MONEY: CHEAPER BY THE BUCKET

Here's a Wall Street riddle: what's highly technical, dry (some would say boring), and very hot this summer? If you follow the money, you already know the answer: exchange-traded funds, or ETFs.

MONEY: CRUISING FOR SAVINGS

Summer car rentals are getting pricey, thanks to rate increases from Avis, Hertz and many other companies. The average mid-size rental will cost $38.95 a day for the Fourth of July weekend, reports the American Automobile Association; that's up from last year's $34.53.

MONEY: COLLEGE LOANS 101

Don't wait till graduation to start dealing with college debt. Rates go up July 1, and for the first time undergrads will be able to consolidate their loans and grab current rates, thanks to a new ruling by the Department of Education.

YOUR BOSS MAY BE 15

Teenagers don't want to climb the corporate ladder--they want to own it. Take Natasha Spedalle, a 15-year-old New Yorker. At 14 she was too young to get a job in retail.

HEADING OFF THE RAILS--AND BACK ON

It looks a bit like something aliens might drive here on Earth, but a new idea for a mass-transit vehicle is actually much less sinister. The 54-foot-long Blade Runner, out of England, is designed to run on both rails like a train and roads like a bus--and to switch back and forth easily.

MUTUAL FUNDS: AND THE BIG WINNER IS--YOU!

Mutual funds are slugging it out for customers. Fidelity Investments just lowered expenses on its bond funds to 0.45 percent, after Vanguard Group, American Funds and dozens of others dropped fees to keep investors interested.

LOANS: BUYING YOUR RIDE

Lately, those zero percent financing offers are about as hard to find at auto dealers as shy, self-effacing salespeople. That means consumers will have to start shopping as aggressively for loans as they do for cars.

ASK THE PRO

Wonder where the money's going? Hedge funds. These privately managed, loosely regulated investment pools pulled in $24 billion last quarter. TIP SHEET's Linda Stern asked Rapoport for some perspective:Why are hedge funds so popular?The stock-market decline in 2000.

REAL ESTATE: BUY LOW, SELL HIGH... PAY TAXES

Making money in this red-hot real-estate market has been easy. What's taxing is figuring out how much you owe Uncle Sam when you sell your house. Many home sellers this spring are racking up big gains, but they aren't sure what to do with them.

INVESTING: THE BEST OF EUROPE

Maybe the French and Dutch "no" votes on the European constitution spell the end of Continental cooperation, or maybe they don't. Let the wonks debate that.

TECHNOLOGY: VIRTUAL INVADERS

Have you installed a wireless network in your house? That's great, but don't kick back just yet. You need to protect it. It's not just the teenager next door who can "steal" your service.

CREDIT CARDS: PAYING DOUBLE

Coming soon to a credit card near you: bigger monthly bills. Two years ago federal regulators told banks to start raising required minimum payments but gave them time to comply.

COLLEGE: HOW TO HEAR 'YOU'RE HIRED!'

Here's some good news for the class of 2005: there are more jobs and bigger bucks waiting for college grads than at any time since the dot-com hiring craze, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

TAXES: BIG BUCKS FOR BLING

Did your great-aunt Edna leave you an awesome (and awesomely ugly) necklace? Still hanging on to those gaudy rings from an ex-relationship? Instead of selling your treasure to the highest bidder and feeling guilty about it, you can donate the jewels to a favorite cause and get a whopping tax break, thanks to a new program called Jewels for Charity (jewelsfor charity.org).

Tip Sheet

By Erin ZaleskiLike an afternoon of lounging on the beach or a decadent five-course meal, picking up souvenirs is a requisite holiday indulgence. For diehard material mavens, however, to travel is to shop: it is boutiques and malls--not beaches and monuments--that beckon.

THE CLEAN AND THE DIRTY

Here's a useful thing to do with an old cell phone: throw it in the garden. British researchers are developing a biodegradable cell-phone casing embedded with a flower seed.

NO-WAIT CHECK-INS

It's a shame to waste a minute in Honolulu, so that may be why Hilton Hotels chose that city's airport to demo its new off-site check-in kiosk. Arriving fliers can use it to get their magnetic keys, so when they get to the hotel they can go straight to their rooms.The kiosks expand the efforts of several hotel chains that have lobbies with automated check-in.

MONEY: DON'T GET GROUNDED

With the airlines bracing for big summer crowds, cashing in your frequent flier miles may be extra hard this vacation season. Book early, of course. When that fails, try these other strategies.Get a room.

CORPORATE SPIM IS NO LOL MATTER

Spim is coming of age--and that's not a good thing. These annoying ads are the instant-messaging version of spam, and they chimed in a remarkable 1.2 billion times last year.

MONEY: LOW DOLLAR, HIGH FEES

Shopping abroad is getting more expensive, and it's not just the weak dollar's doing. Credit-card companies are marking up their services. Visa and MasterCard already charge 1 percent on all transactions requiring a currency exchange, but now they are adding new fees--1 percent for Visa and 0.8 percent for MasterCard--for foreign transactions denominated in dollars.

SPARE THE CHANGE

Snacks are seductive. So is spending on credit. Put them together and you can really jack up sales at vending machines. Shoppers using a credit (or debit) card spend 75 percent more than they do at cash-only machines, according to a survey by a Philadelphia-area company that makes the credit-card technology.USA Technologies viewed more than a million transactions at its clients' vending machines.

IS IT BUZZ OR MERELY THE NOISE OF A PEST?

The word-of-mouth marketing industry is creating its own buzz--and it's not all good. At their first conference last month, the new-style marketers tried to hammer out an ethics code.

IT STILL BEATS STANDING IN LINE

Good prices, free shipping, shopping in your PJs... whatever. What have those e-tailers done for us lately? Consumers lost some of the love they'd had for online retailers in the last holiday season, according to the widely watched American Customer Satisfaction Index from the University of Michigan.

REAP WHAT YOU SOW

Gardening is all about the pride of growing something good to eat. But why not turn a profit, too? Average backyard gardeners spend $71 a year on their herbs and veggies, says Bruce Butterfield, research director for the National Gardening Association.

RIDING OUT RISING PRICES

Here's a scary word: inflation. The fear that prices will get out of hand is spooking stock and bond traders, economists and anyone who doesn't want to see the price of a gallon of gas double and the buying power of his salary sapped.

TIP SHEET

U.S. TRAVELVACATION LIKE A PROFantasy camps have moved beyond baseball and rock bands. Now there's a reality experience for everything. All you need is a dream and lots of cash.

TRAVEL: VACATION LIKE A PRO

Fantasy camps have moved beyond the baseball teams and guitar greats of yesteryear. Now there's a vacation reality experience for everything. All you need is a dream and lots of cash.

TIP SHEET

Business Travel: A Good Flight's SleepBy Anna KuchmentChristopher Lotz, an attorney from San Antonio, Texas, has his travel routine down to a science. Three days before a transatlantic flight, he begins going to bed and waking up earlier, nudging his body clock toward European time.

IT BEATS A BAKE SALE

Venture capital continues to infiltrate college campuses. At the University of Utah, students recently closed on $5 million in funding for their own VC firm.

LUXE RENTALS

Luxury-car rentals are booming, but it's not because of big corporate travelers. Rental companies say most high-end traffic comes from vacation travelers or small-business owners who don't have to submit expense reports to a corporate travel manager.

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