Netting some great advice
There's a lot to be said for trawling the net when you're looking for ways to spend, save or invest your money.
But it is easy to get swallowed up in a seething mass of useless or even incorrect information, and, for that reason, many people just stick to the few sites they are familiar with.
Here are a few free websites that are worth going to if you're looking for good deals on purchases or investments, or if you just want to know what's going on in the world of finance and how it might affect you:
This specials aggregator is worth checking out before you buy almost anything. The team - based in Cape Town - pull together current deals being advertised in the press, on TV and in catalogues.
There are different ways to search, including by location, by product type and by supplier, and you can get e-mail alerts for forthcoming specials and for particular items that you covet, so that you don't miss out on that new R200 iPad when some retailer puts it out there as a way to get feet through the door. You can also customise your alerts to let you know when a product price drops to something you are prepared to pay.
Product ranges include clothes, groceries, appliances, cellphones, computer technology, electronics and anything for the great outdoors. Suppliers include Game, Pick n Pay Hyper, House and Home, Tiger Wheel and Tyre and the Apple iStore.
Searching the site is free and, at the moment, retailers wanting to advertise on it won't be charged either.
This is an education-oriented website that will tell you, in words of one syllable, everything you need to know about investing. It's a vital source if you are thinking about putting money in the markets and want to get to grips with terminology, or if you just want to be able to join in the conversation.
Investopedia offers quizzes, tests and tutorials for finance students, especially anyone tackling a CFA analyst's exam. There is also an interactive element with videos explaining financial concepts and a section that allows you to set up a brokerage account with imaginary money, and trade stocks and options listed on US bourses.
You can also find an extensive analysis of stocks and forex on the site, and there is a significant personal finance section. However, all this information is clearly skewed towards a US market and has limited relevance to us here.
Investopedia was snapped up by Forbes a few years ago, and Wikipedia claims the site gets around 2.5million hits a month.
MSN is Microsoft's portal - or point of access to the web - so expect links to sites like search engine Bing and to web-based e-mail site Hotmail. The option to surf MSN South Africa (http://howzit.msn.com) pops up when you go to the site from a local server.
MSN - and its local version - is essentially a news site with a broad range of syndicated stories. It has a useful business section, with a spread of options that include local company news, tips for managers and business owners and how to kick-start your career. Click on the personal finance tab for news and advice with a local bent.
Yahoo is one of the biggest websites in the US, offering almost everything you could want online, including a search engine, web-based e-mail, a video-sharing facility, social media websites and services.
It also offers syndicated news from sources like the New York Times, Associated Press and ABC, and it has a better-than-average finance section offering business news, stock prices, personal finance, commentary and analysis, and blogs that are really worth checking out.
Expect some US navel-gazing, as well as lot of globally relevant information, advice and analysis written and presented in an easily accessible format.
Bloomberg, which says it offers "news that moves markets", has some of the best business news and analysis available to both professionals and laymen. The company has more than 2300 media professionals getting, writing and analysing data in 146 bureaus across 72 countries, with updates happening 24/7.
The company is focused on innovation and has made business news available on every platform imaginable, including on your TV, online (bloomberg.com and businessweek.com for weekly analysis and advice), via a free iPad app, on your smartphone and by flipping through a hard-copy magazine - if you live in the US.
Bloomberg Multimedia offers live broadcasts and interactive seminars, as well as a range of 400000 multimedia interviews and news events. There is also Bloomberg Law, Bloomberg Government and Bloomberg Sports. So whatever it is you are looking for, if it has a business bent, you'll probably find it here.
Self-described as the "world's largest business website", CNNMoney brings together business information in all its guises from Fortune and Money magazines and the Central News Network itself. It also offers links to business magazine Daily Finance, Time and Sports Illustrated.
CNNMoney has a strong leaning to all things American, but the site is worth adding to your repertoire because of its scope and the quality and range of analysis on global political/financial events that affect us all.
If you run your cursor over the links at the top of the page, you get drop-down menus with a range of "quick links" that simplify navigation and help you find what you are looking for.
Moneyweb offers local business, investment and personal finance news, and independent analysis across a range of media, including the internet, radio and print. It also provides independent stock recommendations, as well as regularly updated information on the share market and unit trusts.
The content is aimed at people who have money or are interested in it and anything related to making it and growing it.
As well as the dominant internet brand, Moneyweb.co.za, there is also Marketingweb.co.za and Mineweb.com, which offers mining-related news to a global audience.
Moneyweb Holdings is a public company whose shares are listed on the Alternative Exchange (Alt X).
Zero Hedge is a provocative US financial website that contains opinion pieces under the pseudonym Tyler Durden, a character in the Brad Pitt movie Fight Club. About 40 authors are believed to be behind the various posts, some of which have been described as conspiracy theories by the mainstream press.
The articles on the site are not written with the financial novice in mind. You need to know terminology and financial processes if you are going to get anything out of Zero Hedge, but for those that do have a basic knowledge, the opinions are often fascinating and written in a conversational tone with no holds barred about what the writers think of policy decisions and the course the financial world is taking.
The website says its aims are to, among other things, "widen the scope of financial, economic and political information available to the professional investing public; sceptically examine and, where necessary, attack the flaccid institution that financial journalism has become; provide analysis uninhibited by political constraint".
The writers say the use of anonymity is "to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation - and their ideas from suppression - at the hand of an intolerant society". They say anonymity allows people to focus on the content of what is being written, rather than considering the agenda of the authors. It's a debatable premise, but, even so, according to Wikipedia, by September 2009, nine months after it launched, Zero Hedge was getting about 333000 hits a month.
Durden claimed two-thirds of the readership was from Wall Street.
The Motley Fool www.fool.com
The Motley Fool is an award-winning US website that offers investment information, tips and analysis. It incorporates a team of analysts who, as well as being asset managers, put out information across a range of media, including radio, books, e-mail newsletters and a syndicated investment news column. The Motley Fool also has a popular UK subsidiary.
The website, which offers a lot of investment information and analysis, is usually a good read, although it has a largely US bent. But be warned, you will be lured into watching long videos with the promise of bank-balance-booming information about the hottest new stocks - and the hard sell can be annoying. But there's value to be found if you are able to ignore this irritant.
The web edition of this local daily business paper updates news as it happens during the day. It provides news and insights on the political and business landscape, as well as opinion and analysis.
Companies and markets are covered in depth, as are mining and all things related. But, being a good local publication, there's a healthy nod to sport, and readers are encouraged to express their own sentiments.