How to Splurge Without Breaking the Bank

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Never indulging yourself is bound to undermine even the most determined efforts to reach savings goals. You need to have some fun.

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?

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Stacy Johnson

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