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:
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 because we really like it — not to make us a fast buck (learn more).
Last major update: January 8, 2023.
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.
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 in cash, after accounting for fees.
- 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 any fees).
- IHG Rewards Traveler — Pretty big bonus for a card with 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.
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 Flex — To boost your cash back and complicate your life a little, you can keep 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.
- 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.
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 — Ditto. Another great option with the added bonus of allowing custodial accounts for minors.
Detailed explanation: Picking the Best Brokerage Account — What Really Matters
- 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.
- Charles Schwab — Another great brokerage with all the same features and low fees as the rest.
Index Fund Investments
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 own 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 diversification for an easy, efficient portfolio.
- Vanguard Total US Stock ETF (VTI) — If you prefer a different ratio of US and international stocks than the cap-weighted split that VT provides, you can achieve that by mixing this US-only fund with VXUS in your preferred proportions.
- Vanguard Total International Stock ETF (VXUS) — If you prefer a different ratio of US and international stocks than the cap-weighted split that VT provides, you can achieve that by mixing this international-only fund with VTI in your preferred proportions.
- Vanguard Total US Bond Market ETF (BND) — This fund contains a broad mix of high-quality, US-based bonds, which may help to smooth out volatility as part of a balanced portfolio.
Trackers and Calculators
- Personal Capital Net Worth Calculator — We used to compute our net worth manually once a month in a spreadsheet. Now, we just log in to 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 dividends and inflation into account.
- DQYDJ ETF Return Calculator — Quickly 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. (Fun fact: If you invest $150 per month and earn a return of 10.5% annually for 40 years, OR invest a single lump sum of $20,000 for the same time period, you’ll end up a millionaire! But we’re sure you can do better than that. 😉)
- 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
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, and the one you choose will depend on your specific needs, but if our old ThinkPad X220 ever quits working, we’ll be replacing it with a lightweight, durable X1 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; we just don’t know enough about those brands to make recommendations.
By the way, 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
- Nikkor Z 70-200 mm f/2.8 S (Amazon | eBay) — Our favorite telephoto zoom.
- Nikkor Z 24-70 mm f/2.8 S (Amazon | eBay) — Our favorite midrange zoom.
- Nikkor Z 14-24 mm f/2.8 S (Amazon | eBay) — Our favorite ultra-wide zoom.
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
- Nikkor 70-200 mm f/2.8E FL ED VR (Amazon | eBay) — Our favorite telephoto zoom.
- Nikkor 24-70 mm f/2.8E ED VR (Amazon | eBay) — Our favorite midrange zoom.
- Nikkor 14-24 mm f/2.8G ED (Amazon | eBay) — Our favorite ultra-wide zoom.
- Nikkor 50 mm f/1.8G (Amazon | eBay) — An awesome low-budget prime lens.
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/new iPad), Apple Lightning (new iPhone/old 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.
- Baseus 65 W Charging Station — An extension cord, power strip, and USB (A and C) charging station combined in one tiny package. Includes enough USB-C power to charge large electronics like laptops, too. This one item replaced three separate devices in our travel bag.
- ALLWEI International Travel Adapter — Plugs into nearly any power receptacle on Earth and turns it into two standard USA/North America 110 V outlets, plus three USB-A charging outlets and one USB-C charging outlet. This single device solves your power problems in every country (even the high-voltage places, like Australia). 230 W max output (which is more than we’ve ever needed).
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!).
- Fancy Mobility Backseat Organizer — A compact way to add organization and storage space to your camper van or car.
- Coleman Single-burner Propane Camp Stove (Amazon | Walmart) — Save money by cooking on the road instead of eating out!
- 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.
Detailed explanation: Want the Cheapest Hotel Booking Site? It’s All About Rewards
- Hotels.com — Almost every hotel booking website has the same prices and the same listings, but Hotels.com has the best rewards program. You get a (nearly) free night for every ten you purchase, on top of whatever you’re already earning with your credit card.
- Airbnb — It’s less affordable than it used to be, but Airbnb is still worth checking for unique listings that are unavailable elsewhere.
- Google Flights — Lets you 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 (Product 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
Detailed explanation: How to Buy a Cheap Bike That Will Last Forever (+ Accessories)
- Cygolite Rechargeable Head/Tail Lights — Bright, water-resistant LED lamps with easy USB charging and hot-swappable mounts.
- Finish Line Dry Teflon Chain Lube — Good chain lubricant.
- WD-40 (Amazon | Walmart) — We use this along with a toothbrush to clean our chains and cassettes before applying proper chain lube.
- Topeak Aero Wedge Pack — Give your bike a little storage space.
- 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.
Free TV Services
Detailed explanation: Cut Your Cable and Streaming TV Bills to $0 Forever
- ClearStream 4MAX Digital TV Antenna (Amazon | eBay) — Install this in your attic or on top of your roof to pick up free, local HDTV channels over the air.
- Pluto TV — Free streaming TV channels.
- Tubi — Free streaming movies and TV.
- YouTube — Free video content from millions of awesome creators. 😉
Books and Media We Recommend
- The Simple Path To Wealth (Book Review | Amazon | eBay) — Straightforward explanation of how to reach financial independence through simple index fund investing written by our friend, JL Collins.
- A Random Walk Down Wall Street (Book Review | Amazon | eBay) — A renowned Princeton economist’s defense of the efficient market hypothesis and a strong argument in favor of passive investing strategies.
- The 4-Hour Workweek (Book 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 (Book Review | Amazon | eBay) — Lauren Weber’s history and analysis of the lost American virtue of frugality.
- Walden (Amazon | eBay) — An 1854 American classic by Henry David Thoreau on his time living a peaceful, low-consumption life by a pond in Massachusetts.
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.
- JL Collins — Home of the famous Stock Series, with lots of high-quality, 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.
- Morgan Housel — Author of “The Psychology of Money” and the Collaborative Fund blog, covering investing, personal finance, and more.
- The Best Interest — A logical, data-driven personal finance blog written by Jesse Cramer.
- ChooseFI — An educational podcast featuring guests from the financial independence and early retirement community, including yours truly.