Luxury on the Cheap

Is there enough luxury in your life?

In Zürich, you can find a watch for $200,000 and get fresh truffle grated directly on your plate for $10 a gram. School girls walk around in designer clothes with the last $3000 ‘it bag’ and Chanel diamond earrings.

This kind of luxury never attracted me. However, I get envious of people sitting on a terrace in the sun, drinking coffee or just reading a book while I have to go to work. If the definition of luxury is “Something inessential but conducive to pleasure and comfort”, then sitting outside in the afternoon is luxurious. Thinking about it, there are dozens of little inessential moments conducive to pleasure and comfort. And the good news is, they don’t cost much money so you make them happen more often.

  • Sleep-ins and naps: Oh the feeling of decadence when I slide under my blankets for an hour of sleep in the middle of the afternoon! And the best is that naps and sleeps-in are totally free.
  • A ride in someone else’s car: I don’t enjoy driving but love to sit in someone else’s car. A friend of mine has a brand new Audi. Sometimes she drives me back home after a night out and I feel like I have a personal chauffeur for 15 minutes. The smell of the soft leather combined with the sounds from the streets relax me so much that I could almost fall asleep.
  • Sports socks: I read on a Zen website that changing socks during the day could give a renewed energy. I tried and realised it did feel good to wear fresh socks. Then I started paying more attention to the kind of socks I bought. I found luxury socks disguised as simple sport socks at H&M. They feel so soft and fluffy, it’s a real treat to wear them.
  • Sunbathing: It feels good because it has no real purpose, it’s only pure pleasure and a bit of vitamin D. Sitting half an hour on a sunny terrace in a café is a piece of holiday in the middle of a busy workweek.
  • Flirting, being smiled at: There is a place called Pasta Station near work. The cooks and waiters are all Italians and flirty. I’m always welcomed with a “Ciao bella signora” when I walk in. Then the waiter, knowing that I’m French, talks to me in bad but adorable Italo-French. He calls me bella signora again when I leave the shop with my pasta and gives me his best smile every time. These innocent interactions turn a boring trip to get lunch into a scene from the film “Roman Holiday”. And I don’t have to pay extra for it.
  • Baths: Okay, baths are not eco-friendly but they feel so good I’d have a hard time giving them up. I try to limit myself to one bath a week but on bad days, nothing else in the world could make me feel better than a bath full of scented bubbles. To make it more luxurious, I take my time, light a few candles, and let my body relax in the warm water.
  • Time for breakfast: I love breakfast food: fresh bread with butter and jam, cheese, croissants, pancakes, French toast, Bircher Muesli, omelettes, boiled eggs… Unfortunately, I can’t eat all of that everyday but I wish! I’m always envious of American families in TV Shows, having a huge breakfast all together at the table in the morning. It probably never even happens in real American families but I’d certainly do it everyday if I had the time (and an American family lol). So when I don’t have to start working too early, I lay a nice table, toast fresh bread and take my time. On weekends, Nick makes me pancakes and we eat them together on our balcony. It feels even more luxurious and special because it can only happen on weekends.
Dream breakfasts
  • Riding my bike to work: It’s the luxury of freedom. I can go whenever I decide to go and my bike takes me away from grumpy people in public transportation. My way to work is a path along a river sheltered by tall trees. It’s 10 minutes of breathing and sheer relaxation (except when stupid people decide to block MY way with their stupid dogs or on their own bikes; or when I’m late and have to risk my life to be on time because Swiss people are so fussy about punctuality.)
  • Freshly washed sheets and towels: I love the smell of clean laundry and the touch of soft sheets.
Most of my cheap luxuries require more time than money. Hence, once I earn enough to pay bills and rent, between getting more time and getting more money, I chose more time. Right after writing this post, I stumbled upon this article from Stanford Business School called: If Money doesn’t make you happy, consider time. Check it out, it offers a fresh, well researched point of view on the following theory:
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“Time, not money, is your most precious resource. Spend it wisely.”
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I started asking my students and friends what they considered a luxury in their life and got interesting, surprising answers. So I might write a second post about cheap luxuries including their answers… and yours! What little thing/habit would you call a luxury in your life even though it doesn’t cost you much?
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28 thoughts on “Luxury on the Cheap

  1. I LOVE this post! I can relate to all those luxuries except the bath one since here in France we don’t have a bathtub. :)

    My boyfriend often gives me massages, like foot and back massages, and it is one of the most amazing things ever and much better than leaving my apartment and paying some stranger to rub me. Luxury feeling indeed!

    I’m sure I could make quite a long list… !

    Food-wise.. I think the French-style cheese plate with a good wine is luxurious. :)
    Eating sushi with a nice hot cup of green tea (the traditional way) has a nice feeling too. :)

    And swimming in the lake/sea in the hot early-afternoon, lounging in the sun (as you mentioned), and then taking a nap under the shade. Ahhh..

    • Wow, it seems like you’ve mastered luxury! A massage indeed, great one. I need to train my boyfriend to give them to m more often :-)

  2. The greatest of all luxuries you wrote was about the breakfast! I also love breakfast food and have time to enjoy them it’s a luxury! Very nice post! :D

  3. A very, very nice bed. It’s the only piece of real furniture that I purchased. Everything else was hand-me-down stuff from my parents or my girlfriend’s parents. But we sleep in grandeur. :D

    • A good bed is important. Investing for things we use the most, like our beds, makes a lot of sense. I’ll mention it in the sequel, thanks for the suggestion!

  4. What could be better than reading a book (apart from reading it in a bath or the sun)? Looking at small things, like dew drops and insects, in one’s garden. Watching clouds at altitude – they stream through valleys, rising and falling.

    • Yes, looking at little things and clouds is relaxing, probably because it reminds me of childhood :-) Will add that to the sequel, thanks!

  5. I want to do it all. It makes me just want to kick back, relax and enjoy the summer. Thanks for reminding us to stop, take some time out and enjoy our lives.

    Ps: I think you mean the stupid dog owners who don’t bother to steer the poor unsuspecting pooches out of the way of cyclists.

    • Thanks Tam! Of course, you’re right, the dogs aren’t stupid, they’re usually pretty cute, just on my way because of their stupid owners :-)

  6. Some of my cheap luxuries that aren’t on your list.
    * Being British, of course tea (especially Earl Grey Tea) is really high on the list. While I buy really cheap & nasty instant coffee, I really like to invest in pricier, specialist teas.
    * Getting to stick my feet in the Rhein on a hot summer day, possibly whilst reading a book or magazine.
    * Sitting in a cafe with a friend, talking about everything & nothing for a whole afternoon (back to the idea of time as a luxury).

    • Of course! How could I forget tea AND coffee? Being French, I love a good French tea called Marriage Frères, have you ever tried it? They have all sorts of tea and are quite expensive but worth it for the luxurious moment :-)

      Sticking my feet in the lake/river is also high on my list in the summer- will add both things to te next list!

      • My aunt brought some nice French tea over from Paris for my mother. I’ve forgotten the name but it had orange & lavender in it and was v. posh. :) I’ll have to keep an eye out for this stuff for myself.

  7. Love this list! Just reading it makes me feel luxurious =P
    Being able to sit on a patio in the middle of the afternoon with a drink during the week is definitely one of the best feelings.
    Just wanted to say a quick hi and thanks so much for stopping by my blog before I take off for vacay (where I will be lucky enough to experience some stuff on that list =P). Will return to yours when I get back! :)

  8. Love, love, love this article! I think mine don’t differ too much from yours, I can’t think of many more. But you can also combine some: once I took an afternoon nap in a parc on a warm sunny day, under the cooling shadow of tall trees. I remember when I woke up with the sunrays coming through the leaves, I felt sooo good and peaceful… You should try that once ;-)

    • Combining the cheap luxuries, great idea! I don’t think I could ever fall asleep in a park though but just lying down under the trees is already relaxing enough :-)

  9. Reading the UK Sunday papers! It’s a cheap as chips luxury, only £1.30 for the Herald and £2 for the Times. My German is still too poor to get into the Swiss ones. SAD FACE.

    • Cheap as Chips Luxury, that should have been the title of my post!

      My German is also still too poor for anything else than 20 Minuten and Blick am Abend, pretty sad…

  10. Such a pleasure to read this! All my favorites too! I can say that when the kids lived here, we all had breakfast together. My husband or I would make chocolate chip pancakes, French toast, or cereal, always with fruit and a glass of milk.

    My daughter is home right now because of the fires so I made her some French toast with a side of raspberries from my brambles in the yard!

    • Susie you are my absolute dream American mum! Just to read about your breakfast food makes my mouth water… I might beg Nick to cook me some chocolate chip pancakes with raspberries soon :-).

      Your daughter is lucky, and actually, one of my students suggested “going home to my parents and being pampered” as one of her luxuries. it’ll probably appear on the sequel post.

        • Oops, what I really meant was “one of Andrew’s students”. Andrew, apart from being my mentor, is also a teacher. He uses his students to do research for my blog sometimes- he really takes his mentoring role at heart :-) (or maybe he often runs out of conversation topics for his lessons)

          Ps. Andrew thanks for the new word, I’ll definitely use Egregious against you.

  11. Reading… with two little kids, I’m definitely time-poor, so whenever I catch a few moments to read, it seems like a treat. I’m perfectly happy to sit in waiting rooms: “sorry for the delay”, receptionists cry, but they can take their time – I’m glad of the excuse to read.

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