Urban Dictionary’s definition of “ball”:  (Adj. or Verb) To have a lot of money and nice things.

As a couple without kids, my husband and I didn’t have an expendable income, per say, but we certainly didn’t live on the restricted budget that we live on today.  Between diapers, formula, daycare, etc., our once ‘lavish’ childless income has resulted in a lot of sacrificing. I’d love to buy all organic foods, shop at Anthropologie, and get my hair done at a fancy salon, but those days are over. However, rather than sitting in the frustration of changed lifestyle, I started thinking about ways to have a few of life’s luxuries without breaking the bank; my guide to living ‘large’ while also staying within our monthly budget. These ‘tips’ might not work for you but the bottom line is that it’s all about creativity and a bit of research. I’m not going to be starring on the next episode of MTV’s Cribs (is that show even still on the air?), however, I think I can confidently say that my little family can have a ball just like our favorite hip hop stars, while still maintaining our budget.

1.  Free Samples

I’m not talking about Costco’s Free Sample Sunday, which, by the way, is a great way to get a free lunch once a week. I’m talking about at your local cosmetics counter. Retailers are always looking to pull in new customers, especially cosmetic companies. Before I had a kid, I would drop $120 on my favorite Jo Malone perfume without batting an eyelash.  These days, that’s just not happening. However, between the 3 stores in my local mall that sell Jo Malone products, I come out with at least 3 months worth of perfume samples every time I visit the mall. All you have to do is ask for a sample or two. They are prepared for this question and are more than willing to accommodate. Same goes for make-up companies like Bobbi Brown, Clinique and the like.

Our AAA card got us  discounted admission at the Miami Zoo.  Thanks AAA!

Our AAA card got us discounted admission at the Miami Zoo. Thanks AAA!

2.  Host a Clothing Swap

Get a couple of friends together, bake some goodies and host a swap of unwanted clothing suitable for mom, dad and kids (no stains and tears).  I’ve scored some amazing free designer goods at clothing swaps.  You never know, one woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure.

3.  Favor Exchange

We are blessed to have friends who are willing to trade favors and in this case, the favor we are always calling in for is a babysitter. We often swap babysitting favors with friends who also have kids — we babysit for them, they babysit for us. In the case of friends who don’t have kids but who do babysit for us, a home cooked meal or fresh baked good goes a long way. Don’t cook? Try offering to do their laundry that week.  Who would pass up free laundry cleaning?

When all else fails, pack a picnic lunch and head for the nearest (free) National Park . . . just as soon as the government opens them up again.

When all else fails, pack a picnic lunch and head for the nearest (free) National Park . . . just as soon as the government opens them up again.

4. Class Hop

Every gym, yoga, dance and/or Zumba studio offers potential new customers a free week or even month of classes. I have gym-hopped all over South Florida taking all sorts of free yoga and spinning classes. The great part about this, besides it being free, is I don’t have the time to commit to weekly classes with the job I have so this allows me to take a class whenever is convenient for me.

5.  Check it Out

With the world becoming more and more paperless, our libraries are becoming somewhat of a relic of the past. However, libraries are a treasure trove of free goods.  Libraries are not just for checking out books, but also movies, CDs, and passes to museums in the city.  We’ve had the opportunity to go to museums and botanical gardens that have entrance fees of $20/person and up for free.  Check out your local library’s website for more details.