We all deserve to live in luxury, but with rising rent prices, real estate costs, and inflation, you might think luxury living isn’t in the cards. Fortunately, improving your life only takes a few strategic actions when working with a very small budget, and the payoff can be enormous.
“Luxury is about quality rather than quantity, but it’s also about prioritizing what’s important to you,” says Bola Sokunbi, Certified Financial Education Instructor (CFEI), founder of Clever Girl Finance, and author of choose to prosper. “Spend on what pleases you, not on what pleases others.” Sokunbi says finding what’s most important to you, and leaning into it, is the most crucial part of living a luxurious life. And it shouldn’t come with guilt – if you make something a priority, it’s for you. (Just be sure to save where you can.)
Ahead is a breakdown of the best ways to live a lavish life when you don’t necessarily have the bank account of someone who can spend lavishly.
Hack the point system
In general, unless you buy unique things from places like estate sales, vintage stores, etc., your money will go further online, especially for more expensive items. (Think about the environment when shopping; if you’re already in or near a store, you’ll want to avoid shipping anything from said store to your doorstep.) With online shopping for big purchases, long journeys, etc. , you can make one purchase count toward rewards three times.
How? 1) Sign up for any rewards system the retailer has in place and log in before shopping (and check out any promotions they offer). 2) Use a credit card that offers points or cash back on your purchase. 3) Sign up for third-party cashback or rewards programs, like Rakuten (which gives you cashback) or MyPoints (which gives you points to use for rewards). They both have web browser extensions, so you don’t even have to think about it – just click on the extension and it will automatically show you how much you’ll get back or how many points you’ll earn with just one click.
Find promotional codes via browser extensions
Browser toolbar extensions are the easiest way to make sure you don’t lose anything (especially when making large purchases). Another extension you can use is Honey, which basically scours the internet for promo codes you can use and automatically applies them at checkout.
Make your second-hand, rental, and borrowed clothes your go-to, not your backup
If you can’t afford to buy new, you can consider used and lease options, according to Colleen McCreary, director of human resources and consumer finance advocate at Credit Karma. “You can borrow top quality fashion outfits from sites like Rent the Runway for less than $30 (just make sure you can afford the fee and follow the rules so you don’t incur a late return penalty fee ). Or, if you’re like me, create a watchlist for items you want on Ebay to get alerted when they’re on the market and in your price range,” she says. “Finally, no shame in relying on your friends and family’s closets – when you combine other people’s closets, you suddenly triple your options.”
Sokunbi agrees and says spending on what’s important to you is fine, in moderation. If you like luxury handbags, for example, try buying from a resale site, like TheRealReal or Vestiaire Collective, and be sure to browse your bag count to sell them as well. (Pssst… I’ve personally had great success buying and selling items on Mercari, and they even have a deluxe verification process for those who want to make sure items are genuine.)
Get a credit card with lounge access
If you travel little during the year, it’s definitely worth looking into cards that can give you travel benefits. It can look like anything from free checked bags to waiving Global Entry or TSA pre-screening fees (more on that below) to priority lounge access. Most of these cards will have, yes, an annual fee (most no-fee cards don’t have lounge access), but if you’re spending money on pre-flight drinks every time you travel, a meal to get during an hour-long travel day or a coffee to keep you awake after a red-eye flight, it’ll probably be worth looking into a $250-$650 card that will give you access to free drinks, free snacks, coffees, a comfortable place to sit, eat and work, and more.
Amex Platinum is one of the best (although the most expensive of the bunch), along with Chase Sapphire Reserve and Capital One Venture Rewards. But if you’re loyal to an airline, try looking for cards that work specifically with that airline to get much faster upgrade status and discounted lounge access, usually at a much lower annual fee. (I love my Delta Skymiles Platinum American Express.)
Look in Priority Pass
Some of the credit cards above give you a free Priority Pass, which gives you access to over 1,300 airport lounges or areas around the world, as well as discounts at airport restaurants and shops. . If you buy direct, pricing starts at $99 per year to $429 per year.
Use your credit card for free worldwide entry or CLEAR membership
Many travel-oriented or general lifestyle credit cards (not just those with high annual fees) give at least a credit or waiver to Global Entry, TSA pre-check, or CLEAR. Check your credit card to make sure you’re getting priority travel easier and cheaper. (Most often Global Entry is the way to go over TSA pre-check because pre-check is included with Global Entry and the difference is around $20, which again can be free depending on your credit card.)
Be aware of your miles
Experts agree that traveling will always be best returned with miles, not merchandise or cash back. That being said, use them in a way that makes sense to you! But if you’re redeeming airline miles for flights, also be sure to check out partner airlines and check how much the itinerary would cost using their mileage system. Often you can transfer miles to that particular airline, as airlines will often have very different mile values for the route. Make sure you get the best deal! Also look for transfer offers if you are planning to transfer, as sometimes you will get even more miles credited to your account, thanks to online transfer promotions, although you will often have to use the promotional code.
Food + socialization
Join a social club
Do I think everyone wants to be a member of a social club? No. Are they a good amount of money? Yes. Do I think they could possibly provide you with some nice stuff, especially when working remotely? Yes. Do I think you can get a discount? Yes.
A few things to consider: New to a city? Do you travel a lot? Do you ever pay for a gym membership or other club-provided equipment? Has the pandemic cut off some of your social opportunities? You might want to look into a social club, which is a club where you pay a monthly fee to use their facilities, which often include coworking spaces, gyms, bars, and even swimming pools. Many clubs offer discounts for under 25s or under 30s (which increase as you reach these ages), on the understanding that they are pro-rated to your income. Keep an eye out for new ones in your city (this is especially true for those in larger cities) as founding members often get a discount i.e. you pay less if you are one of the first to join us. This is also true for members-only workspace clubs.
If that’s out of your budget at all, consider your work perks: Does your company reimburse you for coworking spaces (and can you convince them that this membership is primarily for work)? Does your company pay for wellness activities or your gym? You could charge for your membership (or part of it) this way. If you’re self-employed, talk to a financial expert to see if you can have most, if not all, of your contributions written off at tax time. Some social clubs and workspaces to consider: Soho House, The Ned, NeueHouse, Heimat, The Wing, CORE and Spring Place.
Use rewards programs
If you have a Capital One account (any account or credit card will do), you can get half a drink at a Capital One café. Starbucks has a pretty good rewards program, as do most popular chains. You’ll often get discounts, or even free regular coffee, when you use your own mug or travel mug.
Earn points on rental
BILT is the first credit card where you can pay your rent free of charge. Here’s how: they partner with select properties that make it easy to pay with a BILT card. If you don’t rent on one and pay your rent through an online portal (this adds a percentage as a processing fee for credit cards), BILT works like a bank account (this is i.e. you have a routing number and an account number) put instead. And if you pay by check, BILT will send the check on your behalf each month (either to you or your landlord).
It works just like a credit card should allow you to earn points on what you pay for rent and when you use it for other credit card purchases. Not only can you then use the points for rewards with their partners (American Airlines, United, Virgin, Emirates, Hyatt, IHG, and also fitness partners like Rumble, SoulCycle, Y7 Studio, etc.), but you can also use your points to pay for your future rent or even for a down payment with participating properties. The best part is that you improve your credit score one month at a time. I use it for my rent and it’s a game changer – I’m currently saving points for a big trip to Europe next year.
Buy used furniture
Save your money (and the land) and buy used furniture. You can search vintage stores, resell stores (like Housing Works), thrift stores, Facebook Marketplace, and more for truly stunning items at a huge discount. You can also buy pre-used items from rental services like Feather and Fernish, often with very little use.