There are two factions that have battled for my money since I was old enough to make any. That’s my “want” of fun stuff like gadgets, the latest music releases and new clothes versus my needs (like going to the dentist and paying my bills).

For many years, my wants fought the battle and won – with my responsibilities falling by the wayside. (I’ve got the cavities and bad credit to prove it.)

Since I know I’ll never be perfect and probably won’t change my covetous ways, I’ve learned how to take care of what I need at a fraction of the cost – without scrimping on quality. This knowledge has freed me to do a lot of the things that I want without having to save mercilessly in the process.

Looking for an inexpensive way to pay for that root canal or filling? Look no further. The UCLA School of Dentistry (323 S. Lincoln Blvd., Venice; 310-392-4103) offers a cost-effective alternative to dental care for those who aren’t lucky enough to have insurance. Students do the legwork, with a qualified instructor always nearby to assist and keep the sessions running smoothly.

You may wind up spending more time here than at a working dentist’s office (you are, after all, participating in someone’s education so student-teacher pow-wows are inevitable). However, UCLA is an internationally recognized university with an impressive roster of graduates. Safety and precision will be first and foremost.

Nature and the economy never seem to be in sync. Thank goodness for the good people over at the Los Angeles Free Clinic (8405 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles; 323-653-8622). Get everything from a yearly physical to STD tests to counseling.

Just a word to the wise: Although you have the option of walking in on a whim, you could be there all day if you do. So make an appointment and arrive early.

Switching gears … For those in desperate need of quick and affordable car care, try L.A. Radiator & Automotive (6216 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles; 323-462-2121). Steve the mechanic is not only honest, but the man gives a fair price on even the most intense repairs. The turnaround is also great considering his lot is often packed with customers.

Now that you’ve squared away life’s necessities, it’s time to have a little fun. Take that wad of dough burning a hole in your pocket and use it toward a membership on This rival to iTunes is offering I-don’t-know-how-many promotional free music downloads to drum up business.

Recently, I signed up for the service, received 50 free downloads to join and got another 25 for recommending a friend who started a membership as well. The best thing about eMusic is that it caters to the indie music crowd, is Mac and PC-friendly and sells songs way cheaper than the larger marquee services.

However, if you’re someone looking to make a wise investment with your newly pocketed savings, why not do a little begging. And no – I don’t mean to mom and dad. is a cool Web site that gives anyone the opportunity to receive charity from generous people around the world. After a small set-up fee (around $45), you can place requests to receive donations for anything your heart desires. Beg for money to buy the equipment needed to start a band or to take a trip to Europe.

Make sure you’ve got a Paypal account, though. There are a lot of tricksters out there who will try to lure you into phony check scams by completing transactions through Western Union without the security of Paypal.