3 Tips
By Donna Rosato

(MONEY Magazine) – TIP 1 Don't get pumped dry

Hurricane Katrina crippled 25% of U.S. oil production, causing already high fuel prices to swell. Everyone seems to have a tip for saving on gas. Some work, others are myths.

[yes and no] SHOP AROUND Websites like GasPriceWatch and GasBuddy use spotters to find stations with cheap gas, and AAA updates aaa.com/fuelgauge once a day. But with almost hourly fluctuations in some areas, if you spot a deal online, call ahead to the station.

[yes] INFLATE YOUR TIRES AAA estimates that about half of all cars on the road have underinflated tires, which can cut fuel economy by as much as 10%.

[yes and no] GET A REBATE Charging gas on a credit card that gives you a rebate sounds good. But you'll need to pay it off every month to avoid racking up interest.

[no] FILL UP IN THE MORNING OR AT NIGHT, WHEN IT'S COOLER OUT Nah. Even in hot weather, the amount of fuel that evaporates at the pump is negligible.

[yes] TUNE UP Dirty air filters and an overdue oil change can cost you five miles per gallon. --DONNA ROSATO AND LAWRENCE ULRICH

TIP 2 Get lower college loan rates for good behavior

Lenders have long given rewards to student-loan borrowers for on-time payments. But usually you have to pay on time for 36 to 48 months just to be eligible. Now some lenders are making it easier. Example: On Stafford Loans issued after July 1, Bank of America cuts the principal by 3% for on-time payments, one point a year. Miss a payment during the first year and you're still eligible for the point drop in the second and third.

• WHAT TO DO Sign up for automatic payments, which most lenders reward with a 0.25% rate cut. When shopping for a lender, look for instant benefits, recommends Mark Kantrowitz of FinAid.org. Wachovia and Bank of America, for instance, automatically reduce your principal by 1% just for starting to repay. --CAROLYN BIGDA

TIP 3 Blog your way to work

If you've been putting off a job switch until the market picks up, it's time to pounce. With the unemployment rate at its lowest in four years and more than 2.3 million jobs created this year, this is a good time to look. Competition is fierce, so skip the big job boards like Monster and HotJobs. Look for postings on a niche blog that specializes in your industry.

• HOW TO FIND ONE Use Google or a blog search engine such as Technorati.com and type in a key phrase like "marketing jobs." The blogs themselves make it pretty easy to find them, with names like Defensejobs.com, AttorneyJobs.com and SalesJobs.com. --DONNA ROSATO


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