How to Live Like a Millionaire without a Million

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What is my secret? How can I enjoy such a magnificent lifestyle (two houses by the beach, international travel, house cleaner twice a week, massages…) without being a millionaire? How can we enjoy all this while saving aggressively for inevitable old age?

I confess that I am frugal in ways most people aren’t.

I work from a beautiful home office so I don’t use much gas (petrol in the UK). We’ve never had a new car. I can’t see the point of buying a new car when you can get a great used car for a fraction of the cost. In fact, we have a Nissan Cube and a Honda Elysium. Both are used Japanese exports.  And, I can tell you, the cute little Cube turns heads, as does the rather sleek Elysium! You don’t need a Lamborghini to get attention unless you need it to compensate for a lack of self-worth. Good luck with that plan.

I also tend to buy lovely, big homes that have potential and need some work. So, they are purchased below market value. 

We bought our six bedroom Victorian summer home at auction for $70K in the dark recession. Our fabulous home in the UK now has six bedrooms, four bathrooms and two offices. When we bought it, it had only three bedrooms and two baths. We renovated the loft and built a garage with two offices over it. We developed the property into a good-sized family home. I know it sounds excessive, but with two kids, two home offices, and visitors staying for six weeks at a time from the US, we actually use all of our space.

In the UK, it is cheaper to buy a house and develop it. In the US, it is usually cheaper to buy a house already the size you want and need. So don’t take this as blanket advice. You need to know what the bargains are in your own area. They may be very specific to a particular time and place. For example, in Manitowoc where my mom lives, for a few years it was cheaper to buy a duplex home than a single family home. Hello, opportunity! In fact, you could buy a duplex and convert it back into a single family and still come out ahead. That window of opportunity lasted a few years before people cottoned on.

I buy most of our furniture at auctions and have done this both in the UK and the US.

I’m still stunned that it is cheaper to buy an antique walnut dressing table (£22) at auction than it is to buy a new one made of MDF at Ikea. Another no brainer. Antique furniture is often better made, of solid wood, and more likely to retain or improve in value over time than new furniture. So naturally, I prefer antiques. And buying used furniture is also a green thing to do. It is the classiest form of recycling! Plus, you get the adrenaline rush of buying at auction—infinitely more exciting than walking into a store and whipping out a credit card.  I’ve moved and sold furniture many times. It is very hard to get anywhere near what you paid for new furniture.

I remember buying a brand new sofa when I lived in the Catskills. I sold it, with the tags still on, for one quarter of what I paid new. Ouch! Thankfully, my antiques sold at a profit so I came out ahead after the estate sale. (I moved to England when I married and sold nearly everything I owned). If you don’t like antiques, no worries. You can go to garage sales, moving sales and estate sales and pick up everything from vacuums to sofas at a fraction of the usual price.

I also don’t do the daily coffee thing, although my husband does.

I try to buy the kid’s clothes and toys at charity shops whenever possible (it is also the green thing to do!). We gladly accept hand-me-downs from friends. Kids grow out of things so quickly it doesn’t make sense to “invest” in quality clothes at their age. My favorite store is TJ Maxx—designers at a discount.

We used to have live-in au pairs when the kids were little. I used to think this was only something the rich could do. We used Childcare International. The girls who were au pairs were here to learn English. We housed and fed them.  And we paid them £70 a week for 30 hours of work, which was the contract required. It was a win-win for all concerned. And it was much more affordable than most people think. You need a spare bedroom in your house, and it helps to have a spare bathroom, but it isn’t required. We don’t send our kids to expensive private schools because we simply moved to a town where the local free schools are excellent.

I consider all this painless frugality. It enables us to live a really luxurious life without having to have ridiculous amounts of money.

So if your own frugality plans are frustrating you like Done by Forty, then it is time for a major rethink. Why not invest in a bit of navel gazing (life coaching) to find your real passion in life and start enjoying life now? What is the point of slugging it out for 10 or worse yet, 30 or more years in a job you don’t like?

Waiting for a million or more while your life passes you by, sounds like misery to me.

Why not live your ideal life now? Or at least in two years while you save up enough to quit the job you hate. Yes, you still need to save and invest for the future, but you can have fun in the process. You can have a really amazing life and, while not exactly frugal, it doesn’t have to cost as much as you think.

One of my coaching colleagues, Cheryl Richardson, shared how she hated cooking. She always dreamed of having a personal chef. She finally hired a local cooking service to make her organic and wholesome meals. They delivered them once a week. All she had to do was pop them in the oven or microwave. She thought this was the ultimate indulgence. However, she discovered that she actually saved money! Instead of wasting groceries, grabbing take out food or eating in restaurants, she had healthy meals and no cooking. Better for her health and her wealth.

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