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Leisure Spending

The Best in Travel, Cars, Home and Fun

Save on energy costs, airfares and fun

SEE THIS SLIDE SHOW: The Best for Travel, Cars, Home & Fun

AIRLINE
Southwest

If you plan to check luggage, Southwest is the only way to fly. Check two bags without paying the annoying fees that can add up to $65 each way on other airlines. Plus, there are no fees for booking, changing tickets or selecting seats.

FREQUENT-FLIER PROGRAMS
Southwest Rapid Rewards

No fees, no complicated #950000emption process, and you don't even have to count miles. Simply track your trips: Sixteen one-way flights in two years get you a free round-trip ticket. And if you're a really frequent flier, you can bring friends: Rack up 100 flights in a year and another person can fly free with you for a year. One drawback: The program has a limited number of partners.

LOW-COST DESTINATION
Panama

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Get the huts-over-water ambiance of Fiji without paying the $1,700 airfare. Using Kayak.com in mid October, we found a $351 round-trip flight from Washington, D.C., to Panama during the first week of March. On Expedia, a trip for two -- including the fare from D.C. and a six-night stay at the four-star Veneto Wyndham Grand hotel -- cost less than $2,000. Bonus: The greenback is widely accepted.

USED CARS FOR $10,000
COMPACT, SMALL WAGON AND SEDANS

One size doesn't fit all, so we offer four choices. Prices are from Edmunds.com and assume you're buying from a private party.

Compact: 2006 Hyundai Elantra GLS Hatch ($9,750; 21 miles per gallon city and 29 mpg highway)
Small wagon: 2006 Pontiac Vibe ($10,800; 22 mpg city/29 mpg highway)
Midsize sedan: 2006 Hyundai Sonata GL ($10,700; 21 mpg city/30 mpg highway)
Large sedan: 2005 Buick Le-Sabre Custom ($10,500; 18 mpg city/27 mpg highway)

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HYBRID
Honda Civic Hybrid

Tops for value is the Honda Civic Hybrid. Although it gets slightly lower fuel economy than the Toyota Prius (averaging about 42 mpg versus 46 mpg for the Prius), it has been selling for close to its $23,270 sticker price, whereas at many dealers the Prius has been commanding nearly $2,000 more than its $22,220 sticker. And unlike the Prius, the Civic still qualifies for a $525 tax c#950000it, as long as you buy before December 31.

NONHYBRID FUEL SIPPERS
Honda Fit, Volkswagen Jetta, Chevy Malibu LT, Mercedes-Benz GL320

Among subcompacts, the 2009 Honda Fit (starting at $15,220) has the best combination of fuel economy (28 mpg city, 35 mpg highway with manual transmission), utility and quality. The Volkswagen Jetta TDI ($22,640), a diesel that meets emission standards in all 50 states, posts an impressive 30 mpg in the city and 41 mpg on the highway and qualifies for a $1,300 tax c#950000it. The Chevrolet Malibu LT with six-speed automatic transmission ($24,090) is the top fuel miser among midsize sedans; it gets 22 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway. And if you still crave a large, luxury SUV, consider the Mercedes-Benz GL320 Blue-TEC ($57,625). It gets 17 mpg city, 23 mpg highway and qualifies for a $1,800 tax credit.

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LOW-COST DRUGS
Wal-Mart

Offering more than 1,000 generic and over-the-counter drugs, Wal-Mart beats the competition handily. Its $4 prescription program covers up to 95% of the prescriptions written in the majority of drug categories.

SOLAR-POWERED GIZMOS
Shed Light, Flashlight

The Solar Powered Shed Light (Gama Sonic; $100 at Brookstone.com) comes with an exterior-mounted solar panel and a fluorescent light fixture that will last up to four hours when fully charged. The Sunlight SL2 flashlight ($39 from Sunnightsolar.com) provides eight to ten hours of medium-power illumination after a day of recharging in the sun.

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COMPUTER SECURITY-SOFTWARE
AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition

AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition (http://free.avg.com) protects Windows users against viruses, spyware and other online threats, and it doesn't cost a penny. Nor will it slow your PC's performance. AVG lacks a firewall to stop hacker intrusions, but it's easy enough to use the firewall that comes with Windows or your home router.

MAIL-ORDER BARBECUE
Maurice's Gourmet BBQ

Mud-puddle yellow, sweet with a touch of tang, so tender you could serve it to a baby if you didn't want it all for yourself, Maurice's pulled pork represents all that is good about pit-cooked ham and family tradition. Maurice's father, Joseph (Big Joe) Bessinger, ran the South Carolina grill that served as Maurice's training ground and created the distinctive, mustard-based sauce that harks to South Carolina's German heritage. Says Maurice of the spicy brew, "It clears your sinuses." At www.mauricesbbq.com, you can buy 3 pounds of barbecue with a bottle of sauce for $43, plus $46 for two-day shipping.

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