DR 094: 22 of the Best Tools to Manage Your Money (most are totally FREE)

Money ToolsMost of us use a lot of tools to manage our money, budget, investments, and so forth. So I thought I’d pull together a list of the tools I use nearly every day. Hopefully you’ll find some options here that will help you make the most of your money.

Investing

1. Personal Capital: Without question this tool is THE way to track your investments. You can link all of your 401k, IRA, and taxable accounts. Personal Capital will track your investments in real time, offering charts and graphs on everything from performance to asset allocation. It also gives you a picture of the fees you are paying in your 401k and other retirement accounts. Oh, and it’s totally free.

2. Morningstar: This free resource is hands down the best place to research mutual funds and ETFs. It’s portfolio tracker (requires free membership) can slice and dice your portfolio in terms of cost, asset allocation, and a million other criteria. If you upgrade to Morningstar’s premium service, you’ll get additional analyst reports and details on your investments.

3. Betterment: For those looking for a low cost, low minimum, and easy investing solution, Betterment is the answer. It’s extremely easy to use, and they offer both taxable accounts and IRAs. I’ve had an account with Betterment since 2011, and contribute to it automatically every month.

4. Vanguard: For lost cost index funds, Vanguard is the clear winner. I’ve rolled over my old 401k accounts into Vanguard IRAs, and I have most of our taxable accounts here. It’s free to open an account and very easy to use.

5. Scottrade: If you are looking to trade stocks, ETF, or bonds, Scottrade overs ease of use and very low costs. I’ve had a SEP IRA at Scottrade for several years. One of the big benefits is the ability to go into a Scottrade office and actually talk to a real life human being.

Listen to the podcast where I describe how these tools have helped me manage our finances

Budgeting & Money Management

6. YNAB: This software is hands down the best budgeting tool I’ve ever used. And I’ve tried all of them. The video tutorials that YNAB has produced not only show you how to use the program, but they also provide invaluable tips on how to budget effectively.

7. Capital One 360: This is one of two online bank accounts I use. Cap One 360 offers extremely competitive interest rates and virtually no fees. Its website is also very easy to use.

8. Ally Bank: Ally is my second online bank. It too offers very competitive rates on both savings accounts and CDs.

9. Excel: With all of the available online tools, it’s easy to forget about some of the basics. Excel is where I track our net worth, updated monthly.

10. Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®: I use a credit card for every purchase I can for several reasons. First, it’s the safest way to spend money. Second, it makes tracking my spending very easy. I just download the transactions into YNAB. And third, I earn cash back on every single purchase. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® is my card of choice for one simple reasons–it pays the best rewards of any card I’ve found.

Credit & Debt

11. myFICO: The place to go to get your official FICO score is the company that created the score in the first place, myFICO. If you sign up for FICO’s score monitoring service, you get access to your FICO score for a small fee.

You can also get access to your FICO score for free with the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®. Barclaycard is one of the few credit card issuers that provides its card members with free access to their FICO score.

12. Annual Credit Report: This is the place to go to get your free credit report. Note that you don’t get your credit score here, just your report. But it’s essential to make sure there are no errors on your report. I’ve created a video walking you through the process, which you can find by clicking here.

13. Credit Karma: For monitoring your score and getting an idea of where you stand, there are two great options. And I use them both. After all, they are totally free. No “free” trial. No credit card required. Free! The first is Credit Karma.

14. Credit Sesame: The second is Credit Sesame. Both tools do an excellent job of telling you exactly where your credit stands, what is helping your score, and what is holding you back.

15. 0% Credit Cards: My wife and I used 0% balance transfer cards to help us get out of debt. The no interest cards reduced our interest payments (obviously), which not only saved us money, but also got us out of debt a lot faster. You can find our current list of the best offers by clicking here.

16. Debt Reduction Calculator: This is one of my favorite calculators when it comes to getting out of debt. You can enter multiple debts with different rates and terms. It allows you to set up extra payments and customize the order of the debts you’ll pay off first. The result is the length of time it will take you to get out of debt and how much it will cost.

Real Estate

17. Mortgage Rates: The last time we refinanced our mortgage, we found the best rate here. Yes, a table on my own blog, updated hourly, tracks some of the lowest rates available. You can search by state and type of mortgage.

18. Zillow: If you are looking to buy, or just looking to kill an hour or two, Zillow is a great option. You can easily search for available properties anywhere. Most listings have photos and loads of details about the property.

19. HUD Homes: Every single investment property I’ve ever purchased was a HUD home. HUD foreclosures are also a great place to find a home you plan to occupy. Start by researching on the HUD website, but make sure to use a realtor who has a lot of experience with HUD.

20. Karl’s Mortgage Calculator: Simply put, it is the best most comprehensive mortgage calculator you’ll find anywhere. It’s also really easy to use.

Retirement

21. Retirement Nest Egg Calculator: From Vanguard, this calculator lets you easily run simulations to determine if your retirement savings will last during your retirement.

22. The Flexible Retirement Plan: Arguably the most comprehensive free retirement calculator available, the Flexible Retirement Plan is the place to start if you want a DIY plan.

If there are other tools that you find helpful, share them in the comments below.

Published or Updated: August 10, 2014
About Rob Berger

Rob founded the Dough Roller in 2007. A litigation attorney in the securities industry, he lives in Northern Virginia with his wife, their two teenagers, and the family mascot, a shih tzu named Sophie.

Comments

  1. Great run down of the tools you use. I use many of these and love them all. They really make it easier to manage your money.

  2. BubbaX says:

    I compared Personal Capital and Mint. Wanted to go with Personal Capital but their system isn’t currently able to attach to my mortgage lender. Also, was a bit wary of the emails I got from one of their reps wanting to do a 30-minute portfolio review with me. Sales call?

    Ah well, maybe if they get the mortgage connection going (their support email person told me it’s not likely but “perhaps” sometime in the future), I’ll look at them again.

    • Rob Berger says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience. Personal Capital works with my mortgage company, but I guess they have some more they need to add.

      • Tim Ancell says:

        I was wondering if there was a credit card that a parent could co-sign for children under 18 that would report to the major bureaus helping them to establish credit at an early age.

        • Rob Berger says:

          Tim, I’m not aware of such a card. I suspect credit card companies require cardholders to be 18 or older.

  3. Joanne says:

    Do you have other articles on your site about the ins and outs of real estate investing?

  4. pramod says:

    thanks .all info well organized in one post.

  5. Jane says:

    Great resources
    .

  6. Chad Johnson says:

    Thanks for the work you do. I was curious what your thoughts on Person to Person Lending, ie. Lending Club, Prosper. In your opinion is it a Good or bad investment, and if good what percentage of your assets would they hold in your asset allocation?

    • Rob Berger says:

      Chad, I view P2P lending to be in the bond category but very, very high risk. Even the loans made to borrowers with excellent credit are high risk, in my opinion. So while I think it’s a perfectly fine investment (I invest in both Lending Club and Prosper loans), for me it is a very small percentage of my portfolio.

  7. Kenneth says:

    Rob you know I’m already a Betterment customer and fan. Last week, I signed up with Personal Capital because they were a sponsor of your 31 day Money Challenge podcasts, and you recommended them. I love what they do! One tiny problem – they don’t recognize my Home Equity Credit Line from my US Bank login. It’s one of the listed accounts – they just don’t pick it up. I clicked the Send Feedback button and told them about it a week ago – they have yet to respond other than the automailer acknowledgement. But anyway, I totally agree with your recommendations of YNAB, Betterment and Personal Capital!

    • Rob Berger says:

      Kenneth, you may just have to enter that balance manually for now. Of course, U.S. Bank is a large financial institution, so hopefully they will add it soon. We have our mortgage at 5th Third, and we can connect it to PC.

  8. Scott says:

    Rob – How does YNAB compare with the free budgeting tool Mint? Would like to get an opinion before making a change.

    • Rob Berger says:

      Scott, I think YNAB is the better tool for budgeting. Mint offers more tools, including tracking investments. But for just budgeting, YNAB is my choice. That being said, you could certainly use Mint, which is free. The key is to find what works best for you.

      • wendy says:

        unfortunately my local credit union doesn’t participate in mint. Other than YNAB do you have suggestions for budgeting apps for smart phones?

    • Ace says:

      Scott, YNAB will let you use their program free for 34 days. So, all you have to lose is the time spent playing with it. I am not an expert, but I think this program is GREAT!

  9. Carlos Lazcos says:

    Rob, what is the best way to sell your time share with out loosing to much money.

  10. Kamini says:

    Hello!

    I came across financial information provided on your website.

    How do I proceed with this dilemma? Primerica Representative took our signature along with Driver’s License and SS # during free consultation. Discussion was that he will give us the proposal and we will decide if we are interested. Next thing I find out that he used that information to open an account in Primerica as well as transfer my old 403 B funds by stating that I gave electronic permission to transfer the account.

  11. Gary Cranke says:

    Rob

    Thanks for the extremely good financial advice you provide. It has inspired me to get my finances in order!

    I might not have caught these podcasts yet, (going through them all!!) but you might want to mention loan consolidation (especially student loans) and a company called “SoFi.com”
    An option for the podcast could be to provide different perspectives – one is for students about to take out loans, second is for the graduate and how to manage/consolidate loans!

    Also – what about Mortgages – it used to be that a 30year fixed was the one to go for, but now there are some other options with ARM’s that only adjust every decade and have a total % cap that are attractive. Again – consider the first time mortgage to a refiance, and throw in a reverse mortgage for good luck!

    I am sure you have a list of things to get to, and i dont know how you find the time, but I wish you the best of luck in your endeavours – just keep up the good work!

    The podcasts make my commute an absolute joy!!
    Best Regards
    Gary

    • Rob Berger says:

      Gary, thanks for the idea. Funny you mention SoFi. I just interviewed one of SoFi’s founders–http://www.doughroller.net/debt/save-thousands-on-your-student-loans-with-sofi/

  12. K.C. Clarke says:

    Hi Rob-

    I just discovered your podcasts on iTunes earlier this week and have been binge listening every free moment since then:) I just referred your podcasts to a good friend of mine as well today.

    My question relates to credit cards. I became debt free in February 2014 after decades of running credit card balances. I am grateful for Dave Ramsey’s guidance on this but want to check with you on his suggestion that ppl stop using credit altogether and proceed with a manually underwritten loan once a 20% down payment is saved for a home purchase. I haven’t used credit since for 4-5 months (zero balance on a personal amex and bofa card).

    Do you endorse this philosophy for those that want to get back into the housing market when they achieve 20% of their down payment??

    Thank you for all you do.

    Sincerely,

    KC
    Seattle, Washington

    • Rob Berger says:

      KC, that’s a great question. I do agree that a 20% down payment is ideal. You’ll avoid PMI, get a better interest rate, and have a cushion should housing prices fall. That being said, I’m not as dogmatic about it as Dave is. We bought our first home with a 5% down payment. The key, however, is to understand that with a small down payment, your costs go up and so do your risks.

  13. Thanks for putting this list together. I have used some of these and will check out the rest.

  14. Anthony says:

    Bob,

    I see you prefer Capital One 360 (which I have) and Ally Bank for savings. What made you decide to go with those 2 when there are others like Optimizer and GE Capital that have a higher (.95% ) yield and in the case of GE is financially very sound. Was it the ease of using the WEB site, customer service or consistancy of the competitive yield?

    Thank you for all the help and great information.

    Anthony

    • Rob Berger says:

      Anthony, there’s some history here! I was originally with ING Direct (remember the “Orange” account). I had accounts for our children at ING as well. They were eventually bought by Capital One and renamed Capital One 360. I’ve just stuck with them. I could take the time to change accounts and earn 20 basis points more. I should, but I just haven’t done it. That said the site and smartphone app at Cap One 360 are very easy to use, and I love the Money debit card from Cap One 360 that both of our children use.

  15. jane says:

    How about USAA. Best value out there for all types of insurance, free checking, free Amer Xpress
    cash back credit card , money mgt, and unbelievable service

    • Rob Berger says:

      Jane, thanks for the tip. USAA is great and I’ll add them to the list.

  16. Kiat says:

    It must have taken you quite a bit of time of come out with this long list. Thank you. I will try them out and come back with feedbacks.

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