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Financial Fun: Finding the Alternative

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Do you ever think to yourself: Why on earth is ____ so expensive? The answer is generally some combination of “because people will pay that” and “that’s what it costs to produce/provide.” But what if you just flat out are not willing to pay for ____ because it’s too expensive? Well, that depends on what ____ actually is, but typically you can find a lower cost alternative.

If your “fill in the blank” is an essential item…

…such as groceries, medical care, or utilities, your best bet for a low cost alternative is changing your usage habits. There are a ton of tips out there for saving money at the grocery store, but you can also look at your food consumption. Do you tend to throw out a lot of fresh fruits and veggies because you couldn’t eat them before they went bad? Opt for cheaper frozen options that keep much longer and still help you maintain a balanced diet. For medical care, focus on using all the preventative care covered by your insurance plan (typically at 100%) to avoid emergency doctor or hospital visits. You may also see some savings by making pre-tax contributions to a Health Savings Account if you have a High Deductible Health Plan. If your heating bill is costing you a fortune, consider having an audit of your home’s heat loss to give you some tips for making your home more efficient. Some utilities provide this service for free.

If your “fill in the blank” is a home item…

…like a beautiful tile backsplash, claw foot tub, or home theater system, your low cost alternative might involve getting creative. If you can’t bring yourself to spend $25 per square foot on a mosaic mixed-material backsplash, browse Pinterest or Houzz for a more frugal find. Rustic wood backsplashes are popular right now, and a fairly simple and inexpensive DIY project. You can also visit resale stores or architectural salvage stores for gently used or vintage home finds. When it comes to electronics, it doesn’t always pay to, well—pay more. Do your research and see what system has the best reviews from consumers and experts. You may be surprised to learn it’s sometimes a less expensive (albeit less trendy) option. Since this isn’t a category of essential items, you can still choose just to skip these upgrades altogether if you find they’re just too expensive for your reasonable tastes.

If your “fill in the blank” is a big ticket item…

…maybe appliances, a car, or even a home. These are items you probably won’t skip purchasing, but since you don’t have to have them, you may get a little wiggle room. For appliances, look for “open box” deals. Many big hardware stores and local appliance stores will have these discount options. They come from incorrect orders, customer returns, or packaging problems. Basically, you could get a brand new appliance at a deep discount, just because it arrived the wrong color or didn’t fit in someone’s house like they planned. You can also go the “refurbished” appliance route, but make sure it comes with a warranty. For getting a deal on a decent car, consider buying pre-owned vehicles, less popular colors, and “stripped down” options. For a home purchase, be sure you’re not paying for upgrades you don’t need. In fact—if you plan to remodel or redecorate to fit your tastes, it might make more sense to buy a dated home in a good neighborhood.

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