6 Hacks to Boost Your Budget

A huge part of successful budgeting is correctly deciphering needs — determining which items you actually need versus what you only want. For instance, do you need to spend money on clothing for special events or could you borrow or rent a dress instead? Is a car worth buying, or should you stick with a lease? In some instances you’re also calculating how much you value your time, whether making money on the side justifies extra work hours.

With the rise of the sharing economy, fulfilling these “needs” doesn’t have to necessitate full-on purchases. There are instances where renting, borrowing or even selling your own piece of the pie makes more sense. To boost your budget, here are six of those times.

Time to Re-think the Numbers

Time to Re-think the Numbers

A huge part of successful budgeting is correctly deciphering needs — determining which items you actually need versus what you only want. For instance, do you need to spend money on clothing for special events or could you borrow or rent a dress instead? Is a car worth buying, or should you stick with a lease? In some instances you’re also calculating how much you value your time, whether making money on the side justifies extra work hours.

With the rise of the sharing economy, fulfilling these “needs” doesn’t have to necessitate full-on purchases. There are instances where renting, borrowing or even selling your own piece of the pie makes more sense. To boost your budget, here are six of those times.

Share: Designer Clothes & Accessories

Share: Designer Clothes & Accessories

Event gowns and dresses (also known as garments you will only wear once because they will most likely be photographed to death) are inherently not worth the money. While a chic, versatile event look can be recycled with the right accessories, gowns that truly wow with sparkle (think galas, black tie dinners, event openings or upscale weddings) have a shelf life of exactly one night — which is why you should avoid purchasing them when you can.

Rent The Runway has an ever-changing selection of designer, memorable gowns of ranging styles, lengths and cuts, many of which can be borrowed for under $100 for four or eight days depending on the garment. Similarly, Bag, Borrow or Steal offers luxury purses that can be rented for an entire month for $100 and up — perfect for wedding season or a series of important meetings.

Share: Transportation

Share: Transportation

These days, owning a car and being bogged down by insurance payments, gas and parking tickets is pretty retro. If you live in a city where you have access to reliable, affordable public transportation, it makes zero financial sense to own a car.

However, it does make sense to use one when you need it, such as weekend trips, grocery store runs and when you’re moving to a new home. ZipCar is one of the most popular options here, with gas and insurance included. However, there is a one-time application fee, an annual or monthly fee and an hourly/daily fee (all of which varies per state) to factor in.

Hertz On Demand is another option of the same ilk: find a car near you, use for as long as you like and return the vehicle to a designated spot. (Hertz is cited as having fewer fees than ZipCar, depending on your commitment).

Uber, the car-sharing taxi service hybrid which is cheaper than some taxis, is also an option. It even provides the ability to easily split the fare with a friend when you use the Uber app. Similarly, Lyft offers “community drivers” who can take you from A to B on the cheaper side of commercial car services.

But car ownership isn’t the only transportation model going the way of the dinosaur. Bike aficionados can also save money (and time) by turning to CitiBike to rent a bike in New York City for $25 (plus tax) for a week or $9.95 (plus tax) for a day (Portland Bike Share and Capital Bikeshare in Washington D.C, Arlington and Alexandria, VA and Montgomery County, MD have similar arrangements). RentABikeNow.com also allows for bike rentals across the entire country (plus Canada!) via partnerships with over 250 bike shops — ideal for when you’re traveling.

Buy: Laptops and Phones

Buy: Laptops and Phones

While you can certainly rent out any mobile device — from a laptop to a smartphone — these tools are most likely too essential to your business, your daily work or your personal branding to risk leaked data, hacked passwords or stolen files. Making use of communal computers or iPads at public libraries or other community centers is great when you’re on a temporarily strapped budget, but strive to eventually purchase your own for ease of workflow, a sense of security and professional appearance.

Invest in these purchases while keeping an eye out for new deals, refurbished goods or upgrade promotions through your cell phone provider. Consider also curbing the need to upgrade to the latest iPhone, iPad or computer simply because the latest “it” gadget is available. Use your gadgets to the fullest and save that money.

Buy: Wi-Fi

Buy: Wi-Fi

Sure, you could piggyback off of your neighbor’s Wi-Fi or always hit up your local cafe, but that can make for unreliable service — and nobody has time for that in 2014. Also, consistently using a stranger’s Wi-Fi could put you at risk for being hacked.

While personal Wi-Fi has its price, investing in this service allows you access to all kinds of free or cheaper alternatives to costly endeavors: Hulu, Netflix, streaming free music on Pandora or Grooveshark and endless YouTube instructional videos, to name a few.

Paying for Wi-Fi ultimately means not paying for a host of other costs, such as cable TV or even owning a basic television. Anything that is worth watching is slapped onto the Internet anyway, right?

Profit: Renting Out Your Space

Profit: Renting Out Your Space

The Airbnb revolution allows you to turn that extra bedroom, cluttered office space or guest house into an insta-money maker for travelers of your choosing. Should you have more than an additional room in your house, say, an entire vacation home, consider VRBO to book renters, particularly during the off-season months where you may lag in potential customers.

For those with less residential space, keep in mind that you can even rent out your parking space. Yes, people will actually pay money for a piece of that concrete slab by your house via JustPark. List your driveway (hopefully it’s a double) and make extra money by doing next to nothing (you don’t even have to meet the driver).

Profit: Sell Your Stellar Photographs

Profit: Sell Your Stellar Photographs

If you’re a hobby street photographer or find yourself snapping sunsets, beaches, parks or random kitties, you need to turn those images into cash money (not just Instagram posts). Why? Because companies want them.

iStockphoto and Shutterstock have a submission process for generic photos, but the pay (which the company determines) is reportedly not very high. But Creative Market allows users to set the price for their photos (artists tend to price them at between $3 to $20, with some specialized images costing around $150), which can range from animals to food to beauty and fashion to business (plus many, many more). Create a stock photo collection that gives the Lean In Getty collection a run for its money!

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