Feeling Like A Rich Person On A Normal Budget

Living simply is one of the first steps to living well. Purple Iris, original watercolor by Steve Henderson

Years ago, when my sister brought home prospective husband material to the family, she mentioned that the potential son-in-law liked butter on his bread. My mother was horrified.

“Do you realize how much more expensive butter is than margarine?” she demanded. “You won’t be able to afford living with him.”

I won’t go into detail about the reaction to my bringing home a Norwegian Artist for inspection; suffice it to say that time has proven him to be a wise investment — despite the additional impediment of his also preferring butter over margarine.

Often, in our quest to save money, we go for the cheap stuff because, well, it costs less, but that’s really only at the counter where we swipe the debit card. Take pop, or soda, or carbonated drinks, or whatever it is you call it, for example. Even the name brands, on sale, are relatively cheap, sort of, especially when compared to real juice made with real fruit.

But when you add up the potential dental issues from the sugar overload, or the possible health side effects from the chemical additives and artificial ingredients, or just the cost itself from the sheer quantity that people tend to ingest — because it’s “cheap,” so why not? — then pop isn’t an inexpensive option. If you bought juice — the real stuff, with a quantifiable amount of fruit product in it — you wouldn’t drink as much because you couldn’t afford to, but if you accepted the juice for what it is — a delicious, luxurious item to be enjoyed — then you will compositely get more out of it than you do the pop. (Oh, by the way, if you haven’t learned the trick of watering down the juice to half water, give it a try; it still tastes good and you can literally drink twice as much.)

When it comes to beverages, there are many superior alternatives, like tea, to soda. Afternoon Tea, original oil painting at Steve Henderson Fine Art; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

Let’s go back to the butter versus margarine. I use butter because it tastes better, but I go one step further — I buy organic butter (which is a reachable price at CostCo) and use less of it, but when I use it, I love it. Rather than slather it — and the corresponding calories — on cheap bread to compensate for the innocuous taste of both, I judiciously add butter to artisan bread and luxuriate in the taste of quality. This is how rich people eat — good food, made with fine ingredients. Go to any billionaire’s home for lunch, and I doubt that you’ll get boxed, orange, macaroni and “cheese” product.

“It’s unrealistic for a normal family to feed itself on all organic ingredients.”

I hear you. I raised a family of six, and we couldn’t afford to eat all organic. But we did eat well, with the best ingredients I could buy, and we spent about as much, or less, than our parental colleagues feeding the brood out of boxes. While they had fruit roll ups, we had oranges; their boxed pudding was homemade at our house; hot dogs and potato chips at the neighbor’s was vegetable soup and baked potato fries in our dining room. You get the idea: you have to fill those little tummies with something, and it costs just as much, or less, to create it in your kitchen from decent, healthy, and sometimes sublimely luxurious ingredients.

Take what you’ve got — your circumstances, your resources, and run with it. Run Free, one of the inspirational poster collection at Steve Henderson Fine Art

Because that’s where the luxury part comes in: on a budget that doesn’t look like your billionaire friends’, you can’t afford a pantry full of fresh, organic, artisan ingredients flown from disparate parts of the world, but you can incorporate an amazing item amongst the beans and rice, potatoes and sausage, pasta and sauce: every now and then, go for the gold in an accessory food, like an exotic hot salsa for those beans, a specialty sausage from the meat counter to pump up the potatoes, a wedge of real Parmesan cheese (not the stuff in the green tube) to lightly sprinkle over the pasta.

Think of luxury foods like a fine cashmere scarf — you can drape the latter over a t-shirt and metamorphose instantly into Glam Girl. Luxury items, food or not, are like that scarf — you won’t have a whole bunch of them, but if you’re not spending your money on massive amounts of cheap things that clutter up the living room, you’ll save enough to splurge on one gloriously beautiful item that you love and use all the time.

And you’ll feel rich.

Yes, you need a certain amount of money to live, but it may not be as much as you think. Live

You don’t have to be rich to feel rich.

Happily on Less walks you through the realistic lifestyle changes you can make to live like a wealthier person than your bank account says that you are.

“It’s a refreshing look at living on less that doesn’t require the extreme tactics that many others propose.” — Amazon Reader Review

This article was originally published on ThoughtfulWomen.org.