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.
Empower: 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 Empower (formerly Personal Capital).
In the past, I've manually kept track of my finances and used tools like Moneydance and Mint (now defunct). A couple of years ago, I started using Personal Capital and stuck with it as it changed to Empower.
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.
M1 Finance: My New Favorite Place to Keep My Money
M1 Finance allows you to invest using a simple, automated process. I enjoy using its “pie” model to create a portfolio that makes sense with my goals.
On top of being able to open an account, you can also get a low-cost loan based on your portfolio. M1 also offers banking products and a credit card. I find it useful from the standpoint of being able to get more for my money on a regular basis.
Lively: Open and HSA and save for the future
One of my favorite accounts is the Health Savings Account (HSA). I use Lively to set aside money for current healthcare costs, plus to invest for future costs. In fact, close to 1/3 of what I consider my retirement savings is actually held at Lively.
You do need to make sure you qualify for an HSA before you get started. But once you start using the triple-tax savings that come with an HSA, it's hard to go back. Lively partners with Schwab for investments.
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.
Swagbucks: 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 can get cashback. You can earn reward points on purchases and for doing simple tasks. I usually redeem my rewards for Amazon gift cards, helping me reduce my overall costs.
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.
If you want to learn more about how I get more from rewards, check out an article I wrote on rewards stacking.
Trust & Will: Protect Your Estate
I'm lucky. I have a brother who's a lawyer. Actually, his wife, along with one of my cousins and an uncle, are also lawyers. Lawyers for days. But if you don't have your own legal team and you want to protect your estate, Trust & Will might be able to help.
People I know and trust have used this service and like it. You can quickly and easily prepare basic documents that can provide you with protection and ensure that your legacy is preserved.
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.
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, 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.
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.
AppSumo: Software and Apps
If you're looking for software and apps that can help your business, AppSumo is a good choice. I've found apps to help me with signups and other items. You can use AppSumo to get discounts on various software solutions for your business.
You'll have to buy some items to make the most of your business, so getting a discount on what you need can help. Just make sure you buy what you'll use and what you need. Many people just buy shiny new toys without knowing their purpose.