Borrowing, renting, substituting, and doing without
Finding deals is a key topic on Wise Bread, and for good reason--finding a great price may make something you want affordable and make it easier to stretch your resources to cover your needs. There's a lot here about the tactics of finding good prices--knowing where to look, knowing how to negotiate, being willing to wait, and so on. This post, though, is about four other tactics for frugality--tactics that, for me, make a much bigger difference than finding deals.
Personally, I'm a big fan of doing without. I'm with Henry David Thoreau: "A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone." This is no solution for things that you need, of course, but for things that you merely want, it really is. My own preference is to pick only a few wants, and that satisfy those wants fully and deeply.
Where you can't do without, consider substituting. In particular, consider substituting a cheap thing for an expensive thing, but that's not the only possible substitution. Considering substituting something that you've already got for something that you'd have to buy new. Consider substituting something that you can make for something that you'd otherwise have to buy.
One special category of substituting is renting. For things that you simply want to experience, but that you don't really need to have, this is perfect. Some people look down on renting, especially when it's done in a way that seems intended to give others a false impression--renting expensive jewelry to wear to an event, for example. To my mind, though, it's perfectly reasonable to, for example, rent a powerful sports car for a week, so that you can learn what it's like to drive one. Doing it so people will think you're richer than you are seems kind of lame, but also pretty harmless.
Finally, as what can be viewed as simply a free version of renting, there's borrowing. This covers a wide range of options--borrowing from friends, neighbors, relatives, etc. This is a really important option to consider--nothing will raise the standard of living of the whole group more than sharing. Getting in on the borrowing requires two things--first, you need to show yourself to be the sort of reliable person who returns borrowed things promptly and in good condition. Second, it helps a lot to show yourself as the sort of person who is willing to lend as well as borrow.
One reason that I tend to gravitate to these options rather than "deals" is that so many deals are specifically structured to give you a taste of "the good stuff." Airline upgrades are often cheap, on the theory that once you fly business class you won't willingly go back to coach. Wine stores have regular sales on premium wines, hoping that, after some number of cheap bottles of expensive wine, you'll decide to upgrade your cellar.
With that in mind, it's important to be careful about a special category of borrowing that's distinct from the personal borrowing from friends and neighbors: Borrowing from sellers or producers. Becoming an "opinion leader" of any sort can result in opportunities to borrow new cool stuff, in the hopes that your use of it will influence others to consider buying the item. Sometimes, though, companies will pretend that this is what they're doing, when what they're actually doing is trying to get you to add their item to your list of things you've got to have. It's the same logic as the pusher: the first one's free.
Deals are great, but don't let a search for deals blind you to these other options. And always take care to manage your tastes. It's fine to decide that you only want the best--but only if it means that you'd rather do without than settle for second best.
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