Posted: Friday, July 11, 2003

TAX CUT CASH: There's been much talk about the economic effects of the latest federal income tax cut, and whether people should save or spend their extra cash. The Atlanta-based Consumer Credit Counseling Service has a few suggestions:

Toss as much as you can at your credit card company. Paying the minimum every month keeps you debt-bound and makes you an ever-larger cash cow for the issuer.

Begin or bolster the so-called rainy-day fund. Sticking money in a money market or interest-bearing account can mitigate the pain of unexpected auto repairs or health emergencies.

Think of your retirement.

Donate to a charity. You may have reduced, or even stopped, your contributions because of the poor state of the economy. And, happily, this also can help on the next tax bill.

Play a little. If saving all the money chafes at the core of your financial DNA, consider spending only half. You can minimize the guilt of your splurge by knowing some remains in the bank.

CUSTOMER LOYALTY: We American consumers like loyalty programs, but many of us aren't very loyal to them.

Nearly half of us belong to one of the myriad programs out there credit card, airline, retailer, restaurant, hotel, supermarket, ad infinitum but 40 percent of us have left one such program out of frustration, according to a national poll.

Overwhelmingly, people say they leave these programs because the perceived value is lacking: 46 percent said they didn't like the fee and 41 percent said the reward was inadequate. Another 32 percent said they quit because it was difficult to claim a reward and 24 percent said the rules kept changing.

Credit card companies are the leaders in the category, with 29 percent of people having been in a card program. Airlines were next at 24 percent.

The Maritz Poll involved 1,205 adults nationwide.

ROAD CUSTOMS: Did your July 4th holiday weekend involve a car trip? Abundant bad food and suspect music?

You are not alone, according to a survey of Web surfers by Yahoo!Autos, in which beef jerky was deemed the best driving food and Don McLean's congenial ''American Pie'' the best summer song for road-trip crooning.

More than a quarter of us, 26 percent, said jerky of the beef variety was the best snack for driving, followed by potato chips (17 percent), candy (16 percent) and sunflower seeds (10 percent). Healthier fare fruit and granola bars were at the bottom of the preferences.

As for the tunes, ''American Pie'' was the most mentioned song for road trips, appreciated as the sort of ditty everyone knows and sings along with for all of its eight-plus minutes.

''Summertime'' by DJ Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince was mentioned by 12 percent, and Willie Nelson's country classic ''On the Road Again,'' was third, tied with ''Life is a Highway,'' by Tom Cochrane, by 11 percent.

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