Tuesday, July 28, 2015

How to Live an Expensive Life

 There’s a lottery here in New Zealand that promises that if you win, you can live the life of a rich person.  You will win a house, a European car and a boat, and many other things.  Even though I am happy with the house and car I have, and don’t have any interest in owning a boat, it still appeals more than winning ‘just’ a big money prize.  I don’t know why this is, but it just does!

A L’Oréal competition I entered a few years ago had a roll-call of different prizes for the lucky winner that included:

Fresh flowers delivered every week
A cleaner
A fancy car lease
Regular facials and massage
Along with quite a few other services that you could have for the year.

I think it was the total package that appealed.  I could just step into a lifestyle of ease and beauty.  The visuals they chose were attractive too – a beautiful home and well-tended garden, a serene lady in the photos.

Even when I didn’t win, I kept the entry form just to drink in that feeling.  It’s silly I know, but I still enjoyed the dream.

So since I didn’t win (dangit), I thought I’d list down ways in which I can feel like I am living a wealthy life, on our moderate household income, in the medium-sized normal house that we live in, in the middle of suburbia.

Visit art galleries for an exhibition.  Even though I am a total philistine when it comes to culture (there are many other things I would choose to do instead), whenever I visit an art exhibition I come away feeling so uplifted and remember why it is that art is so important to us and has been for thousands of years.

Stay the night at a fancy hotel in your own town.  My husband and I do this once or twice a year.  We go for quality over quantity.  Our favourite five-star hotel is such a pleasure to stay at.  We take our nicest clothing and best fragrance and dress up for drinks.  We definitely get good value for money because apart from the experience of spending twenty-four hours there, I return home refreshed and re-inspired to live a beautiful life.

Remember chic mentors and think how would they act in certain situations.  This helps me out when deciding what to have for lunch or avoiding junky snacks at the supermarket.  It helps me drink plenty of water during the day and also to keep my speaking voice soft.  Remembering my chic mentors helps me take the non-lazy path when I am tempted to be a slob.  They help me sit up straight too.

Eat fruits, salads, and protein, drink unsweetened herbal tea or mineral water – rich ladies are often slim and this is what I imagine they would eat.  I read in a couple of different interviews with Joan Collins that she eats a whole avocado with her lunchtime salad every day.  Ms Collins is 82 now and looks pretty good, so I have started eating more avocado too. 

One of my loveliest and most elegant friends is of a certain age, very wealthy and very slim.  I have noted she eats small portions of food when we are out for lunch and drinks tea but never coffee, and never eats sweet things.  She told me if she cooks dinner for one when her husband is out she has a small piece of salmon and some steamed vegetables or a salad.  I have started doing this too.  It is much more chic and you feel a lot better than taking that same night at home by yourself to pig out on your ‘favourite’ junk foods.

Visit wealthy areas to window shop and absorb the atmosphere.  Take note of what others are wearing and how they hold themselves.  I often observe that they are quietly confident in doing their own thing and not looking around wondering if others are watching them or feeling self-conscious.

Declutter so that you only have your favourite and very best, be it crockery, blouses or craft supplies.  Donate the rest to charity.  I promise you will feel wealthier when you next open your wardrobe door, pantry or craft cupboard.

I did this with my knitting yarns a while back.  I have a small stash of wool, and then I was given my grandmother-in-law’s giant amount when she moved into a rest home.  I was the only knitter in the family so I got it all!  I donated all the colours I did not like to two different animal shelters to make toys to sell, plus to make blankets for the cat cages and jerseys for the small dogs. 

I did a few sifts and I suppose I must have done a big one and forgotten about it, because when I went looking for some yarn to knit a toy mouse recently (as you do), I had hardly anything left!  Just one small sized storage bin with all the nicest and best balls of wool yarn.

I was a bit shocked at first but then I realised I would have to make a toy mouse from something nice, not the unattractive colours and acrylic yarn.  I’d forced myself to take my own advice.  I sometimes think I declutter in my sleep.  I might think to myself ‘I’ll donate that item, I haven’t used it in ages’.  When I go to look for it I realise I’ve already donated it…

I’d love to know, what does your expensive life contain?


  1. Hello Fiona,

    I can so relate to the things on your list. One of my favorite activities is visiting the farmers market and picking up produce and small artisanal goods like French mustards or oils & vinegars. My hubby and I are big foodies :) Indulging in these small items makes me feel luxurious and helps me stay on my chic eating track. The stand owners are always lovely and I feel warm inside knowing I am helping support small businesses, not just the big chain stores.

    I also agree with your thoughts about visiting museums, etc. I adore ballet and I visit often. I also really love soft classical music. It make me feel so serene, especially in the background at home. Just the sound to my ears feels like heaven!

    Also, I have been meaning to ask: do you use Goodreads by chance? I'm always looking for new books and so many of your mentioned reads have been fabulous!

  2. Hi Anna, farmers markets do feel good, I agree! And ditto with classical music, just heavenly. I only like the soft adagios and string tracks though, no booming cannons and dramatic loud bits for me.

    No, I'm not on Goodreads but will take a look at it. I am planning a blog page where I list all my favourite books, so will get cracking on that.

  3. Hi Fiona,

    I would also include made to measure clothes -- at least a few -- as well as having off-the-rack clothes tailored.

    I have one made to measure raw silk suit and it makes a huge difference having the jacket made to fit me since my size can be hard to find.

    I know how to sew basic things and take up trousers etc., however, I don't enjoy the task, so I often take them to a seamstress who is by my home and does a wonderful job.

    A couple of years ago, I had some clothes I wasn't wearing "re-made". For example, I had a dress in a gorgeous fabric remade into a tunic. I hadn't been wearing the dress because it looked a bit odd, but loved the fabric, so a friend who works in fashion pinned it and I took it to the seamstress. It became my favourite thing to wear!


  4. I like to have candles on the table at dinnertime and a scented candle in my room at bedtime. I also like a bunch of flowers in the living room - they don't have to cost a lot - a the moment i have a mix of yellow chrysanthemums, daffodils and blue irises - which are cheap at the supermarket at the moment but look great together. Taking a day off work just to sit in a cafe with a coffee and a nice magazine

    Fiona - if you like classical music but not thumpy stuff try chamber music -


    - i saw the group "clik" recently and they were amazing! (I was lucky and saw them for free as part of the 150 yrs of Weliington celebration)

    Also the Auckland school of music does free or low cost concerts


    Aisling x

  5. Wonderful ideas! I am currently on another decluttering kick. Everything must go! :)

  6. Alison, that's a great addition to the list. I've often thought it would be marvellous to have a few exquisite made-to-measure pieces. In my mind they are all Chanel-style... I've tweaked items in my wardrobe and it does make all the difference. Your dress to tunic fix is such a good idea.

    Aisling, thanks for the music and concert tips. I've not listened to chamber music before (or if I did, I didn't know it was chamber music) so will try that.

    Tracy, you are a decluttering inspiration.

  7. Fantastic list Pret a Porter P, and I totally agree regards South American women. My cousin's Colombian girlfriend is sooooo chic and gorgeous.

  8. What a great article and so many great ideas from other readers too. I love my annual catch up with girlfriends who all live interstate, we travel up to a coastal apartment, chat, eat, drink, shop at markets, have massages and generally laugh all weekend long. We all feel richer after the weekend.

  9. Hi Fiona, I find myself doing just those things you mentioned here in your post. It's a great list! I even sent myself back to school in my early 40's to get my degree (I am 49 now). As you've said, when I notice people in more affluent areas the first (or second) thing that comes to mind is that they seem well educated. Having said that, I know higher education isn't a requirement but seeing people in the upper socio-economic strata inspired me to go back to college - and actually finish this time!

    You always inspire me and I've been reading your blog for years now, it's wonderful :)

    xx, D.

  10. I think mine would contain a lot less but higher quality across the board. I like having room to breathe and having less lets me do that. I would also have a private chef and personal assistant (in my dreams!)

  11. Love your blog! I attended a convention last week for a men's clothing line. The top sellers were young, blonde, thin, and fit!!! You look richer if you are thin-note to self!!! I'm 57 and having to remake myself. All of you younger ladies, keep up the hard work! The visual of how a chic woman eats is a great idea! (As I just finished a cheeseburger and French fries!). Should have checked your blog earlier:-)
    I love opera;-). Try listening to it, especially Pucinni!
    Have a blessed rest of the day!

  12. I only knit with beautiful yarns these days -- natural and quality -- usually from Australia or New Zealand. However I do pay yarn miles for the delicious quality of yarns from Quince http://quinceandco.com/
    Check out the Belgian linen (Sparrow)! Great yarn, like any foundation, produces beautiful knitting.

  13. Wonderful post, Fiona! You are so inspiring always :) --MJ--

  14. Great post Fiona. I remember hearing Seth Godin speak on a podcast about how he and his wife used to go and just sit in the lounge of some really plush hotels, even though at the time they couldn't even afford to buy a drink there. He says it gave them the "feeling" of what it was like to frequent these places which in turn helped them focus on their dreams. Now he actually has private lunches at one of the very same hotels :-)


  15. Hi Fiona,

    I was just browsing through a couple of your older posts and saw the Bialetti in the background of a photo. How do you find it for making coffee? Do you use it often? Do you have any secrets for using it?

    A nice cup of coffee (or tea) is one of those simple things I find makes life feel more sensuous.


  16. Alison, yes I do have a Bialetti and have happily used this type of coffee-maker for more than twenty years. My first one died when I put it in the dishwasher, don't do that, it won't survive. I also had a non-branded one (it leaked) so back to Bialetti. I much prefer it to a coffee plunger (French press) because I find those produce quite a thin liquid with sediment. I'm certainly no coffee snob but I do love my Bialetti. I use it a couple of times a week and top up with hot milk to make my own cafe au lait (I don't use it all in one day so I store the espresso in the fridge, I don't think coffee snobs would stand for that). It's one of those daily things that makes me feel very Euro!

  17. Hello Fiona,

    I have been to NZ more times than I can count, in the airport sometimes half a day waiting for a flight, as I leave Australia visiting relatives.

    Your description of the contest reminded me of one I entered decades ago. We were just married and I saw so many things I wanted and needed for our home, but the price was too high. I saw a contest in a ladies magazine that showed a photo of a huge amount of love,y things from lamps to tea kettles, and it said you could enter as many times as you wanted. Back then, it was all by mail, so I bought several books of postage stamps and entered the contest daily for several months...

    In the end I did not win anything and when I added the cost of postage I could have bought almost everything g in the picture that the winner would get.

    After that, I turned to my art and my sewing whenever I wanted a change. Just by using black and white prints I could change the look of a room with several pieces of coordinating fabrics, even without sewing. And my water co,or book is full of the castles and home interiors and gardens I really want.

    Creativity has an amazing feeling of satisfaction, and soon I don't even realize I did t go to Europe or even somewhere else in Oregon, as it creates such a euphoria just to draw and paint...even when my painting isn't very artistic or realistic. I use pictures in magazines and books for themes and co,it's, and if I serve myself a cup of tea of the area, I am soon transported by sights and scents to another place.

    Happily it costs very little and I can sleep in my own bed, which is always superior to anything elsewhere.

  18. Lydia, I love the way you write about your home and I fully agree, being in your own bed is the best!

  19. Great ideas, Fiona. I listen to classical music all the time. There's a fantastic public radio station in San Francisco that I can listen to in the car or stream on my computer at home (www.kdfc.com). I also enjoy going to see the NY Metropolitan Opera performances which are broadcast live via Fathom Events at my local movie theater! My hubby and I have seen so many wonderfully produced operas that way, with world-famous singers we might never otherwise hear except on a recording.

    Like you, I visit art galleries, and have a coffee in a nice coffee house in town (local coffee roasters, not Starbucks . . . it just seems more chic!). I am not a naturally slim person, so I try to look more chic by wearing black tailored trousers or skirts with black shoes and handbags. I also pay attention to my hair, skin, nails, and posture.


Merci for your comment. Wishing you a chic day!

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