Saving Money

Cheap Alternatives To The “Must Haves” In Your Life

This guest post is by Ginger, a late 20’s fashionista, wife and graduate student who strives to have it all while keeping watch over her personal budget. She is the blogger behind “Girls Just Wanna Have Funds”, a blog dedicated to the woman that wants to take charge of her personal finances. Just like Ginger, we here at Mint.com value budgeting, investing and frugality.

Admit it. Being frugal isn’t something that you look forward to; after all it means that you’ll be giving up or cutting back on some or all of your favorite activities. But what if you found a way to cut back without giving up those things completely?

What if you found a way to actually get a hold of the things you enjoy without spending a fortune?

personal budget

To prove that this can be done, I’ve compiled some money saving tips and a comprehensive list of cheap alternatives to the “must haves” in our lives.

Shopping

There are a number of web sites out there that can help you stay fashionable for less! These are but a few of my favorites:

Also, check out this list of stores from Fashion Under $100. These stores provide trendy options without breaking the bank:

Money Saving Tip: Check out annual and semi-annual sales and buy clothes at certain times of the year. For example, after Christmas or New Year and at the end of every season, many department stores seek to unload their inventory, allowing consumers to benefit from the deep discounts.

Entertainment

If you’re always on the go and never at home to watch your favorite television shows, dump the Tivo and your cable company and plug in to iTunes instead. iTunes allows you to watch your favorite shows online for a small fee, $1.99. For example, Lost, Grey’s Anatomy and Boston Legal can be bought per episode for $1.99, or $24 per month. What’s great is that you get to watch them sans commercials and on your own time. Apple also now offers movie rentals for $2.99 – $3.99, and HD for a dollar more.

If this doesn’t work for you then hang out at a friend’s house, go to your local sports bar, or join a meetup.com group that gets together to hang out and watch popular network shows. This option really appeals to me as I seek ways to enjoy entertainment while maintaining a flexible schedule so that I can live more productively. This is just one way I’ve been able to keep within my personal budget.

Money Saving Tip: Most major network shows can be watched for FREE on their respective channels such as ABC, NBC and the like. Remember that you don’t need to pay hefty cable fees to catch good shows or movies on television.

Automobile

One thing I love about living in a major metropolitan area is that we have so many options for getting around town. Think of the money you can save without owning a car: car payments, insurance, gas and maintenance – all of which can be costly! Zip Car is an option for those of us who only need to use a car on occasion. Zip Car rates start at $50 per month for the extra value plan, and $9/hr or $66/day for occasional driving.

Here’s a map with their current locations:

This way you’re able to have the convenience of a car without the monetary commitment. The access fees pay for gas, parking and insurance! You can’t beat that!

Other options include biking to work, using public transportation and carpooling. The latter brings to mind an awesome service facilitated by Erideshare.com. Use the site to connect with others who are carpooling in your area. From the website: “you’ll find this service a good way to commute or travel inexpensively, and maybe even make a few friends.” If you’re new in town and looking to save money, this is a great option.

Now if you must have a car, then either buy it used or check out Beater Cars, which is another kind of used car becoming popular amongst the frugal. Why? According to Beater Review, buying new is for suckers! With a new car depreciating 20%-30% in the first year it makes perfect sense. This saves you extra money on insurance, and in most cases you won’t even have a car payment.

Money Saving Tip: Make the best choice for you and your situation. If you don’t live in a city or have Zip Car within reach, then buying an inexpensive or used car, or deciding to carpool should help you save money.

Eating Out

Cutting back on dining out takes discipline. How about these frugal alternatives?

Potluck with friends

  • This is a great way to hang out with friends and try out new dishes. Keep leftovers for work or dinner the next day.
  • Save money by cooking in bulk and using it for lunch and dinners during the week. Or be creative by turning leftovers into “planned-overs”.

Make your favorite restaurant meal at home

  • Instead of buying drinks or food at restaurants, why not find the recipes for your favorite restaurant dishes then make them from scratch at home?

Money Saving Tip: Check out this great article from J.D. over at Get Rich Slowly, who has additional great money saving tips on how to save while eating out.

What do you think of these alternatives? Which ones do you employ in your own quest for frugality? What is the impact of these choices on your personal budget?