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FI Weekly – January 16, 2024: Don’t Pay Mutual Fund Fees, Apps to Replace Mint, Being Present

Choose FI has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Choose FI and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. American Express is a ChooseFI advertiser. Disclosures.

Don’t Pay Fees to Buy Vanguard Mutual Funds at Other Brokerages

I see many people in our community get obsessed with only buying “VTSAX” (Vanguard’s Total Stock Market Index Fund) because they’ve heard so much about it in the FI Community.

This is a wonderful fund if you’re investing through Vanguard because Vanguard charges you $0 in fees to purchase VTSAX.

If you are investing through another brokerage like Fidelity or Schwab, you WILL get charged a significant ‘transaction fee’ (could be up to $75 each time!) to purchase a Vanguard mutual fund through Fidelity or Schwab.

To pay $0 in fees:

Vanguard, Schwab and Fidelity all charge $0 in fees and commissions on ETF (Exchange-Traded Funds) and stock trades.

Vanguard’s VTI is the ETF version of VTSAX.

It is essentially identical to VTSAX.

If you feel you must own a Vanguard product, and you invest through Fidelity or Schwab, you can buy VTI for $0 in fees and commissions.

And realistically, the Total Stock Market Funds/ETFs from Fidelity and Schwab themselves are basically identical to VTSAX/VTI, so it’s hard to go wrong with their products as well.

Please don’t pay transaction fees or commissions when you simply don’t have to!

Deep Wisdom on Being Present

I didn’t have quoting musician John Mayer on my bingo card for 2024, but this post I came across on Twitter was so profound I wanted to quote it in its entirety (I’d recommend clicking through to Twitter to see the analysis at the bottom):

“I wait for most things to be over. I wait for this to be over to do the next thing and the next thing and the next thing and the next thing…”

To counter this tendency, he implemented a rule.

“Because I’ve realized, he said,

“Everything you love and hate leaves at the same speed: Done. Done. Done. The thing you hate that you have to do tomorrow will be over before you know it, and the thing you’re looking forward to tomorrow will be over before you know it.”

“So I have a new rule in my life,” Mayer said, “and the rule is:

Never wish for less time.

Waiting for things to be over is just wishing for less time. Waiting for this to be over to get to the next thing—that’s just wishing for less time.”

“So wherever you go, just make a home right there and do that thing…Wherever you are, go, ‘this is where it’s all at right now.’

I’ve been having the time of my life because I figured that out…”


Budgeting Apps to Replace Mint

Many of you have written in to ask for my recommendation for a budgeting app now that Mint is shutting down.

I personally do not budget, so I don’t have any hands-on experience with alternative options, but I am constantly on the lookout for information to help our community.

This article from Engadget was highly recommended by a member of our community and after reviewing it, it’s a pretty thorough review of 6 of the best budgeting app alternatives to replace Mint.


ChooseFI Community Taking Action This Week

“My 1% better this week was Tax Gain Harvesting, which I first heard about when Jeremy from Go Curry Cracker was on the podcast (Episode 18). After nine years of working, I started a two+ year mini retirement in May. I put almost my entire taxable paycheck into my Traditional IRA and TSP January-April.

This left me with a lot of room to harvest my capital gains tax free which comes to around $5,000 in future tax savings and allowed me to sell a couple of single stocks that had done very well and shift that money into VTI so I can have a simpler and more diverse portfolio. Thanks so much for facilitating the exchange of life-changing information among the community.”

– Stephen

“My 1% better is that I finally took action and opened a Roth IRA. Opening a Roth IRA has been on my to do list for years but I had been scared because I didn’t know how to open the account. I chose Vanguard so I could invest as suggested by JL Collins.

Vanguard’s website makes it so easy to open an account and even has a video that shows you the steps. I would not have taken action had it not been for all that I’ve learned from this podcast and the suggested reading.”

– Michelle

“1% win! Check engine light went on in my car (2007 Corolla, bought used with low mileage around 2012-2013). Borrowed ODB scanner from my brother-in-law, found the code meant a sensor was the likely culprit, saw on YouTube that it was not an overly complex piece to access and replace. Bought the sensor for $25 from AutoZone, just needed a flathead screwdriver and a socket wrench to replace. 45 minutes later, all solved! Saved at least $200 by not taking it to a mechanic. And learned a lot from getting sucked down the YouTube hole…”

– Avi-Gil

“My 1 % better this week is making a CashFreely account to track our credit card information and plan. The last couple years we have been taking advantage of credit card rewards, but I know there is room for improvement on this. CashFreely will be a great help to maximizing our efficiency on this. Thanks for the recommendation!”

– Alex

“My 1% better was helping my 15 year old daughter find joy in watching her savings grow and helping her to get a better interest rate (5.1%) for a 14 month GIC in Canada which is like a CD in the U.S. She has a part-time job and does a great job with saving up :)”

– Sarah

“My 1% was doing something I really don’t enjoy. As much as I despise shopping for auto and homeowners insurance, due to the premium creep that happens at about year 4, I went shopping again. We have no accidents or traffic violations so one would assume the premiums would stay relatively stable but my insurance with a major carrier (one of those you see on TV with the catchy jingles) went up over $400 this year and my homeowners insurance with the same carrier went up over $300, following a large increase last year.

So after some research, I decided to contacted a local independent insurance agent. After about an hour I left her office with an $850/year savings and better coverage. Another great part, she told me if I have any issues with this company or if the premiums increase too much, call her and she will re-shop it for me. It’s nice to have someone representing me instead of working for a single large insurance company.”

– Kenny


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Choose FI has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Choose FI and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. American Express is a ChooseFI advertiser. Disclosures.
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