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Smart Buying

$1,000 Ideas

A thousand bucks can go a long way.

Here's a sampling of what $1,000 can do, culled from the July 2006 issue of Kiplinger's Personal Finance. Get your creativity flowing. Then enter our contest for the best way to spend or invest a grand.

Think big

Neuberger Berman Partners (symbol NPRTX; 800-877-9700) is one of the best large-company funds, investing in both growth and value stocks. Its 8% annualized total return over the past five years to May 1 clocks Standard Poor's 500-stock index by five percentage points per year. Minimum investment: $1,000.

Think hot

Excelsior Emerging Markets (UMEMX; 800-446-1012) is on fire. Over the past five years, it returned an annualized 25%, beating 70% of emerging-markets funds. Manager Donald Elefson has more than half of assets in Asia. Minimum investment: $500.

Profit from stuff

Commodity prices are rising (as you know if you have filled your gas tank lately). But you can make the trend your friend by investing in the new DB Commodity Index Tracking exchange-traded fund (DBC; recent price, $27). It gives you a stake in futures of crude oil, heating oil, gold, aluminum, wheat and corn.

Cash in on currencies

At FXSol.com, you can use a $10,000 practice account to learn the basics of trading currencies. When you feel you're ready to run with the big dogs, you can open a real account with as little as $250. It's risky business, though. You might be better off trying another site: www.partypoker.com.

Short-term planning

It's been a long time coming, but you can once again get a short-term CD with a rate that tops 5%. Ascensia Bank (877-369-2265; www.ascensiabank.com) was recently offering a one-year CD, with a $500 minimum, yielding 5.35%.

Better safe than sorry

Buy a fire-resistant safe to keep your valuables -- including important documents such as wills and passports -- from being stolen or going up in smoke. A safe with a capacity of about 3 cubic feet from Brinks or Sentry Group runs $700 to $800.

Start a movement

At Pledgebank.com, leverage your charitable donation by enlisting others to sign up, too. Create a pledge, such as "I will [fill in the blank] if [this many other people] will, too." The site's creators say that three-fourths of those who make a pledge pay up.

Never too early

As soon as your child earns money, whether from babysitting for cash or flipping burgers for a paycheck, open a Roth IRA in his or her name. Kick in $1,000 a year between the ages of 15 and 20 and your $5,000 investment, assuming it earns 7% interest, will grow to more than $105,000 by the time your offspring turns 65 -- and every dime will be tax-free.

Get tech-savvy

New technologies are reshaping almost every industry, so you may need to take a class that explains the latest tools and trends. The Training Registry (www.tregistry.com) lists courses -- most of which cost $1,000 or less -- run by the American Management Association and other organizations.

A sure 15%

You know that credit card you've been meaning to pay down but never do? If you have $1,000 to spare and put it toward your credit-card balance, in a year you'll save ten times your annual interest rate. With the average credit-card rate at about 15%, that's $150, free and clear.

Lovely as a tree

Cool drink in hand but no shade in which to sip it? For less than $1,000, you can buy a large tree, with a trunk 3 inches to 4 inches in diameter, from a local nursery and have it planted. For tips on choosing and planting a tree, visit www.treesaregood.com.

Water music

Add to the tranquility of your patio or deck with a garden fountain ($150 to more than $1,000), and enjoy the sound of water cascading over tiers of slate into a copper basin or overflowing an "ancient stone" cask. Start your shopping at www.kineticfountains.com.

Off-road trip

The Land Rover Experience Driving School teaches you the intricacies of handling a four-wheel-drive vehicle on rough -- and picturesque -- terrain. The schools are in Carmel Valley, Cal., Asheville, N.C., and near Montreal, Canada. Cost: from $195 for a one-hour lesson to $750 for a full day for up to three drivers. Go to www.landroverusa.com and click on "Driving Adventures."

Put on a happy face

Thanks to better living through chemicals, you can have a fresh new look. Botox, injected into the crow's-feet around your eyes, the wrinkle between your eyebrows and the lines on your forehead, runs about $600 and lasts three to six months.

Swim with the fishes

Explore the wonders of the world's second-largest barrier reef, off Belize in Central America. For your trip to Belize, figure $400 for airfare and $400 to $500 for a four- or five-day lodging-and-dive package in the low season (double occupancy). Snorkeling is even less expensive. Check out the prices of other packages at www.scuba-belize.com.

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