Have you ever wondered if you are wasting money on expensive items that could be substituted for less expensive versions?
I have been scouring magazines, newspapers and my high school economics textbook for the last hour trying to acquire insight into this topic. Substitution is a primary tenant of economics, and economics is life (though I sometimes hate to admit it). We naturally want to substitute items that are expensive. Yet, we still love expensive things.
So how do we walk the line between economic frugality and shiny bells and whistles? When do we spend, and when do we save?
Prescriptions: Please, just buy the generic forms. It is so much cheaper and there is no difference. But, make sure you ask your pharmacist because sometimes pharmacists are deceptive and will fill a non-generic prescription just to be tricky.
Shampoo and Conditioner: There's nothing better than the "just-cut-and-washed" feeling of a day at the salon. Stylists are always trying to coerce customers to buy the fancy shampoo on the salon shelves. I usually stand my ground and say a hearty "no" to the designer suds. But it has been brought to my attention by all of the shiny-hair DePauw students that "once you go Redken, you never go back." When compared to the benefits of the substitutes, fancy shampoo is just better. You can expect to pay about 50 dollars for two salon-size bottles of designer products. The upside to the price is that the bottles should last you at least six months or more. However, look for designer shampoo sales at beauty stores where you will find cheaper prices. If you are still nervous about paying so much, I suggest that you use both cheap and designer shampoos intermittently throughout the year — a week of Redken followed by a week of Pantene. Hair likes cleansing diversity to begin with, and your wallet will thank you too.
Music: I refuse to advocate the illegal downloading of music. So, splurge on some good tunes! I have a specific portion of my budget dedicated to the $1.29 iTunes charge for new songs. New music will make you happy so don't feel guilty about clicking the download button every once in awhile!
Food: Unless it's Oreos, Lipton Green Tea (Mixed Berry) or Coca Cola, buy the generic brand of food. For example, you cannot tell the difference between Vlasic pickles and Walmart pickles, so just buy the cheaper ones.
Luggage: Please, do not buy cheap luggage. It will break. Make an investment in the way you travel, so that when you finally take that dream trip to Italy, you don't have to worry about broken bags and lost souvenirs!
A data plan: If you are in college, I am confident that you need a smart phone with a data plan. Save the money from the prescriptions and food to pay the gentle monthly fee for a small data plan. I'm not saying to buy an iPhone, I'm just saying that phone companies offer small WiFi plans that will allow you to check your email in a bind.
Books: Rent your textbooks and go to the library for your leisurely reading. Your local public library misses you so dearly.
The save/splurge list goes on forever, and there are no hard and fast rules. However, remembering the rules of substitution will assist you this summer when making your budgeting decisions. Whatever you do, just make sure your splurges are worth the money you spend on them.
Life is too easily changeable to spend too much. Yet, entirely too short to not spend at all.
— Hendrickson is a sophomore from Indianapolis, majoring in English writing and communication. firstname.lastname@example.org