Fess Up to Your Addictions: How to Satisfy Them on a Frugal Budget
This past year, I've turned into a bit of a frugal diva: I've devised a monthly budget that I stick to religiously, analyzed my spending through pie charts and graphs, and said "no" to things that I wanted to say "yes" to (like a trip to New York). However, there are just some things I can't deprive myself of, like Starbucks coffee or dinner at Chili's. But because I've become such a penny-pincher, I can't bring myself to pay full price for these indulgences. So, I've been on a mission scouring the Internet for coupons, became a member of rewards programs, and kept an eye out for sales, discounts or less expensive options. Along the way, I've learned some tips that save me money and still let me splurge from time to time.
Revel in Rewards Programs
Working as a Starbucks barista 10 years ago has made me a life-long, loyal customer. However, I'm not one to spend my money recklessly, so their $4.00 drinks obviously don't fit well into my budget.
My frugal solution is to satisfy my addiction for less: I became a Starbucks Gold Card member, which entitles me to free additions, such as syrups and choice of milk. Every 15th drink, I earn a free one. Because I'm there so often, this equates to two free drinks a month. I guess you could say there is a benefit for being a glutton.
Rewards programs such as these help reduce the damaging effects of spending money. For instance, I use my debit card for my day-to-day purchases. My financial institution offers a rewards program that allows me to earn points: 1 point for every $2.00 spent. A few times a year, I redeem my points towards cash gifts or gift cards. I easily make up the difference of the $25 annual fee the rewards program charges, and then some.
Coupons Equal Cash Savings
Why pay full price for something if you can find a coupon to help save a few bucks? That's been my philosophy this past year. If there's something I need, I first search for a coupon, usually online.
Recently, I needed to purchase a few new shirts since my old ones were becoming embarrassingly ratty. A local department store was having a one-day sale. I thought it would be a terrific opportunity to not only take advantage of the sale, but see if I could conjure up a coupon as well.
Lo and behold, I found a 20% off coupon online that could be used in conjunction with their sale prices, most which were already deeply discounted up to 50% off. Since I planned to only purchase a few shirts, I made sure to stick to my plan and not buy items I didn't need. That can be one of the downfalls of coupons and deeply-discounted sales; it's easy to get caught up in the low-ball prices and purchase excessively.
A Gaggle of Options
Thanks to the invention of the Internet, options are seemingly endless at the touch of your fingertips. Not long ago, hotel and flight options were limited to a few select name-brand entities. Today, however, it's a completely different story.
My sister recently announced her engagement. Since she lives almost 3,000 miles east of me, I will obviously be traveling to her wedding. Luckily, I have a year to plan my trip, budget my money, and find the best deals on flights and a hotel. I recently became aware of a website where people rent out their apartments to travelers, called airbnb.com. For half the cost of a hotel room, I can rent an entire studio in Manhattan. According to previous traveler reviews, I should be able to find a nice place at a very reasonable price, something that would have been much more difficult to do 10 years ago.
There's no need to completely deprive yourself of luxuries when you're on a budget. Using some of these options to help save money and still fund some addictions or fun activities is just a smarter way to live.