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Live Well On Less

Take a chance on a student.

Lawrence recommends contacting hairdressing or massage schools in your area to connect with stylists and bodyworkers in training. These students are required to practice on real-life clients, usually with supervision, before receiving professional certification, and services will cost you a fraction of the usual price. "I get my hair highlighted three or four times a year, and that can add up," says Cari Dineen, 32, a REDBOOK staffer who lives in Westfield, NJ. "Luckily, I discovered a nearby beauty school where I pay a third of the cost of a regular salon. The students take a little longer, but surprisingly, their work is second to none — they want it to be perfect to impress their teachers!" Find a reputable beauty school near you at beautyschoolsdirectory.com.

Use the card (not the credit card).

Did you know that you can get CDs, DVDs, and even video games for the price of a library card (i.e., zilch)? Julia Rhodes Davis, 25, an event planner in New York City, often borrows CDs to keep her playlist of dinner-party music fresh. "I've taken out everything from Miles Davis to some kooky compilations that I'd never actually buy but are still fun," she says.

Make talk cheap.

Irene Unferdorfer, 28, from Union City, CA, was frustrated that her cell phone was costing her $100 a month even though she was only using it to call a handful of friends. Enter billshrink.com, a Website that analyzes one of your monthly statements for free and recommends the best packages for you, taking into account who you call the most and when, the features you use, and which company offers the best coverage in your area. "By following the site's suggestion, I've lowered my monthly bill by $40," Irene says. "It was so easy, and I didn't have to do a ton of research." BillShrink will soon expand into the credit card market, directing users to the best card for their individual spending habits.

Put your talent to work.

What began 12 years ago as a hobby for Barbara Stanley, 53, in Blairsville, GA, has turned into a gift-giver's dream. Inspired by items she'd seen at local art fairs, she creates her own handcrafted gifts for friends and family. "An attractive, functional gift doesn't have to cost a fortune," she says. "Plus, during holiday season you don't have to fight people in stores to get deals on expensive electronics."

5 Things to Ask Yourself Before You Buy

Money can't buy happiness, but it can sometimes buy stuff that makes you happy. Before you fork over your hard-earned cash for a purchase, determine whether you're investing in something that will truly add joy and utility to your life. Ask yourself:

1. Is this something I will use at least once a week? Will it be useful for at least a year?

2. Will this thing make me smile at least 10 times? Will it contribute to lasting memories?

3. Have I recently seen an ad for this item or experience? If so, am I secretly kidding myself that it will make me as skinny and giddy as the actress in said ad?

4. What am I willing to give up for this purchase? Would I be willing to eat ramen noodles for a week or give up my premium movie channel to finance it?

5. Can I wait until this goes on sale to buy it? Or at least 24 hours? (Hint: The answer to this one is always yes!)

 

Originally published on August 19, 2008

 

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