How to Splurge Without Breaking the Bank

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June 18 was National Splurge Day, another made-up-just-for-fun holiday. This one came about in 1994 and was invented by a publicist who suggested that people treat themselves and also those around them.

Your definition of “splurge” may vary. Here’s what I think: Whether they’re experiences or lasting treats, a splurge can not only brighten your day but help keep you on the frugal path.

Utter, slavish denial of self can lead to falling off the wagon in a big, big way, which will undermine – or undo – the progress you’ve made toward meeting your financial goals.

But there’s no reason to overpay for a splurge, be it a trip abroad or a really good cupcake. That’s why I’m suggesting eight ways to do it up without overdoing it.

The relative rarity of such splurges makes them that much more delectable. You don’t want to end up on the hedonic treadmill, do you?

Trimming the cost

Discounted gift cards. Buy them for something you want now (spa services, restaurant meals) or something you’ll need later (drugstore, pet food, new glasses). Some secondary card sellers can be accessed through sites like Extrabux, FatWallet or Mr. Rebates for cash back of up to 1.5 percent of your total order.

Social buying vouchers. Be it a want (mani-pedi, massage, dance lessons) or a need (we just had our furnace inspected via Groupon), the money you save can go elsewhere in your budget. Or just use it to buy more goodies. Note: You can stretch those splurge funds even further by ordering Groupon or Eversave through a cash-back shopping site. Oh, and the Swagbucks reward site just added Groupon to its Shop and Earn program.

High-end ingredients. Get the shrimp, the nice wine, the super-dark chocolate, the fancy cheese or whatever it is you love but don’t often get. It’s cheaper to make a nice antipasto platter, meal or dessert yourself than to pay someone to do it for you. Failing that, spring for …

A really nice restaurant meal. Again, if you don’t do this very often, then it’s soooo sumptuous. Being careful with your money the rest of the time makes it possible to have a steak dinner and/or an ethereal dessert. Or even just a mess of ribs, if that’s what you crave.

Out and about

Live entertainment. Watch for free concerts and outdoor theater. Look up “pay what you can” performances in your area. Volunteer as an usher. Keep an eye out for inexpensive local events like Jazz Night, improv comedy, and no- or low-minimum clubs.

In-home entertainment. Invite your best pals over for a formal tea or frou-frou girly drinks on the deck (again, cheaper to mix yourself). Set up a badminton net or horseshoe pit and fire up the grill for a potluck cookout.

Budget travel. Seek killer airfares through services like Travelzoo, airfarewatchdog, CheapOair, Yapta or Bing Travel. Take the Megabus if you want a really cheap ride. Stay in a hostel if you can stand dorm-style accommodations (although some have couples rooms). Become a mystery shopper and watch for overnights at nearby hotels. Access to a pool plus the knowledge you don’t have to get up and make the bed can feel just as luxurious as a weekend getaway at that upstate B&B.

Super-low-budget splurges. A long bubble bath and a new library book. Trading child care with a pal so you can have a romantic date with your partner. Jumping in a local lake. Setting up a potluck with friends you haven’t seen for ages. Grown-up pajama parties, wherein you and a couple of besties set each other’s hair and talk about boys, or blue-sky an entrepreneurial effort, or strategize your next raise.

Readers: What are your favorite frugal splurges?

More on DonnaFreedman.com:

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  • karik

    I’ve been told that I’m too practical for my own good, but once in awhile, I splurge. I love good chocolate. I don’t drink and in days gone by even, a bottle of liquor would stay in the cupboard for years. Now I buy one small bottle (the airplane size) just for a shot or taste. I ask company to BYOB and they don’t seem to mind. At this time of year, there are a lot of fairs and Christmas light displays that are for the price of a donation to the food bank. I think a worthy cause. One year, my late husband and I found out about a grand opening of a very high end mall . They were going to have food and champagne samplings throughout the mall, and promos etc. We were poor as church mice, but we got dressed up in our best clothes and walked down to the new mall. We were treated like royalty and had such a good time. I love candles and have found them for years NEW and very inexpensive at thrift stores, market etc. I also make a lot of my food and goodies for gifts, so when company comes, as long as I have candles lit, good food and music, it’s a fantastic time and everyone loves it. I could go on and on about my frugal indulgences, but it would take a long list. This is just some of my more favorite ones…