Using 12-inch-square floor tiles gets you an approximation of a slab for about one-third the cost. Cut them yourself with a wet saw. Cover the edges with thin tile strips, or wrap them in metal nosing or wood bands (shown). Joint lines will be visible.
Prefabricated counters, sized to standard cabinet depth and finished with bullnose edges, can save you up to 30 percent. Typically sold as 96-inch-long solid slabs, they still require a fabricator to cut sink and faucet holes. No two slabs are exactly alike, so they're best used on straight runs without seams.
Save 50 to 80 percent off retail by prowling house-part recycling centers, such as Habitat for Humanity's ReStore, Craigslist, and kitchen cabinet outfits refreshing their displays. These tops are typically cut to someone else's kitchen layout, so plan on adjusting yours to fit.
Stone yards frequently offer clearance-sale prices of up to half off for small leftover slabs, which often work well for prep islands, pastry stations, and kitchen offices. Selection is limited, and you pay for any custom cuts.