We frequently receive questions about financial products and services from readers. So we thought it would be helpful to put together a comprehensive list of the providers that we feel are most beneficial. We spend a good amount of time researching and looking for the best financial options. You’ll have to do your own research to decide if these services work for you, but this should be an excellent place to start.
In many situations, I have already written a detailed review for these products and services. If I have, you can click the text that says: detailed review » to read my review.
Let us know if you have any questions.
Best Tool for Managing Finances (and Budgeting): Personal Capital
Personal Capital is a free web-based application that allows you to monitor all of your financial accounts in one easy-to-read dashboard. After securely connecting all of your financial accounts, the application organizes your spending, saving, and investing into pretty graphs and charts.
If that’s not enough, the service also offers a free retirement planner, a retirement account fee analyzer, and additional help with investing.
Best Investing Service for Beginners: Betterment
Betterment is an online wealth management firm that currently manages more than $5 Billion in assets. The company is based on sound investment principles and utilizes a number of low-cost, diversified ETFs to create your ideal investment portfolio. The service includes a number of advanced tax features (including tax-loss harvesting) for no additional charge.
If you don’t want to mess with managing your own portfolio, or you simply don’t have time, Betterment is an outstanding, hands-off solution for busy investors. The fees are as low as 0.15% annually, which is much less than traditional financial advisors.
Best Innovative Investment Service: Motif Investing
Motif Investing is an interesting new company that deserves your attention. They allow you to buy up to 30 ETFs or stocks in a bundle called a Motif for just $9.95. These can have themes like Biotechnology, or can be completely customized by you.
Even more impressive, some of their preset Horizon Motifs are now completely free of charge to buy and sell. FREE!
Best Discount Brokerage Firm: Optionshouse
At $4.95 per trade, Optionshouse is the lowest cost online broker and a great choice if you want to buy an individual stock or ETF. Trades for stocks and ETF’s are a flat $4.95, and there are no hidden fees involved. They also offer a solid platform to trade options if that is your thing.
In my experience, the company has also been friendly and reasonable to deal with.
Best Mutual Funds: Vanguard
Vanguard is an excellent place to invest. They offer a huge selection of low fee ETFs and mutual funds that can be traded commission free. The company structure is unique, and individual investors legally own the firm. This keeps fees low.
You can set up almost any type of retirement account imaginable, and even get access to a financial advisor if you have a reasonable amount of assets. The only negatives are that I don’t particularly care for the clunky online interface, and trading stocks/ETFs outside of Vanguard’s own offerings will cost you more than at other brokers.
Best Savings Account: Discover Bank
I recently went on a hunt to find a savings account that would pay better than the 0.05% that local checking accounts are currently paying. Discover Bank offered among the highest interest rates and no hidden fees.
We have a multitude of financial accounts and credit cards with Discover because they have outstanding customer service (all U.S. based), and set-up is a breeze. You won’t find a better option online.
Best Cell Phone Service: Republic Wireless
Without a doubt, Republic Wireless is the best value in cellular service today with plans starting a $5/month. You can get unlimited talk and text, with Wifi data for a flat $10/month. Did I mention no contracts, either?
Republic Wireless now allows customers to bring their own phone, or you can purchase one directly from Republic.
Best Way to Check Your Credit Score: Credit Sesame
Credit Sesame seems to be an accurate free option, and they don’t require any memberships or credit card info.
It’s a free service that produces a credit score based on your Transunion credit report. They will also allow you to monitor your credit report for free and view hard inquiries, which is very useful when applying for credit cards.
Best Online Shopping Portal: TopCashBack
By simply clicking through your account on TopCashBack, then shopping online as normal, you get paid cash back for your online purchases. TopCashBack typically has the highest cash back rates, and if they don’t, you can submit a cash back claim from your account and they will match the rate offered by other cash back portals. In the few times that my purchases haven’t tracked through the portal, I’ve submitted a claim and it has been honored. Great customer service here.
I also use Ebates.com and BeFrugal.com quite a bit. They often have great rates as well, and I usually compare each of them to find the highest cash back rate available. If you signup using my Ebates link, you receive a $10 gift card. Befrugal is offering $5 for new signups.
PolicyGenius allows you to compare numerous term insurance policies with one simple application. You input your desired coverage and instantly receive quotes from more than 20 of the most trusted insurance providers. You can then decide what is right for you, and complete the process to obtain coverage.
Haven Life offers only one type of term policy, but is the only insurance agency that offers immediate coverage (without completing the medical exam). After filling out the application, Haven Life’s unique system provides an instant decision and allows you to purchase the insurance and begin coverage immediately (if you are approved).
These services provide the easiest way to shop for affordable life insurance coverage.
Best Tool for Comparing Mortgage Lenders: GuideToLenders
Since 2005, GuidetoLenders has been helping homeowners/borrowers get a better deal on their mortgage. It’s a free, quick, and secure way to compare rates across multiple loan providers. GuidetoLenders can provide you quotes from up to five lenders just by filling out a simple online form. In addition to connecting you to mortgage lenders, GuidetoLenders offers free educational materials, as well as free access to your credit score.
Best Auto Insurance Provider: Liberty Mutual
We’ve been shopping around and the cheapest car insurance we’ve found is through Liberty Mutual, so that is who we currently use (You can see how much we pay in our yearly expenses).
My parents also use Liberty Mutual and have bundled auto insurance with homeowner’s insurance. If you own a home, grab a home quote too.
Best Way to Hire Cheap Labor: Fiverr.com
Blogging can lead to new clients, new income streams, and new opportunities. If that peaks your interest, consider starting a blog. It’s easy and extremely cheap.
For blog hosting, we use and recommend Bluehost. It’s about the cheapest way to get started and it is one of the largest and most trusted hosting companies.
Jet is a new online retailer that is attempting to compete with Amazon. They provide a 15% discount on your first 3 orders. Furthermore, they use a unique algorithm to provide additional discounts that grow as you combine various products in your cart. I’ve found some outstanding deals by combining the 15% off and the bundled discounts. If Jet doesn’t work for you, Amazon remains an excellent option.
Best DIY Tax Software: Turbo Tax
They offer free local and Federal returns if you don’t exceed a predetermined income threshold. If you cross that threshold, there is a low fee to use the service.
Best Grocery Store: Local Stores or Walmart
We buy most of our groceries at a local store called Sprouts. We occasionally shop at Walmart to price match groceries, but Walmart sucks.
Best Television Service: None