This page is a giant, curated list of stuff that’s made our lives better. A lot of it is free, but the things that do cost money are worth every penny. It’s all sorted into four major categories:

Money | Travel | Lifestyle | Books & Media

Some of the links on this page are “affiliate links,” meaning we’ll get a small commission if you make a purchase or sign up for services through them. In the interest of keeping our recommendations unbiased, we dedicate 100% of our profit from these affiliate links to charity. Stuff only goes on this list if we really like it — not to make us a fast buck (learn more).

Last major update: May 23, 2024.

Financial Products and Services We Recommend

Note: We are not financial advisors. We’re just a couple of bloggers honestly sharing what has worked for us. This page contains personal opinions for your consideration, not professional financial advice. Check out our Disclosures page for more information.

Credit Cards

Cards with High Sign-Up Bonuses (for Churning)

Detailed explanation: We Signed Up for 40 Credit Cards and Made $20,000 Doing It

There are about a zillion credit cards that are great for churning. Just look for high bonuses net of fees (preferably in the form of cash), and you’ll be good to go. Here are a few cards we’ve used ourselves that consistently have great bonuses.

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred — This is THE definitive card to start with if you’re new to churning. The bonus changes all the time, but historically, it’s always represented a net profit of at least $545 cash, after accounting for fees. We don’t bother with the travel redemption options. Cancel or downgrade in the first year to avoid recurring annual fees.
  • IHG One Rewards — The “Traveler” version of this card usually comes with a pretty big bonus and has no annual fee, which means you don’t have to worry about canceling or downgrading. This card also has no foreign transaction fees, so you can keep it around for when you travel internationally even after you’ve extracted the bonus. Unfortunately, the rewards come in the form of hotel stays rather than cash.
  • Chase Ink Business — Typically has an even higher cash sign-up bonus than the Chase Sapphire Preferred, but you can only get it if you’re a business owner. There are multiple flavors of this card, so if you’re a churner, you’ll just pick whichever one is currently offering the largest bonus (net of fees).
Photo of Lauren with credit cards and boarding passes

Cards with Good Rewards and No Annual Fees (for Long-Term Use)

Detailed explanation: The Autopilot Guide to Credit Cards

  • Citi DoubleCash — If you only get one credit card in your entire life, let it be this one. It’s our default card for everything when we’re not churning. A straightforward 2% cash back on all purchases makes your life very simple.
  • Chase Freedom — To boost your cash back and complicate your life a little, you can keep the “Flex” version of this card in your wallet to use specifically for its rotating 5% cash back categories, whenever the opportunity arises. Comes with a little sign-up bonus for your trouble, too.
  • CapitalOne Spark Cash — Our favorite business card. Huge cash signup bonus, no annual fee, and solid ongoing cash back! This card is actually a great pick for churning and long-term use.

Checking Accounts

  • Chase Total Checking — The most important feature of a checking account is convenience. Chase has zillions of branches and ATMs in the US, and their customer service is actually pretty good for a giant, faceless corporation. This account typically comes with a cash sign-up bonus, too.
  • Schwab Investor Checking (Review) — This checking account comes with a special international debit card that allows you to withdraw foreign currency from ATMs anywhere in the world without fees. Schwab even refunds any fees assessed by the ATMs themselves!

High-Yield Savings Accounts

Detailed explanation: Earn More Interest with the Highest-Yield Savings Accounts

  • Barclays Online Savings — A solid, risk-free place to stash your emergency fund with an excellent track record of consistently high interest rates and no fees for normal use.
  • Ally Online Savings — Another great option with the added bonus of allowing custodial accounts for minors.
  • Empower Personal Cash — Another great high-yield savings account with a higher FDIC insurance limit than most. Signup is especially convenient if you’re already an Empower Personal Dashboard user.

Investing/Brokerage Accounts

Detailed explanation: Picking the Best Brokerage Account — What Really Matters

  • Charles Schwab — Great brokerage with pretty much the same features and low fees as the others, but often offers a cash signup bonus, so check here first.
  • Fidelity — Our favorite brokerage firm overall, with a super intuitive website and the unique option of opening a Health Savings Account (HSA) to pair with a high-deductible health insurance plan (in addition to all the normal account types).
  • Vanguard — Probably the most-recommended brokerage in the FIRE community, although their website and mobile apps are a bit clunky to use.
Photo of money pile

Investments and Index Funds

Detailed explanation: How to Invest in Stocks: The Easiest Way is The Best Way

The index funds below are managed by Vanguard. Near-identical funds from Fidelity, Schwab, BlackRock, and others exist too, and they’re just as good as these.

Since these are ETFs, they can be traded commission-free at almost any brokerage (not just inside a Vanguard account), but you can also get them (and their clones) in mutual fund format if you prefer, which is totally fine too.

If you’re curious how we’ve combined these personally, feel free to take a look at our investment portfolio.

  • Vanguard Total World Stock ETF (VT) — Buying shares of this one fund lets you own the entire world stock market with just a few clicks, giving you maximum equity diversification for an easy, efficient portfolio.
  • Vanguard Total US Stock ETF (VTI) — Tracks the entire US stock market. If you prefer a different ratio of US and international stocks than the cap-weighted split that VT provides, you can achieve it by mixing this US-only fund with VXUS in your preferred proportions.
  • Vanguard Total International Stock ETF (VXUS) — Tracks the entire non-US stock market. If you prefer a different ratio of US and international stocks than the cap-weighted split that VT provides, you can achieve it by mixing this international-only fund with VTI in your preferred proportions.
  • Vanguard Total US Bond Market ETF (BND) — Contains a broad mix of high-quality, US-based bonds, which may help to smooth out volatility as part of a balanced portfolio.

Money Transfer Services

  • PayPal — Easy way to send and receive money online.
  • Wise (Review) — International, cross-currency money transfers with fair exchange rates and low fees.

Trackers and Calculators

  • Empower Personal Dashboard — We used to calculate our net worth manually once a month in a spreadsheet. Now, we just log in to Empower (formerly known as Personal Capital), and it automatically fetches the balances on all our accounts and combines them for us in a matter of minutes, for free.
  • DQYDJ S&P 500 Return Calculator — If you’ve ever wondered how the US stock market performed over some specific time period, this calculator will give you a quick and easy answer. Unlike most stock charts, this calculator properly takes into account dividends and inflation.
  • DQYDJ ETF Return Calculator — Calculates the total return of any ETF over a specific time period. Includes dividend reinvestment, but does not account for inflation. Can optionally handle periodic investments.
  • Bankrate Simple Savings Calculator — Calculates hypothetical compound investment returns over any time period. Note that it refuses to take zero as an input, so if you want your initial deposit or monthly contribution amount to be $0, you’ll be forced to use “$1” as an approximation instead.
  • cFIREsim — A sophisticated early retirement simulator that uses historical investment data to estimate the probability that your portfolio will succeed in supporting you for the rest of your life.

Travel Gear and Services We Recommend

Cables, Adapters, and Power

  • Retractable Multi-USB Charging Cable — The last USB-A charging cable you’ll ever need! Plugs into a standard USB-A port and charges through all four small connector types: USB-C (new Android/iPhone/iPad), Apple Lightning (old iPhone/iPad), Micro USB (old Android), and even Mini USB (old BlackBerry and other strange devices). Capable of charging more than one device simultaneously, but does not support data transfer.
  • OTAO 200 W USB Charger — Enough power to charge two laptops and two phones/tablets at the same time (plug the bigger devices into the first two ports). This one item replaced four separate devices in our travel bag.
  • Epicka TA-205 International Power Plug Adapter (Review | Amazon | eBay) — Our favorite compact, all-in-one travel adapter. This single device handles two-way conversion of power outlets and plugs in dozens of countries while providing both USB-A and USB-C charging ports. It doesn’t convert AC voltage, but most modern devices don’t require that anyway!
  • ALLWEI International Voltage Converter (Review | Amazon | eBay) — A step-down transformer that plugs into nearly any power receptacle on Earth and turns it into two standard USA/North America 110 V outlets, plus USB charging ports. Only necessary if you have voltage-sensitive devices (like appliances with heating elements or motors). 230 W max output.

Camping and Vanlife

  • BESTEK 300 W Pure Sine Wave Power Inverter — Gives your vehicle two 110 V AC power ports and two USB-A charging ports. We wired this thing through the floor of our camper van and connected it directly to the battery through a fuse, so it works safely even when the van is turned off (just be careful not to kill your battery!).
  • Coleman Single-burner Propane Camp Stove (Amazon | Walmart) — Save money by cooking on the road instead of eating out! Ours has lasted over a decade and counting.
  • Allswell Hybrid Mattress (Walmart | eBay) — The one thing we’re unwilling to compromise on with vanlife is a good night’s sleep. Skip the foam slabs, and get yourself a real mattress. This one is super comfortable and super cheap.
  • Planet Fitness Black Card — Most people call this a gym membership, but as vanlifers, we think of it more as a shower membership. A single Black Card lets you and a guest into any Planet Fitness location while traveling, so you only need one membership between two people!

Laptops

Detailed explanation: What to Look For in a Laptop — And How to Make It Last

  • Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Amazon | eBay) — This computer comes in various generations with different specs, but if our old ThinkPad X220 ever quits working, we’ll probably be replacing it with a lightweight, durable X1 (or another X-series ThinkPad) for at least another decade of travel.
  • MacBook Air (Amazon | eBay) — Apple hardware is always a bit overpriced compared to its competition, but these laptops are also very high-quality, lightweight, and durable. If you’re a die-hard macOS user, the Air is a fine choice for a travel computer, even though it probably wouldn’t be our personal first pick.

Cameras and Lenses

Detailed explanation: Camera Buying Guide: Best Cameras & How to Get Them Cheaper

We personally shoot Nikon, so we really only keep up with the specifics of their equipment line. But for the record, there’s nothing wrong with Canon, Sony, or Olympus gear.

Mirrorless cameras are clearly the future, and new DSLRs are no longer being designed…but that’s exactly why you should consider buying a DSLR: Really nice models are getting cheaper by the minute!

Full-frame Nikon Mirrorless Cameras

  • Nikon Z5 (Amazon | eBay) — The most cost-effective choice in this category. Awesome camera.
  • Nikon Z9 (Amazon | eBay) — The best that money can buy. You probably don’t need this, but it’s fun to look. 😝

Full-frame Nikon Mirrorless (“Z-mount”) Lenses

Full-frame Nikon DSLR Cameras

  • Nikon D850 (Amazon | eBay) — A great camera all around. Still available brand new, but it’s much better to buy used on eBay for a deal.
  • Nikon D700 — The absolute cheapest model you can get with a full-frame sensor. It’s a pretty old camera at this point, so you’ll have to buy it used. Note that it only shoots stills (no video), but it does a great job even by today’s standards. Perfect low-budget option.
  • Nikon D6 (Amazon | eBay) — The best Nikon DSLR money can buy. You probably don’t need this much speed and power unless you’re a professional journalist or sports photographer, but go ahead and take a peek at the price anyway. 🤑

Full-frame Nikon SLR (“F-mount”) Lenses

Hotels

Detailed explanation: Want the Cheapest Hotel Booking Site? It’s All About Rewards

  • Hotels.com (Review) — Almost every hotel booking website has the same prices and the same listings, but Hotels.com has a slightly better interface and rewards program. It used to be a lot better, but it’s still our go-to.
  • Airbnb — It’s less affordable than it used to be, but Airbnb is still worth checking for unique listings that are unavailable elsewhere.

Air Travel

  • Google Flights — Build your own route using multiple departure and arrival airports for every airline, all in one place. We use the calendar view to locate the cheapest dates to fly.
  • Way (Review) — A website that connects travelers to super cheap long-term parking spots near airports (often with shuttle service included). Never pay full-price for airport parking again!

Home and Lifestyle Stuff We Recommend

Bicycle Accessories

Detailed explanation: How to Buy a Cheap Bike That Will Last Forever (+ Accessories)

Batteries

  • Eneloop Rechargeable Batteries — Better than alkaline batteries because you don’t have to throw these away and waste money buying new ones all the time. Better than traditional Ni-Cd and Ni-MH rechargeable batteries because these don’t discharge while idle, so they’re always ready to go when you need them.
  • Powerex 8-cell Smart Charger — While most AA/AAA battery chargers treat battery cells in groups of 2 or 4, this one charges each cell individually, meaning they’ll never be over- or under-charged. The “soft charging” mode also helps extend the lifetime of your batteries.
Photo of recommended cables and chargers

Free TV Services

Detailed explanation: Cut Your Cable and Streaming TV Bills to $0 Forever

Food and Beverage

Games

Aside from the great outdoors, games are one of our favorite frugal entertainment options. Buy a game once, and you can enjoy it with friends or strangers for decades.

Education

  • CramBetter — Affordable online tutoring for college math and science classes, including physics, chemistry, calculus, and more. We started this company ourselves as a post-retirement project!

Books and Media We Recommend

Books

  • The Simple Path To Wealth (Review | Amazon | eBay) — Straightforward explanation of how to reach financial independence through simple index fund investing written by our friend, JL Collins.
  • Walden (Review | Amazon | eBay) — An 1854 American classic by Henry David Thoreau on his time living a peaceful, low-consumption life by a pond in Massachusetts.
  • A Random Walk Down Wall Street (Review | Amazon | eBay) — A renowned Princeton economist’s defense of the efficient market hypothesis and a strong argument in favor of passive investing strategies.
  • Naked Economics (Amazon | eBay) — When you understand economics, everything in the world of investing, business, and politics starts to make more sense. This introductory book makes the topic interesting and clear.
  • The 4-Hour Workweek (Review | Amazon | eBay) — Tim Feriss shows that if you carefully set up good systems and habits in your job or business, then you can be paid quite well for doing almost no work at all — from anywhere.
  • In Cheap We Trust (Review | Amazon | eBay) — Lauren Weber’s history and analysis of the lost American virtue of frugality.

Blogs, Podcasts, and Social Media Accounts

  • Mr. Money Mustache — Pete Adeney retired at age 30 by living a simple (yet very rich) life. If you like our blog, then you’ll almost certainly like his too. It had a big impact on us in our early 20s.
  • Modern FImily — Court and Nic retired in their 30s and are now raising two kids. Their success came naturally from a persistently optimistic perspective and a realization that high spending isn’t necessary for a happy life.
  • JL Collins — Home of the famous Stock Series, with lots of easy-to-understand investing advice.
  • Personal Finance Club — An Instagram account run by Jeremy Schneider with lots of powerful, simple money infographics to inspire and educate.
  • Collaborative Fund — A thought-provoking blog mostly written by Morgan Housel, covering investing, personal finance, and more.
  • The Best Interest — A data-driven investing and personal finance blog written by Jesse Cramer.
  • ChooseFI — An educational podcast featuring guests from the financial independence and early retirement community, including yours truly!
  • The Everyday Stoic — Quick reminders of ancient stoic wisdom served up in your Instagram feed.
  • johnefinance — John Eringman is a solid TikTok or Instagram follow for anyone figuring out money in their 20s.