Your Secret to Half-Off Shoes (and Everything Else)

Your old running shoes have seen better days. You’ve worn them way past their recommended mileage, and no matter how many times you wash them, that weird smell won’t go away.

But you didn’t budget for a $150 pair of shoes this month. That means you’ll either have to skip all exercise until you save up for new shoes or stink up the gym every time you hit the treadmill.

You have another choice: Choose function over form—as in, buy something because of what it does, not how it looks. When you put appearances aside, you can get what you need or want without the sticker shock. Here are some prime examples:

1. Shoes. Go to the fancy shoe store, by all means. But don’t buy your sneakers there. See which brands you like and what sizes you wear in those brands, then search online for overstocks and less popular colors. Take it a step further by searching for last year's version (or the year before that!) online for way less. You’ll still have the same comfortable shoe you want, without the hefty price tag to go with it.

2. Electronics. The latest and greatest tech gadgets are also the most expensive. So when your cellphone dies or your computer needs replacing, don’t go looking for the latest model. If you want something reliable, try a certified refurbished version from the manufacturer. It may be used, but it’s got a good-as-new factory reset. Who cares if it’s bright red? You can always get a cool case to cover up the fact that it’s not your favorite color.

3. Cars. When you’re buying used, focus on what’s under the hood, not on it. Ask for a free Carfax report, as well as a list of repairs and what’s been replaced recently (and we’d also recommend having it checked over by a mechanic you trust). If it’s been properly maintained, you can stand a dented bumper or some scratched paint. Be honest—it would have happened sooner or later anyway.

4. Homes. Buy the house with outdated carpet and bad landscaping. In a competitive market, you can win out with a lower price if you’re willing to see what could be instead of what is. As long as the neighborhood is great, and the bones of the house are good, you can change all the cosmetic stuff later. That way, you actually get to choose the hardwoods and light fixtures you like! For now, save money by getting the house that needs a little love.

When you focus on function instead of form, you’ll find the perfect item for your budget. It may not be in your dream color or have that out-of-the-box feel, but you can feel good about spending your money on a high-quality find. Now go get those running shoes soon. Like, really soon.

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