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Consumer Confidential: High gas prices trouble consumers, but new apps can help

March 25, 2011 | 10:30 am

Gaspic Here's your fame-and-fortune Friday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

--The employment picture may be brightening, but consumers are still wary, especially with gas and food prices rising. Consumer sentiment in March fell to its lowest level in more than a year, according to the latest survey from Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan. Yet it doesn't look like those cautious feelings will send the economy into another tailspin. "While the data clearly indicate that the rate of real consumer spending will diminish, the data do not indicate a renewed downturn is now on the horizon," the report said. Inflation concerns remain high, but still aren't at a point that will alter shoppers' behavior. But if the cost of food and gas keeps rising, you can be sure some changes will follow.

--Speaking of which, here are a couple of apps you may want for your smartphone that can help ease the pain at the pump. The first is GasBuddy. It maps or lists gas stations in your area and can be sorted by distance or price. GasBuddy is free and available for the iPhone and Android phones. Then there's AAA's TripTik, which, in addition to locating nearby stations and spotlighting lower gas prices, will offer route maps and AAA-approved hotels, restaurants and auto-repair locations. TripTik is also free, but it works only on iPhones and iPads.

-- David Lazarus

Photo: High pump prices are keep consumers on edge. Credit: Mike Blake / Reuters