Luxe Life: How to Feel Filthy Rich When You’re Dirt Poor

Gore Creek, Vail, Colorado (2011)

The setting is Vail, Colorado, on a gorgeous summer day. Gore Creek is high and running fast. Under a perfect cerulean sky, I sit nestled on a patio under the protective canopy of stately firs. From time to time, there’s a light scent of lilac. Although the village is popular, human sounds are muffled by birds and breeze. The lushness in every sight, sound, smell, and touch makes me feel like the wealthiest woman alive in the middle of a perfect moment.

Here, in the home of the rich and famous, I’m in the midst of personal austerity measures. The juxtaposition amuses me.

I am not alone in being of meager means at the moment. People throughout the country and around the word continue to struggle in the current economic climate. Many have let their bank balance determine how they feel, moods plummeting with dwindling numbers. Sure, there are tough moments, but it’s very possible to experience abundance and feel rich, without spending a penny … if you had an extra one to spare. Here are a few ways to experience the good life:

1. Spend time in nature. Be it in the backyard, a park down the block, or a special place nearby, being outside is a surefire way to know that life is far more than what is measured by a dollar sign.

2. Surround yourself with beauty. While nature often provides amazing beauty, consider expanding your horizons by seeing real artwork that touches your soul.

3. Let your creativity flourish. Find your inner artist or your inner child and play. A digital camera has been one of my best friends lately. Photography allows me to capture nature and beauty into something of an album of the richness that surrounds me every day.

4. Celebrate others’ joys and milestones. People are often reluctant to extend invitations to birthday and anniversary parties because they don’t want there to be a sense of obligation to bring a gift that may not be in the budget. That’s regrettable. Talk your way into these events. Life is filled with marvelous moments that are meant to be marked by festivity and parties.

5. Find time for family and friends. A dear friend who has a membership with guest privileges to the city’s botanic gardens and I have spent several lovely afternoons walking around and catching up with each other’s lives.

6. Good books and good music. Both can inspire and on the cheap, too, if you tap into your library’s treasure trove. Classic literature transports you to other times and other worlds (but stay away from most of Dickens’ work). Beethoven, Brahms, Elgar, and English Church music offer a marvelous depth that lets me laugh at hard times. You have your favorites, no doubt.

7. Hang out with preschoolers. Four- and five-year- olds have a wonderful way of living in the moment, using their imaginations to make the most of what’s at hand. The wonder with which they see our world is a powerful corrective measure to life’s current limitations and is a guaranteed boost of joy.

8. Dress up a bit. Wear a favorite shirt (no, not the ratty tee with holes) or skirt, depending on your preference. Special shoes? Handbag? Jewelry? Wear ’em! I have a favorite brooch bought on a visit to Aberdeen, Scotland. I wear it because it pleases me and because it reminds of better financial days.

9. Forget the rules. All those shoulds and oughts and musts. Trash them. And this is why there are nine items to this list rather than 10 or a dozen.

Have some fun no matter what. Circumstances are constantly changing. You’re one day closer to a better one, especially if you focus on the richness that surrounds you.


  1. I agree about the camera. When money is tight, but time is aplenty, trips to the park or the riverside have provided me with much joy as I notice details, camera in hand.

  2. I agree and for someone whose spent a lot of time broke those things work. Especially if you can live in the moment. The memories of spending time with loved ones will outlast the money spent.

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