We know times are tough, but there are some places where you really shouldn't cut costs--like on health insurance and personal hygiene. Here, five areas where it's worth spending the cash, plus suggestions on alternative ways to save a buck.
1. Cutting your own hair. Though it can help you trim your budget, clipping your own hair is often a bad idea. Take it from someone who tried to trim her own bangs and ended up wearing headbands for several weeks until they grew out. Not pretty, people! Most salons offer free touch-ups in between appointments, or you can ask for a stylist-in-training rather than a seasoned (read: expensive) pro. If you're really strapped for cash, then ask a friend to trade hairstyling services for, say, Web design or a piece of your handmade jewelry. Bonus: Many bottle blondes are going darker, because it requires fewer trips to the stylist for touch-ups.
2. Living without health insurance. If you think you can't afford to pay for health insurance, then wait until you land in the ER with a broken arm or catch a nasty virus and are too cheap to shell out for a doctor's appointment. If you've been recently laid off, ask about COBRA. Or check out group plans through organizations like the Freelancer's Union. At the very least, spring for catastrophic coverage and see if you can get covered under a parent or domestic partner's plan.
3. Forgoing the personal hygiene products. Trust us: One day without deodorant and your cube mates will wish you'd called in sick. Deodorant, shower gel, etc. aren't that expensive, but every bit of savings counts, so clip coupons from the Sunday paper, buy generic brands, or send away for a few free samples through websites like FreeSampleForager.com.
4. Stealing office supplies from work. Chances are, nobody will notice a few missing pens. But once you start sneaking entire boxes of folders or a few rolls of toilet paper into your purse, you know you've crossed the line. If you're anticipating a layoff or trying to set up a home-based business, try services like Freecycle.com, where you can get gratis goods without the guilt.
5. Sleeping on a futon mattress or an AeroBed. All those nights you lie awake tossing and turning might be due to that lumpy mattress, rather than your lack of cash flow (though that could be a factor too). A futon may have cut it in college, but it's not working for you now. Instead, invest in a decent-quality mattress so you'll feel rested and ready to give 110% at job interviews and everything else you do.
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