8 Clever Ways to Sample the Good Life

Want to live like a prince on a pauper's budget? Enjoy some of the finer things in life without spending a fortune with these hoity-toity hacks.

1. Make Friends With People in High Places

Oftentimes, getting ahead in life is all in whom you know. You've heard it before. Perhaps you've even experienced it — and if you have, good on you, because the outcome of such a situation is, by definition, a positive one.

As such, getting to "know" people is a solid practice to pick up. For instance, whenever I've moved to a new area I make it a point to introduce myself to the bartenders in my neighborhood when I visit a bar or restaurant. I go so far, in fact, to write down their names plus a few defining characteristics so I can remember them next time. After a while (and this never fails) we're on a first-name, "How's your day?" basis, which almost always turns into free drinks or other discounts regularly. I've saved hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars over the years by doing this, and I always repay that courtesy in my tips, as should you.

2. Crash Convention Receptions for Free Drinks

I hated attending conventions and making useless small talk with strangers when I worked in corporate America, but I rather enjoyed the open bar. Turns out I was doing it all wrong anyway — I didn't need that stinkin' job — according to Dr. Murray Grossan, a doctor who attends his fair share of conventions. He suggests crashing the party by grabbing a name tag at the entrance to look official so you can throw a few free ones back before anybody's the wiser.

3. Attend More Gallery Openings for Culture — And Booze

I enjoy art, and I'm an avid supporter of local artists as I've bought numerous pieces over the years to decorate my homes. Enjoying art also comes with perks, like attending gallery openings in your area while enjoying free snacks and wine. Get on the list by visiting a few of your home favorites and provide your email address in their guest book or another place where they cultivate visitors' information. You'll be in like Flynn for the next exhibition.

4. Rent a Luxury Vehicle

I would probably never rent a luxury vehicle myself — I'd be way too afraid that I'd inadvertently destroy it, and I don't feel the need to impress anybody with a flashy car. But if you're a luxury automobile super fan who balks at the idea of a luxury automobile payment every month, renting isn't a bad idea.

"Cars — brand-new — cost an average of $25,000 to $30,000, not including maintenance, fuel, and insurance, and then sit in your driveway 22 to 23 hours a day, typically," says Bradford Hines, personal finance expert and author of AutoProfitz, a book on how to make money buying and selling cars. "This amount of money easily is tripled for a high-end auto like an Audi, Mercedes, Porsche, etc. I use rental car service Turo, a peer-to-peer rental car company, to indulge in the occasional driving of a nice car to get it out of my system, cost effectively letting me not care about driving a 15-year-old Jetta the rest of the time. I recently rented a two-year-old Mercedes E-class for $125."

5. Order Apps for Dinner at the Fancy Restaurant

I enjoy dining out, and for me fancier is better for special occasions and the like. Sometimes though, I can't or won't let myself afford the high menu prices at some establishments. To settle on a compromise between my belly and back pocket, I often pop into higher-end eateries, grab a seat al fresco or at the bar, and dine on lesser-priced apps and salads to curb my hunger. By doing this, I'm able to enjoy the ambience and delicious cuisine without having to forage for my food the rest of the month. You also may even find a night at a multi-star joint that offers discounted specials, which is happening more and more as the restaurant wars continue to heat up.

6. Travel During a Location's Offseason

Frequent leisure travelers know that jet-setting during the offseason is where it's at. That's how I've gotten some of my most memorable vacations to places like Iceland and Costa Rica, and pet-insurance CEO Nick Braun is wise to that tactic, too.

"My wife and I like to take little two- and three-day trips together to have some fun and set the reset button," he admits. "Our favorite thing to do is book rooms at a fancy hotel, like Ritz Carlton or Four Seasons in the off season during the week. Rates are super low and you can pick any table at any restaurant while you're visiting because nobody else is there."

In addition, I highly recommend checking daily-deal sites like Groupon and LivingSocial for excellent vacation packages — that Costa Rica trip was a steal — as well as visiting the websites of the airlines you like to travel or the one based at your destination. They may have discounts that aren't publicized anywhere else.

7. Daily Deal Your Way to Finer Dining

If you want a heartier meal than appetizers at finer-dining establishments, daily deals also are good for shaving a significant amount off the bill.

"I like to cook food, and I avoid fast food and midlevel restaurants as well for health reasons and their typically uninspiring food," Hines says. "Pricier restaurants with incredible cuisine are something I like to do at least a few times a year to get to 'live.' What I do then is go to Groupon and LivingSocial monthly, look for steep discounts (my most recent was half off) at expensive restaurants, and I let the discount dictate which high-end restaurant I go to, which is fine with me since they all are a fun treat."

Restaurant.com is another great restaurant-savings resource, but by my own estimation it's slim pickins to find buzzed-about eateries on there that people are clamoring to get into. Still worth a look though.

8. Shop for Designer Clothes in Thrift Stores in Wealthier Areas

You may think all thrift shops are created equal, but they're not. Visit a secondhand store in an affluent area and you'll notice the difference. I've been to thrift stores that routinely stock designer brands like Ralph Lauren and Kate Spade, among others — you just have to know where to look.

Frugal-living expert Nedalee Thomas says, "I love expensive designer clothing and shoes but I don't like the price tags that go with it. For that reason I have made a habit of shopping in thrift stores located in wealthier areas. I've made many amazing finds, and the only thing better than knowing how good I look is knowing how little I paid."

Try it out for yourself and see what designers you can bring home at bargain-bin prices.

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8 Clever Ways to Sample the Good Life

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