3 Ways to Budget Beyond the Basic Expenses

With some ingenuity, you can enjoy life’s little extras.

After you splurged on the birthday gift for your mom and had to pay for that car repair, you barely had enough money to pay bills last month, let alone take a weekend away or hire someone to do yard work. The truth is, living within your means doesn’t have to translate into skimping on the extras. With a little bit of research, you’ll find that treating yourself on a budget is possible.

Be flexible about scheduling to travel for less. If your travel schedule is flexible, travel booking websites like Expedia, Kayak and Travelocity routinely offer last-minute deals on flights, hotels and vacation packages. Priceline.com and Hotwire.com allow for even deeper discounts by allowing you to negotiate prices, as long as you’re not a stickler for a specific airline or hotel chain. Check out tourism reference websites like Concierge or Fodor’s, too. They review 4- and 5-star hotels, restaurants and attractions in destinations such as New York City, San Diego, Galway Bay and Costa Rica and recommend the time of year when rates are cheapest.

Subscribe to daily deals on websites such as Groupon or Living Social One of the first things cut from a trimmed-down budget is often eating out. But with the advent of websites like Groupon and Living Social, you can still enjoy fine dining. These sites use group buying power to negotiate big discounts—sometimes up to 90 percent off—with local businesses. Sign up and check your email, Twitter and Facebook feeds every day to take advantage of deals like $20 for $40 worth of fare at the local French bistro or the new Italian restaurant across town. These discount sites also negotiate deals on apparel, exercise classes and spa treatments, while letting you personalize the deals you receive. Find more of these options in The Best Places to Go for Online Savings.

Don’t think of hiring help as an all or nothing proposition. Maybe you can’t afford a dedicated housecleaner or someone to do yard work every week. Instead, hire a housecleaning service to do one big cleaning each season or right before your in-laws’ semiannual visit. You can also ask the housecleaning service to clean only high traffic areas like the kitchen, living room and bathroom to save money. Similarly, take a phased approach to landscaping. Sketch out your own plan for the yard, as Ann Archer of MSN real estate suggests, and hire a pro to review it on a consulting basis. By doing some of the legwork, you’ll be able to complete the project yourself for a fraction of the cost.

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