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Making Your Money Last

A Guide to the Hits and Misses of 2012

Now is the perfect time to get your financial house in order in preparation for the New Year. That can include taking a serious look at your spending habits, deciding whether it's time to consider new stock options, or mapping out a plan to secure your financial future after retirement.

SEE OUR SLIDE SHOW: Fabulous Freebies 2012

Our year-end round-up of hits and misses -- from retirement savings plans to technology products to shopping deals -- will help you determine which items are worth footing the bill (or simply drain your budget) and get you on the right financial track:

Investing: Check out our best and worst picks for initial public offerings, stocks, mutual fund managers, online brokers and investment newsletters.


Online Advice: Learn which tool is best for do-it-yourself investors and financial planners, and which one you should steer clear of.

Retirement: Our favorite brokerage firm for IRAs offers a wide range of investment choices and no annual fees. Also, find out which state is tax-friendliest for retirees.

Banking and Credit: Looking for a place to stash your cash? See our best and worst money market picks.

Budgeting Sites: All budgeting sites aren't created equal. Whether you're tech-savvy or a novice, ease of use makes all the difference.


College Planning: From 529 savings plans to which major will leave students in debt most, here's the rundown.

House and Home: See which home improvement project will get you the most bang for your buck.

Shopping Deals: It's no secret that organic grocery stores are pricey, but our worst pick for savings can really drain your budget.

Technology: Check out our top picks for on-the-go Internet plans, free office software, music streaming and more.

Cars, New and Used: If you're in the market for a new vehicle, here's a look at the best and worst family sedans, midsize crossovers and more.

Airlines and Hotels: Find the frequent-flier program that easiest to earn miles, which airline has the best baggage handling record and more.