Living Rich on a College Budget

By Hannah Wisterman
Blog Content Contributor

Having expensive taste is a heavy cross to bear. I just can’t help that I feel my best when surrounded by the finer things in life. But all my heart’s deepest desires do not change my financial situation (hopelessly collegiate) and the severe case of money guilt that follows. In my situation, you could live by the creed that you have to suffer now to succeed later, but that just leaves you dreaming of the future and trudging through your dreary day-to-day. There is a much better option here, fancy folks: little, low-cost changes to elevate your everyday life. Consider it drinking apple juice out of a wine glass; you will feel classier and fancier with minor effort.

Enhance Your Space

People’s living spaces say a lot about them. If you walk into a family room and there is a wall full of decorative crosses—this is a house of the Lord. If there are framed movie posters—that is a certified nerd you are dealing with. If there are shelves full of glassy-eyed dolls—you get out of there, hun. Point is, it is the little touches that send a message, whether that is to others or yourself or both. The wonderful thing about little touches? They do not cost much.

flowers
Adding flowers can add a lot of personality and look to your room. Photo by Hannah Wisterman.

One of my favorite small-scale upgrades is to keep fresh flowers in the house. Fake flowers would work too, but there is something about the texture and smell of real ones that really goes the extra mile. Flowers just make your mise en scène more picturesque and classy. Best part is you can pick up a bouquet at HEB for about four-bucks. Not only that, but there are as many different flowers and flower arrangements as there are people who buy them. Want something non-intrusive and simple? Load a vase up with baby’s breath. Want something cute and rustic? Daisies and sunflowers are the way to go. Minimalist? Try a single orchid. There is not a home that can not be improved by flowers.

This is also where I suggest putting some staple frugal skills to work. Some of my favorite décor items have come from the Goodwill home section, and the discerning buyer can pick out some great stuff from Marshall’s or the Target dollar section. It may take a little longer, but checking those price tags carefully and combing the clearance section can yield the perfect touch for your place.

But it is not all visual. Nothing communicates class and put-together-ness more than walking into a home that smells good. It is a matter of picking the cheapest—but swankiest—way to achieve that. I have always thought that candles were too expensive, but I have been proven wrong. If candles are your scented fix, scale it down. Votive candles are a little bit smaller than fist-sized, but they sell for only a few bucks each, as opposed to upwards of fifteen. Grab a few and arrange them on a nice dish, and your bedroom gets that much closer to looking like a spa. Incense is also a cheap option, and the scent definitely packs more of a punch (so be careful if you have roommates who may not dig it as much).

Treat Yourself

…in small ways, of course. I have heard from many girls that the key to feeling “fancy” with limited resources is some quality self-care. Paint your nails. Deep condition your hair. Wear a striking lipstick. It is ubiquitous advice because it works. Is there really any feeling like walking through campus in an outfit that is a little extra snazzy? If you catch yourself in a “oh god I am living like a stereotypical college student” rut, that may be a route to take: sit down for a couple hours and really spend some time on a full face of makeup, then go on a trip to Target just to show yourself off. (Feeling pretty in a public place has curative powers.)

fancy food
Picking the right snacks to munch on can make a big difference on how you feel throughout the day. Photo by Hannah Wisterman.

But that is just to feel nice. Really getting the life-of-luxury experience takes a little more coordination. For that, I recommend finding a few key activities that make you feel like you should be sipping champagne in a high-end hotel. Do not just do a face mask—do a face mask with piano music on, candles lit, and with your requisite wine glass of apple juice in hand. Look at you. You are an icon of class. Instead of eating your dinner with your eyes glued to Netflix, maybe try loading up a video of some swanky floating candles and trying to pay attention to the flavors you experience, bit by bit. (Slower eating upsets the stomach less, by the way.) You can even make leftover pizza a little bit more luxurious by appreciating the flavors like you are an established food critic. As far as fancy foods themselves go, a habit I have gotten into is bringing a piece of fruit and a mini wheel of Babybel cheese to campus with me every day. Fruit and cheese? Now that’s classy.

Ninety-nine percent of us live on a tight budget and wince every time we pull out our debit cards. But wanting to save some cash does not mean you have to take a vow of poverty and live as austerely as possible. You still deserve nice things when you’re pinching pennies. Sometimes it really is the little things that can keep you sane—and hey, you can consider this practice for your future life of exorbitant wealth.

Featured image by Hannah Wisterman.

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