How to live a luxury lifestyle on a budget
When your lifestyle is fighting with your wallet, a small luxury makes all the difference
Is your daily fancy coffee order driving you into poverty? According to the philosophy of online finance gurus, those couple of hundred rupees a day would be better placed in a high-interest savings account, or in your stock portfolio. With the power of compounding interest (a subject dear to our hearts at Tweak), it could grow into nearly Rs 1 lakh over the course of a year. That’s not a sum to be sneezed at, and the finance guru math checks out. What’s missing from this calculus, however — as most millennials will be quick to tell you, avocado toast in hand — is the extremely personal concept of value. You could consider that morning macchiato a frivolous expense, or a way to enjoy a luxury lifestyle on a budget that gets you through a day of work without crying in the bathroom.
While money isn’t everything, there’s no denying that a certain amount of cash can contribute to happiness. According to a study by Harvard Business School, the feeling of security and convenience that we enjoy with a bit of padding in our bank accounts helps cushion us through life. “If we only focus on the happiness that money can bring, I think we are missing something,” says Jon Jachimowicz, an assistant professor in the Organizational Behavior Unit. “We also need to think about all of the worries that it can free us from.”
Investing in the future is important, but it doesn’t have to come at the cost of depriving yourself in the present. When it comes to making the most of today, the best use of disposable income might be to create a luxury lifestyle on a budget that would uplift the spirit.
Of course, how much spare cash you have is relative. The bottom line isn’t always about the cold, hard numbers, but what they can offer you: the feeling of being taken care of and comfortable. It’s a less expensive gift to yourself than you might think. Just like your macchiatos can add up to a sizeable sum, there are plenty of small expenses that can make your life feel exponentially more luxurious.
Besides the price tag itself, an equally relevant factor to consider when planning a luxury lifestyle on a budget is cost-per-use. Terry Pratchett’s boots theory sums it up; a quality pair of boots will stand you in good stead for years, ultimately proving much less expensive than the cheap boots that give out in a couple of seasons. If you can afford it, the pricier boots are actually a saving.
With that in mind, we’ve created a guide to a luxury lifestyle on a budget that won’t break the bank, but will make you feel as fancy as any finance bro. Some are free and fit into any budget, while others are just good investments to brighten up your day.
Light up your life with a good candle
To inaugurate your luxury lifestyle on a budget, turn a regular evening into a festive one with this Tweak x Faraway Tree Joy Gold candle. The warm glow combined with the heady fragrance of mogra feels indulgent, like you’re about to embark on a five-star experience even if you’re just sitting down to a humble plate of dal-chawal and Netflix.
Invest in a kitchen appliance that does it all
If the thought of cooking conjures up the tastes of burnt rice and salty bhindi from your last attempt, it’s time to change the narrative. Cooking at home saves serious bucks, and it can take the pressure off to remember that you don’t have to become Sanjeev Kapoor overnight (watch him on The Icons here) — or wrestle with a pressure cooker.
For those who are understandably uncomfortable with the idea of making dal in a whistling timebomb, the Instant Pot is your saviour. The hype is real, since this single appliance can function as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, and more. Yes, it’s a pricey gadget, but you’d be surprised how quickly home cooking ends up paying for itself.
There are literally thousands of recipes out there to whip up everything from restaurant-style pasta to cheater’s chicken biryani (just don’t tell your mother). Gaining the confidence to cook is an investment in your health as well, which is priceless in the long run.
I can buy myself flowers
If it’s good enough for Miley Cyrus, it’s good enough for us. Getting flowers as a gift is always heartwarming, but buying yourself a bouquet is a boss move. Since the plan is to craft a luxury lifestyle on a budget, opt for long-lasting varieties like sunflowers, chrysanthemums, carnations, and lilies with the pods intact that will bloom over time. Change the water every day, and throw in a crushed Disprin tablet to keep your flowers looking fresh.
When the circle of life comes to a close and your flowers start looking a bit droopy, you don’t have to toss them out. Strip the petals of roses and spread them out to air-dry for the beginnings of a potpourri bathroom freshener. If you want to keep the floral aesthetic going, trim the big leaves and stems off your blooms; flatter shapes will work best, such as daisies and baby’s breath. Open up the heaviest book you own and line it with brown paper, then stick your blooms in between with the stems taped down to create a pretty shape. Weigh it down any way you can, set aside in a dry place, and check on your flowers every couple of days. There might be a little moisture gathering, which can be remedied with a few passes from a hair dryer.
After a month, you’ll see the results of your pressed and dried flowers. Pick out the nicest specimens and stick them artfully on a thick sheet of paper. You can arrange a 2D bouquet or let your freak flag fly with an abstract design, for a bespoke, practically free floral artwork that lasts for years. It’s not a Monet, but it will save you money.
Pick up a sheaf of sheet masks
These TONYMOLY sheet masks are inexpensive, yet they’re loaded with nourishing serums. The red wine pore mask is a beauty favourite, and works wonders to perk up tired skin. Take half an hour to unwind after a long day by pouring one glass of wine into your mouth, and slapping the second onto your face. Lying back with a podcast and drifting away to a carefree realm where you have all the funds for a good facial is a small luxury.
Put free samples to work for you
Cost: Time spent spritzing every perfume at the beauty store
You don’t have to turn into your mother and hoard the ketchup sachets from every takeout order and hotel room. But free samples of luxury makeup products can lend some pizazz to your morning routine and keep you from wasting money on expensive products that don’t end up suiting you.
If you test a perfume that you love, stash a few sample strips in your bags and pockets; for weeks to come, the wafts of scent will be a delightful small luxury, much like finding a forgotten banknote. Go for eau de parfum (EDP) for more concentrated formulas that will stick, and to really make a fragrance last, you can choose from the classics that just won’t quit. Si by Giorgio Armani, Alien by Mugler, Insolence by Guerlain, and Black Orchid by Tom Ford are popular picks in most perfume aisles and usually last forever. That said, always pick the samples of scents that speak specifically to your nose (do you know what’s really in your oudh perfume?).
Invest in a wardrobe steamer
Your wardrobe could be stuffed to the brim with designer labels, or it could be a fast-fashion explosion. Ultimately, if your clothes are wrinkled and not hanging properly on you, they won’t look their best no matter what. A crisp, crease-free outfit can make you look polished and put-together, even if your bank account refuses to cooperate.
This Philips garment steamer doesn’t require an ironing board or a lot of space, and it’s travel-friendly, too. Take a few minutes to steam your outfit and no one will know that linen skirt is a haggle buy from Hill Road market.
Do a clothing swap for a new wardrobe
Cost: Snacks for the swap party
We’re always happy to take a leaf from Alia Bhatt’s book and be known as outfit repeaters. But your most beloved looks can get stale before your clothes start to wear out. If you’ve got a closet full of clothes in good condition that you’re no longer inspired to wear, a lot of your friends are likely in the same pinch.
There’s an easy way to refresh your wardrobes without falling into an online shopping black hole that sucks in your entire bank balance. Organise a clothing swap, where everyone can bring their clothes and accessories that are in good condition. You can arrange sections by size or style, depending on what works for your group. Keep a separate room or screened section for trials. With a few bowls of chips and a funky playlist, it’s a party.
Pick up a coffee table book
There’s a lot to be said for ebooks and audiobooks, including that they definitely count as a form of reading (click for more tips on getting out of a reading slump.) But neither comes with the same sensuality as a good old physical copy, made for flipping through and stacking on a shelf. Especially if they have a lovely jacket, books can double up as decor. When it’s a coffee table book filled with gorgeous images underneath a striking cover, your living room looks richer and brighter. Whether you’re interested in comic books, cats, or saris, there’s a coffee table book for you, and you only need one to make an impact.
This particular pick for diehard movie buffs is currently on sale. These books tend to be on the expensive side, so consider them a combination of your reading and home decor budgets. While they’re definitely an indulgence, the heft and nostalgia value of a stunning, heavy book on your lap is super luxe, even if you’re sitting on a rental couch to read it. Plus, they last a lot longer than paperbacks that inevitably look shabby and dog-eared after a few years.
Give in to ad-free apps
We’ve all been there. You’re pumped up for a road trip with friends, the laughter is flowing and the music is playing — until it stops and you hear a voice telling you where to sign up for a computer programming class. By the time the song resumes, your buzz has been effectively murdered.
Ad-free subscriptions typically don’t cost a great deal, but they can make your experience of using your favourite apps seamless. If you’re perpetually finding yourself frustrated with ad interruptions, go ahead and pay up. The small luxury of hassle-free gameplay or streaming is worth it.
Splurge on luxe bedsheets
We’ve all heard that it’s worth shelling out for a good mattress, and if you’re over the age of 25, your spine will tell you that it’s true. When it comes to a good night’s sleep, don’t neglect your bedsheets. High thread counts of 300 and over are pricier, but when you clamber between the sheets feeling as relaxed as a beach day in Goa, it’ll all be worth it. Nice sheets are also a practical way to make your bedroom look like a catalogue photo, like this peach sateen set from Jaipur Linen that doubles up as a decor statement.
Bamboo and microfibre might be soft, but they tend to trap heat. Cotton is the best choice for lightweight, breathable sheets that are gentle against the skin. Sateen weaves are thicker and smoother, and have an appealing silky texture. However, percale cotton sheets are a looser weave, providing a cooler cover in summer. Choose whichever one works for you, as long as it’s made from a high-quality fabric that won’t fade or start fraying in the wash. Not only do crisp cotton sheets lend your bedroom the luxury vibe of a five-star hotel, the smooth pillowcases don’t rub harshly against your face and hair. Say goodbye to waking up covered in pillow marks and frizz.
Pick up that sewing kit
You see a top you love, buy it, and then find that after a few cycles in the wash, it’s got a button coming loose and threads sticking out at the hem. Since you don’t want to go around looking like you’re coming apart at the seams, you toss it to the back of your wardrobe to eventually be discarded. Forego the heartbreak of throwing away clothes by threading the needle and sprucing them up.
Pick up this sewing kit with all the accoutrements. Mending a torn seam isn’t rocket science, and it makes your clothes look newer and better quality — instant luxury lifestyle on a budget. A few minutes of mending can cut down on a lot of waste, making your closet greener and more cost-effective. The next time you see a killer outfit and wonder if it’s too expensive, you’ll know you can make it last that much longer. Not that we’re trying to enable your impulse spending, but sometimes it’s nice to have a dream within your grasp.
Retire the clothes chair
Rich or broke, there’s nothing luxe about that one chair in your bedroom where all your not-quite-dirty clothes land. Get your garments out of laundry purgatory and into a closet organiser that creates a designated space for the mess. These handy boxes from IKEA are easy to stuff in your closet or under the bed, and are especially useful for those clothes that you don’t wear every day. You can use them as a transitional laundry hamper for the clothes that need folding or rewearing.
Get lip balms in bulk
Cost: Double your current lip balm budget.
As Jachimowicz noted, a significant part of feeling rich is not having the stress that comes with lacking the essentials. So if you spend every morning scrabbling through your handbag for your trusty lip balm, only to find it in yesterday’s jeans pocket, a simple and cost-effective solution is to buy several lip balms. The same goes for your favourite ballpoint pens, purse-sized snacks, and even your keys. You’ll never be stranded in your building corridor again, having to cajole the locksmith to make an emergency visit.
It doesn’t cost very much to swathe yourself in a feeling of abundance, so that whenever you reach for something you need, it’s at hand. When you’ve got the peace of mind that you’re prepared for the day ahead, you can focus your attention on rich people problems, like buying cryptocurrency or ruining a perfectly good social media platform.
Be your own bartender
This versatile set of glassware from Nestasia is pretty enough to set on a shelf as a home decor item, and it will lend your homemade gin and tonic the air of being served in a trendy bar. Why stop at cocktails? The next time you’re pouring out your breakfast orange juice, reach for a fancy glass and start your morning by cosplaying a crorepati (even if you’re only achieving this luxury lifestyle on a budget).
Don’t wait to run out of household essentials
Cost: A shelf in your storage cupboard.
The feeling of abundance doesn’t have to be about gold jewellery stuffed into the Godrej almirah. Instead, you can create it day-to-day by keeping your ordinary cupboards stocked up with the items you use constantly. Think tissue boxes, cooking oil, soaps and toothpaste — they might be mundane, but the luxury comes from never finding yourself short of garam masala while your curry is simmering, or realising you haven’t got any conditioner as the shampoo drips into your eyes. Plus, you’ll save on the last-minute delivery orders.
The best way to ensure you’re living in abundance is to stick a list on the fridge that you can keep adding to whenever you’re running low on an item. Or rely on grocery list apps like Listronic, which will eventually learn what you frequently purchase and add it automatically to your shopping list.