Last Updated: October, 2018

As founder of a personal finance site that has survived for 9+ years, I often get questions like, “what credit cards do you use?”, “what mobile plan is the cheapest?”, “what’s the best broker account?”, etc. In order to be a credible & trusted resource to readers, I’ve completed thousands of hours of research on this stuff.

So, below, I’ve compiled a “best of” list of my favorite money-saving products & services, by category, & update it monthly. Consider it a 20SF cliff notes on how to save money!

Some links below may result in a commission to support this site, but never at an extra cost to you (actually, many of the links offer special discounts). I only recommend products that I think can help others, & I don’t accept pay to be added to this list.

Credit Cards:

Cash payment is all but dead and credit cards, when used responsibly (paid in full each month), can provide exceptional rewards value, help you build a credit history, offer travel protection, & protect your purchases from fraud. Some of my favorite cards are categorically linked to below.

Travel credit cards: travel rewards credit cards can provide outstanding value for their massive sign-up bonuses and hefty co-branded rewards, particularly if you travel a lot for business or pleasure. A few of my favorites include:

  • Airline rewards cards: Gold Delta SkyMiles AmEx, Platinum Delta SkyMiles AmEx, Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard
  • Hotel rewards cards: Starwood Preferred Guest AmEx, IHG Rewards Club Select, Hilton HHonors AmEx
  • General travel rewards cards: Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard, Capital One Venture, Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard

Cash back rewards cards: these cards provide excellent all-around cash back rewards on common every day purchases:

  • Grocery: Blue Cash Preferred AmEx, Blue Cash Everyday AmEx
  • Gas: Blue Cash Preferred AmEx, Blue Cash Everyday AmEx
  • Other: Citi Double Cash Card, Chase Freedom Unlimited

Business rewards cards: note that as long as you have any 1099 or other self-employment income, you are eligible to apply for business credit cards.

  • Business cards: Chase Ink Plus, Capital One Spark Cash, AmEx Blue Business Plus

Credit Scores & Credit Monitoring:

  • Credit Karma: Credit Karma is a 100% free way to get your Credit Score at any time, and check it as often as you like – no strings attached. You get continuous free TransUnion and Equifax credit scores, VantageScore, auto insurance credit score, home insurance credit score, and tips on how to improve your credit. It’s safe, with no catch, and no credit card required. Check out my Credit Karma review for more info. Credit Karma also now offers 100% free credit monitoring, while competitors are charging $15/month+. And they’ve added free continuous monitoring of TransUnion and Equifax credit reports too.
  • Credit Sesame: offers a free account with credit monitoring and a TransUnion credit score, along with some really solid analysis on how to improve  your credit score. They also give you $50K in free identity theft insurance (more on that below). Here’s a full Credit Sesame review for more details.

Credit Reports:

  • Credit Karma: Credit Karma recently started providing unlimited FREE access to your TransUnion credit report. and even more recently, began providing unlimited free access to Equifax credit reports too! This allows you to continuously monitor two of the three credit bureau credit reports available – and saves you a ton of money!
  • is a government-mandated website that allows you to get 3 free credit reports annually – one from each major credit bureau. Since you can get free continuous monitoring from Credit Karma on TransUnion and Equifax, you can use this to review your Experian report once a year.

Student Loan Refinancing & Other Loans:

  • SoFi: Technology meets loans. Student loan refinancing and other personal loans is a space that you want to be very careful with. SoFi has quickly grown a loyal following with its great rates and no lending/origination fees.

Identity Theft:

  • Credit Sesame: offers a free account with credit monitoring and a TransUnion credit score (similar to Credit Karma), but also $50K in free identity theft insurance coverage. Here’s a full Credit Sesame review.

Discount Broker (non-IRA):

  • Ally Invest: I use Ally Invest (formerly “TradeKing”) and like them a lot. Great 24/7 customer service, low cost trades ($4.95 for stocks, $9.95 to open mutual funds), and no gotcha fees. Here is my Ally Invest review.
  • Motif: Motif is an interesting investment broker. You basically buy “Motifs”, which are a bucket of up to 30 stocks bundled together (like a mutual fund). Motifs are professionally assembled, but you can also build your own. Each time you trade, the fee for trading the bucket is just $9.95. Accounts are free to start, so check it out.
  • Vanguard: If you are interested in low-cost passive investing for a non-retirement account, Vanguard has a number of commission free ETF’s and index funds through their brokerage.

IRA (Roth & Traditional):

  • Ally Invest: I house a Roth IRA & Traditional IRA with Ally Invest (formerly “TradeKing”). There are no annual fees, IRA fees, or inactivity fees and trades are only $4.95 each. The 24/7 customer service is great and research tools are too. Here is my Ally Invest review.
  • Vanguard: If you are interested in low-cost passive investing for retirement, Vanguard has a number of commission free ETF’s and index funds through their brokerage.

Budgeting & Wealth Software:

  • Personal Capital: think of “ for investments”. Personal Capital is free, allows you to consolidate and analyze your net worth and investment portfolio, and plan your retirement.
  • Mint: is a 100% free budget tracking and planning software that consolidates all of your financial activity into one graphic-enhanced web browser interface.
  • Budget planning spreadsheet: This is a monthly budgeting spreadsheet that I created and use personally to this day to manage my budget. Free to copy from Google Docs.

Savings Account:

  • CIT Bank: An online savings account with no maintenance fees and they pay a very competitive interest yield to you, the highest I’ve seen. CitBank has been voted the best online savings by many publications.

Bank CD’s Online:

  • CIT Bank: a high rate of interest on a short CD (11 months). And after 7 days, you can withdraw with no penalty, which is rare. No maintenance fees.

Tax Software:

My top 3, in order, are:

  1. H&R Block (10% off all versions at that link): I’ve found H&R Block to be slightly cheaper than Turbotax and with better support.
  2. Turbotax: a classic.
  3. TaxAct (rare 15% off all version at that link): I’ve never used TaxAct, but I know there are a lot of fans out there.

Check out my list of the cheapest and best tax software for more info.

Auto Insurance:

  • Liberty Mutual: I have shopped around, but Liberty Mutual is usually 30-50% (hundreds of $) cheaper than other auto insurers for me. Your mileage may vary, but definitely check them out and ask for multiple policy discounts & discounts for being an alumni of your university. They also have accident forgiveness, low mileage discounts, and OnStar discounts.

Home Insurance & Renters Insurance:

  • Liberty Mutual: As noted above, I’ve found Liberty Mutual’s auto insurance to be much cheaper than others. With multiple policy discounts, it’s also advantageous to have my home insurance with them as well. I only pay $400 for my home insurance via Liberty Mutual. Every time I get a quote elsewhere, it’s usually at least twice as much. Ask for multiple policy discounts & discounts for being an alumni of your university. Let them know you have deadbolts and smoke detectors – there are discounts for those.

Health Insurance:

  • eHealthInsurance: The health insurance options available are pretty extensive and prices can vary wildly based on age, gender, and health history. You need to shop around, and is a great place to do it if you are not eligible for a subsidy through the public insurance exchanges on the website (ehealthinsurance is a great way to shop for subsidy-eligible plans too).

Mobile Phone Plans:

Higher Data Plan:

  • Republic Wireless: If you want a more advanced phone that uses Android, the cheapest unlimited call/text plan with on-demand data plan I’ve seen is through Republic Wireless. Plans start at $15 per month for unlimited talk, text, and wifi data. You then purchase the amount of 3G/4G cell data you think you need per month and can easily change your amount based on use. Update: you can now bring your own phone to Republic Wireless, which is a huge positive development.
  • Check out my cheapest data plans article for more plan suggestions.

Lower Data Plan:

  • Tracfone: If you like to keep things simple, and are able to get by on minimal minutes (by pairing w/ VOIP or you just don’t use that many minutes), you can pay as low as $6.67 per month for a plan with Tracfone. They are the largest discount operator and are the most flexible because they run on Sprint, AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile’s networks. Tracfone’s parent company (America Movil) has almost 300 million subscribers globally. Check out the phones that offer triple minutes for life to boost the value.
  • Check out my cheapest prepaid plans article for more plan suggestions.

VOIP (to replace landline phone, Comcast Voice, Vonage):

  • Ooma: Ooma is a VOIP device that offers free VOIP home phone service forever (you only pay local taxes). It’s every bit as good or better than a digital voice service through your ISP, but much much cheaper. Audio quality is excellent & the features are awesome. Unlike MagicJack, you don’t have to have your computer on to use it. Simply plug in any standard phone into the unit, which plugs into your modem, and you’re good to go. It pays for itself within a few months and then you never have to pay for phone service again! Check out my Ooma review for more.

UPDATE: using my Ooma customer referral link, you can get the added bonus of a $20 reward credit when you purchase an Ooma.

Modem/Router (to Wipe Out your ISP’s Modem Rental Fee!)

Cable TV Replacements:

I calculated the lifetime cost of cable TV, and at a 6% return it’s over $1.1M (far more than most will ever save for retirement, sadly)! Be smart, and replace it with a combination of the following to get more great entertainment than you’ll ever be able to consume in your waking hours at under $20 per month:

  • Roku: a nifty little streaming device optimized to stream Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and 750+ channels in 4K on your television! It costs just over $100, and there are no monthly fees.
  • Digital antenna: Pick up 1080p HD digital TV with a good ole fashion antenna to get CBS, FOX, ABC, NBC, PBS, and other channels that broadcast in your area.
  • TiVo Roamio: If you want to record broadcast TV and then stream it to a TV or other device, then this is your tool.

Laptop/Tablet Device:

  • I’m a big fan of this Acer Chromebook. This machine will suit the needs of 90% of the population as a primary laptop device. Very quick and it boots almost instantly. It can handle multiple tabs with video with no slowdown. It’s super small and light, a full 14″ HD monitor, an aluminum body, wifi, Bluetooth, USB 3.0, no fan (it uses phone hardware and keeps cool), 12 hour battery life, and 100 GB of Google Drive storage. And it’s well built (quality solid keyboard and shell).


  • Travel credit cards: travel rewards credit cards can provide outstanding value for their massive sign-up bonuses and hefty co-branded rewards, particularly if you travel a lot for business or pleasure. A few of my favorites include:
    • Airline rewards cards: Gold Delta SkyMiles AmEx, Platinum Delta SkyMiles AmEx, Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard
    • Hotel rewards cards: Starwood Preferred Guest AmEx, IHG Rewards Club Select, Hilton HHonors AmEx
    • General travel rewards cards: Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard, Capital One Venture, Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard
  • Click that link for a $40 Airbnb credit credit for you to use as a new Airbnb user. Airbnb is way cheaper than hotels in almost every market. Plus, your money goes directly to someone who can greatly benefit from it vs. a large hotel chain CEO.
  • Lyft: if you haven’t used Lyft yet, here is $15 off your first ride.
  • Uber: if you haven’t used Uber yet, here is a link to $5 off your first 4 rides.

Grooming Devices that Save Money

Eco-Friendly Products that Save Money:

From my environmentally friendly products that save you money article.

Home Energy Use Savings

  • Emerson Programmable Thermostat (with wifi): this is one of the top selling, highest rated, and least expensive wifi enabled programmable thermostats out there. Versus a non-programmable thermostat, it could save you upwards of $180 per year. They also provide a huge convenience factor in that you don’t have to mess with the thermostat every time you go to bed, wake up, go to work, or get back from work. And you can monitor and change temperature in your home if you are traveling.
  • P3 Kill A Watt Energy Monitor: this nifty little device that tells you how much energy each of your electrical devices is using. You plug it into the wall and then your device into the monitor to get the readout. The goal in using the device is to figure out how much that electrical item is costing you if you keep it plugged in (on or off). Standby powered appliances ratchet up your energy use. This device will actually tell you exactly how much money and CO2 you are wasting with each device. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to energy use.
  • TP Link Smart Plug with Energy Monitoring: this device can also monitor energy use, but does it through its app, and it also dubs as a smart plug with wifi that you can control from anywhere.
  • Niagara Energy Saving Power Strip: a surge protector that allows you to control if your TV peripherals are getting electricity. You simply plug your TV into the master control outlet and if your TV is off, it shuts down standby power to the other outlets so they aren’t draining energy while your TV isn’t even on. If it’s on, it turns on standby power. It could save you $67 per year.
  • Delta Low Flow Showerhead: a 2.5 gallon-per-minute (gpm) unit can save a family of four $260 per year in heating costs alone vs. an older 5.5 gpm unit. That’s a 640% ROI in one year! Not to mention the huge amount of water savings. The Delta low flow showerhead can switch between 2.5 gpm and a super economical 1.8 gpm, without you feeling like you’re not getting enough water.
  • LED Bulbs: at prices that are now below incandescents and CFL’s, and with one-tenth of the energy use of incandescents and less than 50% of the energy use of CFL’s, we’re at the point where every light bulb purchased should be LED. The cost and energy savings will be immediate.
    • Philips A19 LED bulb: a great bulb that I personally use that has similar light qualities and appearance to an incandescent, but one-tenth of the energy use and a cost of just over $1/each.
    • Dimmable LED Bulbs: use only 6W of energy each, but just 3 of them light up my entire kitchen. Their prices have come down significantly – and they are long lasting.
  • Clothesline: cheaper and less impactful than the dryer.

Water Savings

  • Delta Low Flow Showerhead: see notes above.
  • Drinking Water: I once calculated that the cost of bottled water can be more than $1,000 per year more than tap water. That’s ridiculous! The following items will save you serious money almost immediately.
    • Water Bottle: cutting down on the waste and cost of individually bought bottled beverages should be considered mission critical.
    • Water Pitcher: I drink a lot more tap water (vs pricier alternatives) if it comes nearly ice cold from the refrigerator versus from the tap. A simple water pitcher does the trick. If you prefer a filtered pitcher, this is a good option.
    • GE Water Filtration System: if your water smells or tastes not so great, and that is preventing you from drinking it, get a system like this.
  • Woodbridge Dual Flush, Water-Saving Toilet: this toilet has an option of 1.0 gallon or 1.6 gallon flush – depending on… you know. This toilet could save you tens of thousands of gallons of water over its lifetime.

Food & Other Consumer Goods Savings

  • Reusable Grocery Bags: plastic bags are a scourge on this planet – many states are starting to ban them altogether. And paper bags are resource intensive. Reusable bags are stronger, bigger, and can last a lifetime. Many grocery stores are now giving discounts per bag used if you bring your own. You’ll quickly make your money back, have a better experience, and reduce your impact.
  • Composting: food waste may be the biggest environmental disaster that nobody talks about. Food waste in landfills produces massive amounts of methane gas, which is 34 times stronger a heat-trapping gas than CO2 over a 100-year time scale.
    • Compost Bin (indoors): having in indoor bin, in between trips to the outdoor bin encourages more composting.
    • Compost Bin (outdoors): if you have a garden and want healthy soil, you need an outdoor compost bin for your food scraps. This will save you money on soil additives and with many municipalities charging for disposal pickup by the bag, a bin will save you from those fees.
  • Coffee & Tea: almost needs its own category, doesn’t it? The average worker spends over $1K annually on store-bought coffee. And there is so much waste in coffee and tea production and drinking these days, and a conscious effort here can make a huge impact.
    • Cold Brew Pitcher: I only drink cold brew these days. I like the taste of cold coffee better, the cold brew process is less acidic (easier on the gut), and it saves money. Pitchers like this have a mesh filter, so you can cut down on the cost of filters. This can also be used for fruit/water infusion, loose leaf tea, and other concoctions. Be sure to throw your grinds in the compost bin!
    • French Press: as a reader suggested, better coffee, no filter costs or waste. This one has a 5-star rating.
    • Reusable K-Cups: people love their Keurigs. Once you realize you can create even better results with fresh ground coffee and your own reusable filters, without all the waste, and at a fraction of the cost, you’ll love them even more.
    • Coffee Grinder: Grinding your own coffee is the way to go.
    • Loose Leaf Tea Infuser/Strainer: tea, if made from individually packaged tea bags, is also a huge waste. Buying loose leaf tea in bulk and making your own is a much cheaper/less wasteful/more satisfying process.
  • Vegetarian Diet: what is the #1 contributor to atmospheric CO2 and man-made global warming? Food production. It takes 16 pounds of grain/soy and 5,214 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of edible beef (the same amount of water one American uses on showers in a year, on average). It takes 78 calories of fossil fuel to produce 1 calorie of protein from beef, while only 2 calories of fuel to produce a calorie from soybeans. By switching a few meals a week (and eventually most meals) to a plant-based diet, you will significantly reduce your personal impact on the environment. Even better, the cost of a vegetarian diet is typically $2-3K cheaper than a meat-based diet per year.
  • Toilet bidet: I know this sounds like an unnecessary luxury. Once you get one of these, you will view it as a necessity. A bidet significantly cuts down on toilet paper, which is very resource intensive and pricey these days. And your bum will thank you.
  • Environmentally Friendly Cleaning Products: with a little water, lemon, baking soda, white distilled vinegar, rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, and witch hazel, you can make home-made cleaner combos that will clean just about anything, are 100% safe, cheaper, and probably more effective than the store-bought toxic garbage. Here’s an article on how to make non-toxic cleaners.

Lawn & Garden:

The amount of pollution that gas-powered lawn mowers and other yard tools puts out is off the charts. It’s been said that one hour of gas-powered lawn mower use can produce as much pollution as a 100 mile car trip. I’ve covered why you should make the switch to a push reel before. I also endorse a switch to an electric.

For other lawn tools – Greenworks has a great lineup.

Also – DON’T WATER YOUR LAWN. The cost of watering your lawn is outrageous, and it’s a huge waste. Tear out your grass, if you need to and plant some things.

Commuting/Transportation Savings

If you do need a car, try to get a cheap, fuel-efficient car, go easy on the accelerator, keep your tires inflated with free air, and change the air filter occasionally.

Biking to work, using mass transit, and going from 2 cars to 1 are all ways to heavily reduce your impact from transportation.

To help with the biking part, I wrote a post on bike maintenance 101. Every serious biker should own the following gear to be able to repair and maintain their bike:

  • Bike pump: rubber is porous and air molecules will escape at high pressure over time. You need to refill them periodically, even if there are no visible leaks. Make sure you get a pump that can work with both presta and schrader valves.
  • 1-2 extra tubes: matched to your tire size (which is listed on the side of your tire).
  • Chain lubricant: make sure you use an actual lubricant and not a de-greaser solvent like WD-40.
  • Bike wheel rim tape: inside your bike wheel, you will find little screws for the spokes. You must cover these in tape or with a plastic strip to prevent tube puncturing. Measure the inside rim width to match up to the tape width.
  • Wedge pack: fits comfortably under your saddle, and can hold all of the following.
  • Multi-tool: that includes that includes screwdrivers, wrenches, etc., and allows you to make any adjustments on the fly.
  • A tire lever tool: to help you get the tire off the of the wheel and back on, in the event of a flat. A bike mechanic turned me on to Quik Stik – and I will not go back to any other lever.
  • Tube patch kit: these are cheap, but you can make your own. They consist of a piece of sandpaper, rubber cement, and patches – and when used properly, can seal tube leaks and holes.
  • CO2 inflator: to re-fill your tube with cartridge air when you get a flat on the road.
  • C02 cartridges: keep 2 in your pack.
  • A tiny spool of duct tape: because it’s duct tape – why wouldn’t you?

If you’re a bike commuter, you’ll benefit from:

All other bike stuff: check out They have excellent deals on complete bikes, clothing, wheelsets, etc.

Financial Books & Magazines:

  • Your Money or Your Life: a classic that is just as relevant today for the modern financial independence seeker as it was when first written. Here is my full review on the book.
  • The Intelligent Investor: The greatest investor of all time, Warren Buffett, said The Intelligent Investor is “the best book on investing ever written”. Enough said.
  • Early Retirement Extreme: a self-published book by a former personal finance blogger and engineer, worth its weight in gold. Jacob was able to cut his cost of living to $6,000 per year, and shows you how simple math can work in your favor.
  • Personal Finance for Dummies: this is the first personal finance book I ever read, and it provided a great overview of retirement vehicles, mutual funds, stocks, index funds, and more – this is a great summary book. Of course, 20somethingfinance isn’t too shabby on all of these topics either – check out the investment category.
  • Kiplinger Magazine: I’ve subscribed to this personal finance magazine for about 7 years now. These guys simply get it – and the advice within the pages makes Kiplinger worth its weight in gold – and for a ridiculously low price.
  • Money Magazine: another good personal finance magazine.

Health & Exercise Products:

I’m not a doctor, but here are two cheap products that keep me away from expensive chiropractor, physical therapist, and massage therapist bills:

  • high density foam roller: This $20 piece of foam works miracles. Check out my own personal story on how I came across this.
  • Body Back Buddy: An awesome little investment that is essential for anyone who puts stress on their back or sits at a desk all day.
  • Lacrosse Ball: A simple lacrosse ball is super cheap and works like gold when used as a muscle tension release tool. Just roll over trouble spots.

I’m also a fan of getting rid of your gym membership. The following products will pay for themselves in 6 months of gym membership dues:

  • Chin/Pull-up Bar: there’s nothing that gives you quite the upper body workout of chin and pull-ups.
  • Weighted Vest: a good rule of thumb for those in good shape is 20-40 lbs. for females and 40-60 lbs. for males (if you get a vest that allows you to add/subtract weight, even better). Wearing a weighted vest makes every exercise instantly incredibly more challenging.
  • Yoga Mat: I use a yoga mat for ab crunches, stretches, and planks to prevent myself from getting bruised from my concrete floor. A good yoga mat can last you a decade or longer. Some form of padded mat is essential to any home gym setup.
  • Ab Wheels: Ab crunches tend to work out the middle and upper abs. Planking tends to work out the lower and middle abs. But it’s also nice to have something to work out lower, middle, and upper all-together in one motion.
  • Dip Stand: This clever device allows you to do tricep dips, bodyweight rows (kind of like a horizontal pullup), chest dips, and more.


  • Buying glasses online is much cheaper than buying from an optometrist. Check out my post on how to buy glasses online, and keep in mind that you can use your HSA or FSA on eyeglasses.

Web Hosting & Domains:

I use Hostgator for web hosting and namecheap for buying domain names and recommend each:

  • Hostgator: Web hosting at Hostgator starts at only $3.96 per month – which provides a service that is more than sufficient for anyone just starting out. It is what 20somethingfinance launched with. Hostgator has great customer service – they are always quick to respond and live chat is always available, with short wait times. If you have a website with a lot of traffic, check out their VPS service, which is what I use now.
  • Namecheap: you can get a cheap domain name with WhoIs guard protection. It’s always a good idea to buy your domain names separate from your web host.

Most Everything Else:

Sorry – but Amazon is just too darn convenient for finding uncommon items (vs. burning CO2 driving around aimlessly from store to store).

* Disclaimer – The content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.