A Fool reader recently asked, "I want to open a brokerage account, but the firms I called require between $1,000 and $5,000 up front, just to open an account. What can I do if I don't have that kind of cash?"

There are all sorts of different brokerages. Some big names, like Merrill Lynch (NYSE:MER) and Citigroup's (NYSE:C) Smith Barney, aim toward high-end clientele and offer full-service attention at somewhat higher prices. Discount brokers like TD Ameritrade (NASDAQ:AMTD) and Schwab (NASDAQ:SCHW), on the other hand, cater to the more price-conscious investor.

Fortunately, many brokerages don't have minimums. Others have small ones, like $500. Also, minimums vary for different kinds of accounts. For an IRA account, for example, minimums tend to be considerably less (sometimes half as much, or even less than that). Also, some brokerages may waive minimums or have very low amounts if you sign up to have funds automatically deposited regularly into your account. Take a little time to do some shopping around, because you might find a good deal.

Another alternative is investing via "Drips" (direct investing plans, or dividend reinvestment plans). Read about the power of dividend growth and the power of Drip plans.

To learn more about brokerages and possibly find a better brokerage for yourself, check out our Broker Center. (Did you know that some well-regarded brokerages are offering commissions as low as $5?) Some of the brokerages there feature no minimums.

Charles Schwab is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.