July 15, 2009

10 Ways to Feel Rich

Natalie Wood on the French Riviera

There are people who have money and people who are rich. —Coco Chanel

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.

Experience abundance. 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 wee little samples of exquisite scents here, ask for free samples of your favorite at Sephora, or just read some of the best perfume blogs for a taste of olfactory luxury.

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 Provenรงal 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, you clever minxes? I’m sure you have lots of tricks up your sleeves for feeling posh, glamorous, and loaded…even when you’re not. Do tell!

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  • Emma: Wonderful post, Sarah! Thank you…I needed this.7 years ago

  • Christine S.: Sarah, this is perfect! I have had many years of my life spent doing these very things, and it is true – this tips do work! Thanks for the reminder to luxuriate myself in classy, elegant ways to spark the feeling of richness in my life!7 years ago

  • Sarah: the online shopping trick works for me too. sometime i just have the urge to shop, but don’t need to actually buy anything.7 years ago

  • Suzy: I rarely buy myself flowers because I can’t justify the expense, even for cheap grocery store flowers (sadly, my husband is with me on this one), but today I went out into my terribly untended garden and cut myself three huge bouquets of hydrangeas. Talk about abundance…And absolutely free!7 years ago

  • Becky: I like to dress up a little…I feel a little better in a slightly fancy dress!7 years ago

  • ann: I like to go shopping in my closet – and challenge myself to come up with five new outfits. Then I realize I really don’t need to go shopping, and I’m excited again for what I have. Loved this post, Sarah!7 years ago

  • kates: when i want to feel rich, i buy expensive cheese and gourmet olives or dark chocolate. then i wrap up in a pashmina and enjoy my little treats. often while wearing large sunglasses. love your blog!7 years ago

  • ni: i do many of the same things like lunch rather than dinner at a fancy place or web shopping without actually buying. some of your other ideas are good too.7 years ago

  • Suzy, I never realized how much I loved hydrangeas until this year. I don’t know if it was all the rain we had this June, but the big, lush, purple, pink and blue are bursting in front of practically every Brooklyn brownstone. How luxurious to have your own, and what a great thrifty bouquet! Way better than cheap grocery store flowers. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Going shopping in your own closet is such a great idea, Ann, as is just getting a little gussied up for no reason, Suzy!

    Love these ideas!7 years ago

  • Lisa (dinner party): This is such a great post. I love, love, love your online shopping idea–I really need to do that sometime.

    Like your lipstick idea, I like buying drugstore nail polishes. They are less expensive than getting regular manicures–obviously you get a lot more mileage out of a whole bottle.

    Also, nice to know someone else reads perfume blogs!7 years ago

  • The Blushing Hostess: Good advice for hard times. I have always grown produce and flowers myself, it keeps both belly and beauty needs satiated.7 years ago

  • piper jacquelyn: Your ideas are FABULOUS! My little mini splurges are fresh flowers & cupcakes or sweets from a bakery.7 years ago

  • Amy C: I like to find an outfit that I can barely live without – like something from Anthropologie – print out a picture of it, and then go to the local thrift shops to see if I can approximate the style for under 10 bucks. It’s a fun way to spend some time!
    Giving myself an “at-home” spa experience (usually roping my hubby in to do the massage portion) is another great way to feel marvelous…7 years ago

  • Margaret: Hey, how did you know I’d just gone Saturday morning to the Aveda Institute near me for my first facial ever?? Great minds… Actually it was my friend that had the idea, and we both went in on it- first time doing a beauty ritual with a friend, too, which was a wonderful start to the day. So wonderful in fact, we rounded it off with lunch on top. The cherishing of a new experience with a good friend was the best part. ๐Ÿ™‚7 years ago

  • ciaochowlinda: great list. i get my hair cut at Aveda and it’s a real bargain.7 years ago

  • Nishta: I LOVE this whole post, thank you for the spirit of it

    new lipsticks & nail polishes often do it for me–I actually really like L’Oreal, they feel more luxurious than they cost. great colors, plus a great scent, & the top of the case has a little mirror on it for handy application.

    other things I’ve done–gotten dressed up & gone out for a drink at a swanky hotel bar in my own downtown–or, when we can’t afford a vacation, be “tourists” in our own city–check out a travel guide on my city & go out and do some of the things I’ve always wanted to do but never have done. it’s even fun to stay at a hotel to complete the vacation illusion!7 years ago

  • B.: I do the thing with the online shopping carts sometimes. And for exotic perfume samples, luckyscent.com is good too.7 years ago

  • Ashley H: Perfect timing Sarah! I just made an appointment at the AVEDA institute in San Francisco. Thank you so much for this post. Love, me.7 years ago

  • JennyMac: Great post…now if only I would close that browser BEFORE I bought the cartload.7 years ago

  • Alyson: I’m so broke right now that it was serendipitous that you wrote this when you did. I paint my toenails, with no rushing, sitting in the sun with nice music on until long after they’ve dried – that makes me feel very indulgent. When I’m less broke, I buy a good, big sandwich and sit in the park with it – it’s particularly good when the sun breaks through in the middle of winter, like now, but anytime of year, that one works for me.7 years ago

  • birthdaygirl: i’m so happy i found your blog today. i needed a little reminder to enjoy the simple pleasures. thank you.7 years ago

  • Samantha M.: I do the web shopping without buying all the time. It IS strangely satisfying.

    The way I feel rich is to get an In Style magazine and slowly sort through it. I’m nowhere near buying most things in it, but it features a lifestyle that screams luxury. Also love to treat myself to a soup/salad lunch at a nice cafe’ or the Whole Foods salad bar and a couple of their mini-pastries by myself. It makes me feel fancy, for some reason; probably because I usually grab crappy fast food or brown-bag.7 years ago

  • Evon T.: Sarah, you’re writing is pure comfort. It’s a soothing cup of coffee on a crisp Fall morning, and I want to thank you so much.

    For me, I find that having “pretty clutter” around me is what makes me feel rich. My place is somewhat small, but I have lovely fabrics around and girly hat boxes, bookshelves full to capacity and a small collection of tea-for-ones. It all makes me feel wonderful. I’d love to have mroe high-end clothes and Louis trunks lying around, but for now, this suits me just fine. Thanks again Sarah. XOXO.7 years ago

  • emma-kate: thank you for these lovely ideas! i like to dress up and go for just one drink at a fancy hotel bar with a friend; buy a magazine with lots of beautiful images (i don’t usually buy magazines); do a mini facial for myself at home; take a hot bubble bath and, if i’ve bought a magazine, read it in the tub while drinking a glass of wine; buy something small to eat that is only for me (i.e that my boyfriend doesn’t like); stay in bed with a good book, a big mug of coffee or hot chocolate and maybe some cookies; pack a small picnic snack, like cheese and olives, and go for a walk somewhere beautiful and quiet to find a perfect picnic spot; go to a florist and buy some greenery instead of flowers – usually cheaper and lasts longer than flowers, and i often find greenery in vases even more beautiful than a bunch of flowers; and finally, call my mom or my grandmother to have a chat.7 years ago

  • Greta: Putting lovely clothing into a shopping scart at Anthropologie, that’s what i was doing just before i red your article, i was doing it for other intentions, to try to make something similar to those clothes i selected, which would cost lot less.7 years ago

  • Suellen: One more way to feel rich. . . getting a great deal in a consignment store! Knowing you didn’t pay full price for something you otherwise would never had bought for yourself can mak you feel rich! There are treasures in there, girls!7 years ago

  • Cassandra: You always seem to know the right thing to write about at the right time, like how a reading of a daily meditation book reads as if it were written just for one. Your writing and ideas are refreshing. Loved your photo choice for this one!7 years ago

  • Wendy Bussell: Our Target store sells vanilla tealights-4.99/100.What a bargin! I place them everywhere, light them just before we sit down to dinner, and during dessert the whole house smells wonderful. We always have a tablecloth and cloth napkins to use. It is an indulgence we use every day that we never tire of. Great timing of your articles as always. Love your point of view.7 years ago

  • Lindsay B: What a great post, Sarah! I have just recently discovered your blog and I love it…always a lovely treat to take a moment and read it, like a little contented sigh in a hectic day.
    My own moment for “richesse” is to treat myself to cocktail hour at home. I like to mix cold, cold vodka + Perrier in the monogrammed glasses that were my grandmother’s and a little cheese on black pepper table water crackers. Heaven!7 years ago

  • jen: Wahoooo! I always knew there were more virtual shoppers out there. It’s a strangely satisfying ritual, isn’t it?
    A new love of mine is polyvore.com; it’s a website that allows you to clip images from most clothing and home decor stores online and then arrange them into outfits on a blank palette. I’ve been making up outfits that I plan to someday put together for real using items from Target and TJ Maxx or 2nd hand places. I’ve also started using it to plan a redecorated bedroom for my Mom.
    And using the shop by color feature on etsy always takes me places.7 years ago

  • Anne: My more recent thing has been dressing up. I have a tendency to be ultra casual when I go places, but recently I have been wearing my favorite dresses out anywhere, the grocery store, the library. I love it.7 years ago

  • ann: I like taking myself out for happy hour martinis and $1 oysters. There’s a couple of spots in the city that do it, I just wish I had the time these days. I suppose there’s a positive and a negative to everything ….7 years ago

  • So many wonderful ideas, here! You ladies really know how to live it up on the cheap!

    And Ann, if you do not share where these $1 oysters are, I think I shall die.

    Update: I couldn’t wait for an answer, so if any other New Yorkers are curious, here are some $1 oyster lists:



    I see a very fun, glamorously cheap night in my future. Thanks, Ann!7 years ago

  • Ruth @ GraceLaced: It’s all been said–great ideas from everyone. I’ll add two little ones: I’ve been putting my hair up a lot this summer due to the heat, and adding a flower, whether real or artificial to the side of my bun, always feels luxurious. Also, it’s so much cheaper to cook at home than to go out, so it always makes me feel rich to make something decadent for a guest. A tiramisu, lamb, etc. Thank you for the post!7 years ago

  • citygirl: One of the things I used to do to feel rich was buy cheap things at Neiman Marcus. I got myself a credit card there, and then would only spend a few bucks that I knew I could totally pay off when the bill came. And you know what? It was so much freakin’ fun! Just buying a $14 lipstick and slapping down my Neiman’s card to pay for it made me feel a bit special.7 years ago

  • pamelamunro: Hey, if you can’t go to the French Riviera, you can go to the AMERICAN Riviera – that is the Santa Barbara area/Beginning of the Central Coast of California. I can almost duplicate the above picture if I were to get dolled up on our boat! (And there are even “timeshares” for boats nowadays, I saw them at a boat show yesterday…)7 years ago

  • pattyskypants: I keep coming back to look at that photo of Natalie Wood. My God, she was stunning! xxoo Patty7 years ago

  • No foolin’! And that body! WOWZA!7 years ago

  • Caitlin: half-priced martinis and $1 oysters are probably the reason i still have some semblance of my sanity. you just feel so classy!7 years ago

  • Jamie: I’ve been pampering myself with long soaks in my tub. I buy sea salts and epsom salts in bulk from Amazon using their subscription service for regular delivery and an extra discount. Then I supplement them with lavender, orange peel, etc… from my local health store’s bulk herb section. I just place the herbs in a reusable tea ball and add the salts directly to the water. Sometimes I turn off the lights and light candles, sometimes I read a juicy magazine article, but it’s ALWAYS relaxing and so much cheaper than a spa visit or premade bath salts.7 years ago

  • Melissa: Online cart-shopping is one of my favorite things to do too — I’m sort of relieved to see that other people do the same thing because I felt a little weird about it.

    I like to get my perfume samples from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab — dark and mysterious, coupled with watching makeup tutorials and recreating glamour looks on myself.7 years ago

  • Ginger: If I bought all the books I wanted, I’d go broke, so instead of closing out the browser when I fill my Amazon cart, I click on “Save for Later” on all the items. That way, when I do have some extra cash, I can move one into my cart, and not have to re-search all those great treasures I’ve found. Extra bonus, come November, when mom starts bugging me for a Christmas list, I’ve got a ready-made list from all the treats I never got around to buying for myself. And Amazon doesn’t only have books too… shoes, beauty products, home decor. Anything you can think of!

    Also, if anyone has a Kindle, you can get samples of the book (usually the first chapter or two) for free, so that’s enough to let me know the really good ones from the ones I can pass on. And sometimes that’s all I have time to read for the day, so it’s like getting a free book. Especially if you have book ADD like me, and only read a couple of chapters anyway before starting in on another one.

    If I go to the movies, I bring a little back of dark chocolate chips, buy the smallest (free refills) popcorn they offer, and pour them in. Sweet and salty. Yum!7 years ago

  • Ginger, With Amazon I’ve created this huge Wishlist. Then, instead of buying all of them, I request those books from the library. They’re delivered to my local branch and I renew the gems to my heart’s content…like the copy of The Art of Simple Food that I have right now.

    Dark choc chips + popcorn sound a-MAY-zing.7 years ago

  • geek+nerd: Oh I’m bookmarking this post! I read all of the comments as well – great ideas ladies.

    I’ve employed so much of the above already, but I will share a ritual of mine which is a ridiculous splurge…

    I’m very lucky to work for one of the largest ballet companies in the country, so I get free tickets. No matter how poor we are, my friends and I always splurge on one $7 flute of champagne during intermission. Nothing like getting dolled up for the ballet and sipping on champagne to make you feel like a socialite ๐Ÿ™‚7 years ago

  • Michelle: Bed & bath are the places I like to splurge a little. I like to buy super thick, plush, soft and luxurious bath towels and rugs for the bathroom. No matter how inexpensive the decor is, being wrapped in a fabulous towel after every shower and stepping into a thick soft padded rug makes all the difference! I also like to watch for sales on sheets and get high thread counts so that when I go to sleep I slip into silky soft sheets and memory foam pillows (which can be obtained now for as little as $10 or $15).6 years ago

  • Marla: Here’s what I do. Penny’s, and K-Mart have huge sales on
    jewelry. Mr. Salvage or a Big – Lots for make-up. Target for
    trendy clothes. I won’t divulge where I find my designer handbags, but , you know you can find some online. Get a pair of really classy sunglasses. David
    Yurman dressed Kate Moss in the ultimate pair in Vogue this summer. ALSO, right now magazines are VERY cheap due to the economy. Subscribe to Vogue or a fashion mag
    that trips your imagination. Save up for a visit to a local spa
    just for a facial or massage…..make that both. I am.
    ps YOU DESERVE IT call it a mini vacation Get your head screwed on straight!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Marla ๐Ÿ™‚6 years ago

  • Natalie: Just found your blog (on facebook of all places) and am loving reading back through your archives.

    Talking about cheap pampering – I adore Trader Joe’s lavender salt scrub. It’s full of apricot oil and feels so extremely sensual when you’re rubbing it on. Trader Joe’s also sells a pack of lavender sachets that you can add to your dryer. I suppose I’m on a lavender kick, but those two things just make me feel girly and special.

    The one thing though that makes me feel absolutely rich though is loading the tent and an ice chest into the car and heading for the hills. There’s so much beauty around us, and I come back home from my trips vastly enriched by the vistas I’ve seen. It also satisfies my thrifty soul because I can go off for a weekend -camping, gas, food, etc- for the cost of one night in a hotel room. Plus I get to wake up to birds singing. It really doesn’t get better.6 years ago

  • Natalie! So glad you said hi! I haven’t been camping in the longest time but hope it’s in the cards for me soon. I love the idea of sleeping under the stars.6 years ago

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