OFB Recommends

One of the most common emails we receive goes something like, “What do you guys use for [insert financial or blogging-related verb here]? Also, did Johnny eat paint as a child?” For starters, we’re flattered that anyone would care to ask, so thanks for trusting our opinion. As for the second part of that question… no comment.

Since we’ve spent our fair share of time researching a ton of financial products, apps, institutions, etc., we definitely do have opinions. So to save you an email, here’s a fairly comprehensive list of OFB recommendations.

*Heads up: Some of the links below are affiliate links. If you click one and sign up, we get a little Diet Coke money (not buy-a-house-money). This did not factor into what products and services we chose to include in this list. Domo arigato.

FINANCIAL STUFF

Budgeting

HomeBudget app

HomeBudgetEveryone has a budgeting process that works for them. This is ours. HomeBudget requires manual entry of expenses, which is what we prefer. The design and flow is intuitive and pretty easy to set up. But the biggest draw has always been that it syncs our budget in the cloud so that we’re always on the same page on our separate phones.

Savings

Qapital

Qapital AppThis app is on an island of its own. It’s beautifully made, it’s simple, and it’s a brilliant approach to saving. Qapital encourages users to create goals and find creative ways to reach them by creating savings “recipes” or rules. When a rule is triggered, those savings get automatically put aside. So if your savings need a kick in the pants, or you’re just looking for a fun way to save for a goal, this app’s got your back.

Digit

DigitIf we had a Black Magic section, this would probably fit better there. With Digit you connect your bank account (don’t worry, it’s safe), and it will automagically start analyzing your spending. And every 2 to 3 days, it will start putting aside small amounts of your money and moving it into a savings account. The magic part is that their algorithm knows how much to set aside without you even noticing that it’s missing. So if you just need something that helps you save while you sleep, you can’t go wrong here.

Money Management

Mint.com

MintThere are few sites we visit more frequently over the course of the month than Mint. While we don’t use Mint as a budgeting app (you can read about why here), we love using it as an at-a-glance look at all of our accounts and transactions. If you’re not on the Mint train, you’re missing out.

Personal Capital

Personal CapitalThis is like Mint on steroids. If you’re already investing and starting to save for retirement, this is probably better suited for tracking your money. Personal Capital offers some awesome tools like net worth analysis, a goal tracker, ideal investment allocation wizard, and more. And if you’re starting to feel out of your depth or lacking the time to manage your portfolio, they’ve got a team of financial advisors ready to help.

LearnVest

LearnVestSo these folks just get our generation. Most of us are too busy or lazy to do anything that isn’t on our phone. LearnVest runs all of their budgeting, account management, and financial planning right on your phone. For a monthly fee, they’ll look over your money and accounts and help you put a plan into action. So if you’re lacking some direction and accountability (which is HUGE), give them a look.

Investing/Retirement

Vanguard

VanguardWhen it comes to investing, there are few companies more respected and trusted than Vanguard. They have some of the lowest cost fund fees (less fees = more money in your pocket) in the industry and offer great index fund options. We park our Roth IRAs here.

Betterment

BettermentI don’t know what Betterment’s tagline is, but if I could take a stab at it, I’d go with something like, “Investing doesn’t have to suck!” Here’s another mostly foolproof way to get your money in the markets with very little effort or investing knowhow. Answer a few questions regarding your investing goals and they’ll give you your own customized portfolio. Slick stuff.

Motif

MotifLike Betterment and Acorn, Motif fits the simplicity bill to a T. And unlike Acorns and Betterment, which are slightly more automated in choosing your investments, Motif offers over 150 different themed investment options, including Battling Cancer (companies that are working toward finding cures), Eating Out (dining establishments), Housing Recovery, World of Sports, etc. Now you can be purposeful about your investing while still being a noob.

Acorns

AcornsThis is one of the smarter and easier ways to start investing. Acorns rounds up your daily purchases, takes the difference, and invests it automatically for you. Short of me going into your home, taking all the money out of your wallet, and then investing it for you, there’s really not an easier option to get started investing.

Banking

Aspiration

AspirationAspiration is one of our favorite companies we’ve been introduced to recently. First and foremost, their Summit Checking Account boasts a 1% yield, nearly 100x better than the big banks out there. Beyond that, they’re a bank with a heart giving 10% of all profits to charity and asking customers to pay-as-they-wish for fees. We’re not alone in our recommendation as they recently won Best Checking Account in America by Money Magazine.

Ally Bank

AllyThese are our banking peeps. Ally exists on the Internet and that’s it. Everything we do with our bank accounts is done via their website and app. While still painfully low, their savings account interest rates are some of the highest rates out there.

Chase

ChaseWhile we stick to Ally for 90% of our banking, we still like having a brick-and-mortar option for those random times you need a certified check or large cash withdrawal. They’ve also got a much faster clearing time on eDeposited checks via their app.

Credit Cards

Chase Southwest

Chase SouthwestWe’re huge fans of Southwest Airlines. Super affordable, two free bags, no assigned seating (great for families), family boarding, etc. We have their Plus card ($69/annual fee) card and timed it so that the sign up promotions lined up just right to score a Companion Pass for Joanna for almost two years. Read all about it here.

AMEX Simply Cash Business

Amex SimplyCashIf you run any sort of business or have a little side gig, it’s nice to have a separate card to tidy up your bookkeeping. This card has no annual fee and offers pretty decent cash back perks, especially for business-related expenses like cell phone bills, office supplies, and gas. For a no-fee card, this is our favorite option.

Insurance

AccuQuote

AccuQuoteKAYAK is to travel search as AccuQuote is to life insurance. While we’d much rather spend our time searching vacations, AccuQuote won our hearts for two reasons. One, they deal almost exclusively with term life policies (our recommendation). Two, once you fill out your information, they actually give you quotes on their site from reputable providers instead of having to wait for a salesman to call you. If you want more info, check out our life insurance how-to guide for millennials.

GEICO

GEICOWe’re not sure if it was the gecko or the hump-day camel or the cavemen or any of the other 70 characters that GEICO has rolled out in their commericials, but we’ve always used GEICO for car and motorcycle (okay, Vespa) insurance. It’s budget-friendly and our interactions with them have always been pleasant. I’ve shopped around for better premiums and no one has gotten very close to their rates.

Reading Material

The Total Money Makeover

The Total Money MakeoverThis is pretty much where it all started. We’ve adapted some of Sir Ramsey’s rules (see here), but this is a step-by-step guide that takes you from getting out of debt to investing for your future. There are few books we’ve read that have been as motivating to actually get crap done.

I Will Teach You to Be Rich

I Will Teach You to Be RichIf the idea of reading a personal finance book in your free time sounds awful, this might be a good place to start. It boils down basic principles and real-life, practical applications of things you can do today to improve your financial wellbeing.

The 4-Hour Work Week

Four Hour Work WeekA word of caution: this book will make you reconsider everything you’re doing in life. Few books we’ve read have caused as much late-night discussions and plotting and quarter-life crises as Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Work Week. If you’re looking to design a more meaningful, purpose-driven life, start here.

Discounts, Coupons & Deals

Ebates

EbatesThis site is a total no-brainer. Before you buy something online, head over to their site (or use their nifty browser extension that flashes when you’re on a cash-back site), click a link to that online store, and they’ll hook you up with a few percentage points of cash back. There’s no catch, no strings attached. Just shop like you normally do and score some extra savings. Score.

SlickDeals

SlickDealsIf you’re trigger happy to buy things any time there’s a deal to be had, it’d probably be best to steer clear of SlickDeals. Seriously, though. On any given day, they’ll publish dozens of crowd-sourced deals. We follow their Twitter account and only click through when something comes up that’s free or we see something we were planning on buying anyway.

CamelCamelCamel

CamelCamelCamelThis tool makes me feel super sneaky. Not sure why it’s named what it is, but they keep historical data on every item on Amazon and a few other sites. That way, you can check to see if you’re actually getting a good deal and whether you should hold off for a better deal. We use their notifications to let us know when certain items go below a certain price. Sneaky, right?

BLOGGING & PRODUCTIVITY

Blogging

ThemeForest

ThemeForestOur site is run on WordPress, and getting it to do exactly what you want it to do and look like is tricky. So we rely on ThemeForest for our initial theme designs, and then we put our nerd caps on and edit things up to match what we need.

Harvest

HarvestFor the freelance/consultant/side gig’ers out there — sup. When it comes to time tracking and invoicing, we’re big fans of Harvest. It’s a lot simpler and sleeker than everything else we’ve tried and is reasonably priced. So check it out and then go back to making that cheddahhh.

Re:splashed

re:splashedAre you looking for stock photos of a stale workplace, two frumpy people jumping and high-fiving, or a clipart bag of money? Don’t go to this site. Re:splashed is all about high-rez, high-quality stock photos that are freeee. You’ll probably see a few images over there that we’ve used on our site.

Flickr Creative Commons

FlickrWhen we don’t have time to make our own image and re:splashed doesn’t have what we’re looking for, we cruise over the Flickr. But thanks to a thing called copyright, you can’t just rip anyone’s photo and throw it on your site. Seriously, that ain’t cool. But this link takes you to a search of all Creative Commons licensed photos, which means they can be used with fewer copyright restrictions.

5 Comments

  • Reply Anna December 8, 2015 at 6:39 pm

    Hi – is homebudget only an app for apple? I’m looking for something I can use online from my desktop computer, and that has an app for android.. really want to track how my spending is going on each category :-) Thanks

    • Reply Joanna December 27, 2015 at 1:49 am

      No, it’s an Android app as well. Good luck!

  • Reply Leah September 3, 2016 at 5:44 pm

    Just used our link to buy “Total Money Makeover”! Can’t wait to read it- I’ve heard so many good things about it!

  • Reply KRISTEN April 7, 2017 at 11:49 pm

    Hey question about your southwest rewards card. I read in your AOL finance article that you opened 2 different SW credit cards to accumulate the points you needed to get a companion. Did you and your husband each have a card and combine points?

    • Reply Johnny April 10, 2017 at 6:50 pm

      So we actually opened up 3 different SW cards — one for Joanna, and two for me. But we only used my cards toward the Companion Pass for two reasons: 1) it costs money to transfer points between accounts (to the tune of $500 for 50k points 👎), and 2) I don’t think transfered points count toward the Companion Pass total. But I signed up for the Plus and the Premier cards at the same time, was approved for both, and then had to accumulate another 6k points or so from everyday spending before reaching CP status.

      Hope that helps!

    Leave a Reply to KRISTEN Cancel Reply