Your standard of living is not just determined by how much you earn. While what we all spend our hard-earned paychecks on is pretty much the same (housing, food, clothing, living expenses and recreation), the cost of those things can vary widely depending on where we buy them. There are also some little tricks that can help your dollar go further. With a little forethought and planning, you can live rich on the same amount of money you had when you thought you were poor.
Location, Location, Location
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If you are willing to move out of your comfort zone, you might be able to quickly become a lot more comfortable. Forty percent of Americans never move away from the general area where they were born — but they don’t stay for career or financial reasons. Seventy-four percent stay because they have family ties there; 64 percent just want to stay near where they grew up. However, if you want a better life, think about broadening your horizons. The cost of living – especially housing – varies widely among states and even among countries. For instance, you can get a seven-bedroom mansion in Youngstown, Ohio for far less than you would pay for a small condo in Los Angeles. In Cuenca, Ecuador, a monthly budget of $1,400, will get you a luxury apartment with maid service, plus pay for all your food, clothing, car maintenance, fuel, entertainment and health care – for two.
You Are What You Drive
As soon as you drive a new car off the lot, it is worth half of what you paid for it. You can buy a used – or should I say, “pre-owned” -- luxury car for the same or less than you can buy a new economy car. According to Comercia Bank, the average price of a new car is more than $27,000. For that price, you can get a fabulous used luxury car, like a BMW 328i or a Mercedes-Benz E320.
Dress For Success
Trying to find bargains at outlet malls or online won’t help you dress like the rich and famous when you have a K-Mart size budget. The best way to dress rich is to wear what rich people wear – literally. Estate sales are the place to get authentic designer clothing for pennies on the dollar. By “estate sale,” I don’t mean a nicer word for “garage sale.” A true estate sale is run by an estate sales manager, not the original owner. If buying used clothing makes you cringe, you’ll get over it the first time you buy a $2,000 Dolce & Gabbana suit for $25. Think of it as “vintage,” if it helps. You can also find some real bargains at second-hand clothing stores in or near expensive neighborhoods.
Vacation Like a Jet-Setter
When a country’s problems put it in the headlines, tourists tend to avoid the entire region – even if it’s absolutely safe. In countries like Greece, Mexico, Nepal and Indonesia, you can vacation like a jet-setter at incredible bargain rates because even the luxury resorts have rooms that are going empty.
Lisa Dorward was a corporate financial executive and business consultant for more than 15 years before becoming a writer in 2003. She has B.A. degrees in both history and creative writing and earned her M.F.A. in creative writing in 2008, specializing in novel-length historical fiction.