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Timeshares are back

Sales of timeshares are booming. In a timeshare, you buy a condo to use for a week or two a year. You pay an up-front fee and maintenance charge. Bill Rogers of Timeshare User's Group (www.tug2.net) says these are some things to consider:

* Don't buy new. They are priced higher because marketing expenses are included in the cost.

* Consider renting. Sometimes you can get a week at a timeshare at a fraction of the cost of owning.

* Know the area. In Orlando, for example, there are bargains. But it has low trading power because it's overbuilt.

* See it first. Visit the property. Photos don't tell the whole story.

Want a flat-screen TV? Wait!

High-technology products typically fall in price over time, but flat-screen television sets appear to be stuck. While the prices of computers, cellphones, DVD players and other high-tech gadgets are mainly influenced by the cost of the computer chip they use, flat-screen TV prices are driven by the cost of making the complex screens. Right now there aren't enough plants to keep up with demand.

There could be a ray of sunshine in the future, however. Executives who market LCD sets at Samsung Electronics predict that prices will begin to fall by year's end.

Switching to car pools, buses

More drivers are using mass-transit and car pools to fight high gasoline prices. A survey of employees at the four Los Angeles area airports show a 20 percent increase in employees who bike, car pool, or ride in a van to work.

Suburban Seattle residents told the Washington State Department of Transportation that they had begun to car pool. And riders on the commuter rail line from Miami to West Palm Beach, Fla., increased 5.5 percent over last year. Consumers are also searching out the lowest gasoline prices they can find.

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