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Trim the cost of indulgences

By Paula Pant ·
Monday, March 11, 2013
Posted: 4 pm ET

Sometimes you want an indulgence. You crave dinner at a fancy restaurant, a day at the spa or a weekend trip to Miami.

Assuming you are debt-free (except for a reasonable mortgage or low-interest student loan) and have a decent emergency fund, it's OK to indulge every once in a while.

But how can you trim back on the costs of these little indulgences?

Check daily deals sites

I don't recommend checking daily deal websites such as Groupon, Scoutmob or LivingSocial on a regular basis. Reading the offers on these sites can trigger impulse purchases. But if you are searching for something specific, these sites can be your best friend.

To use deal sites effectively, first decide exactly what you want to buy. You may decide, for example, "I want a haircut and partial highlights at a salon that's within 15 minutes of my home." Then, search the deal sites. This is akin to making a grocery list before you hit the store -- it saves you from making a spur-of-the-moment purchase.

'Down-sell' yourself

Have you ever eaten a massive slice of chocolate cake? If so, you probably know the first bite is always the best. The second bite is still good, but it's not as good as the first. And by the time you get to bite No. 83 ... well, you do not even taste the cake anymore.

Similarly, the "main attraction" of the indulgence is the best part. Other aspects are "up-sells" designed to get you to spend more. Going out to dinner with friends is an indulgence; buying appetizers, dessert and wine is an up-sell. You can achieve the same effect -- the fun of dinner with friends -- without ordering that second margarita or that plate of appetizers.

Bring a frugal friend

Why not let peer pressure work to your advantage? Bring a frugal friend along on your indulgences.

Call someone who doesn't freely part with money and invite him or her to join you on a weekend trip to the lake. Your friend will gravitate toward money-saving alternatives, such as brewing his or her own coffee, or preparing dinner at home. And you'll be more likely to suggest cheap or free ways to enjoy the day, too.

Paula Pant blogs at about creating wealth and living life on your own terms. She's traveled to nearly 30 countries, owns five rental units and works for herself. Follow Paula on Twitter @AffordAnything.

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