Want our Fresh Recommendations?
Things We Recommend
We've met so many folks on the path to FIRE, and are often asked about resources we love. So we thought we would make a list to make it easy. That said, we would encourage you to consider each and every time you open up your wallet and ask "Is there a different way to solve this problem?"
Tools, Services and even Products can prove incredibly useful in automating your finances, improving your well-being and expanding your world.
During our journey to FIRE, we've met plenty of awesome folks who happen to work on the solutions below, so some of these links may support the costs related to this site at absolutely no cost to you (in some cases, to your benefit!). We are all about those symbiotic relationships, and appreciate your support!
Tracking and managing your money is an early and critical step toward securing your financial future and ensuring a smooth road to retirement, freedom, security or whatever it is you are striving for. Here are our favorite tools available today.
I graduated from Mint to Personal Capital after reading many of my FIRE heroes talking about their own use cases. Most exceptional, they have a tool that automatically analyzes the fees on your investment accounts. Since fee's are your enemy, and assessing your investment portfolio early on can be daunting, I found this especially delightful. I use Personal Capital to monitor my money daily (or weekly when I’m especially busy). I think their interface is beautiful and robust, so I love tracking my investment portfolio from their dashboard. And their retirement calculator is pretty great, with lots of options to play with various scenarios. We have a retirement calculator here at Playing with FIRE, which we modeled as easy to use and very basic, by design. But as you get further along in your journey, you may want a more robust option. Just be warned, they will hound you with phone calls to sign you up for their financial advisor services. We don't use a financial advisor, so we can't comment on their services, but generally, we attempt to avoid fees at all costs.
You Need A Budget
If you are in debt or love geeking out with your money, we HIGHLY recommend You Need a Budget (YNAB). Unlike Mint, this budgeting tool requires you to be proactive with your money. It requires you to assign a job to your dollars, ahead of time. And if you stick with it, your life with be forever changed. You’ll gain control of your money, and once you do, you’ll chase that feeling for the rest of your life. But you must be ready to COMMIT. This tool is relatively easy to use, but it can be a bit daunting if you aren’t used to deep diving into your finances. I didn’t immediately take to YNAB, because I wasn’t ready to have such an intimate relationship with my bad habits. I needed to ease in. But we were also in the fortunate position of being debt-free. We weren’t quite in emergency mode. If you are, this tool is for you, whether you are ready or not. Do it. YNAB is not some faceless corporation, they are run by good people. Jesse Mecham originally built the tool for him and his wife to track their money. He ended up turning that tool into the business it is today, and you have to love a good entrepreneur story. We also recommend his book, which walks you through the 4 simple rules to redefine your relationship with money.
Taylor and I started using Mint way back in 2014. It didn’t stick. It wasn’t fun to see how bad we were at saving money. Then, I found FIRE and everything changed. I needed to TRACK my money, to know where it was going and how we to redesign our lives with our new FIRE goals in mind. Mint made it super easy to plug in our accounts and quickly see the pie chart of our decision making. And, it was free. That said, the budgeting tool leaves a lot to be desired, they are constantly selling crap credit cards. Plus, no one likes looking at an app to tell them how much they spent at restaurants last month. They want help with their future! That’s why Mint didn’t stick with us back in 2014. And why I rarely use it now. But early on, it’s all about tracking your money, and doing so without spending a dime. We recommend this tool when you are early in your journey.
This may be the ultimate FIRE resource. New Retirement currently has the most robust DIY tracking tools, calculators, planners and comparison tools on the market. We recommend NewRetirement if you are a hyper-analytical DIY'er with a complex financial landscape. That said, NewRetirement is a wonderful resource for those with a baseline knowledge of finances who want to dive deeply into comparisons, planning and modeling scenarios. Plus, they are extremely FIRE friendly.
If you carry existing loans, you’ll want to examine them closely. Refinancing can be extremely profitable for you, both in the short term AND the long term. We’ve found that Credible is an excellent loan comparison service that’s FREE. You can compare rates without filing separate applications, without sharing all your personal information and without affecting your credit score.
Banking & Investing
As FIRE devotees, we love to learn, grow, save and optimize. Where you keep and invest your money can define your success. Here are the companies we trust to handle our hard-earned dollars.
If you’ve read our book, you’ll know that our stock portfolio is invested nearly 100% in Vanguard. If you’ve read The Simple Path to Wealth, you’ll understand why. Their unique client-owned structure allows them to return profits to our fund shareholders in the form of lower expenses. Low costs help their clients keep more of their returns, which helps you earn more money over time.
We are excited about diversifying our portfolio using real estate investing. We’ve learned so much from Chad Carson and others at BP. We are also big believers in surrounding yourself with help from experts, especially with a field as complex as real estate. If you are considering a similar path, Bigger Pockets is a treasure trove of tools, forums, community, information, and resources.
When Tay and I first started out on our FIRE journey, one of the first goals we set was a 6 month emergency fund. We actually like to call it our family freedom fund. It’s 6 months of expenses, always there when we need it. Once we reached our goal, we were surprised at the immediate sense of liberation it provided.
And to hold that money over the long term, we wanted to find a home for our emergency fund that would allow us to combat inflation and make it super easy to access in times of need. That’s where Ally Bank came into our lives. Ally has fantastic savings accounts with very competitive APY’s and no monthly maintenance fees.
Ally Bank has been voted the Best Online Bank by Money, Nerdwallet, and Bankrate. They’ve been around for nearly 20 years, their customer service is awesome, and it was super easy to set up our account. So if you are saving up your emergency fund, saving for a new home, whatever it is, consider opening an Ally account today.
We wanted to curate a list of books that have fundamentally shaped our FIRE journey. Without a few hese resources, we wouldn't be on the path to Financial Independence. Others are books or authors we've come to love. If you don't have much time to read these days, many of these are offered in audiobook format, leaving you with limited excuses and limitless potential. Enjoy!
Playing with fire
This one may be obvious, but we’ve come across plenty of folks who are aware of the film but are unaware of the accompanying book. We take many of the themes and stories in the documentary and go into greater detail on our decision making and experiences. Readers have told us the book serves as the ultimate introduction to the FIRE movement as well as a fond reminder for those already pursuing FIRE.
The Simple path to wealth
We’ve gifted this book more than any other. Originally known as the Stock Series, written for his daughter, JL Collins turns his blog into a book and lays down a rock-solid case for investing heavily in low-cost index funds. Equally important, he explains how the stock market works and how to use that knowledge to ride out of the constant ups and downs. You want a simple and stressfree way to achieve financial independence? Read this book.
Your Money or your Life
Recently updated, YMOYL is widely considered the original FIRE literature, this book has been inspiring future FIRE practitioners to consider the correlation between the time value of their money. Lucky for you, she’s updated the book in 2019. Also, Vicki Robin is an absolute legend.
Choose FI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence
We wish this book had been written when we started our journey. Jonathan and Brad were a weekly source of inspiration and information that kept us going in the early days when we were packing our bags and slashing budgets. Fast forward a few years, and these guys have become authors, orators, community leaders and philanthropists. We highly recommend their podcast as well, and appreciate the blueprint they’ve laid out in this book for those getting their start.
Quit Like a Millionaire
Kristy Shen and Bryce Leung coined one of our favorite phrases “Math that Sh*t Up”. As a former math flunkie, I’ve used this phrase repeatedly to believe in myself when opening up the spreadsheets. It’s a call for empowerment. And so is this book. You’ll be packing your bags and living abroad with a million bucks in the bank in no time.
Grant Sabatier is a passionate entrepreneur, blogger, podcaster and author, most passionate about helping others achieve financial freedom just like he did. He encourages readers to save, but also provides loads of valuable information on how to increase your income to expedite your journey to financial freedom.
Retire early with real estate
If you are interested in real estate as a vehicle to achieve financial independence, this book is for you. A good friend of ours, Chad Carson is our favorite FIRE Real Estate Blogger. He’s built a real estate empire to fund his FI lifestyle, and wants you to do the same. In his book, he helps you understand which real estate strategy best fits your lifestyle. Taylor and I have come back to this book time and again, and love gifting this book alongside “The Simple Path to Wealth” when sharing investment strategies with friends.
Set For Life
If you are about to head out to college, or just becoming a young professional, this book is for you. With all that energy and time ahead of you, you’ll learn how to save 50+% of your income while still having fun, increase your income and use all that effort to build your wealth in record time. Reaching FI in his 20’s and currently the CEO of Bigger Pockets, Scott Trench is a force to be reckoned with. And you will be too after reading this book.
You Need a budget
If you want the smartest way to manage money, look no further than the YNAB methodology. And while the execution may be a bit daunting for some, Jesse has a way of making you feel inspired and encouraged to follow his lead.
The War of Art
Outside of the FIRE related authors, Steven Pressfield offers us a modern masterpiece. If you suffer from imposter syndrome in any capacity, this book is for you. I make it a point to read this book at the start of every new year, and suggest you do the same.
The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement
Doug (Nords) Nordman is a good friend and early inspiration to us on our FIRE journey. This book should be required reading for anyone serving in our military, but you don’t need to be a servicemember to take away valuable insights. Doug’s insightful, empathetic, and patient nature washes over you as you contemplate your future, and reconsider the 20 year milestone and beyond. You’ll be surfing alongside him in Hawaii in no time.
The 5 minute Journal
We have all heard that journaling is a great way to live in the present, become more focused and grateful and improve your happiness. But who has time to open a blank page and even begin? This journal is my daily go-to, you simply read the daily affirmation, and answer 3 simple questions. Take it a step further and open this up before going to sleep every night, recapping the day with 2 questions. This takes about 5 minutes a day, and I’ve enjoyed major improvements in my capacity for daily gratitude as a result. Add this to your daily ritual.
Ego is the Enemy
Ryan Holiday, creator of The Daily Stoic, teaches us how to navigate self-interested ideals, disruptive emotions, life’s unpredictability, and our ego, without succumbing to them. He presents Stoicism as a useful philosophy for a better life. He writes “The philosophy asserts that virtue (such as wisdom) is happiness and judgment be based on behavior, rather than words. That we don’t control and cannot rely on external events, only ourselves and our responses. Take obstacles in your life and turn them into an advantage, control what you can and accept what you can’t.” These ideas can propel your FIRE journey to new and unimagined levels.
Doing Good Better
The pursuit of FIRE will turn you into a competent optimizer. But once you've build your FIRE foundation and your systems are in place, you may find that money and the pursuit of more becomes less appealing. You may find yourself searching for more meaning. And as an optimizer, you'll find the Effective Altruism movement especially intriguing. Anyone lucky enough to pursuit FIRE should consider giving back, and should do so with the most impact possible.
Gasp! Buying things? Isn’t this anti-FIRE? NO. Buying quality products (preferably built for life or with lifetime warranties), especially when they are necessities, can be very FIRE friendly. And sometimes, buying the right gear can help you avoid fees, like extra baggage fees. I know many of you travel. I’ve become something of an expert through my work as a video producer over the past decade. That said, if you don’t travel often… perhaps consider refraining.
RAD Power Bikes
We have designed our life to revolve around 1 vehicle, and it’s been one of our favorite decisions since starting our FIRE journey back in 2017. And while I try to use my $200 Marin Roadbike craigslist special as often as possible, there are times when Taylor is using the car and I need to travel a considerable distance in a short amount of time and would prefer not to sweat. That’s where my Rad Mini comes in. This incredible electric bike has a 40 mile range, 20 MPH top speed and FOLDS IN HALF. This makes it easy to throw in the back of our car, which makes our 1 car family that much more versatile. With front and back fenders, front and seat post suspension, and fatty knobby tires, I can ride this thing long distances in any weather. And did I mention how FUN it is? If you have a large family, consider the Rad Wagon, which is literally marketed as a vehicle replacement. If you get rid of one of your vehicles and buy a brand new Rad Bike, you’ll save money, increase your happiness and health AND help heal the planet.
Peak Design Everyday Backpack
I cannot hype this backpack enough. I’ve included the 20L and the larger option, as they are both incredible options for travel and general mobility. I’ve never encountered a more thought out and durable product in all my travels. The number of features hidden in this beautifully designed bag will leave you marveling at the thing years into ownership. The bag is waterproof. The straps fold away under magnetic flaps, quickly allowing you to turn the bag into a “duffel” of sorts. There are side, back and top handles that make it SO easy to grab out of the overhead bins, your trunk and anywhere else you’ve set it down. The zippers are military grade and there are pockets all over the place. There are multiple access points allowing for easy access in stressful situations (like grabbing your computer before heading into that window seat without holding up the entire line of folks trying to sit down). They are incredibly comfortable to wear. And most importantly, they are guaranteed for life. This is literally the last backpack I’ll ever buy.
Gear Warrior Wheeled Duffel Carry-On
This Eagle Creek bag is incredibly rugged and versatile. I’ve traveled the world over with this thing for nearly 5 years, and it still looks brand new. Durability in luggage is so hard to come by, that should be enough. But there’s so much more. Every edge that takes a beating has reinforced padding. The wheels are rugged and fortified with a laminated exoskeleton. There are convenient pockets for storing small essentials(headphones, wallet and phone when going thru security). The zippers feel military-grade, and hold up when you are really trying to stuff that extra jacket in. Probably my most favorite feature is the multiple grab handles, especially the one on top. It makes it SO easy to grab out of the overhead compartment, the conveyor belt, or the trunk. And when you are traveling like crazy, these little luxuries make a huge difference. Lastly, it’s backed by a Lifetime Warranty.
Eagle Creek Pack It Cubes
These pack it cubes make organizing a breeze, keeping your clothes a bit less wrinkled (there seems to be no way to avoid this entirely) and allow us to pack more into less. It makes unpacking and repacking a breeze. The build quality on these are exceptional, and worth the $10 you’ll pay over the Amazon Brand equivalent. I absolutely love feeling organized and finding things in a pinch, eliminating unnecessary stress on the road.