If rising gas prices are causing you to drive less, talk to your insurance agent. Driving fewer miles each year could qualify you for a discount of 5 to 10 percent on your auto insurance policy, according to the Consumer Federation of America (CFA). According to their analysis, you could save $47 to $94 per policy — that’s enough to put an extra couple of tanks of gas in your car.

On a taxing matter: The CFA (along with the National Consumer Law Center) also found that 12.38 million American taxpayers spent an unnecessary $1.6 billion in 2004 to obtain their tax refund money two week sor sooner than they would have if they used electronic filing and direct deposit. Called refund anticipation loans (RALs), tax preparation services sell them by telling you you’ll walk out with your refund — even before they’ve filed your tax return.

Sounds sexy, but those RALs will cost you an annual percentage rate (APR) of anywhere from 40 percent to 700 percent. If you add in the administrative fees, you could be paying an APR of up to 1,800 percent!

They say a fool and his money are soon parted — with an RAL, it’ll happen before you blink. But here’s how youc an win: Next year, sign up for direct deposit and just wait 10 days. Then, you’ll get to spend all your cash. And don’t wait until April 15. The IRS opens up for business (for filing 2006 tax returns) in mid-January.

To read more, go to www.consumerfed.org.

August 1, 2006