About Harlan

Just a dude living in Dallas.

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Best IRA Accounts: 8 Companies Compared (Self-Directed, Apps, & Roboadvisors)

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A couple weeks ago, I wrote about Acorns, an app I think is a great place to get started with investing (especially for millennials). Talking about investing is dicey. For one, because it’s personal (duh). For that reason, everyone has an opinion on it. And that’s where the confusion starts.

My view is: it doesn’t matter where you begin, so long as you do. You can always switch things around later. To that end, I feel Acorns has the most approachable interface for a beginner “despite” costing $1 a month. And there’s no minimum to start investing.

best ira accounts

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is RIGHT THIS SECOND. Start NOW!

That said, it’s an app and doesn’t let you choose your own funds (you pick from their portfolios). Same with StashWealthsimple, and Betterment. Of course, you’ll get the best deal with a self-directed account – but the minimums are dauntingly high for a beginner, with the exception of TD Ameritrade.

I’ll compare these companies for expenses, account and fund minimums, and quirky extras:

I am focusing on IRAs here – although they all have the option to simply be an investment account (which is why I excluded Robinhood – they do NOT have IRAs).

8 Best IRA Accounts Compared

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7 Holiday Gift Ideas for Travelers (Many With Discounts)

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Merry merry! What a year it’s been. Some amazing products and services crossed my path this year. And I want to share them in case you need some gift ideas for the travelers in your life.

I have personally used them all. And can attest to their quality. It can be a challenge to shop when you don’t know exactly what to get someone. Consider these!

(And for good measure, here are some stocking stuffer ideas.)

Holiday Gift Ideas for Travelers

1. A new blazer and/or chinos

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My Total Rewards Diamond Experience at Harrah’s New Orleans (Thanks to FoundersCard)

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This past weekend, I flew to New Orleans for a few days. I usually stay at a Hyatt (here are my reviews of the Hyatt Regency and Hyatt Centric French Quarter), but stayed at the Sheraton on Canal Street this time (for lounge access, mostly – review soon).

When I realized there was a Harrah’s only 2 blocks down Canal, I decided to pay a visit to grab some free drinks and a free $100 dinner at the steakhouse on property – thanks to my free Total Rewards Diamond elite status from FoundersCard. (Because Harrah’s uses the Total Rewards program and this one has a private lounge for elite members.)

Total Rewards Diamond

There are private lines everywhere for Diamond members

I went 2 days in a row. And between me and my guest, we had 4 drinks, 2 entrees, and a whole $100 dinner – all completely free.

The Palm Room

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Don’t Forget the Pups: First BarkBox FREE With 6+ Months of Toys & Treats 🐶

With all the holiday deals out there, here’s another I wanted to share: BarkBox. I’ve had this monthly subscription since December 2013 for my 7-year-old Corgi/Shepherd mix who is also the love of my life, Fenwick.

I wouldn’t share this if I didn’t truly love it. But it’s worth every last freakin’ cent. Every month, they stuff the boxes with:

  • 2 high-quality chew toys
  • At least 2 bags of treats
  • Something to snack on, like a bully stick

I have been continually impressed with the quality of the treats and toys. And Fenwick loves opening his BarkBox every month. It saves me on having to buy treats (I have bags and bags of extras). And if your dog likes to rip up toys or chew the hell out of ’em, they’ll get that moment of bliss every month.

barkbox free trial

Fenwick can’t decide which BarkBox toy to play with first!

I estimate each box is worth $40+. And I’d have to buy treats anyway.

The 12-month plan is $20 a box. And the 6-month plan is $25 a box. If you wanna try it out, your first box is completely free when you sign-up with my link. This is better than the best publicly available offer to get your first box for $5! To get the free box, you must subscribe to a 6- or 12- month plan.

Get a BarkBox free trial

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Trim + Paribus: 2 MUSTS for Online Holiday Shopping (Save Money & Time)

If you plan on purchasing gifts online this holiday season, there are two major things to watch for: price drops and missed delivery dates.

Price drops are extremely common with the onslaught of Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals – and often there are even more as “the big day” draws near.

Trim is useful to:

  • Track price changes on Amazon
  • Set spending alerts
  • Monitor your monthly subscriptions
  • Get the best price on your cable/internet bill
track price changes

Trim lets you know when a price on Amazon decreases

And I wrote about Paribus waaaay back in May 2015. Not only has their service improved – it’s now completely free.

It’s helpful for tracking price drops at tons of merchants. And helps you get a little something (refund on shipping, store credit, Amazon Prime extension) if there’s a late delivery.

Both of these tools can save you money automatically in the background while you go about your shopping. They’re even better when their powers combine.

Trim aims to help your overall financial life

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Need a Drink? Get a Free Cocktail Every Day for $10 a Month (in AZ, CA, FL, NJ, NY, TX, HKG)

How I did not discover by now is beyond me. If you need a nice stiff drink this holiday season, here’s an extremely good deal.

With the Hooch app, you get 1 drink per day (in select cities) for ~$10 a month. The list of bars is pretty solid – and more importantly, the drinks are good!

hooch app review

I am loving Hooch so far. A drink a day for $10 a month!

And if you use my link to sign-up, your first month is only $1 when you enter code “02803c“! Plus, they have a great deal on gift memberships until November 26th, 2017 (Sunday)!

I tried the app myself. Here’s what I think so far.

Out and Out’s Hooch app review

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New Credit Card Checklist: What to Do When You Receive Your New Card

Getting a new credit card is a big step for lots of peeps. It’s a new account, new financial history, and something else to track.

New Credit Card Checklist

Did you know your new credit card came with a checklist? It does. Sorry 

Some of you might be like “Ugh,” but I’m like “Yay!” Even though I have 33 credit cards right now (yep!).

Here are the steps I take with each new card. And you should, too. It’ll help maximize your benefits, earn more rewards, and keep track of what’s what!

So ya got a new card, eh?

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Acorns: A Simple Way for Beginners to Invest (And You Should!)

Lately, I’m concerned with helping my 24-year-old brother develop healthy financial habits. I didn’t take control of my financial life until I was nearly 30. And god I wish I could get back those early years. Why?

Compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe.

The earlier you start, the longer your money grows. It’s a simple concept. But so many peeps put off investing.

It’s perceived as complicated, overwhelming, and something to fear. The financial industry made sure you feel that way so you’ll overpay some bozo to manage your finances. Don’t get tricked. Get smart – and fast. Your financial future is an out-of-control emergency you can’t afford to sleep on.

It doesn’t matter where you start. Just as long as you do start.

acorns app review

Am I crazy about Acorns? No. But it’s a great place to begin

Acorns is a micro-investing app that will fit the bill nicely. Here’s my review.

Why Acorns?

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My Free Anniversary Night in Downtown Austin – Thanks to the Chase Hyatt Card!

Say what you will about Chase, but their hotel cards that come with a free anniversary night are worth every penny.

And fortunately, some of them are still accessible even if you’re over 5/24, including:

I wrote how I got $500 in value from the Chase IHG card earlier this year. And I’ve used my Chase Hyatt free night certificate at the Hyatt Centric in New Orleans and the Hyatt at the Bellevue in Philadelphia. I also wrote about 5 worthwhile Category 4 hotels where you can get lot of bang for your Hyatt free night cert.

hyatt anniversary night

A view of Texas hill country – paid for with my Hyatt free night certificate

And this past weekend, I got a stay worth ~$284 at the Hyatt Place Austin Downtown (full review soon!) in exchange for my $75 annual fee.

With values like this, a card with a valuable free night each cardmember year is a no-brainer to keep year after year. Especially when you can get outsized value in popular areas like downtown Austin.

A cute lil weekend trip

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Hacking Uber: Earn Points, Cashback, and Credits Every Time You Ride 🚙

To disclaim up front, I have a difficult relationship with Uber. I don’t like how they treat their drivers, women in particular, and their company culture seems… toxic. For the longest time, you couldn’t even tip your driver, which is why I preferred Lyft.

However, I’ve been riding Uber more lately because they make it so easy to stack multiple offers when you ride.

earn points with uber

Oh, Uber. I am “getting there”

And, I’m hopeful they’re slowly but surely turning things around.

With Lyft, you can only earn 3X Delta miles – and 30 JetBlue points on airport trips. Which, meh.

I’d rather earn cashback and Drop points, use travel credits, and get Uber credits for shopping around town. And many times you can stack these deals. You know I love a good stack!

1. Easy win: $1 from Ibotta every time you ride

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How (and Why!) to Use Mint.com to Track Your Credit Card Spending

With over 30 credit cards in my sock drawer wallet now, I have a lot to keep track of. Especially minimum spending requirements and limited-time promotions. I’ve long advocated everyone use Mint.com to track transactions on all their accounts.

Especially because you can see your transactions at a glance – that’s helpful to monitor any unwanted activity if you have several accounts.

mint card spending

Mint.com is the (free!) ace in your hole

But there’s another extremely helpful use: you can track your spending on a particular account based on date or timeframe. Which helps you know how close you are to meeting a spending threshold. Here’s how.

Mint.com – an easy way to track your spending

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