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Tools

Here are some tools that I'm currently using to improve our lives at LTNE.  This is a living document, so to speak, and it will change as I learn more.

Disclosure:  Some of the links below are affiliate links where I earn a commission if you purchase through those links (at no extra cost to you!).  Everything on this list of tools is something that I have personal experience with and that I trust will help you as you seek to reach your own goals.

Manage your Money:  

ReadyForZero (free):  Currently, we are using ReadyForZero to manage our finances and reduce our debt.  ReadyForZero is a free online service that aggregates your accounts in one place and orients you on rapid debt reduction and asset growth!

Intuit Quicken Software:  If you use Windows, this is the best, software-based solution for managing your finances.

Build your Assets with Social Lending:

Lending Club (free to sign up-- $250 initial investment required!):  I use Lending Club to invest my money into other peoples' loans.  They pay me monthly, both in principle and interest, and I then reinvest that into more loans, creating a social lending snowball!  Lending Club allows you to start with a minimum $250 investment.   

Prosper:  Prosper is another social lending service.  Why should you consider Prosper in addition to Lending Club?  Mainly because it opens up more investment opportunities, because you have more loans that you can buy into!

The Best Books to Read to Fire Up Your Life and Your Entrepreneurial Spirit:  

The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss:  Tim Ferriss's book did more than any other to fire up my imagination about business opportunities in the new economy.  I've posted a short review here.  

The Millionaire Fastlane by MJ DeMarco:  I read Ferriss's book in Afghanistan and it planted some sparks.  This book rekindled those sparks.  DeMarco lays bare the fact that the mainstream financial wizards have fed us a collective fantasy about wealth creation and he offers an alternative that might actually work.

Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk:  What are your passions?  Turn your interests into real businesses and do it NOW!  Quit waiting around.  Great tools here for getting started and becoming successful.

The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau:  Hundreds of accounts of successful businesses started with very little money.  The book also includes very specific guidance on starting and growing a successful business.

A Guide to the Good Life:  The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy:  Learn what Epictetus, Cato, Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, and many others learned over a thousand years ago about living a good life.  This is the BEST book on living the good life through a Stoic lifestyle.  Yes, you want to read this!  

Where to Blog / Where to Host Your Sites:  

SquareSpace (free trial):  A fully hosted, completely managed environment for creating and maintaining a beautiful website, blog, or portfolio.  Includes complete social network integration, apps for iOS and Android, seamless blog importing, and intuitive editing.  This site is maintained and hosted on SquareSpace.

BlueHost:  In my effort to try a variety of hosting services, I placed my niche site, Adjustable Dumbbells Center, on BlueHost's servers, alongside a WordPress (free) installation with the Flexibility 3.0 (free) theme.  The advantage of BlueHost over SquareSpace is slightly lower cost, alongside the massive number of templates and plug-ins that WordPress provides, though WordPress is not as easy to use, or as intuitive, as Squarespace.  

How to Interact with your Readers:  

Olark (free for basic service):  Olark is the chat / messaging system you see at the bottom right part of LTNE.  It allows you to chat in real time with your web readers, plus allows them an easy way to leave you messages and feedback.  Highly recommended!

Disqus (free):  Disqus is the comment system that we use here at LTNE.  In addition, Disqus also can serve as a source of income, as you get credit for clicks on sponsored links within their comment system!

How to Research Keywords: 

Market Samurai (free trial):  After I thoroughly boned up one niche site and partially boned up another niche site, I went ahead and made the investment into Market Samurai.  Market Samurai is the premier keyword analysis tool that allows you to discover the best keywords for your sites and exposes your competitors' weaknesses.  Already it has shown me how foolish I was to select my early niches.  It is remarkably easy to use, and I can't imagine going back to the Google Adwords Tool alone.  To get a sense of what Market Samurai is capable of helping out with, check out my post here, showing why my early niches were not chosen properly.  I've also managed to identify some proper niches now that I'm using it!

Google AdWords Tool (free):  Helps you identify keywords for AdWords campaigns, as well as popularity of certain keywords on Google Search.  Essential to identify potential niche sites.

Who to Advertise With (Cost-Per-Click):

Google AdSense (free):  Make money by allowing Google to place context-sensitive advertisments on your sites.  Free to use, but registration is required.  Be careful to not have your account disabled by Google, because you have no recourse.  Learn from my mistakes here.  

Media.Net (free):  Make money by allowing Media.Net to place context-sensitive or targeted advertisements on your sites.  Free to use, but registration and site approval is required.  

InfoLinks (free):  Apply to allow InfoLinks to use your site's text for contextual advertisments.  

Chitika (free):  Make money by placing search-targeted, mobile, or local ads to target your users.  May be used alongside Google AdSense.  

Where to Link Up with Advertisers to Become an Affiliate Marketer:

FlexOffers (free):  My favorite affiliate marketing site due to the companies that they partner with and the easiest interface of any of the ones that I use.  A great way to begin affiliate marketing on your sites!

ShareASale (free):  Make money with various companies as an affiliate marketer.  

Amazon Associates (free):  Make money as an affiliate of Amazon.com.  Low commissions (beginning at 4%), but generous upsells and the confidence of Amazon.com make this a winner for many sites.  

Impact Radius (free):  Make money with various companies as an affiliate marketer.  

Commission Junction (free):  Make money with various companies as an affiliate marketer.

Clickbank (free):  The internet's leading retailer of digital products.  Become an affiliate for various digital goods.  Develop your own digital product and have affiliates market it for you!

Where to do Testing and Analytics on your Sites:

Google Analytics (free):  This is Google's free analytical tool for measuring site performance.  Free to use.

Things to Help you Keep or Improve your Personal Fitness:

Fitbit Wireless Activity Tracker (free shipping!):  Both Jen and I are Fitbit users and track our daily steps and exercise, calories expended, flights of stairs walked, and other fitness data with our Fitbit Ultras.  I highly recommend Fitbit if you are interested in increasing and monitoring your physical activity in a hassle-free way.  You can also purchase it from Amazon.com here.  

Withings Scale:  Jen and I also own and use a Withings Wi-Fi connected smart scale, which integrates with the Lose It! App and our Fitbit Dashboards.  All you do is step on it in the morning and it calculates your body fat and weight and wireless sends the data to all of your accounts.  No manual logging!  It is seamless and very Apple-like, to be honest.  You can also purchase it from Amazon.com here.  

The Best Deals on Credit Cards (Balance Transfer and Rewards Cards)  

Discover Card Zero Percent APR for 18 Months:  We transferred several of our higher-interest balances to this zero percent APR for 18-months Discover card and then paid off the balance during the promotional period.

Where and How to Do Reading and Research  

Audible.com.  Audible.com is a membership site where you can download audible books to your digital music player (iPod, iPhone, etc.).  We have an Audible.com membership and it has really increased the amount of books that we now "read" because we can listen while exercising, working around the house, etc.