Amazon. There’s no annual fee and you see your FICO credit score on your monthly statement.
Something that I found interesting is that if you lose your job offers financial help, such as lower interest rates or lower payments.
Sign Up and Open an Account
Credit Sesame is free to consumers. Signing up takes around 5 minutes of your time. You simply need to give your contact information and answer questions to verify your identity. You don’t need to provide a credit card to get started. Credit Sesame pulls data from your Experian credit report and give you charts and stats on where your finances stand along with with suggestions on ways you can possibly save money.
For the last several years we have been using TurboTax to file our federal and state returns and we’ve been very happy with them. If you’re looking for an answer to your specific situation, AnswerXchange is fantastic resource. You have access to both tax experts and to experienced users who can point you in the right direction. If you prefer the phone, you can call and speak to a Certified Public Accountant.
Looking for a way to have a smartphone plan without draining your wallet? Republic Wireless may be the solution. They are offer fantastic smartphone plans from $5-$40/month, depending on your use. Currently they have the MotoX which is a wonderful phone at a reasonable price.
They can offer cheap prices because they use hybrid calling. Hybrid calling means your phone uses Wi-Fi for calls, web, text, and all things mobile. If there isn’t Wi-Fi available then your phone uses the cellular network (in this case Sprint’s). The icing on the cake is that are no contracts or termination fees.