Living Frugal Without Compromise

Friday, September 17, 2010

It can be hard to live the frugal life – no joke. Sure you can find generic alternatives for food, medicine, and brand name clothing (hooray for knock-offs!). You can even get discount tickets for movies, concerts, and travel. And there are plenty of items you can buy reclaimed (also known by the more common title of second-hand). But there are some products you greatly desire that don’t seem to have any option for discount divas. For example, you will have a very difficult time locating a suitable (and cheap) alternative to the iPad, the PS3, and a number of other high-end items for which a lower price-point is simply not in the works. However, you can stay true to a frugal lifestyle while still getting almost any item you covet. Here are a few examples of how you can stick to a budget when you buy luxury items.

Automobiles. Cars are just plain expensive, but there are ways to get the same thing for less if you know what to look for. Used cars can be a hassle, but certified used vehicles are often only a year or two old (generally coming off a lease), cost anywhere from 10-50% less than original, and still come with a full warranty. Throw in an AAA discount and you could get an amazing price on a car that is certified by dealers to run like new.

Diamonds. If you crave the real deal but just can’t bring yourself to throw down the dough, there are a number of alternatives. Cubic zirconium is certainly the cheapest (although not too good looking), but you’re better off asking for lab-created diamonds. You can get them for a fraction of the cost, and the best part is that they’re actually real diamonds! Although they’re not formed naturally over billions of years (and therefore not technically “real”), they are otherwise no different from natural diamonds.

Leather. The only way to get discount leather products is to buy them used (although vintage leather can sometimes cost just as much) or go for fake. Now, most fakes (naugahyde, pleather) don’t look too much like the real thing. But more and more faux leather manufacturers are turning to microfiber substitutes that are so much like the real thing (mimicking the texture and weight of leather) that it can be hard to tell the difference.

Designer handbags. Knock-offs can be almost as good as the real thing and no one need be the wiser if you shop smart. And you can feel pretty darn smart carrying around a $50 bag that your neighbor paid upwards of $1,000 for.

Designer clothing. You don’t even have to go for knock-offs when it comes to discount designer clothes. Check out stores like T.J. Maxx to find great deals on the luxe brands you lust after or check out the designer lines at superstores like Target (Zac Posen, Isaac Mizrahi) and Kohl’s (Vera Wang, Lauren Conrad).

Of course, not everyone is a slave to fashion or the material things in life and most of us can get by without name brand items. But there are going to be times when you want items that are well beyond the scope of your budget. And if you want to continue to live an uncompromisingly frugal lifestyle, you can certainly find ways to do just that while still obtaining reasonable facsimiles of the expensive products you love.

Kyle Simpson writes for TotallyMoney where you can find information on financial products and browse through  credit cards to find the card that meets your needs.

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