Top 3 Tips for Living With Style (When You’re a Pauper)


When InStyle magazine labels a t-shirt a bargain at $198, the Sunday paper features designer sheets for a mere $267 per set in “Master Suite Makeovers,” and some gardening guru deems a dolphin-shaped spigot a steal at $1375, we are fooled into believing these prices are normal.

At the very least, these paeans to Kardashian excess recalibrate our thinking until suddenly $10 lattes and $100 jeans seem reasonable.

Well, I’m not buying it. For one thing, I can’t. I can’t buy a thing.

I’m a writer.

Though we writers get paid to wax poetic over dolphin-shaped garden accessories, we don’t get paid enough to actually purchase them. Extolling the virtues of marble back splashes that exceed the value of the car we’re currently driving, or describing a kicky pair of heels that cost nearly as much as we earned last month, we sow the seeds of desire in our own hearts, exposing our souls to what, as impoverished pushers of pens, we can never attain.

I know I am not alone; there are plenty of other over-qualified, underpaid folks pining for the finer things. So what are we to do when those pesky seeds of desire have not only sprouted, they’ve run rampant, and our wallets are nothing but a barren wasteland?

1. Channel Marie Antoinette. No need to sport a three-foot-tall hair-do doused in flour. Instead, make “Let them eat cake” your mantra, with the emphasis on them. Seriously, encourage everyone around you to eat cake. Maybe even bake one or two and pass them around. The key here is for them to eat it and not you.

Every fashionista knows the best accessory is a fit and trim bod.

And remember the reason Marie suggested cake? There was no bread, another thing to avoid when svelting down. Shedding a few pounds while eschewing cake (and bread) means you will fit in those once-too-skinny jeans at the back of your closet. A carb-drought can refresh an entire wardrobe and not cost a sou.

Who needs a t-shirt that costs the equivalent of the weekly grocery budget when a set of well-toned arms will totally rock in a $3 camisole from Forever 21?

2. Choose Friends with Benefits. I know what you’re thinking, but I’m talking about friends who 1. love to shop, 2. have great taste, and 3. regularly purge their cupboards and their closets.

Having friends like these makes it possible to drape your dining table in linen, serve martinis from crystal pitchers, and sport Prada at the PTA. (For faster results, feed these friends some cake.)

If you’re still hell bent on those Ralph Lauren sheets, wait a few weeks and I guarantee you’ll find them at HomeGoods for a fraction of the price.

3. Marry Well. And I don’t mean marry money. I’m talking about pledging your troth to someone who has power tools and isn’t afraid to use them; someone who enjoys stripping a room down to the bare studs.

Partnering with a power god who knows his (or her) way around routers, nail guns and table saws, means you’ll have under your roof someone who can replace your roof.

Eliminate pricey contractors and even better, those less-than-dependable subcontractors and go from time and materials to just materials. Teaming up with someone who has the right tools to cut right angles, you can cut all kinds of corners, budget-wise.

For pennies on the dollar, your abode could pose for an Architectural Digest centerfold.

Though your checkbook may still say pauper, you’ll feel like a queen.