To Save While Splurging
says you have to live a life of austerity? Even those of us with
serious budget constraints can often indulge in "non essential"
items from time to time. Here are some of the most common splurges
- and the thriftiest way to get them.
magazines, music, DVD's, videos: Remember the public
library? Free. You just can't keep what you borrow (but hey, it
reduces clutter). Or buy used - the written word does not age.
Pre-owned music and movies are often a bargain, and if you purchase
from a reputable source you can usually return it if it doesn't
work. Oh, and after you are done enjoying it? Sell it back.
coffee: Fancy coffee drinks can easily run over three
dollars a cup. Rather than forgo the café altogether, order
drip coffee for a third the price. Doctor it up with flavored
creams, cinnamon, nutmeg, and chocolate that are usually provided
for free. Or switch to tea - it's almost always the least expensive
item on the menu.
Tickets: Simply must see the latest show? Go for free
by volunteering to be an usher. Inexpensive seats can often be
had during preview nights and matinee seatings. Discounts are
usually available for groups, teachers, seniors, and students.
For performances that haven't sold out, theaters will often sell
remaining tickets (called "rush tickets") hours before
curtain time for a fraction of their original cost. Many big cities
have ticket outlets that sell day-of-the-show tickets for half-price.
grocery items: Die-hard organic food aficionados will
debate whether pesticide-free, free-range products are a luxury
or a necessity, but no matter - they can often be bought without
the considerable markups associated with luxury grocery stores.
Farmers markets, co-ops, even swap meets are all good places to
seek deals. Stock up and freeze organic delicacies when they are
at the peak of their season, abundant and cheap.
dining: If it's the white tablecloth experience you're
craving more than the actual food, refrain from going when you're
starving so you're not tempted to over order. Or go for lunch
or breakfast rather than dinner - the food is the same but the
cost is greatly reduced. Look for coupons and promotions in local
newspapers. Many frugal foodies invest in "Entertainment"
books. They offer "two-for-one" deals at some of the
most exclusive restaurants in town (as well as for more reasonably-priced
True, it's not the same as the real thing, but massage chairs
can work wonders for tired, stressed-out shoppers. A famous luxury
store located in most malls almost always has display models on
the floor, just waiting for some weary soul to sit in them. Investigate
massage schools in your area too - they are often on the lookout
for people to practice on.
and beauty products: Let's face it, when we buy department
store products, it's often the label we are attracted to, not
the superior quality. So buy the item from your favorite line
with the absolute lowest price point: i.e., a $12 make-up remover
rather than the $120 eye cream. "Gift with purchase"
promotions are a great way to stock up on indulgent skin care
products and cosmetics as well. For the price of a lipstick and
a sun block you can get a whole slew of complimentary goodies.
clothes, accessories, jewelry: Fashion mavens on a shoestring
look to consignment stores, online auctions, and estate sales
to purchase top-notch glitz for a fraction of what it would cost
new or retail. Even thrift shops sometimes stock high-end items,
particularly if they are located in the swankier part of town.
Look for shops that benefit the ballet or the symphony; moneyed
fashionistas often donate to them first. Designer-inspired goods
are another way to get the look of luxe. Low-cost replicas make
real sense for trendy fashions.
Community colleges offer some of the best educational courses
around, and for rock bottom prices. If you care more about the
knowledge than the credit, ask about auditing the class for free.
salons: Have some time on your hands? Be a hair model
at a high-end salon. It will take longer than if you are paying
for it, but since highlights and a cut often cost several hundred
dollars, an extra hour (or two) in the chair is often the most
economical way to get the latest look.
Okay, so the spa really is a major splurge. But instead of wishfully
pressing your nose against the windows of your favorite indulgence,
consider booking an appointment for a manicure or for time in
the steam room rather than a pricey facial or body treatment.
clubs: Avoid signing up for a membership in January,
that's when most gyms bump up prices for countless New Year's
resolution makers. Be on the lookout for specials that are offered
in the summer months. Find out if a portion of the initiation
fee and membership dues are covered by your health plan. Inquire
about family memberships or if you can get an extra discount if
a friend joins with you - it pays to ask. Do not be afraid to
negotiate fees with the salesperson - prices are rarely set in