Using the Web to Weather Tough Times: During the Last 20 Years in the U.S., Increased Worker Productivity and Easy Credit Have Meant That Many People Felt Prosperous in Spite of Stagnant Wages. We Bought Real Estate, Big Cars, and Luxury Goods That Were Made Affordable by the Dynamics of the Global Economy

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Those halcyon days have abruptly ended. Essentials such as housing and health insurance have grown unaffordable even for middle class workers. Energy and food prices have suddenly skyrocketed. Many people have built up considerable debt. What to do? For consumers who live by their wages and not their capital gains, it's time to scrutinize budgets and cut down on discretionary spending and debt. After a generation of feeling as if we could buy whatever struck our fancy, that will be hard to do. Yet, we have allies in these web resources.

Blogs and Newsletters

Lots of folks are writing on the web about how to wrestle with personal finances. Turn to these blogs and newsletters for advice about how to invest, save money, and eliminate debt.

The Simple Dollar

http://www.thesimpledollar.com

Trent Hamm bounced back from a financial meltdown in his late 20s by examining all his expenses and reducing frivolous spending. Read his "31 Days to Fix Your Finances" [http://www.thesimpledol lar.com/2007/01/01/31-days-to-fix-your-finances] and "The One Hour Project" [http://www.thesimpledollar.com/the-one-hourproject], which offers 30 small projects to improve one's fiscal health.

Get Rich Slowly

http://www.getrichslowly.org

In 2004, Portland, Ore.'s J. D. Roth had $35,000 of consumer debt. Follow his blog for tips to do as he did: Eliminate debt and establish a positive cash flow.

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Debt Proof Living

http://www.cheapskatemonthly.com

Finance coach and syndicated newspaper columnist Mary Hunt offers tips for wisely managing household finances.

Prosperity Place

http://prosperityplace.com/newsletter.php

Get personal finance advice with a New Mexico twist! Joan Slotkin mixes "Emotional Freedom Techniques" [http://prosper ityplace.com/eft/index.html] with a dose of Hopi spiritualism to help readers of her newsletter reframe their thinking and improve their "relationship with money."

Budget

All the financial blogs insist that the first step in managing our finances is to create a budget, so we can get a clear picture of our situation.

Budgeting--An Easier, Smarter Way: Prime Time Money http://ptmoney.com/2008/02/18/budgeting-an-easier-smarter-way

Texan "PT" shares his secret for making a workable budget that can help one live within one's means. He breaks down his expenses into three categories. First, he establishes the value of income and expenses that don't change from month to month, such as paychecks and mortgage payments. Then, he examines expenses that need elimination, especially those that cause him to spend more than he makes. Finally, he makes a list of "controllable" costs, for clothing and other family expenses, which need monitoring.

ExpenseView

http://www.expenseview.com

Keep track of your balance with this simple free online application. You can also add ExpenseView to a Google page as a "gadget."

Mint.com

http://www.mint.com

Sign up to track your fiscal health on this free, web-based, personal finance manager. After users enter information about their credit card and banking accounts, Mint.com will analyze spending and offer savings ideas. The site seems secure, as it is backed by VeriSign and the TRUSTe Privacy Seal Program [http://www.truste.org]. On the down side, Mint.com only offers links to national level cards and banks. I couldn't get it to pull in info from my credit union, for example.

The Beehive: Budgeting

http://www.thebeehive.org

The One Economy Corp. aims to improve the lives of lower income families using the internet and offers budgeting tools in both English and Spanish.

Expensr

https://www.expensr.com/app.php

Here is a Web 2.0 online budgeting application that allows users to share their savings goals with others. …