On the money front, it’s time to get back to basics. An oft-repeated piece of advice is to keep better track of the money we spend and save.
To help with expense-tracking, tap into online tools. The best of the breed recently chosen by Money magazine and Slate.com are Mint.com (best features: inviting layout and comparing rates of return on investments) and QuickenOnline.com (best items: budget-building features and strong customer support to back you up). Others worth trying:
Moneycenter.yodlee.com: The most comprehensive of the bunch, this tool tracks bank accounts, credit cards, investments, loans, frequent flier miles and real estate. Best feature: Presents information in a clear, direct way, though without frills.
Wesabe.com: For those just starting out, this easy-to-use tool can track bank accounts and credit cards. Note: Membership skews young, so more mature investors may not gain much from the user exchange of ideas section of the site.
Microsoft Money Deluxe: This is classic Microsoft and a bit more user-friendly than Quicken. Best features: Immediately displays a summary of all your accounts with a chart of spending categories and personalized reminders; good tools for budgeting bill payments and lifetime fiscal planning. Caution: Banks may charge an additional $10 a month to let Money automatically download data.