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12 ways to splurge -- frugally

Today is National Splurge Day. Use these tips to celebrate without breaking the budget.

By Donna_Freedman Jun 18, 2012 2:03PM
Image: Man feeding woman © Jack Hollingsworth/Brand X/Getty Images

In 1994 a public-relations agent named Adrienne Sioux Koopersmith invented National Splurge Day. In a recent post on her blog, Koopersmith suggested that people not only treat themselves but also "splurge (unto) others as (you'd) want others to splurge unto you."

Although I'm a frugalist, I completely agree.

Nonessential items or experiences improve your quality of life and help keep you true to your financial goals. I relish the occasional splurge, whether it's a trip to the United Kingdom or just a high-quality cupcake.


But my splurges are frugal ones. I see no reason not to plan a trip, get a massage or take my niece and her two boys out for lunch. I also see no reason to overpay for my good times.

Here are some of the ways I splurge without breaking the bank.

Online cost-cutters

1. Cash-back shopping: Sites such as, and Mr. Rebates get finders' fees for sending you to thousands of retailers. They share those fees with you, to the tune of 1% to 30% back on whatever you buy.

2. Deal sites:
Electronics, apparel, toys, jewelry, sometimes even half-price gift cards -- you can find some pretty astonishing prices at sites like Dealnews, and Prices are sometimes so low it can be a little too easy to buy. (See "4 ways to kill impulse buying.") But do keep an eye out because the nice purse or the drill-bit set you're saving for might show up at a today-only price.

3. Discounted gift cards:
Buy plastic for hundreds of retailers (including restaurants and movie theaters) on the secondary market and use them like cash. I save 3% to 20% this way.

4. Price comparison websites: Aggregators such as PriceGrabberNextag and uncover the best prices on the Web.

5. Online discount codes: Coupon Cabin, RetailMeNot, and similar sites dig up discounts and free shipping codes for almost anything you can imagine.

6. Social buying:
Sites like Groupon, Living Social and City Deals offer discounted deals for a huge variety of products and services. Note: Groupon and City Deals can be accessed through cash-back shopping sites such as Extrabux, FatWallet or Mr. Rebates for additional savings of up to 6%.

In-person savings

7. Coupon books:
These collections of buy-one-get-one coupons and other discounts are available in both national (e.g., The Entertainment Book) and local formats (such as Seattle's Chinook Book). Note: The Entertainment Book can be ordered via cash-back shopping sites, for discounts of up to 30%.

8. Garage sales: Like thrift stores, only outdoors -- and the deals are often much better. I've treated myself to great books (and bought great gifts) for as little as a quarter.

9. My Coke Rewards: free movie tickets.

10. free movie screenings.

11. Thrift stores: Some people swear they'd never shop secondhand. Others swear by the bargains. Stores vary in selection and quality, but I've bought clothes for me and gifts for others this way.

12. Assorted travel deals:
Buddy passes have gotten me some incredibly cheap trips. Hostels aren't luxurious, but I got a week in New York City for the price of one night in a Manhattan hotel (tell me a week in NYC isn't a splurge). The Megabus took me from New York to Philadelphia for $1 (yes, $1).

Other ways to live it up

Splurges aren't always about big outlays of cash, incidentally. Setting aside an afternoon or evening for some homemade spa treatments is a relaxing treat. Bonus: After this kind of splurge you both look and feel better.

Or how about something like: 
  • Finding someone to keep your kids overnight so you and your partner can have a grown-up date.
  • Making a special meal with a really good cut of meat (or some artisan bread and heirloom vegetables) and a bottle of wine.
  • A free DVD from the library and some flavored popcorn.
  • Inviting friends over for tea.
  • Watching for a mystery shopping assignment for a local hotel (it feels like a mini-vacation).
Small pleasures feel impossibly luxurious if you're frugal the rest of the time. You can always get back to soaking dried beans on Monday.

What's your favorite frugal splurge?

More on MSN Money:
Jun 18, 2012 2:27PM
Good article and very true....Just yesterday...Father's Day ...treated DD2 to a treat at Dairy Queen. True I had a buy one get one coupon...but this did not diminish the great time I had by having a "special time" with one of my favorite people. Came to just under $5 for both of us...worth every penny!!!
Jun 18, 2012 2:41PM
I am packing for a trip overseas in  few days. (A real splurge!).

One of the items I'm packing is a fabulous dress that makes me look like a million bucks. It seriously looks like it was tailor made for me.

This sparkly number (bejeweled with small, black rhinestones) set me back about $5 at a local Thrift store. Since I look great in it I will relish the compliments that much more aboard ship. Many of the items for my trip will be second hand.

I might mention that after my cruise I'll get a 4% rebate from Upromise in exchange for using their travel service and got a 3% discount on the cruise for paying with cash.

Jun 18, 2012 3:38PM

more like for the past 3.5yrs now, national hold on to whatever few $$$ u've got left cuz this nightmare obama regime isn't over yet, but in a few months


Romney + obama = Reagan/carter redux

Jun 18, 2012 4:11PM
Is this a made-up day?  Sounds like something a bunch of self-indulgent people decided to celebrate so they wouldn't have to feel guilty for doing what they were going to do anyway.  If you don't have the money for something, using a coupon doesn't make it okay,   If you deserve a trip, take one, nobody has to name a day splurge for you to know you deserve a rest.  The problem is the word "Splurge."  It is puts the picture in your mind of those who already shop too much, eat too much, and do everything more than they should who use the excuse that this major splurge is only happening once and is rare, when in fact it is not rare. 
The word "splurge and your column about frugality do not go together.  It just doesn't work.

Jun 18, 2012 3:25PM
Actually, it's not National Splurge Day. It's National Kick a Useless Blogger that Invents Useless National Pseudo Holidays. So get kicking everybody.
Jun 18, 2012 4:20PM
Yes America, go out and splurge.....go get yourself another bucket of checken.
Jun 18, 2012 6:08PM
I'm going to treat myself to food AND shelter,  oops bush spent all my monet on his war. Too bad Obama cant fix 8 years of bush's work in just 3 years,but then bush had good advisors. prob. why he's worth  1/4 billion todayh
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Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.


Donna Freedman

Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.