Since most kids love listening to music but are short on cash, joining a "CD club" can seem like a dream come true with offers like "12 CDs for the price of 1!" However, these clubs are usually based on what is called a negative option, or opt-out plan. Negative option means that once you are enrolled in the club, the company will send you CDs unless you send back the rejection card they provide or otherwise notify them that you do not want the product. If you fail to respond, the company will automatically send the CD to you and charge your account (although they will remove the charge if you send the item back).

The company may also require you to purchase a set number of additional CDs to fulfill your membership requirements, and the prices they set for these extra CDs are often above regular store prices and usually do not include expensive shipping and handling charges.

So, before you live the dream of buying "12 CDs for the price of 1," make sure you read the fine print of the club's membership plan. Consider the required extra CD purchases mandated by the plan and the shipping and handling costs per CD. If the company does not provide you with a full and complete description of all the strings attached to your free CDs, do not join.

Basically, you need to know and evaluate exactly what you are getting into. Research several CD club plans to find one that fits you best. There are clubs that do not have the negative option plan. If you think you can remember to send back the rejection cards and the total cost per CD is still attractive to you after you have done the recommended number crunching, then go for your dream of having a large but inexpensively acquired CD collection. Before joining, make sure you know the following facts:

• How to avoid unwanted CDs
• Precisely what a membership in the club entails
• How to cancel your membership

Taking the time to consider this information may save you from joining an annoying, sometimes expensive CD plan that you did not bargain for. The extra effort can help you find the best way to buy new music.