Tax season is typically when money gets our full attention. As Americans prepare their Federal income tax returns, the most odious development is the spike in the cost of living.

Gas at $4 a gallon; utility bills topping $500 a month: Filing taxes is disagreeable enough, but this year I realized my personal finances where too haphazard for today’s economy. To get my financial house in order, I chose a personal finance application to automate the task as much as possible. Quicken Essentials, with its spritely colors and easy-to-use interface, made the job simple, fun and motivating.

I set up online banking with a new checking account and downloaded my transactions. It cut my data entry time by 90 percent.

The colorful pie charts and attractive interface took the sting out of seeing the numbers in black and white. The total of my fixed expenses is ghastly, of course, but at least I know where to begin with my annual budget….

Are you overdue for a spring cleaning with respect to your finances? The cost of living totals may make you gasp, but in terms of reduced anxiety, it's worth it. The resulting clarity reveals options and ways to work with the numbers.