Valuing a dollar, counting your pennies, stretching the last cent…it’s all fine and good until someone starts to feel punished.
Like being on an overly restrictive diet, unless you treat yourself along the way, you’re eventually going to gorge on spaghetti and meatballs until you need to go take your pants off. I myself have felt that my concern about money has become a little joyless lately.
But feeling rich, like anything, is in part a state of mind. Surrounding yourself with luxury that scratches that itch without sending you to the poor house is exactly the way to strike the balance of feeling like a have when really you don’t have a lot.
Go to an elegant restaurant…for lunch
I’ll never forget the time a group of friends and I went to a French restaurant I’d been longing to visit that was a little pricey. It was tucked away on a leafy, residential street. Inside, tall windows surrounded a dining room, bare save for the wooden tables with thick, sturdy legs.
We enjoyed the bread basket, drank a carafe of the rough house red, and I ate a croque madame, oozy with egg yolk. We shared dessert, something chocolatey as I recall, and sat for a long while that afternoon finishing the wine in the early spring sunshine. To this day it was one of the best $20 I ever spent.
Step into a high-end boutique.
Touch the clothes, appreciate the craftsmanship, try on whatever you like. Then breeze right out, unscathed.
Fill up your virtual shopping cart…and then close your browser.
For me personally, this works much better than actually going into a store which will somehow inevitably make me feel bad about myself and angry at the world. I hit up Anthropologie, ShopBop, ModCloth, Nordstrom, or Sephora and load my shopping basket full of everything I want.
Then I look at the total — so glad I won’t be adding all those digits to my credit card — and close the computer. The end feeling is one that I got whatever I wanted and didn’t have to suffer the consequences.
Take yourself out for tea or cappuccino.
And I don’t mean the kind you grab on the way to the subway. Go somewhere they will serve you in proper china with an adorable little spoon. Seat yourself at a table. Enjoy the ritual of the experience. Don’t read; just sit back and enjoy the aroma of your beverage, the hot cup in your hands, and the luxury of doing nothing.
Have you ever gone to a store with just lots and lots of one thing? Plastic boxes deep with buttons that you can sink your hands into, a room ringed with bolts of colorful fabrics, shelves lined with bottles of wine, a flower shop filled with fragrant blooms.
Sometimes just experiencing abundance — even of something as unassuming as a ball of yarn — can give you a sense of abundance, and if you’re lucky, maybe even a bit of wonder.
Pick up perfume samples.
I am experiencing a new obsession with perfume, and great perfumes are as complex and subtle as the best cheese and wine. What makes them even more fun, though, is how personal and evocative they are, and how they tap into imagination and fantasy.
Buy a new lipstick.
Isn’t there just something about the makeup counters in department stores? The sales associates are pleasantly fawning and all the glass and reflective surfaces evoke Grace Farrell’s dressing room. Walk away with a new lipstick and you may just feel like a new woman. Is there anything more glamorous than a bare face, a shock of red lipstick, and big sunglasses?
Get culturally rich.
There are so many free programs at planetariums, libraries, book stores, and museums. You might be listening to a lecture about something a little (or a lot) esoteric — 15th century Provençal literary traditions or how printmaking has changed through the ages — but you’ll walk out with your knowledge base broadened and your experience of life enriched.
Get pampered on the cheap.
There may not be an Aveda Institute near you, but there are certainly other schools for natural healers at which you can receive discounted treatments performed by students. Also, keep your eyes peeled for no-frills bodywork and reflexology places in your area.
Or do what the thriftiest of those in need of pampering do: take some beauty products to your gym (an exfoliating treatment, a thick body butter, a facial mask) and turn the locker room into your own mini-spa.
Count your blessings.
You knew this one was coming. The surest way to remember the embarrassment of riches already at your feet, for free.
What else? I’m sure you have lots of tricks up your sleeves for feeling posh, glamorous, and loaded…even when you’re not. Do tell!