Curious what tools we use for money, travel & business? Below you'll find a list of the tools we use and love most. We have kept the list as short as possible by including only the best of the best.
If we are missing any amazing tools, or if you'd like to see a different category included on the list, let us know in the comments. Thanks!
In this category we focus on tools that help us save, invest and manage money, as well as credit cards that help us earn free travel. For each of these tools we look to minimize our expenses, while maximizing our rewards (higher interest rate or free travel).
Personal Capital is one of our all-time favorite personal finance tools. The tool automatically tracks your spending, cash flow and net worth. In addition to tracking net worth, we use the spending and cash flow features to ensure we're spending within our budget. This is a must have tool for anyone serious about early retirement.
We use Ally for our savings account, Charles Schwab for our personal checking account, and Spark Business for our business checking account. They are all online based, they have no hidden fees, there are no minimum balances required, and they are all awesome for reasons of their own.
Ally is where we have a savings account and keep most of our cash. They are an online only bank paying a much higher interest rate than any of the large traditional banks. As of 6/23/18, they offer 1.65% APR. Plus, there are no hidden fees (aka "rip offs").
Charles Schwab is the best checking account for international travel, and for one simple reason. They reimburse ALL ATM fees. We've withdrawn cash in countries throughout the world and have yet to pay even a cent on ATM fees. This alone has saved us $100s of dollars. We typically keep a small amount of money in this account, transferring money in via our Ally savings account when needed.
Capital One Spark Business is our absolute favorite business banking account. The account setup is painless. The online interface is simple and easy to use. We have happily used them for years without issue. Overall, a great account for small business owners.
We use only 2 brokerage for our stock, bond and REIT investments, with the vast majority of investments held in Vanguard. It's tempting to use all of the newest technology; the robo advisors, the top-off apps, etc, but don't do it. We like to keep it simple, and you should too.
Vanguard is the best of the best when it comes to index fund investing. We have nearly 100% of our investments with Vanguard, and wouldn't have it any other way. We choose to do business with Vanguard for two main reasons. 1) they have the lowest fees, meaning that you, the investor, keep more of your money, and 2) they are owned by the investors, ensuring that the investor's best interest is always at the forefront rather that some filthy rich Wall Street big wigs.
Robinhood is our go-to brokerage for investing in individual stocks, which we do very little. They are newer to the financial scene, but they have made an immediate impact by offering zero commission trading, meaning you can buy individual stocks for free. Like Vanguard, they save investors a lot of money when compared to the competition.
Credit cards debt sucks. I cannot stress the next statement enough. Do not get a credit card unless you pay it off in full every month. Assuming you're able to avoid credit card debt by paying off your balance each month, credit cards no longer suck -- they kick ass. They kick ass because it's possible to use credit cards for free travel using miles & points.
Southwest Rapid Rewards Credit Card is our main credit card. We've used it to earn free flights for our family to Arizona, Mexico, and Florida. The sign-up bonus alone provided enough miles for our entire family to fly free to Mexico for a 10-day all-inclusive vacation.
Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card is the card we use to earn free hotel stays. We used the sign-up bonus points on this card for free stays at some amazing hotels during our 10-day road trip across Florida.
Starting a blog can be a lucrative business with very minimal startup costs. After extensive research, the 3 tools below are all we needed to get this site up and running. It cost us a total of $23 a month. Once you understand how much bloggers make, and how bloggers make money, you'll realize that $23 a month is peanuts.
Thrive Themes offers conversion focused themes and plugins. Their tools are perfect for people that want to build not just a blog, but an insanely profitable business. Their tools are so simple to use that anyone, even those that are not technical, can build a blogging business. We pay $19/month for a membership that gives us access to all of their themes, plugins and updates. It's an amazing value.
SiteGround is the service we use to host TourGuides.com. They are best in class. They're fast. They have amazing customer service. They are extremely affordable. Best of all, they make it very easy to start a blog by offering 1-click installations of WordPress, SSL, etc. If you plan to start a blog, which you should, use SiteGround.
Drip is the tool we use to send emails. It is an insanely powerful tool that allows you to send the right message to the right people at the right time. Once setup, it's all automated. They integrate with Thrive Themes, making my life much easier. Drip is free up to 100 subscribers, so there is no risk in giving them a try.
The list below contains the primary tools we use to travel the world full-time as a family of 5. There are other tools we use at times, but for the most part, it's as simple as using the tools below.
Hotels.com is the first site we check when looking to book a hotel. They have a large selection of hotels spanning the globe. But the main reason we love Hotels.com is because it's possible to save 50% on hotel bookings, helping us save $1,000s.
BookVIP is the only site we use to book all-inclusive resort stays. They offer 5-10 day all- inclusive deals for 50-75% off. But, there's a catch. In order to get the deal you must agree to attend a 90-minute vacation club presentation. This turns a lot of people off, but for us, it's the equivalent of earning $1,000+ for 90-minutes of "work." Plus, we enjoy the in-depth tour. We always go into the presentation with the mindset that we'll buy into the vacation club if the deal is too good to pass up. We have yet to be presented with such a deal. 😉
Skyscanner is the best tool available for finding cheap flights. We use it constantly. You simply enter your departure location, when you want to leave, when you want to return (optional), and viola, you're presented with a huge list of the cheapest destinations from that particular origin. It's perfect when you are flexible with both the destination and timing. For example, we were debating whether to fly from Bali to Japan, Australia or Europe. We used Skyscanner and found a great deal to Australia, so that's where we went. 😉
Google Flights is much like Skyscanner in that it helps you find great deals on flights. It is great for providing the best deals when you know exactly when and where you want to go. They also have an explore feature that allows you to select an origin and date (optional) and use a map to explore flight costs to 100s of destinations. However, we prefer Skyscanner to Google Flights' explore tool.
Turo is best described as the Airbnb for cars. Car owners rent their own vehicles direct to travelers, cutting out the middle man altogether. The result can be huge savings. For example, on our 3-week trip to Hawaii we were quoted $1,346 for a rental car. Ouch! Instead, we paid $625 on Turo, a savings of $721.
Rental Car Group is a site we use for finding the very best deals. They don't offer much from the largest and most reputable car rental brands. Instead, their selection is mostly from smaller brands, many of which you have likely never heard of. For example, while in Portugal, we used them to book a sedan from a "mom and pop" outfit for $7/day.
Get Your Guide is the industry leader in tours, excursions, activities and things to do. They offer a massive selection spanning the globe, ensuring that you can always find something amazing to do no matter where your travels take you. We have used them for some great experiences, including the Great Barrier Reef.
Airbnb Experiences are activities designed and led by inspiring locals. These aren't big tour companies. They are locals providing travelers with what we've found to be much more intimate and unique experiences than you'll find with the larger tour companies.
Google's Project Fi is Google's mobile phone service, and it is a traveler's dream come true. It is unique in that the service seamlessly works in 170+ countries. Visiting a new country for the first time, and the service automatically connects, providing you with much needed phone and internet service. We've been to 7 countries since switching from Verizon to Project Fi and the service has been nothing short of amazing. The pricing is great too. Even though we're traveling, Google Fi costs us less than what we were paying on Verizon when in the USA. For us, it's a no brainer.
Liberty Healthshare is not health insurance, but medical cost sharing. We, along with all other members, contribute into a "health sharing pool" every month. This contribution happens regardless of whether we actually have a medical expense. When a medical expense occurs, it is paid for out of the "health sharing pool." We pay $449/month for our family of 5 for coverage up to $1 million per incident. We believe that this is a great option for healthy families looking for an affordable alternative to health insurance.