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Original article written by Eric Casey

If you’re a musician, you know what it means to be bold and set out on the road less traveled. Unfortunately, as you’re probably painfully aware, the road less traveled is also pretty stingy when it comes to cash. Surviving as an artist of any kind takes a lot of financial sacrifice and savvy, and musicians are certainly no less immune to the money worries that plague all creative spirits.

Other than earning and saving, cutting costs on the actual tools of your trade—musical instruments—is a great way to ease your financial burden. To avoid slipping into credit card debt the next time you have to upgrade your supply, check out the following seven ways to cut costs when purchasing musical instruments.

1. Try Amazon or eBay

Amazon and eBay represent two of the best opportunities to save on musical instruments. Shiny, new gear is great, but be sure to investigate the used listings for offers, as well. You might find a violin that’s virtually unused or a guitar that’s essentially “open-box.” Research the feedback rating of all prospective sellers. If they don’t always appear to deliver products as advertised, or if they ship late or have more than a few complaints on their record, you might want to go another route.

2. Use Craigslist

Craigslist is also another solid option. Input your search information on its homepage and peruse the results. If you end up landing a transaction, though, be cautious. Take a friend with you if possible, and arrange to meet in a well-lit, public place. It’s unlikely, but criminals do occasionally use Craigslist as a means of scamming customers. Eliminate the possibility of becoming a statistic by operating carefully.

3. Check out Freecycle

On Freecycle, folks offer up items free of charge that they no longer need, and from time to time, that means musical instruments. There’s nothing better than getting a drum set or guitar amp for zero dollars, so sign up for regular email updates and keep an eye on what comes around. All that’s required is that you make arrangements to pick up any items you happen to score.

4. Visit Garage Sales

Old trumpets, packs of guitar strings, Zildjian cymbals—who knows what you’re going to find when you pull over at that garage sale. Check out the websites Yard Sale Search or Garage Sales Tracker to uncover good options in your area. To cut down on the time you spend tracking down money-saving deals, you can even call in advance and ask if any musical instruments are available, assuming a phone number is posted.

5. Use Your Credit Card Instead of Store Financing

If you’re purchasing in-store and are offered a deal for financing, be sure to investigate the terms. Often, you might find a better interest rate when you charge it to your own credit card. Also, if you’ve got a cash rewards card, you can subsidize your purchase by using it. The American Express Blue Cash Preferred and Citi Double Cash cards are both solid options.

6. Utilize Social Media

As a musician, chances are you’re pretty active on social media. Use that to your advantage when it comes to finding a new instrument. Put out an update on your accounts mentioning what you’re in the market for. And if you’ve got a solid network of fellow musicians, who knows what you may find? You could also make a new contact who’s willing to let an instrument go for less than it would cost through other channels.

7. Invest in Quality

As with most things, you can get a quality musical instrument that lasts a lifetime, or you can get a cheap one that’s likely to fall apart on stage at some point. While going to the bottom of the barrel may sound sensible when you look at your checking account balance, if that amp or guitar breaks down after only a few shows, you’re going to have to shell out more for repairs or replacements. Do your research, ask your mentors, and invest in quality.

Final Thoughts

Instruments are expensive, which means saving as much money on them as possible is essential, especially since, as a musician, you’re almost certainly a freelancer with a fluctuating income. If all else fails, get more chatty with the musicians you have relationships with. They might know of unexpected insider ways to cut the cost of purchasing instruments.

 Photo: Jörg Schreier

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