Folks weigh in on some of the most inexpensive hacks they use to feel like they’re living a life of luxury. Spend your next $20 in the right place to maximize the cushiness of your lifestyle.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that $20 or $50 spent on one item can bring 10x more happiness than spending the same amount on another. It seems that quite a few others have discovered the same concept, because there was a pretty active thread on the Reddit Personal Finance subreddit just a few days ago on folks’ best ideas for living large without spending much.
Here are a few of the best tips from the Reddit crowd, as well as some of my own:
Learn To Cook Delicious Food At Home
This was the top-upvoted comment on the entire thread, and it led to a pretty robust discussion. Several folks swear by investing in a sous vide machine that will put out stuff that tastes better than restaurants. I will say that for most of us, I think starting with a few dishes will be the smart bet before investing in any machinery.
I am a recent convert to cooking at home, myself. Having access to all sorts of diverse cuisine in NYC, and having been conditioned to eating out 6+ times a week due to my delivery budget at work and regular business meetings, I was a real snob about this point. Being able to cook three things really well has made eating at home feel like a feast for a king. I learned how to make salads (key is to buy a variety of toppings at the store – it still works out to less than $3 per salads), and now my salads are better than $15 restaurant salads. I learned how to make savory omelets, and now I can switch it up with whatever I like and eat it at all times of the day. And I make baked chicken thighs regularly using different marinades. Once you figure out the mechanics of brining (so easy), your food tastes better and is healthier than eating out. While I still go out for things that are difficult to make without specialty ingredients (Ethiopian injera, brick-oven for coal fired pizza crust, etc.), I greatly enjoy my food at home. It feels like a luxury rather than a sacrifice I make to keep costs under control.
A regular Tuesday morning breakfast at home.
Replace Your Showerhead With a Detachable or Rainfall Showerhead
I’m embarrassed by how long it took me to try this one. It was only about eight months ago that I experienced having an upgraded shower head of my own. You probably use your shower once a day. It’s a refuge after a long day at work, or the way you wake yourself up in the morning. It’s nice to honor the transition in your day with something special. Plus, an upgraded shower head can be dirt cheap. Here’s a nice, well-reviewed rainfall shower head for under $30. Here’s a detachable model with 6 different spa water settings for $40. That’s absurd value for the money.
For renters, this is one of the best ways to spiff up your rental. Obviously you don’t want to make expensive upgrades to a place you’ll only live in temporarily, but you can take your shower head with you to your next place easily. I’m not very handy, so I didn’t realize how easy this was until the first time we popped of that builder grade old shower head that’s common in NYC walk-ups. If you don’t know the one, it looks like this:
Note: That picture comes from a listing for an 800 sq ft 1 bedroom in NYC that is renting for $4200/month. Yes, really. Craigslist listings tend to be removed quickly but you can check it out here
Good Quality Toilet Paper
Guilty again. I generally try and buy whatever toilet paper is on sale. One day I made the mistake of bringing home Scott 1000 toilet paper. It was super cheap, probably 65 cents a roll compared to 80 or 90 cents for something like Charmin Ultra. My husband noticed the change immediately. The day I changed the toilet paper roll, he came out of the bathroom asking “what is this?” A fairly frugal man himself, he put his foot down about having decent toilet paper in the house. After 3 weeks using the rest of that crappy Scott 1000 toilet paper, I came to agree. The total difference is probably $30-$40 a year. For something you use so often and in such…ah, sensitive places, you get a lot of luxury for your buck here.
Insoles For Your Shoes
Guys, these are amazing. Even shoes which cost $80+ seem to skimp on padding for your soles. As someone who has flat feet and needs arch support, I came to insoles early. A $13 pair of Dr. Scholl’s gel insoles will make you feel like a new person. Bonus if that extra comfort gets you to be more active. For ladies, you can even find insoles that will work for your flats. Flats are great for work but most of them are terrible for your back. Rectify this with a a few dollars’ investment. They will make any pair of shoes feel instantly twice as expensive. Depending on the shoe, you may need to remove the sole that comes with it first in order to make enough room. Give it a shot.
Quality Bed Sheets and Bedding
You spend a third of your life asleep on your bed. You sure as heck aren’t spending a third of your money on your bedding. It may be worth upping your investment a little here. I spent a lot of time in hotels traveling for work, and their beds always felt so much more luxurious than what I had at home (granted, what I had for a long time was a mattress on the floor, but still). There are two tricks to the trade to instantly upgrade your sleep situation without investing in a super expensive mattress.
The first is to pay for high quality sheets. There’s a pretty good set of reviews from Business Insider on the subject. You probably only need to buy two to three sets, and they’ll easily last you a few years. That’s perhaps a $100 to $150 difference over three years, or $50 a year.
The second is to purchase a mattress topper. Do you want the luxurious cloud feeling you get when you lay on a hotel bed? You don’t have to buy a new mattress for hundreds of extra dollars. Consider a mattress topper to add luxury to your bed. Mattress toppers come in all forms, from a simple layer of down-like softness like this (I have one and it’s great) to a several-inch thick foam topper to really give your lumpy old mattress support and oomph like this one over here.
A Clean House (Aka A RoboVacuum)
It’s amazing how big a difference a clean environment will make to your mood. I realize that asking you to invest hours into cleaning is not exactly a hack. And hiring a maid is a hack, but not necessariy a cheap one. So what is this point doing on the list. Simple.
I’d like to introduce you to the concept of a robovacuum.
Popularized by Roomba, there are now dozens of automatic vacuums. They usually cost somewhere between $100-$250 (though you can also get some of these bad boys used for much less on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace) for a pretty good model. Robovacuums charge up at a docking station, and they will begin cleaning – without your help – at the touch of a button. You can start the thing before you head off for work, or if you don’t mind having it clean while you’re in the house, you can let it run wild any day of the week.
I just bought my first robovacuum 3 months ago and it’s now one of my favorite possessions. Before that, I thought it was one of the stupidest things in existence (whoops). The thing about vacuuming is that while it doesn’t take a ton of time, there’s still friction to getting the whole process going. But even I can walk over and press the start button on the machine. Plus, I’m not above admitting that I get a little kick out of having a little minion. Come on, how many opportunities do you have in life to offload your chores without hearing an earful of whining? Never. But when you get home from a long day of your boss yelling at you, fighting with your colleague in marketing, and dodging terrible drivers on the freeway, you can command your little robo minion to do your housework for you and it will.
The model I picked up is this Eufy, which generally goes for about $50-$100 less than the equivalent model of the better-known Roomba. I would Google “(the model name) + promo code” as there is almost always some sort of coupon advertised on an electronics review site for this. Kinja usually has one, but I won’t link as it will be outdated in five seconds. You can usually score another $20-$30 off the price this way. I’ve had nothing but good things to say about my Eufy so far, and I know someone who has used customer service for a replacement under the 1 year warranty and said it was painless and a good experience.
Don’t laugh. I also tend to associate houseplants with old ladies who like to grow begonias and prune their flower bushes. Greenery in the house completely elevates the look of the space. Bonus points if it gives off a subtle fragrance. As someone who has lived in various apartments with little direct sunlight, I’ve hesitated to get a houseplant. There was an unfortunate incident where my now-husband got me a plant for our first Valentine’s Day. He’s an engineer, and he told me he thought it was more practical to get me a potted plant rather than cut flowers – so very him, and so not what girls typically envision when they dream about being swept off their feet for a romantic night. In any case, I was so stressed taking care of that plant, because I took it as a symbol of our new relationship. What if it died? Would that symbolize the inevitable withering of our relationship?
Between my travel for work and my time spent with my husband-then-boyfriend, that plant lasted a heroic 1 ½ months. My husband also sees fit to remind me of the incident of the “dead love plant.”
You can see why I’m leery of caring for another plant.
However, I recently I got myself silk flowers, and they have upgraded the look of our living space significantly without the work of caring for a living plant. I would argue this is an even better way to take advantage of this concept than an actual houseplant, especially for the lazy among us. You get the option of even more color than most of the houseplant options, and none of the work. You can even spritz the bouquet with a subtle scent. I’ve been pretty happy with this bouquet I bought on Amazon and have gotten several compliments on them from guests.
(Non-Tacky) Car Deodorizer and Air Fresheners
So you’re driving around in this multi-thousand dollar luxury mobile every day. You get behind the wheel of this modern marvel of technology, lean back in your seat…and take a giant whiff of your kids’ old gym socks. Or the stale smell of the McDonald’s Big Mac you had for lunch yesterday. Yuck. Way to ruin a daily experience.
An air freshener will upgrade the feel of your car again. Or for those with more sensitive noses, consider at least a deodorizer. To be clear, I am not advocating a tacky hanging freshener that swishes back and forth from the rearview mirror. I used to associate car fresheners with a pine tree cutout which smelled too strongly of perfume. These days, you can get items that are not nearly as overpowering, and which fit in with the decor of your classy car much better.
You can get an aromatherapy oil diffuser the size of a large button which clips onto one of the car’s air vents. Cost: $10
Another option is a scented sachet you can tuck discreetly into various crannies of your car. Cost: $10 a pack
If you have a sensitive nose, consider buying a bamboo charcoal bag which will absorb all odors in the car.
A Signature Low-Cost Drink
This was a new one for me, but a few Redditors suggested mixing mango La Croix and orange juice 50-50 for a luxurious drink to serve friends or even just yourself on a relaxing night at home. The bubbliness gives it the feeling of a high end drink. Pour it in a wine glass and enjoy your super inexpensive luxury.
There are tons of ways to add luxury to your life for very little upfront cost. The trick is to apply your upgrades to elements of your life that occur daily, and to take advantage of today’s consumer-oriented plethora of products to buy something at the bottom of the cost curve. To help you sort through all the myriad options, there are tips and articles from others who can recommend their own hacks. For example, if you’re interested in reading the entire Reddit thread mentioned earlier, you can check it out over here.
Do you have any hacks you use to add luxury to your lifestyle in an inexpensive way? Would love to learn from your own experiments!