Living Well For Less
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Learn something new — and have fun doing it — courtesy of your local public school. Many (if not most) area school districts offer continuing education programs, featuring courses in a wide array of content areas. For a nominal fee (usually in the $40-$80 range), you can take a six-week Pilates class, bone up on the basics of upholstering a sofa, or learn to prepare Italian cuisine just like your Nana used to make (among many other things). Some districts offer special discounts for residents as well as senior citizens; visit the school’s Web site for details.
If you’re a believer in second chances — and more importantly, saving money — then you’ll hold the Sears Parts and Repair Center in Fishkill (845-896-4858) in high regard. The store offers a 20 to 40 percent discount and one-year manufacturer’s warranty on brand-new appliances such as washers, dryers, and microwaves, with the “catch” being that the items suffered scratches or other cosmetic damage before they hit the sales floor. That’s not much of a catch: The machines function perfectly, and most of them represent Sears’ latest models. (Call ahead, though, because selection varies daily.) If you insist on something brand new, you can still net a deal at Statewide Appliances in Poughkeepsie (845-463-3300), especially during one of their holiday sales: Merchandise there is typically 20 percent off during their Fourth of July blowout. Both stores also sell appliance parts, so fix-it families can repair broken fridges and vacuum cleaners themselves to save even more cash.
Sweat for less
The country’s obesity rates are higher than ever — and so are gym memberships. Between enrollment and maintenance fees, locked-in contracts, and wasted services, “joining a gym is like joining the Mafia,” jokes blogger Ben Popken on The Consumerist. So how do you get out — and still get a workout? Make like the Village People and drop by your YMCA/YWCA. At the YM in Kingston, monthly membership rates range from $22 for teens to $45 for adults, compared to $45-$60 at a fitness chain (when start-up fees are factored in). By contrast, your local Planet Fitness boasts a cheap plan — about $20 a month — but you’ll still be committed to a minimum 12-month contract, plus a $58 fee if you decide to cancel membership early. Lucky for you, the Y offers no strangleholds of the sort. And instead of paying an average of $6 for each extra service at one of the more glamorous gyms, the Y offers unlimited use of the weight rooms, wellness center, swimming pool, indoor track, aerobic studio, locker rooms and lounges, as well as spinning and yoga classes. In addition, many Ys offer free membership or some form of financial assistance.
Pampering for paupers
We could all use a little pampering now and then. Unfortunately, spa treatment is one of the first luxuries to get nixed in a budget crunch. But at the Hudson Valley School of Massage Therapy, you can help dedicated students earn their degrees in holistic health care by offering yourself up for — brace yourself — discounted massages and facials. Instead of slamming down $75 for a 45-minute back rub, enjoy a relaxing massage at the Highland school for just $30. Or get an hour-long European facial at the adjoining Center for Advanced Aesthetic Skin Care for the same price. Looking a little hairy lately? The body-waxing rates at the beauty school blow most salons out of the water: pay an average of $10-$25 less for services like eyebrows ($12 versus $20), arms ($20 versus $40), legs ($55 versus $70) — and yes, even the ever-thorough Brazilian wax ($45 versus $80). Seniors over the age of 62 get 20 percent off at both centers, and there are specials each month (like $5 off all treatments in April). Donating your body for the sake of education never felt so good.
With the advent of super-convenient services like Redbox and Moviefone, renting your favorite flicks couldn’t be easier (or more affordable). Unless, of course, it was absolutely free. And through the Mid-Hudson Library System, it is just that; all you need is a library card (also free) and you’re in movieland. Can’t find the title you want at your local library? No problem: At no cost, you can request that any book, DVD, or CD be shipped from any bibliotheca in the system to the library of your choice. The best part? You don’t even have to leave home to put in a request; just log on to the MHLS catalogue, choose what you’d like to borrow, then swing by the reference center and pick it up. With 66 member libraries participating, it’s like having a free Blockbuster around every corner — without the crowds and exorbitant late fees.
News for nothing
If just getting free movie rentals from your library isn’t enough savings to satisfy you, try the MHLS Home Access program. If you don’t have time to stop at the newsstand, or you can’t afford to renew your subscriptions, just grab your library card and log in. There you can access thousands of magazines, journals, and state and national newspapers — all for free. Also available is health information, genealogy research, practice tests (think SATs and civil service exams), and even price rates for your antiques and collectibles. The site even features a “Smart Buying” section that tells you how to buy a house or find the lowest gas prices. Who says libraries are only for bookworms?