Pretty much every month is National Something-or-Another Awareness Month. April has a big list that somehow includes National Florida Tomato Month and National Fresh Celery Month.
I like tomatoes and celery, but giving them national month status seems a bit odd. But National Financial Literacy Month is a celebration I can get behind.
There are a lot of great, informative personal finance blogs and business sites. It’s hard to choose from the list of reading material and resources available. I’m going to list my favorite websites and financial tools that have helped us get our financial situation together. We’re still smoothing some edges, but we’ve had a lot of progress.
Disclosure: Some links on my blog are affiliate links to help keep the blog up and running. I may make a commission if you purchase something using one of those links, but at NO additional cost to you.
Personal finance blogs
All of these blogs are run by people who pursue FIRE (Financial Independence and Retiring Early). These are people who have retired early, or at least those who are working on that goal.
Some people don’t want to retire early. They may have different plans, for whatever reason. There’s a lot of good financial information out there, but also some bad advice, and over the years I’ve tried to sift through these to identify my favorites.
I’ve found that people who have retired early, or who are close to it, often made strong financial decisions that you may be able to glean from even if you don’t plan to retire early. These are generally people who are driven, often family- and adventure-oriented, and frugal.
- Mr. Money Mustache is run by Peter Adeney, who retired at age 30 in 2005. His wife is also retired and they live with their young son.The couple made a lot more money than my husband and I do (and likely more than many readers do). It was easier for them to retire, in that sense.But even still, they managed to put an incredible amount of money back very quickly through hard work and tough savings, invest it, and retire. They work small jobs at leisure, and in 2015 made over $400,000 from the blog alone, but they live off of their investments.The family lives off of about $25,000 a year– well below average spending for a family of three. They manage it by carefully considering their finances, buying food at places like Costco, using bikes as their main form of transportation and following other smart financial principles. It helps that they don’t owe a mortgage.
Understandably, not everyone wants to (or can) ride a bike everywhere or immediately owe no rent or mortgage. For most of us, achieving financial independence and retirement (early or regular) will take time and hard work. From what I’ve read, some people find his tone grating and arrogant and find his lifestyle unrealistic and austere. If that’s you, that’s okay. There are plenty of other personal finance blogs on the web. But I like his carefully-considered approach and breakdowns of how much he spends in each category.
- Frugalwoods features another young family that retired early (around age 30). Like Mr. Money Mustache, some of their practices are a bit extreme. Even if you can’t get on board with their practice of making trash “treasure” finds, you can probably appreciate their hard work, financial planning and frugality.In February 2018, they spent $2,982.83, including their mortgage. They spent several hundred dollars more than their normal average due to the arrival of their baby that month (they went on dates while baby’s grandmother visited.)The amount isn’t that low to me, but it does include their mortgage. It also includes “homesteading” equipment, since they grow and make a lot of their own food. I know from experience that it can be cheaper to cut your own firewood, grow a garden, can and freeze food, etc., but it can take money to start up and buy the supplies. One of their expenditures from last summer was a cider press. But once you buy equipment to make cider, garden, chop wood, keep chickens, whatever the case, you can often recoup that money and then some through hard wood and proper care of your equipment.
While I do some things similar to Mr. Money Moustache, I probably have a philosophy more similar to Frugalwoods. Even if we don’t always do things the same way, there are a lot of similarities and I enjoy reading their opinions. The husband-and-wife team often comment on each other’s posts and interact with the readers in the comments section, which makes it even better.
- Root of Good is written by Jason, another early retiree. He describes how he and his wife were able to retire early. He also includes expense reports. Those can be helpful if you want to compare your spending and see where you may be spending more than others who are “doing it right.”
His wife worked a little longer than him since when she went to resign her employer let her work part-time for full-time income and benefits. She did join him in early retirement in early 2016.
Jason writes about how he and his family live on their investments and blog income, the personal finance choices they made to get to early retirement, and what choices they make now to live on less while still enjoying out-of-country vacations.
- Early Retirement Extreme looks a little cluttered to me, but it has a lot of good information. Newer posts are sometimes just old re-posts, but often contain good information. You can see his 21-day plan to help reach early retirement here.
- Retired By 40 Blog talks about investments and large income sources, but they also talk about little changes. In fact, most of these personal finance blogs do. It’s often the little changes that yield big results over time.Gretchen often talks about things like Swagbucks, which lets you earn points you can redeem for gift cards. I use Swagbucks, primarily through my app, but sometimes lon my desktop.If I think about it, I’ll play some videos and take surveys while I cook or do other mindless tasks. It’s not something likely to earn you a ton of money, but it can still be very worthwhile. There are more effective ways to earn money than to devote hours of sole focus to that app, but it’s nice for when you’re cooking, waiting to pick up your kids, watching a movie, etc. Why not earn money in your downtime? It’s easy, free and you can invite friends for credit (and earn 10 percent of the Swagbucks earnings for life!) Gretchen also lists deals and websites where you can find sales.
Personal finance websites
Yes, a blog is a website. But these are my favorite non-blog personal finance websites. Some may include blogs, or vlogs or podcasts, but they have a lot of other tools and information, as well.
- Rachel Cruze did have a vlog, but just stopped it since she launched The Rachel Cruze Show. Her website offers a lot of resources. She’s the daughter of financial expert Dave Ramsey, so she has a lifetime of budgeting experience that she passes on to readers. She wrote a book with Ramsey.Rachel runs a 14-day challenge that lets most readers find an extra $2,000/year that they could re-prioritize. She’s very cheerful and seems very easy-going.
- Dave Ramsey promotes his popular 7 Baby Steps to Financial Peace plan to help people get out of debt and begin investing. He also hosts a very popular radio show, The Dave Ramsey Show. Some people criticize him as too simplistic, but sometimes, simple is exactly what you need. His website includes very quick, easy reads on topics like housing, investing, budgeting and teaching your kids about finances.He also has an online store with tons of books and budgeting tools.
- The Motley Fool is a great site to learn about investing. Whether you’re not financially ready to invest or already have experience in it, this site is a great resource if you’re looking for information.You can learn their latest stock picks, beginning investing steps, and tips on personal finance. I enjoy reading The Motley Fool when my toddler is napping.
Personal finance tools
- The Mad FIentist has a blog, podcast and tools available to help you reach early retirement. He has a financial independence spreadsheet, portfolio manager and financial independence tracker.Technically, this site could probably fit in all three categories, but I’m including it in ‘tools’ because of the amount of free resources he has. He’s had Mr. Money Mustache (his first podcast guest!) and the Frugalwoods on his podcast. I enjoy listening to his podcast in the car and reading on his website over coffee whenever I get a chance.
- Our most-used financial tool is Mint. It’s owned by Intuit, the same company that owns TurboTax. You can connect Mint to your bank accounts and investment accounts, list your major assets (like cars), set up goals (like saving for a camera or new car), track your net worth and more. It’s totally free. We’ve been using Mint for about five years now. Sometimes it puts spending in the wrong category, which is irritating, but most of the time it gets it right. It’s actually faster for us to check Mint than it is for us to check on our bank accounts, and it lets us see the big picture, too.
- FireCalc is quick and easy to use. You simply enter your portfolio amount and the amount you want to spend in retirement to get a financial independence number.Let’s say you try telling FireCalc that you want to retire now on $400,000. It could give you, say, a 12 percent chance of success, and show you the models. Bump that figure up to $750,000 and you might get a 96 percent chance of success. Remember that the number is dependent on what you put in the spending and portfolio fields. Also keep in mind that when you retire, you may earn extra income it’s not calculating (Social Security, freelancing, consulting, etc.)
- I spend way too much time on Reddit, but the Financial Independence sub is informative and inspiring. You’ll see questions and thoughtful answers, stories of people who have made it, and tips from those who have failed to retire by their estimated date but are still working on their goal. It’s a community. If you have a question, someone there probably has an answer.
Between these blogs, other websites and tools– and the many other good ones located on the web– you can put together a solid financial plan.
I know what it’s like to feel like your finances are out of control. My husband and I are still working on our plan, which has hit some bumps due to major medical expenses.
But it’s working. It’s encouraging to see our net worth increase as we pay down debt, and to make small victories by seeing our utility bills decrease. Or seeing the amount on the library receipt showing how much we’ve saved by checking out books from the library instead of purchasing them. Or comparing previous years’ expenses in categories like Grocery or Restaurants in Mint to this year’s expenses.
I’m a natural saver, and that has helped a lot. I look for discounts or free days at attractions like museums. We routinely choose free or very low-cost entertainment and recreation.
We save in a lot of ways every day, so our personal finance has improved as we’ve chipped away at debt and increased our savings.
I hope these resources help lead you to great personal finance success!
Did you already read one of these blogs or use the tools? What’s your favorite personal finance blog or tool?