MMM Recommends

 


Products & Services | Books | Credit Cards


We all know that Mr. Money Mustache is fairly good at Not Buying Unnecessary Crap. But what about necessary things, not to mention services and investment options? Many people ask me in emails which companies I like, so I thought it would be useful to put them all into one page which I can update as needed.

On this page, I list the stores and services that I actually DO use, just in case you want to check them out for yourself. I try to put some serious research into each of my choices as a consumer, but that still doesn’t mean they are automatically the best ones. If you see any areas where I could improve, let me know in the comments and I’ll look into it and possibly make the switch. If it’s a win, I’ll change my status to reflect the upgrade.

Some of these companies happen to offer commissions for online referrals. Other ones don’t. This doesn’t affect my choice, but where available, I made point of using the right type of link so that this blog will get a credit if you end up becoming a customer. It’s a nice and fully optional way to help out this blog if you choose to do so.


Banking: Capital One 360


Capital One 360 is my primary bank account. They offer no-fee checking and savings accounts that also pay interest – and they consistently rank close to #1 in the interest rates they pay. They are also highly competitive mortgage originators. My favorite feature, however, is the ability to link the Capital One 360 checking account to three other bank accounts so you can shuffle your money around electronically at no cost. They will give you $50 just for opening an account if you use the link on the left, which sounds like a win/win to me.

 

Getting Started / Financial Tracking: Personal Capital, Mint


Personal Capital is a financial tracking tool that I started using in mid-2013.  It is similar to Mint, and it is also free to use. But it has a greater focus on investment tracking and investment advice, and in fact the software sort of functions as an investment teacher.

If you link in more than $100k of investable accounts, the company will ask if you want them to hire them as a fee-based financial planner. All of it is optional, and you can just keep using the software for free if you prefer. but I found it interesting to go through the first free session on the phone with an adviser to learn more about what these wealth management companies actually do.

Related Article: Personal Capital: the Investor’s Version of Mint?

FREE Money ManagementThe best thing about Mint is that it has a relatively kickass and intuitive interface that makes your financial tracking simple. The second best thing is that it is FREE.  If you’re not sure where to start with getting your finances organized, Mint will help you see your financial picture with fancy graphs, pie charts and reminders.

Related Article: Watching your ‘Stash… with Mint


Investing: Vanguard, Betterment, Lending Club


To me, Vanguard has always been THE one-stop shop for index funds of all types. They have the lowest expense ratio and the most respect for their customers. In fact, the company is legally structured as an investor-owned entity, meaning its responsibility is to YOU as opposed to an outside group of shareholders. Read around all you like – the smartest investors will generally recommend Vanguard funds.

betterment_logoRecently I’ve started moving investments to a newer service called Betterment, which is basically a fancy front-end for Vanguard funds. In exchange for a surprisingly low fee ($150/year per $100,000 invested), you get automatic rebalancing and tax loss harvesting, which generally saves much more than the annual fee. Plus a very convenient smartphone (or web) based user interface which makes investing and learning about investing loads more fun.

Related Article: Why I Put My Last $100,000 into Betterment


For over two years, I’ve been running a Lending Club “Experiment”, which involved putting in $30,000 into a carefully selected batch of their higher yielding (aka riskier) notes.  So far, I’m pleased with the results – the investment has earned over a 12% annualized return. You can keep track of my monthly results with the article link below.

Related Article: The Lending Club Experiment

 

 


Local Banking: Credit Union


Since Capital One is an online-only bank account, they usually want you to have a standard checking account before opening the 360 Online Checking account. I meet this need using my local credit union. They are a great down-to-earth place to do the more unusual banking transactions like getting a cashier’s check printed when you are buying a car or house, notarizing papers for any reason, or getting a car loan (ha ha, just kidding – MMM readers never borrow money for cars or other depreciating consumer goods!)


Credit Card: Travelocity American Express, Chase Amazon Card, Chase Sapphire Card


The Travelocity AMEX card gives me 2% back on all purchases, and 6% back on travel. The only hitch is that you must cash in the rebate towards more travel booked on travelocity, typically in $400 chunks. So I’ll accumulate points until there are at least $400 worth (20,000 points), then the next time I am booking a trip that costs more than $400 combined (any combination of airfare, hotel, rental car), I can apply a $400 discount to that trip. Not a great card for non-travelers, of course, but for the MMM family it has saved quite a few thousand over the years. It has no annual fee.

We also got the Chase Amazon Visa Card, since some vendors don’t accept AMEX. Points are automatically added to your Amazon account, so you can use these credits when making purchases.

There are also an ever-growing number of credit cards that offer large sign-up bonuses and cash-back percentages on various categories of stuff – even without annual fees. Here is a list of referral links for other potentially good cards. It’s on a separate page to avoid cluttering up this main page: List of Rewards Credit Cards

The Chase Ink Business Card and Chase Sapphire Card were two cards I applied for when I noticed they were offering large sign up bonuses.

Related Article: Credit Card Churning: For Mustachians or Sucka Consumers?


Cell Phone Service: Republic Wireless, and other Mobile Network Virtual Operators


Republic Wireless – click for the full scoop

These days, both Mrs. MM and I use Republic Wireless for mobile phone service. It’s $25/month for unlimited-everything (including data) on your choice of excellent smarphones, the Motorola X or Motorola G. They also have plans for $10/month and even $5/month if you have simpler tastes.

Latest article on Republic Wireless

 

When traveling in Canada, I use a different phone running on Ting, because that provider has reasonable roaming rates outside of the US. (Using the Republic phone internationally is free for calls, data, and text, but only when you have access to a Wifi connection. Great for hotels and the homes of friends, not so great when driving.)

 Other providers:

Logo for Straight Talk

Straight Talk is another service many readers mentioned using.  They offer an “All You Need Plan“: $30 a month – 1000 minutes, 1000 text or multimedia messages, and 30 MB of data transfer.  They also offer an “Unlimited Plan“:  $45 a month – Unlimited Minutes, Messages and Data Nationwide anytime (although some say it’s not really unlimited, so look into it if your data usage is really high).


Other readers have recommended TracFone.  Depending on your  usage, you might check them out.


Others worth checking out:
Platinum Tel (T-Mobile GSM), H2O Wireless (AT&T GSM), Ting (Sprint), Page Plus (Verizon CDMA), Virgin Mobile (Sprint), Republic Wireless (Sprint).

See I.P. Daley’s Cellphone Superguide in the Forum for more information and discussion. Also see his Communications & Tech Discussion Thread, and his Full unabridged guide.

Another useful hack for cell phone service (depending on where you live) is to get a Sprint 4G unlimited data plan, with a good smartphone that can provide no-cost tethering. Then when you are home, your phone becomes a hotspot to which all of your computers automatically connect over Wi-Fi and share its fast internet access. The monthly bill for the Sprint service would be high, but you make up for it by having no separate internet access bill to pay. (And of course, you already dropped your land line and cable TV service, right?).

 


House Insurance: ASI


Geico also has affiliate companies that do house insurance. One of these is called American Strategic Insurance (ASI), and they won the bidding war for my own house insurance needs by a long shot. I currently have a policy on a roughly $400k property where I have set the rebuild coverage to $240,000 (since you don’t need to replace things like land, sewer pipes, and foundations in the event of even the biggest fire). With a 5k deductible, this insurance is only $352/year.

To get the best deal on house insurance, get yourself a Geico car policy first, then call customer service and have them do a big search for you of the Geico affiliate companies to find the best house insurance price for you – and tell them to add the multi-policy discount.


Health Insurance: ehealthinsurance.com


 Think You Can't Afford Quality Health Insurance?When using ehealthinsurance.com as the search engine, the winning policy in my case after sorting by price was a United family plan with a high deductible (10k).

Related Article: Our New $237/month Health Insurance Plan

 

 


Interesting Futuristic Transportation: UBER


uberI came to love this advanced peer-to-peer replacement for Taxi service while visiting San Francisco.  Instead of unpredictable service in big old sedans, you get lightning-fast professional pickups by people with modern hybrids and fuel-efficient cars. Plus, smartphone tracking and cashless transactions. You have to try it to truly appreciate the experience.

Take your first ride free with this $20 promotional code: ubermustachian

If you visit the UBER site and use the promo code ubermustachian, you will get a $20 credit in your account.


Blogging – Web Hosting: Bluehost


Bluehost Web Hosting $6.95Bluehost has been good to us – Until March 2013 they hosted a rather busy blog (it reached 2.3 million pageviews per month) using the “Pro Plan” at $25/month. Normal hosting plans are only about $7/month. There are no limits on space or traffic, and the speed is excellent (during an FTP test, I easily downloaded from the account at 16Mbits/sec even while the blog was running in the background, and even that was probably limited by my cable internet connection rather than Bluehost. They have automatic installs of wordpress and all kinds of other software (such as the forum software we use) all built in, so it takes less than five minutes to set up a relatively fancy blog.

Nowadays we run on a more exotic nginx server along with a content distribution network, but for under-one-million websites, Bluehost is still a great choice.

Related articles: How to Start a Blog


Blogging – The Guy to Hire when you Need Some Help: Kevin Worthington


The technical aspects of this blog are now managed by a freelance system administrator and WordPress expert named Kevin Worthington. He stepped up to help during the March 2013 overload crisis when this blog finally proved it was too big to run on a normal web hosting service. Since then, his optimizations and management of the new much-more-powerful server have had us running with far greater capacity than ever (the site did not break a sweat even while spending the day at the top of Yahoo.com and 4 million pageviews per month would be boring to this server)

If you are looking to start, maintain, or grow a blog or other technical enterprise, and need more technical skill on your side, this guy gets my ultimate recommendation. And he’s still looking for more clients. Get in touch with him through the contact form on his site: http://kevinworthington.com/


Blogging – WordPress Themes: Thesis, Elegant Themes


How smart is your Theme?  How good is your support? Check out ThesisTheme for WordPress.Update: MMM is currently running on Thesis! (see post)

Bloggers are always raving about Thesis Theme, so Mrs. MM decided to check it out.  She’s currently doing some hardcore Thesis learning (see the Tutorials she is using) and is hoping to get the MMM site running on Thesis in the near future.  Thesis offers a 30-day money back guarantee, so it’s worth checking out if you’re interested.  It is a very different type of theme though and does require some upfront learning, but Mrs. MM seems to be enjoying it.

Mrs. MM has worked with Elegant themes at her old part-time job. The themes are beautiful and you can grab them ALL for $39. Pretty sweet.

 

 


Business – The Legal Representation to use when you need someone at your back.

In March 2014, this blog started receiving some legal threats from companies who were trying to get me to remove conversations posted by other users in the forum. You can read more about one of them here.

After hearing from dozens of the country’s top law firms, I chose an Omaha Law Firm called Dornan Lustgarten and Troia. I worked with attorneys Josh Weir and Ross Pesek because of Josh’s experience in first amendment cases and both of their lightning-fast responsiveness. They are also warm and reassuring people to work with in general. They changed my opinion of litigation and the court system from “scary” to “FUN!”

If you’re a growing blogger or business owner and need help with legal issues, I could not recommend this firm more highly.


 Education: The Future of Education


Learn Web Design, Coding & More. No Risk. No Contracts. Learn More

Treehouse: Treehouse is a company that creates high-efficiency learning courses in high-demand subjects. And it is all about breaking up the old notion that education should be expensive, exclusive, and formal, and replacing it with the idea that the Internet has made information and communication virtually free. And it is information and communication with other people, rather than lifelong research tenures and ivy-covered stone blocks, that are the foundation of allowing people to learn things and produce value. (see article)

Coursera: actual courses from various universities, made available mostly free

Khan Academy: a smart and personable guy just started making some YouTube tutorial videos to teach his family and friends, and it took off, eventually getting the attention and backing of Bill Gates. Nowadays they’ve got a video library with over 3900 videos in various topics and over 225 million lessons delivered.

EDX (a collaboration between Harvard and MIT): Big-name courses, made available for free – with options to pay a discounted fee to receive actual course credits.

creativeLIVE: A selection of neat-sounding courses in the Artsy arena (photography, business, design, photoshop, video&film). To complete the circle of this new online world, you’ll find Tim Ferriss and Ramit Sethi on there as instructors, teaching their stuff even as they continue to run their own businesses based on the idea of learning stuff online.

Duolingo: Mrs. Money Mustache has been learning Spanish (and brushing up on her French) using Duolingo.  It’s free language education for the world.  They currently offer free (and amazingly useful) courses in Spanish, English, French, German, Portuguese, and Italian.

Scratch: Jr. Money Mustache and Mrs. MM enjoy creating projects in Scratch.  It is a free programming language for kids and a really fun way to learn to create your own interactive story and games.  Jr. MM give it a thumbs up!

The Library: The library is a great place to find a lot of great free learning materials that don’t just include books.  Our local library offers free online courses.  Find out what your library offers.

See Related Article: Interview with a CEO: Ridiculous Student Loans vs. The Future of Education


Taxes: TurboTax


Mrs. M and I actually enjoy doing taxes and accounting work, and I’ve even read quite a few books on tax strategies for small business. So we’re a bit weird. But anyway, this means we always handle our own business, personal, and rental house taxes, and for the past ten years or so I’ve been using Turbotax to do it. It works well.

If you’re just a straight-up employee, you should definitely be doing your own taxes, since it is dead simple these days. The Turbotax link at left will even let you do them online for free. They usually try to sell you a state edition at the end of the process, which I skip over since my state has its own state tax filing web site that is also free.


Books: The Library, BetterWorldBooks


Buy Books. Do Good. Support Literacy Worldwide

The Library takes care of almost all my reading needs. Sometimes I read books electronically – on a laptop or smartphone. In the very rare case that I actually want to own a paper copy of a book, I’ll look for a used one at BetterWorldBooks.com – 8 Million Used Books sold to fund literacy worldwide. Free Carbon Neutral Shipping Worldwide.

For students, I’ve heard good things about Campus Book Rentals and Bookbyte.com.


Groceries: Costco


I like to get the expensive staples like olive oil, nuts, cheese and coffee at Costco once per quarter, which saves our family about $1000/year on groceries according to this article. For the smaller weekly runs, I’ve grown to really like the Kroger grocery chain (represented in my area by Denver-based King Sooper’s). It is much better than Safeway in many ways, especially organic food.

Related Article: Is a Costco Membership Worth the Cost?


Bikes and bike parts: Bike Nashbar



My last two bikes, as well as my last 8 years worth of various parts like tubes, tires, and lights, have been from Nashbar.com. This store is great. While I still recommend checking Craigslist whenever you need to buy a bike, if the scene in your area looks bleak you should feel good about buying a new bike somewhere like this, because the prices are great during the sales. You can often get a sweet city commuter bike for $300-$400 that will provide over 10 years of hardcore service with minimal maintenance.


Babies and Kids – Cloth Diapers: Diaper Junction


If you have a youngster who is still in diapers, we cannot recommend cloth diapers enough!! As it turns out, nowadays they are just as easy to use as disposable diapers. The only difference is that you save about $1000 per child and prevent an amazing amount of pollution by using cloth. This web site allows you try a 30 day cloth diaper test drive, which sounds pretty good to us. Also try craigslist to find used cloth diapers and make sure to sell yours when you’re done. We used the brand “Fuzzi Bunz”, which worked very well.

Related articles: What do Newborn Babies Really Need?


Outdoor equipment (clothing/camping/shoes): REI Outlet


REI-OUTLETREI and its clearout sub-page Rei-outlet.com has fancy mountaineer-grade outdoor stuff that you’d never find at Target or Walmart, and during the sales, the prices are very reasonable. Since you’ll be riding your bike and walking outside year-round, you will probably appreciate higher-quality outdoor clothing. The best part for me is, this stuff doesn’t cost any more over the long run since it lasts 10 or more years compared to the 1-2 years I get from department store stuff.


Lower-tech tools: Harbor Freight


Harbor Freight Tools Clearance Sale: Up to 80% OffHarbor Freight Tools (see article) sometimes takes criticism from doubters, because the quality of certain things (especially the larger power tools) can be hit-and miss. However, I’ve been getting my simpler stuff like hammers, wrenches, holesaw kits, and even selected powered items there (my roofing and flooring nailers, plus a belt sander) for years, and it has been a huge boon to my construction business. Many things are less than half the price of Home Depot, at equal quality. Definitely worthwhile, and if you have any questions about particular items, let me know or ask the DIY section of the MMM forum.


Primary Woodworking Tools: Home Depot


Home Depot (in particular the Ridgid brand, which is only available at HD) is where I tend to get these things. Ryobi has become my favorite for the meat-and-potatoes cordless tools like drill, sawzall grinder, impact wrench, etc.


Electronic fun things and Business Equipment (computers, GPS navigator, etc.): NewEgg


Once You Know, You Newegg
Newegg is a pretty fun store for gadgets, and often leads the online world in price.

 


LED light bulbs: LEDWaves:


ledwaves-logoThis is a cool US-based manufacturer with great service and reasonable prices on some very kickass energy-efficient light bulbs. They sent me a couple of their bulbs to test and they won my little comparison, and since then I have gone on to use them for other projects where light quality is important.

Website: LEDWaves.com

Article: So I bought you a $40 light bulb today

 


Home Business – Maxemail (Fax <-> Email service)


When dealing with hopelessly antiquated vendors like banks and real estate companies, Mrs. MM and myself occasionally need to resort to old fashioned technologies such as faxing.  Instead of wasting paper and space (as well as a land-based  telephone line!) on a fax machine, I recommend checking out Maxemail.  Your faxes show up as e-mails with a nice PDF attachment, so you can receive them from wherever you happen to be.  Sending faxes is easy via email too – just scan to PDF and email to a special address.

Note – we were using “eFax” for years, but a reader just recommended this Maxemail service, which has drastically better pricing ($24 to $84 per year, vs. $200+ per year for efax).  The wisdom of the MMM readers strikes again!


Everything Else: Amazon


Amazon.com – and it occasionally competes with Newegg. This is where we purchase most other items.


Products & Services | Books | Credit Cards

  • RockyMtnNeighbor October 16, 2014, 12:20 pm

    Another good source for cheap electronic-related things is Monoprice.com. We bought a wall mount to hang our 60″ flat screen on for $15 vs. Best Buy sells the exact same thing for $100 I think?? We buy all our speaker cables and ethernet cables from here too, along with the matching plugs, coverplates and such for figurative pennies compared to the standard big-box stores.

    Reply
  • Julian November 5, 2014, 7:13 pm

    Full disclosure MMM, are any of these recommendations paid? They all make sense but so many of them seem so random that it feels like maybe the company just paid for a spot on the page.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache November 6, 2014, 7:16 am

      Thanks Julian, first comment since we enabled comments on this page 3 years into it! I hope there are many more to come.

      No, recommendations are not for sale on this page. They’re random just because they are things I have used and been happy with myself. Or in some cases, a reader has introduced me to something better what I knew about already.

      The page could probably use some reorganization though, as these have been piling up here for all this time.

      Reply
  • yeisi November 26, 2014, 6:40 pm

    Do you have any readers in South America? I been following you intensively for the past month (i’ve read all the mayor post and keep discovering great stuff.. thank you). But, Even though me and my wife live fairly frugal (we have amassed large savings) cant find a good place to invest our money. Lending Club and the likes dont work for non us residents without ssn.
    What do you suggest for the rest of us? Is there a blog you know that deals with south americans mustachians?
    Thanx…

    Reply
    • Mark December 8, 2014, 6:06 pm

      There are difficulties with non-U.S. Residents investing in the US. Essentially you open yourself up to a double taxation situation in which you are taxed on the income of your US investments in the US and in your native country. There is a treaty with South Africa on this matter but I am afraid I do not know the details.

      If you had passive US investments (and it is an open question how you would actively manage US investments from there– but in the days of the internet who knows?) you could elect for a 30% withholding and not even be required to file a return.

      Still 30% is a pretty stiff bite.

      Reply
  • Amy November 29, 2014, 6:59 pm

    I just received my Moto G from Republic Wireless, which I had never even heard of until I read your blog. Wow! I’m going to save so much money! Thanks, MMM! The phone and service, so far, are just as good as any.

    Reply
  • must_stash November 30, 2014, 9:04 am

    Just signed up for the capital 360 checking and saving. There is a black friday deal, sign up with a 1k in savings get a bonus $100, and $250 in checking plus 5 transactions get a bonus $100. Once I saw the MMM endorsement of capital360 I went for it. Hopefully it all works out, can’t beat a $200 gain on $1250!

    Reply
  • Toshi November 30, 2014, 11:11 am

    An even cheaper fax option for occasional users is FaxZero. 3 pages (with ad-laden cover page) up to 5 times per day, for free.

    Reply
  • WD December 1, 2014, 1:59 pm

    I tend to find better deals for many products on Google Express
    https://www.google.com/shopping/express/
    than I do on Amazon, but they only exist in a few cities right now. They go to the store for you and do not charge a markup as far as I can tell. You can get 3 months for free with a trial membership, and then 10 a month or 90 a year beyond that to get free shipping. You can also pay 5 per trip on shipping instead of a membership if you want.

    Reply

Have a Comment?

connect

welcome new readers

Take a look around. If you think you are hardcore enough to handle Maximum Mustache, feel free to start at the first article and read your way up to the present using the links at the bottom of each article.

For more casual sampling, have a look at this complete list of all posts since the beginning of time. Go ahead and click on any titles that intrigue you, and I hope to see you around here more often.

Love, Mr. Money Mustache

Ads

$25 Unlimited Smartphone
The Lending Club Experiment
A $500 Signing Bonus... WTF?
How to Start a Blog

latest tweets