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Tuscan villa

A TUSCAN RETREAT

Live la dolce vita in Tuscany without shelling out thousands of euros on a private villa. There are nine holiday apartments at Le Torri ( http://www.letorri.com), a 13th-century farmhouse owned by the genial Cantini family. Each has its own living/dining room, kitchen and satellite TV. Exposed oak beams, terra cotta floors and wooden furniture lend an air of rustic chic. The surrounding gardens boast olive trees, a large swimming pool and a barbecue.

On your first night, Mamma lays out a home-cooked welcome feast. Best of all, her son, Gabriele, is available 24/7 to help with everything from filling the fridge to providing directions to the nearest Prada outlet.

What you'll pay

From $960 per week for a two-bedroom apartment that sleeps four.

What you'll save

Compared with a luxurious villa in Tuscany: $6,500-plus per week

CELEBRITY-CHEF TASTING MENU

Your taste buds yearn for champagne and caviar; your budget can muster only street dogs and soda. Compromise with a gourmet prix fixe tasting menu. At New York's Gordon Ramsay at the London ( http://www.thelondonnyc.com/gordon_ramsay/), where the Chef's Table lunch menu for up to eight people costs $1,280, a three-course set lunch will set you back only $58. Up-and-coming chef Govind Armstrong serves a Recession Concession menu at Table 8 in Miami Beach: $54 buys three courses.

What you'll pay

$58 at Gordon Ramsay atthe London; $54 at Table 8.

What you'll save

Compared with dinner: $125-plus per person

CITY BIKE RENTALS

Call a Bike ( http://www.callabike.de) is Germany's economical answer to traffic snarls, vehicle exhaust and exorbitant taxi rates. The pay-as-you-go bike system has swept Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt. Simply register your name and credit-card details online or by phone. Then, when the mood strikes, find one of Call a Bike's distinctive silver and red bicycles (they're parked at major intersections and at train stations). A quick call to the service hotline for the "unlock" code and you're good to go. Drop-offs can be made at any traffic sign or cycle stand.

What you'll pay

Standard rates are 13¢ per minute of cycling time, with a maximum of $14.65 for 24 hours. The weekly flat rate is $98.

What you'll save

Compared with car rental: $100-plus a day

A PRIVATE BEACH ON THE RIVIERA MAYA

It may not be the place for spotting celebrities and super-yachts, but the white sand beaches at the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve are pristine. Two hours' drive south of Cancun, the reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest protected area in the Mexican Caribbean. Find your way to the Centro Ecologico Sian Ka'an ( http://www.cesiak.org), an ecotourism centre that promotes sustainable development and practises "green" techniques such as wetland waste management, rainwater collection and wind energy generation.

What you'll pay

Stay in a deluxe tented cabin: For $115 a night, you'll get an ocean and lagoon view, 800-thread-count sheets and pillows, and a private terrace. Guided kayak and boat tours and fly-fishing excursions are also on offer (all proceeds fund conservation efforts in the reserve).

What you'll save

Compared with an exclusive private resort: $640 a night-plus per person

YOGIC RETREAT

Seeking spiritual enlightenment, but can't afford the long-haul flight to Asia's trendiest yogic retreats? Kripalu Centre for Yoga and Health ( http://www.kripalu.org), one of North America's largest ashrams, looms large in the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts. Take part in meditation and yoga classes, hike through the property's expansive grounds and participate in seminars spanning topics such as Ancient Buddhist Wisdom for a Modern Life and The Way of QiGong: Health, Long Life, and Wisdom. Rooms are comfortable but sparse, and meals are healthy and mostly vegetarian.

What you'll pay

From $205 per person per night, for a dormitory room, including meals, daily workshops and activities, yoga and use of sauna, whirlpool, fitness room, private lakefront beach, walking and hiking trails.

What you'll save

Compared with a trip to a posh Asian retreat: $2,500-plus

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