It’s easy to think a life of luxury is one of designer handbags, fancy cars and long champagne lunches.  However, luxury is a purely subjective term. We each have our own definition of luxury, based on our desires, standards and dare I say it, bank balance. Enjoying life’s luxuries is not about maxing out your credit card, but rather savouring life’s finer pleasures.

Luxuries are generally defined as ‘treats’.  Something we might not ordinarily experience.  It can also be a high end product or service which makes us feel luxurious.  As the cost of living continues to escalate, it’s the treats and luxuries we usually strike off our list first.  But must we?  Can we not redefine luxury in a way that enables us to sustain a level of luxury even on a tight budget?  I believe it is possible.  Read on to find out how.

Budget for it

First thing’s first.  Always shop within your means. 

If luxury means a spa massage, a new pair of shoes or a meal at a fancy restaurant and you simply can’t afford it at the moment, it doesn’t mean you have to completely miss out.  Simply plan ahead.  Either save up for it over a few months (giving you something to look forward to) or for special occasions such as Birthdays and Christmas, request family and friends chip in or buy you gift vouchers toward your desired treat. 

We’ve become so conditioned to buying ‘the thing’ as soon as we want it.  But this has robbed us of the joy of anticipation and the fulfilment that comes with finally experiencing something we’ve been working toward.  If anything, having to wait for a special experience or purchase will bring more pleasure to the experience once it arrives. 

Work out your priorities

Reevaluate what you value and what brings you joy.  Without doubt, there will be cost cutting across most households during these times.  The trick is to ensure you don’t eliminate all of the pleasure out of your life.  Determine which luxuries are priorities and work to keep them within budget.

For example, my husband and I drink home-brewed coffee and mostly eat home cooked meals instead of takeaway.  We consider a take-out coffee or a meal in a restaurant a luxury reserved for special occasions.   By eliminating these from our ‘regularly scheduled program’ we can afford a regular box of organic veggies.  Having a box delivered to my door containing fresh, organic, locally grown produce is true luxury to me.  Less time spent at the supermarket as a result? Also a luxury.  Even as we tighten our budget, this is something we'll work hard to keep.

Become a conscious consumer

Perhaps investing in luxury items simply means choosing consciously crafted over cheap and nasty.   Ensure the things you do invest in brings you long-term joy.  Spend your money mindfully.  Support your local economy rather than the mass-produced, slave labour trade.  Invest in things that will last you a lifetime rather than a season.   Buy heirloom quality goods, items you can pass on to your children.

Quality over quantity

Instead of buying things regularly, when the impulse strikes, ’save up’ for more expensive luxury items once or twice a year.  Simply shop less often.  Treat yourself to something beautiful you will treasure for many years to come.  It’s not expensive if it lasts a decade or more.

Timeless over ‘on trend’

Ditch the seasonal ‘sweatshop’ fashion and seek out classic wardrobe staples which will stand the test of time.  Curate a capsule wardrobe with high quality threads made from natural materials by brands who have high ethical and sustainability standards.  Mix high-end fashion staples with high quality vintage pieces.  Seek out elegant and unique statement pieces at your local op shop.  

I recently attended my sister in law’s wedding wearing mostly vintage attire along with a pair of linen pants I bought 5 years ago.  I felt a million dollars but the only new item I wore was a pair of shoes.  A soft pink silk jacket, cream satin blouse, cute diamanté screw on earrings and a hand cut rock crystal necklace from the 1950s were all scored second hand, each item was under $25. 

A luxury home

Luxury doesn’t have to mean a budget blowout for your interiors.  Soft lighting, easy to reach for cosy throws and stylish cushions is luxury.   Bold art on the walls, thriving pot plants, candles or incense can transform a space from ‘meh’ to ‘yeah’.  Spaciousness is luxury too.  Ditch the clutter and simplify your space so it is easy on the eye and easier to maintain.

Redefining luxury

Perhaps luxury is a state of being rather than ‘stuff’.  Is it a sleep in on the weekend or a long bubble bath?  Luxury might be a slow cooked lamb shoulder with a glass of red.  Maybe it’s a pair of soft slippers or a cashmere cardigan. 

Find value in the things that are free or easy to make yourself. Rambling jasmine over a shared fence?  Fill a vase with foraged, fragrant blooms.   Eat or bathe by candlelight.  Go to your local art gallery (general entry is usually free) and feel fancy as you ponder the meaning of life through the lens of an artist.

Luxury really is simplicity at its core.  It’s having the time and space to enjoy yourself, in whatever way that means for you.  Perhaps luxury is saying no to all the invitations and yes to some down time on your own.  It could be putting a ‘no junk mail’ sticker on your letterbox and unsubscribing from all the tempting marketing emails so you can shop when the inspiration strikes not when the algorithm tells you. 

Our grandparents lived much more simply than the average person lives today.  Sure, the standards of living were lower, but so too were people’s expectations on themselves.  There was no pressure to live a designer lifestyle on a celebrity income.  Eating out was an occasional treat.  A new wardrobe item was a big deal, carefully researched and often made to order.   It was then lovingly looked after for many years and mended if required.  My own father tells me how excited he was when he got a chocolate bar in his Christmas stocking one Christmas as a boy, along with an orange and an apple.  A bar of chocolate was a luxury back then! 

Perhaps with tighter times luxuries can be transformed into luxuries once more. Replace instant gratification with prolonged pleasure.   Enjoy long-term fulfilment over the dopamine high of a quick fix.  With a little mindset reset we can once more indulge in luxuries the way they were designed to be enjoyed.  As an occasional treat.  Something to look forward to, with every delicious, pleasure filled moment to be savoured and enjoyed.  Yes please!  What a luxury that would be!

Alison Gallagher is a freelance writer, resourcefulness expert and entrepreneur.  She has been featured in various publications including Stellar Magazine, Australian Health and Fitness Magazine, and Cleo Magazine. Alison is particularly passionate about sharing practical tips on how to live simply, sustainably and seasonally.  


24 August 2023