Money: Charity Counts

That old sweat-shirt was worth how much? As much as $14, according to ItsDeductible, a program that helps taxpayers assign reasonable--and defensible--values to the items they donate to charity and then take as a tax deduction.

Money: Losing Interest

All that Christmas cheer can seem a lot less fun now that it's showing up on credit-card bills. But there's a way to ease the strain. You can transfer the balance to a credit card with an introductory rate of 0 percent--or near zero--interest, and pay it off while the new rate still holds.

Travel: Time Share Time

Here's a new vacation motto: never pay retail again. There's a glut of time shares, and that means deals for folks who buy one-week resort stays from previous owners instead of arm-twisting developers."You can buy a resale for 50 cents on the dollar, but some areas will go for far less," says Bill Rogers, founder of Timeshare User's Group (tug2.net), a site where owners share price data and trade weeks.

Money: Grown-Up And Uninsured

Shaun Randol, a college student and part-time waiter, is trying to cure his anxiety disorder himself, without doctor visits or medicine. And he's been nursing an on-and-off toothache for about two years.

For Sale: Used Vacations

On a trip to Goa, India, a year ago, Michael Lyall and his wife, Tracey, were bombarded with time-share offers. They stopped by a presentation at the Royal Goan Beach Club at Benaulim, and loved the resort's landscaped pool and miles of nearby beaches.

Money: Call Now To Save

Long-distance rates went up almost 20 percent last year, with AT&T, MCI and Sprint all charging as much as 35 cents a minute for daytime calls. All three offer cheaper rates in the 5- to 7-cents-a-minute range if you pay $5.95 to $8.95 a month, but you can do better, says Consumer Action, a California group that monitors rates.

Money: Stairway To Haven

Want a smart way to stash cash? Build a CD ladder. It's a reliable tactic that's gaining popularity. Split some savings into five equal amounts and buy five certificates of deposit that mature in increments from one to five years.

Insurance:Home Coverage Hike

Ouch! If you've looked at your home insurance bill lately, you're probably seeing double-digit increases. Insurers have rung up big losses lately, so they're even turning away people who live in bad-weather areas like Texas and Florida, who have poor credit histories, who live in water-damaged homes (which can lead to mold) or who simply have filed a few claims.

Money:If The Water's Looking Warm

Want back in? Mutual-fund investors started heading back to stocks last month, along with some big-name pros. Legg Mason's Bill Miller, a top money manager, declared the market had bottomed and started shopping.

The Golden Gift Of Greenery

GOOD OLD GIFT CERTIFICATES You pick the store; recipients buy what they want. At giftcertificates.com you can buy all at once, from the sublime (SpaWish) to the necessary (Jiffy Lube) to the expected (books, apparel).

Insurance: 4-Legged Coverage

Next time you're negotiating with the boss for a raise, consider throwing Sparky on the table. Not literally, of course. But perhaps your poor pooch has health problems.

Money: Beat-The-Ball Tax Tips

Now that Republicans control the House and Senate, President George W. Bush's chances of making his tax cuts permanent have improved. But you can cut your own taxes with a few year-end moves.

Money: No Bank Like Home

Think of your home as an ATM. Now you've got a good idea how the new "home asset management account" from Wells Fargo Home Mortgage (wellsfargo.com) is supposed to work.

Money: Pig E-Bank

It's electronic and it's easy. The only problem: you can't tuck it into a gift card.Savers can now buy the Treasury's popular I bonds online with automatic payments from their checking accounts.

Market Revenge

It could take years to recoup recent heavy losses in the stock market, but there may be a faster way: sue your broker. Record numbers of aggrieved investors are doing just that, filing a new arbitration claim every 16 minutes with the NASDAQ Stock Market.

Money: Is Your Boss Honest?

Working for an unethical company doesn't just keep you up at night, it can drain your bank account and wreck your resume. Just ask former Enron and Arthur Andersen staffers.

Money: College Credit

It's like a credit card with training wheels. A new MasterCard for students from College Parents of America (www. collegeparents.com) lets parents set a credit limit up to $5,000, get the card first so they can hand it over with a lecture and review account details any time.

Travel: X-Treme Insurance

It's all fun and X games until somebody gets hurt. Mountaineering in Malta or bungee-jumping in Belize sure sounds like fun. But when adventure travelers get injured, X-treme sports require extreme medical attention.

Money: Card Tricks

It sounds like the perfect gift: a pretty piece of plastic that's as good as cash. So perfect that retailers from Abercrombie & Fitch to Wal-Mart sold $32 billion in "gift cards" last year.But not all recipients are thrilled.

Mci: Dial A New Rate?

Hello? hello?" Forget to pay a few phone bills and your service will probably be shut off. But when your phone company goes bankrupt, nobody stops talking.

Money: More Perks With Your Plastic

After years of flooding mailboxes with offers of low introductory rates, credit-card companies have realized consumers aren't biting anymore. So marketers have hit on a new strategy: promise free stuff!

Money: X-Ray Funds

Got Worldcom? If your portfolio is full of funds, how would you know? You can get a clear snapshot of your mutual funds' holdings with a sophisticated tool called Portfolio Instant X-Ray, available free at fund company T.

Real Estate: Gimme More Shelter

Forget the floaties. This year's vacationers aren't swimming, they're shopping for property. The second-home market is as frothy as a breaking wave, stirred up by cheap mortgages, a lackluster stock market and a post-September 11 desire to vacation near home.At $162,000, the median price for a second home now tops the $153,000 for primary residences, says the National Association of Realtors.

Ultimate Grad Gift

You don't need a degree to appreciate this math: starting July 1, college grads can refinance and consolidate their student loans at a record-low interest rate of 4.125 percent.

Money: Shop For College

First, the no-brainers: College is expensive. Free money is good. Now for slightly tougher ones: Is it worth signing up for a Web-based service like Upromise.com or BabyMint.com to help put a dent in tuition bills?

This Remodeled House

A few years ago Jody and Don Costello dreamed about putting an addition on their San Diego home to create a new master bedroom. But the dream turned into a nightmare.

Is Orwell Your Banker?

We've all had that creepiest of consumer experiences: you buy a bag of diapers one week and get deluged with offers for college-savings plans the next. Sometimes that kind of data-driven marketing can be convenient, but consider its nastier permutations.

It's Time For A Checkup

Sheryl Garrett has gotten really, really popular, and she's not alone. After months of bad financial news, culminating in the spectacular collapse of Enron and its employee savings plans, investors are worried about the safety of everything from their children's' college funds to their own retirement portfolios.

SMALL STOCKS THINK BIG

In the market these days, small is beautiful. Managers of the fledgling Aegis Value Fund, which specializes in small stocks, can barely keep up with all the money investors are throwing at them.

It's Still Not Too Late

Mark Bookbinder thought he had missed the party. All year, he watched as the Federal Reserve slashed interest rates, but the 51-year-old consultant just couldn't commit.

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