Many painless tips and tricks help you stretch out your budget. By making a few compromises and timing your shopping right, you will be saving money in no time. Keeping an eye out for free things and using a little creativity will also help you cut corners. Over time, these tips will become second nature and a regular part of life.
To someone else it's used, but it's new to you. Yard sales, thrift shops, or online classifieds and auctions present frequent opportunities to save money. Even if you're averse to the idea of wearing someone else's old clothing, you can often find items that are still new with tags. Secondhand baby items abound when someone else finishes that phase of life just as you begin. Used furniture can be a particularly sound bargain. If you live near colleges, be on the lookout for moving sales in May and August, when student turnover is high. You'll be amazed at the deals you can find at live antiques auctions, which are frequented by dealers who buy small things and don't have room in their shops for bulky furniture. Quality pieces can be won for a song.
Buy Off Season
Hats and gloves don't go in and out of style and should be purchased in the spring when stores are offloading their winter merchandise at clearance prices. Fall is the time for swim gear and camping equipment. Immediately after Christmas, all cards and ornaments are half off. Valentine's chocolates purchased February 15 might not taste too appetizing 364 days later, but almost all nonfood holiday items can be bought a year in advance at significant savings.
Seek Free Entertainment
Scour local listings for free forms of entertainment. Many churches, colleges and libraries host free concerts given by talented local musicians or music students. Most museums have free weekly or monthly admission times, and you can grab a meal in their reasonably priced cafeterias. Download a walking tour of a town in your area, and go for a free, self-guided walk. Stay home and watch a free movie on television, but make a night of it with inexpensive takeout or microwave popcorn.
Take Advantage of Membership
Yoga and dance classes are superb ways to get fit, but they often don't come cheap. Investigate the cost of joining a full-service gym in your area that also offers yoga and dance-based fitness classes. Many people assume that a gym membership is more expensive, but if you take even two individual classes each week, the cost more often than not exceeds that of a health-club membership that offers unlimited access to classes plus equipment. Take showers at the gym while you're at it, and use its hot water instead of your own.
Stretch Your Decorating Dollars
Ready-made sheets are less expensive than fabrics by the yard, so purchase clearance sheets to make window treatments and other fabric projects. Custom framing sets you back more than the cost of the art inside, but nice frames often surround art from discount stores or secondhand shops. Rip out the hideous art to replace it with your own. Even if you have to custom cut the mat, it will still be a lot cheaper than framing. Think outside the box when you shop for sale items, and use your critical eye to find things that can be transformed.
Annabella Gualdoni has written newsletters and reports for corporations and nonprofits since 1994. She is a real estate professional and also teaches subjects including international cooking and travel, dating/relationships and personal finance. Gualdoni has a Bachelor of Arts in international development from University of California, Berkeley, a Master of Arts in international relations from Boston University, and a Juris Doctor from Boston College Law School.