Money

9 ways to live the dream on a dime

You don't need to be flush to be happy. Author Dina Gachman knows that from personal experience. She has faced student loans, made ends meet on unpaid internships, and, along the way, figured out how to live the dream on a dime.

"It's not about feeling mopey because you can't afford a private jet with solid gold fuselage," she writes in her book "Brokenomics." "We'd all love free-flowing Dom Pérignon … but it's not about that. It's about surviving and thriving, no matter what your situation may be."

Here are nine of Gachman's tried-and-true money savings tips that will help you appreciate life in the cheap seats.

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Live large in a small space

"There are definitely perks when it comes to renting, and if you're in a funk about your 300 square-foot living quarters, it's time to stop pining for a Spanish colonial mansion and start loving your little casita," writes Gachman.

One of Gachman's favorite psychological tricks is to think of her tiny, oven-less apartment as a "beach bungalow." "If you live near the mountains, call it your 'cabin,'" she writes. "If you're in the plains, call it your 'homestead.'"

And remember, "you don't have to pay property taxes, deal with maintenance issues, or stress about whether the value of your house is rising or sinking … someday, when you're writing a check for your property taxes, you might just think back on your thimble-sized cabin/homestead and miss the good old days."

Live large in someone else's space by house-sitting

"The beauty of house-sitting is that you can pay rent on a tiny apartment and have a garden, a Jacuzzi, an outdoor shower, and a king-sized bed, at least for a time," writes Gachman. "The trick is to not get attached."

Plus, it's an easy way to earn some extra cash.

If you land a house-sitting gig, you'll want to be respectful of the other person's space, she notes, which means water the plants, take out the trash, wash the sheets and towels before you leave, and leave everything exactly the way it was when you arrived.

Don't be afraid to haggle

"I haggle all the time within reason," writes Gachman. "It's not about being cheap; it's about being frugal. There's a difference."

Keep in mind that there are acceptable things to negotiate, like cable bills and cars, and unacceptable things, like restaurant bills and taxes. Other expenses Gachman says are worth haggling over include mortgage rates, laptop repairs, gym memberships, hotel rooms, medical bills and late fees.

Take advantage of flea markets

If you approach the flea market with an open mind, you can find "affordable, unique gems," says Gachman.

"Scouring flea markets is an economical, fun way to decorate your place with things that no one else will have. It's the opposite of IKEA and Pottery Barn. Those places have some great, practical stuff, but it's nice to mix it up."

Plus, it's an ideal place to practice your haggling skills.

Check out FleaPortal and Collectors.org for a list of different indoor and outdoor flea markets in the U.S.

Travel where you know someone

Hotel and Airbnb bills can add up. To eliminate that expense when traveling, visit a city where you know someone.

"I'm not saying you should use people, obviously, but if you're dying to go to Paris and you have a friend who is living alone in a three-bedroom condo in Singapore — go to Singapore," says Gachman.

Be prepared for unexpected expenses

Life happens, and no matter how hard you to try to avoid them, unexpected expenses will always arise. These unforeseen costs could be the wedding gift you forgot to buy, a medical emergency or a trip to the mechanic, and the best way to prepare for them is to work them into your budget.

In fact, the moment you buy a car, Gachman suggests "putting away $10 from every paycheck or socking away $500. ... It's never fun when your day starts out perfectly grand — you're driving down the road, happy as can be — and then you hear a hissing sound quickly followed by white smoke wafting from the hood.

"This is why you need the fund. It's so you can be somewhat calm when the mechanic tells you it'll cost two grand to fix the problem."

Additionally, you'll want to plan for the worst by starting an emergency fund and eventually work your way up to saving three-to-six months' worth of living expenses.

Go shopping in your friends' closets

Before you wear out your credit cards at the mall, check out your friends' wardrobes, Gachman recommends: "Chances are you have at least one friend or sibling who is your same size who doesn't dress in Crocs. … When it comes to sharing, find friends who have similar taste in clothing. Trade with them. Start a barter system."

You can also get a bunch of friends together and host a clothes-swap party, "which basically means you all bring the clothes you don't want anymore, drink wine and trade with each other," writes Gachman. "By the end of the night you might have a new, free wardrobe."

Skip the gym membership and master the home gym

"Not all gym memberships are so extravagant that they'll bankrupt you, but I've saved over $2,600 in four years by not having a (low-priced) gym membership," writes Gachman.

She prefers Billy Blanks' workout DVDs — "all you'll need are some four-pound dumbbells, a plastic Hula-Hoop, a towel … and a can-do attitude" — but there are plenty of ways to stay fit on the cheap.

Try following free YouTube workouts at home, walking, biking, or hiking outside, making the most of training apps or joining a running club.

Live large in the cheap seats

"You don't need to be part of Leonardo DiCaprio's entourage to enjoy the theater or a VIP art opening or an NBA game once in awhile," says Gachman. No matter where your live, "there are ways to get out of the house and experience some culture, even if you're in the cheap seats, which are better than no seats at all."

Get your culture fix without spending much by checking out art gallery openings, street fairs, free museum days, outdoor theater and concerts, gardens and university events if you live near a college.

"Every town has something to offer," writes Gachman. Find pleasure in the abundance of activities that don't cost much, or anything.

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