The government recently informed the public that they will be raising the VAT on luxury items such as champagne and yachts from the present five percent. The list that was announced under the previous administration of President Goodluck Jonathan includes champagne, alcoholic beverages, private jets, luxury cars based on engine capacity, and yachts. The new rate will apparently be decided by the national assembly.
Why did I open this article with this piece of information? There’s an obvious problem which is the definition of what luxury is. Like many people, government defines luxury as things (which is really the only thing government can do for tax purposes). In reality, luxury is first and foremost a feeling of deep pleasure which could come from relationships, experiences or things.
With that new understanding — some readers may need therapy to get into this understanding due to the amount of designers and brands acquired but which provide little or no pleasure — we may now proceed to talk about how you can enjoy luxury without breaking the bank. Just for even better understanding, it can be said that luxury is a state of mind, a way of thinking and perceiving the world around you which then leads to pleasurable and memorable happenings via relationships, experiences and things.
So how can you experience luxury without expending large sums of money? The first change is to think quality rather than quantity. To attract quality, you must also become quality yourself as like begets like. Quality people, quality experiences and quality things will only be attracted to a quality person. Luxury is all about quality. If you can answer the question “would you want to hang out with yourself?” confidently and positively, you are halfway down the road. The second half of the journey is now based on knowledge.
Your next mental bus stop is to slow down. Luxury is never achieved in haste. Take the time to savour a well made cup of coffee. An excellent conversation with someone with whom you resonate is luxury. The smell of freshly cut grass is luxury (unless you are allergic to grass). Lying down on a firm mattress with fresh sheets and a faint smell of lavender in a well ventilated and cool room is luxury. Taking a walk on a beach in the early morning with your tea, hot chocolate or coffee in hand is luxury. None of these activities is done in haste.
Now, to those quality relationships… Who are the people you hang out with? Are they people that complain about everything including how much money they happen not to have? Are they people who also believe that luxury is in the things you can acquire? Are they people who are out to prove a point by how they live? If the answer is yes to any or all of these questions, then you need to change your associations. None of these attitudes attract or enable you to experience luxury. Curate your friendships effectively and join forces with like minded people who share your zest for life and luxury living.
To be specific, joining like minded people with shared interests gives you access to luxury experiences at lower costs. Let’s look at three examples. Cigar clubs, if that’s your thing, provide you with access to a large variety of cigars you likely would either have difficulty in finding or find prohibitively expensive to import. Supper clubs allow you to experience the best of the culinary world usually at prices that can be half of what formal dining in a restaurant would cost. Wine clubs also give you access to select bottles from wherever the wine curator brings them and usually at prices less than the open market. The common thing that drives these groups is the passion of the people behind them which they share with others with similar interests. That sharing and the appreciation of it also keeps them motivated to continue. Along with access to whatever each club is formed around is also an expanded circle of quality relationships which in turn open doors to other luxury experiences. It is very important that appreciation is shown at every stage as this also reinforces the impression that one is a person of quality. During this process, one will find that the actual quantum of funds expended is nothing close to what it would be if these experiences are acquired alone.
Now you understand that there is power in association, let’s look at what you could do by yourself.
If you are a person who likes quality food and eat out a lot, learn to cook. You will be surprised at how easy much of so called restaurant cuisine is to create by yourself and also at much lower costs. Restaurants markup wine by 100 to 300 percent. That in itself is a great incentive to learn how to cook. Of course this skill is one you can own for your lifetime and impress people with apart from the savings that come with it.
Stop spending money on junk such as junk food and junk clothing. Your health and pocket will thank you for eliminating junk food. Your style will greatly improve if instead of buying five cheap shirts, you opt to buy one good shirt thereby replacing quantity with quality. The money you save in these processes can be set aside for much more quality endeavours or luxury experiences.
Change where you hang out. Go out and experience nature once in a while – Lekki Conservation Centre is a good stopover. Hang out in the lobbies of good hotels and soak in the atmosphere — useful for temporary office space and you might even get free wifi for the cost of coffee and a snack.
Dress deliberately like a person of luxury by looking and smelling your best as much as is possible. You never know who you might meet that will open doors to other luxury experiences. Looking the part makes people assume you fit the part.
Become a student of luxury and read up on art and culture, destinations, fine cuisine, jewellery and watches, style and fashion, along with quality literature and magazines. Engage with the world around you and ask questions to find out what’s going on so you can increase your range of choices.
Downsize your car. Did I just say that? Yes, I did. Your car’s primary function is to get you from one place to another. When most people meet you, you are not in a car but in a face to face situation. Apart from men impressing women, the jury remains out on what a car does for you career wise. Say you have a G-Wagon for instance, trade it in for a Ford Explorer or Expedition when it is clear that you acquired the G-Wagon purely for ‘image’ reasons but can scarcely afford to maintain it. The amount of money you will get back will be significant. Of course there are those for whom the vehicle is tied to their careers and to whom this advice does not apply. And when things look better financially, you can always get the bigger car back.
If you are one of those who likes to entertain and throw parties, you can downsize by getting attendees to bring something as a contribution rather than footing the bill each time. The writer has hosted a couple of these parties which were rather fun! You could swing these in several ways by having people bring prepared food and desserts as contributions or raw meats and seafood for a more BBQ type event. You can be assured that you will do these over and over as the informal atmosphere makes for excellent camaraderie.
If you are one of those who like to travel, cultivate the habit of planning and booking ahead. You will likely get cheaper seats even for business class travel. Also use air-miles whenever possible to book your ticket. If you travel economy or premium economy, see if you can request a special meal ahead which makes you feel luxurious during the trip as you will be eating differently and likely better than those who didn’t do the same. You could also try to buy an airport lounge pass and be comfortable before the flight. It is still way cheaper than the full cost of a business class seat.
You could also book a small room in a good hotel rather than a big room in a not-so-good hotel. The cost is likely cheaper and because the good hotel is good, the room amenities and facilities will be good too and of course the location will be better. Always do a bed and breakfast booking as this saves you the cost of eating out in the morning.
For both air travel and hotel stays, get friendly with your travel consultant who can help you plan five star trips for economy prices.
Last but not the least is to turn your home into a space that is so cosy, you go out a lot less. You can do this in several ways — a calming paint job, decluttering of your space, the use of aromatherapy in the form of candles and incense and other simple changes that make your home feel like a hotel, so why go to one… Switching your regular two seater and two singles out for a chaise longue would change your home living space radically.
I believe by now you get the idea. Knowledge is what you need more than anything else to live a life of luxury on a budget. What you are not aware of, you cannot take advantage of. Now buying prawns and seafood under the Falomo Bridge or at Makoko can save you a few thousands. Wink, wink…
Written by Babatunde Olaoluwa Jeje and published in Mode Men Magazine