Blue Monday passed without much notice or ceremony. Blue Monday is traditionally observed the fourth Monday of January, and was first designated the most depressing day of the year by Dr. Cliff Arnall, a researcher at Cardiff University. Arnall so designated this day due to six factors:

• Weather: In most parts of the country the weather in late January is less than stellar.

• Debt level: Our realization that we have probably overspent for Christmas and are now having to figure out how to pay for it.

• Time elapsed since Christmas: General seasonal motivation level is low due to all the excitement of the holidays suddenly coming to a close.

• There are no holidays in January unless you are a government employee.

• Most, if not all, of our New Year's resolutions have fallen by the wayside and we have no desire or motivation to renew or try them again.

• With tax season upon us, maybe it is a good time to start organizing your finances and make next January a Green Monday instead of the blue one. Do you know how much you spend on entertainment? How about the amount you spend on repairs to your house? Do you know whether your business is generating a profit or not? Are there ways you can trim your monthly expenditures? These are very important things you need to know, so why not get organized and profitable?

The best selling financial program is Quickbooks for businesses and by running a couple of quick reports, you can see in a glance where all of your money is being spent. For home use, Quicken is a scaled down version of Quickbooks so, perhaps, that is the answer for your home finances. There are a number of other programs available for this purpose, but these are the most widely used programs. Most banks now have systems in place for downloading your monthly statements. It takes a little while to set up but once in place, a few minutes each month will get you on track and your finances under control.

Both Quicken and Quickbooks have online help so you do not need to be an expert to use these programs. They also have an initial interview section when you first install the program that will walk you through most common ways to make your program work for you. The interview will ask a number of questions to help you set up your program and make it easy to keep up to date every month. They will also ask about your checking and savings accounts and set those up for monthly downloads from your bank directly into the program.

If the cost of these programs seems a bit much, you can check out Google for some free or almost free checking account programs but if you do choose to go that route, be aware of having additional programs downloaded and installed when you get your program. Most free software is financed by these additional programs or mailing lists that make them undesirable in the long run. The basic Quicken program is under $30 and you can save that in frustration the first month. If you are uncertain which version of these programs you need, consult a CPA or tax professional and they can give you advice.

Ahwatukee Foothills resident Mike Smothers is president of Smothers Computer Repair Services. Send questions to or call (480) 753-7667.

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