So many of us read blogs that are aspirational. We dream about wearing those clothes. Living in that house. Going on that vacation. It can be pretty easy for comparisonitis to set in and for our lives to feel pretty grim in comparison to all of the sparkle and glamour. And soon we might think that we'll never have the budget for our champagne tastes or that we have to put the life we want on hold until we're making mad cash. The Internet can create the illusion that everyone's living a far more fabulous life than you are and at times I'm afraid I contribute to this. Jetting off to Paris for my birthday, curating over-the-top outfits, and Instagramming the decadent desserts that I enjoy probably make it appear that I'm a lot more flush than I am. When in truth, I'm quite tight with my purse strings. I rarely go out drinking, I buy almost all of my clothes at charity shops, and eat most of my meals at home. But that doesn't mean my life isn't a wild and fun adventure.
I've learned to be quite frugal because I am working to get out of debt and my salary is hardly extravagant. But I'd like to think I'm quite savvy. I don't let my small budget stop me from living the kind of life I want. I just make sure that when I spend my money, I make it count.
In case you're in a similar position, where your aspirations don't yet match your wallet, I've put together my top 10 tips for creating a champagne life on a lemonade budget.
Take a good, hard look at your finances. When we're stressed about money, most of us bury our head in the sand and avoid looking at our bank balance like its the plague. Instead, create a really clear picture of where you're at financially. How much are you earning? How much do you owe? What are your expenditures? You can only create a realistic budget when you get really clear on your finances. I'd recommend using an app like Wally or YNAB for tracking your spending and creating a budget.
Get intentional with where you want to spend. What do you want your life to look like (or if you're a desire mapper, how do you want your life to feel?) How can you best use your money to create that for yourself? If you want to feel secure, perhaps prioritizing savings and decorating your home are your most important budget items. If adventure is your top priority, then tucking away pennies for regular mini holidays (or epic annual vacations) is probably a must for you. Do you treasure your weekly brunch with the girls? Can you not imagine life without a fridge full of market-fresh vegetables? Get really clear on what purchases maximize your happiness and contribute most to the life of your dreams.
Decide where you can make sacrifices. Once you know what's really important to you, it's time to figure out what isn't. Could you downsize your living space or get a housemate to save money for frequent holidays? Could you give up your daily latte habit in favour of making your own at home? What about dusting off your library card and cancelling your Amazon Prime account? Even making small cuts could add up to a fabulous bottle of champagne every month, if that's what you want. Consistently tracking your spending will make it clear where you can curb your expenses but see if you can find a few ways to cut back your spending right away.
Change your money mantra. You're never going to feel luxurious or extravagant if you're constantly telling yourself (and everyone else!) how broke you are and every purchase leaves you wracked with guilt. Instead, focus on the fact that you already have enough. Create a list of the areas of your life that are abundant. Count your blessings. Remember that money is energy and where it flows, grows. When you become mindful about your spending rather than swiping your credit card willy nilly, it becomes a lot easier to feel good about your finances. But it's essential that you also start changing the way you talk and think about money.
Choose the budget luxury. I have a taste for bubbly; it's definitely my drink of choice. It would be cheaper to always opt for the cheapest lager on tap but a glass of prosecco makes me feel how I want to feel - celebratory and fun. That doesn't mean I can always afford a bottle when I'm out, but I might start with a glass before moving on to something cheaper. Or I'll opt to pick some up from the supermarket and invite friends over, rather than paying premium prices at a bar. Buying luxury items doesn't have to break the bank, so when you do, just be savvy about shopping around and be a bit flexible.
Find the freebies. Sign up to be a mystery shopper. Ask for samples. Keep an eye out for launch and promo events. Search for discount codes. Cut coupons. There are so many ways to get tastes of the decadent and luxurious without spending a mint.
Get into DIY. Love that exquisitely beaded dress but can't handle the price tag? Why not buy something from a charity shop and embellish it yourself? Instead of dropping a lot of money on expensive event tickets, get creative and decorate your house for a themed potluck with your besties. You don't have to be super crafty to get a bit innovative and make what you can afford feel special and luxurious.
Select your treats wisely and savour them. Every once in a while it's fun to splurge on an insanely pricey cocktail (hello, The Ritz 100!) or a fancy pair of shoes. Choose something that makes you feel excited to indulge in and then savour every moment of it. No guilt-tripping allowed!
Use a cash budget. I picked up this tip from my dear friend Jayne. Figure out how much you're allocating to yourself each week (after your bills and expenses are paid) and take it out in cash every Monday. Allow yourself to use it however you'd like - even if that means blowing it all on an amazing dinner or a beautiful new dress. But when it's gone, it's back to staying in and eating kitchen staples because you don't get any more until next week.
Get creative about the bigger things. Can't afford to save for a big holiday? If you want to see the world, you could try WOOFing. Or look for house swap opportunities. Get creative about how to have the experiences you want, without the cost. And if your current income doesn't allow a lot of room for saving, you can also think of creative ways to make some extra cash. Host an event, sell your old clothes, or freelance in the evenings to make the money you need.
Just because you're not earning a six-figure income doesn't mean you can't live a life you absolutely love. It's all in your attitude, so start cultivating luxury in ways that you can afford and you might be surprised how quickly you feel differently about your wallet - and your beautiful life!
How do you support your champagne tastes on a lemonade budget? I'd love to hear!
Love, pixie sticks, & silk sun dresses,
Photographs via Love Wildfox