Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Picking Your Luxuries: A Guide to Living Lavishly with Less

Image thanks to D Sharon Pruitt

I’ve been meaning to write this article for a while now, I think it’s definitely one of those core Charade posts, one that stands for all ‘a fabulous lifestyle on a student budget’ entails. It’s easy for me to get sidetracked into writing primarily about style, or saving money in practical ways, but it’s the idea of bringing these elements together into focused and flourishing existence that is why I started this blog in the first place. So, here we go; a guide to living lavishly with less.

When you’re surviving (however stylishly) on a budget, you’re never going to ‘have it all’; five star penthouse? Chauffeured limousine? Overflowing Chanel wardrobe? Hmm… not so much, but that doesn’t mean you should get into a habit of scarcity and lacking, because to become too accustomed to the scrimping and saving lifestyle is to beat any chance at abundant living. Trying to have it all might fail you, but picking your luxuries might not.

Ultimate Luxuries

Our ideas of what constitutes a luxury are all different, for some of us, travelling the globe is the meaning of life; for some, the latest fashion and style rule. Some think good food is next to godliness, whilst some prefer getting sozzled on great wine. A personal trainer might make your day, or a shiny new laptop; perhaps a stonking CD collection is your idea of heaven, or regular Swedish massages. My point is, there are tonnes of ways to lap up the luxury in your life, and not one of them can be called a luxury with any more validity than the next; it’s all relative.

So, what’s it going to be for you? For Sex and the City’s Carrie, it was shoes; for Paddington Bear, Marmalade Sandwiches; for my sister, Cath Kidston; for me, five star hotels (the Bellagio for my 21st birthday? Yes please.) What feels most luxurious in your life? What has you starry-eyed at a mere mention? Choose it. That’s your ultimate luxury, your one, unashamed, frivolous necessity, for which you openly celebrate with not a scrap of guilt. Don’t let other people’s opinions of how you should spend your time or where your money should go affect your choice. It’s your life, after all, and whatever it is that gives you the dizzying warm and fuzzies is absolutely worth the investment. You deserve it.

If your ultimate luxury is a small one (Lush products every bath time, a complete Audrey Hepburn DVD collection) then choose two, choose several, choose as many as you can to fit within your budget.

The Luxurious Mindset

Now that you’ve chosen an ultimate luxury, let the feeling of opulence reach its loving arms around your life and squeeze all the goodness out that it can. If you can afford only one ultimate luxury, that’s no reason to allow the rest of your existence to pale into mediocrity alongside it.

Try to look at your whole life as a series of little luxuries, from your first cup of tea in the morning, to a few drops of lavender on your pillow at night. Appreciation is the sole source of worth within any luxury, why not up your appreciation of the day-to-day? Let your whole life be a luxury.

A Word of Warning on Luxury

The luxurious mindset is not living above your means; I’ll never recommend getting into commercial debt (credit cards and bank loans) to feed your fetish. A luxury stops being luxurious if you’re ruining the rest of your life to support it, and a gift that’s worked hard for is a gift that means a million times more.

Remember, too, that there are such things as long-term luxuries and the longer you have to wait for them the sweeter and more special they become. Having a savings account might seem like the most yawn-worthy activity you can imagine, but when looked at as a gleaming pot of gold to fund your dream French chateau, it starts to sound a little more interesting.

Moreover, a luxury is not an addiction, neither must it be simply hedonistic or materialist – it can be time spent with your family, or improving your knowledge on a certain topic, playing an instrument well etc. In other words, a luxury is what you make of it, hence why we can call anything a luxury, if we have the correct mindset.

Alternative Luxuries

Image thanks to D Sharon Pruitt

There are a whole host of life’s luxuries that won’t cost the earth but, paired with your ultimate luxury, will make a life lived cheaply feel just as rich as any other. Why not scribble down all the activities you really enjoy - however sinful, silly or superfluous they may seem - and then strive to make them feel lavish without blowing your budget.

If dining out takes your fancy, instead of paying for expensive trips to restaurants, take turns with your best pals to host over-the-top themed soirées at every occasion possible, getting dressed in your best even if it is just pizza fingers and fizzy wine… A great night without the hefty price tag.

If fashion is your bag, you don’t have to spend all your time drooling over the big labels; be your own designer and get into some crafty customization. Not only will you stand out, but you’ll be tapping into a stream of creativity that would otherwise be dulled by the ‘looks’ imposed upon you by the fashion big shots. A luxury if ever I heard of one.

If travel tickles your taste buds but you can’t afford to fly just now, discover the touristy delights that lay upon your own doorstep. Wake up at 6am and get the first bus to anywhere, seeing how far you can go on a day ticket. Take a camera, a friend or a lover, and look at your own vicinity through new eyes, imagining yourself to have come from a climate or landscape of the complete opposite. Buy a tacky souvenir and a postcard.

Love lavish spa and beauty treatments? Spend a day in your dressing gown self-grooming. The act of lovingly treating yourself to face-masks and pedicures can actually be luxurious on a whole other level next to having a stranger perform them for you; you can really check in with yourself, get lost in your own thoughts, heal, care for and treat your own body in the specific ways that only you can know how. It’s called ‘me’ time for a reason.

A Final Word

A luxury, however big – living in a ‘happening’ city, a pristine vintage collection of costume jewellery, a Chihuahua – does not, cannot and will not define you. You define you, whether you live in a palace or on pennies.

The frank truth is, if you can’t be at all happy with your present situation, you’re unlikely to be happy with your future, however sparkly and spangled it may potentially be. It’s important to strive for better, I positively encourage it, but it’s also important to love who are right down to your shoelaces, and the life you live all the way into its little curious quirks.

Luxury is an attitude, an opinion, and therefore it can be dramatically altered. You may think only the lifestyle of a millionaire could ever be entitled ‘luxurious’, I say, I live on the measliest of measly budgets right now and still find luxuries all around me; indulging in my grandest passion/hobby/career as a writer; finding my favourite cherry and cinnamon tea in an obscure health food shop; a fluffy hot water bottle on my feet on a cold night; dressing up for nobody but myself; singing ‘Hey Big Spender’ ridiculously loudly in alternative keys (complete with burlesque-style wiggles) whilst having my morning wash…

Sure, these things don’t stop me wanting fancy new gadgets and gizmos, exotic holidays, pricey pamper treatments, fashion must-haves… (I could go on!) But whilst I can’t afford to treat myself to these things, I find luxuries elsewhere. I’ve never been one to go without, and you don’t have to be either.

Attention: I'm announcing the winners of Polyvore competition here tomorrow, so if you want to enter there's still one last chance!


Marie said...

The luxurious mindset is not about living above your means.

They should have that on the door or every single bank and shop.

I've been thinking about my luxury buys for the last couple of days and have actually chosen expensive and posh undies (La Perla and Agent Provocateur) to be my one splurge - you'll never feel more powerful knowing you've got something cheeky on under that boring work suit!

FashionLagniappe said...

I LOVE and am a HUGE fan of your blog! Hope you can take the time to check out my site!

We sell Vintage and Designer clothes, shoes, and accessories all in one place. We have some really great things up right now! Studded boots, Alexander Wang halter top, and vintage blazers. Check it out!

Christina Crowe said...

I love this article! Very well written.
At the present moment, I have three luxuries: My computer, lingerie, and foreign languages.

I absolutely can't do without my computer, since I spend 90% of my day on my laptop blogging, playing mmorpgs, and so on. My computer is also the main source I use to self teach myself other foreign languages.

I love going to the store and trying on lingerie, as well as buying several for myself. Right now, I have a huge collection that I keep in my dresser drawer for "special" occasions. ;)

Languages have always meant a lot to me, ever since I was a little girl. I used to love speaking in the foreign tongue and still do! I also think it's important to be able to communicate with people who may not speak my native language very well.

There's my luxuries! Looking forward to more posts. :)

Anonymous said...

Great Article!!!! I especially love the conclusion - 'if you can't be happy at all with your present situation...'
A great read and thank you for the timely reminder! I have just finished my job & was getting a bit sad about some stuff I might miss until I get a new job .. but hey! There are little luxuries everywhere!

elleandish said...

Wow this is an amazingly written post!!! I'm saving up for my own condo in the next year or so, and I feel so restricted with my budget that it's making day to day life quite sad. I really should take your advice and not be so hard on myself!

Bookmarking!!! :)

chiara said...

This post is beautiful and so true! It left me speechless!

Eternal*Voyageur @ Venusian*Glow said...

I liked this so much that I featured it in today's Weekend Reads. I thought you would like to know !

Stephybabes said...

Beautifully written xx

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