Fake it Till You Make It: Thrift on the Sly
Needing to look the part, even if you'd rather not be bothered? Having to save some scones while still playing the game? I hear you. And sitting on the sidelines isn't always an option. Particularly when your network is directly related to your net worth. Here are a few suggestions to help you survive on the corporate playing field and still bank some bucks.
Dishing out a certain number of dinars is definitely necessary when it comes to this type of thing. A few tips were definitely covered in my previous article, How to Be a High End Cheapskate. Decanters were one example of the types of tips I'll be covering in this piece. So, without further adieu, here we go!
Sex up your travel mug.
Seriously. Sex it up. By losing the plastic freebies with the snap on lids and going for example with a sleek brushed steel insulated model, you'll turn BYO coffee from frumpy to fashionable. Bonus? Your coffee will stay hotter much longer. Not only will you be saving money, you'll look fabulous doing it. They hubster and I have matching frosted metallic cranberry red travel cups with stainless steel trim and black tops. When we are on walkabout with our personally pressed brew, I really feel like we're styling it. If the standard eight-ten dollars is more than you want to spend for a great looking travel mug, check out the closest available discount store. Recently at a northern Maine Mardens location (a chain similar to Big Lots), I saw some super sexy brushed steel and black coffee mugs to take on the road. I had already dug out ours from the flood salvage stash, so I didn't indulge. However, they looked great and were only two bucks a piece. A price that's easily earned back on your first day of use.
Lose the watch.
Anyone who has had to spend time on the heavy hitters' business circuit knows that a great watch is just as important as a phenomenal pair of shoes. And it had better be one phenomenal watch. While in this country Rolex is sort of known as the gold standard, there are other parts of the world where walking in with a Rolex is equivalent to having purchased your business accessories at Walmart. What's a billionaire in the making to do? Lose it altogether. Seriously. If you must glam it up, do so with a killer cell phone or Blackberry. If you are trying to close a deal where you need to be taken seriously, nothing will dry up the flow of big money faster than a cheap watch. And by cheap I'm talking about any number of brands that are considered the brands to have here in the states. I was at a business meeting (read: late night party where all the real deals are made – similar to the golf course scene) once where someone actually was brazen enough to overtly look up and down my arm and then outright ask, “No watch?” If you think investors and business contacts aren't checking out your accessories and the statement they make, think again. Interestingly enough, this same person was one I really needed a chance to pitch some ideas to, and since a well connected and loyal friend of mine really wanted me to succeed on this project knew this gentlemen, he threw the party and invited both of us. When I responded to the unveiled (and arguably rude) attempt to categorize my financial class by stating that since I had reached the point of financial stability where I could be setting my own schedule and working solely on projects of my own choosing, I no longer considered myself obligated to put something on my wrist to be able to check the time every few seconds. I further stated that if I really needed to check the time, I had my cell phone, and I had not reached the point of financial independence by frivolously purchasing unnecessary trinkets. Guess who got her meeting? True story.
Get stylish with your DIY bottled water.
Personally I like the ones that are at least a full thirty-two ounces. I know that if I consume two of them per day, I've done my part on the hydration front. If you are comfortable with the newer Nalgene ones, they come in a ton of fun colors. If you are still not big on even the improved plastics, Elizabeth at Go Green Travel Green turned me on to the stainless steel Kleen Kanteens which look fantastic. She also provided an excellent breakdown on the different types of water bottles and how to choose a healthy one. On the flavor front, if you find you prefer a little more taste, and want some help fighting the temptation to indulge in purchased varieties, check out Xin's post with several DIY suggestions.
Skip the perfume.
The good stuff is insanely expensive. Consider skipping it all together and just going natural. If you really feel a scent is necessary, try making your own. If custom blending the perfect personal scent is a little more than you want to attempt, a DIY shower spray is more than doable. You'll still smell great and spend less.
Reheel and repair.
While you can easily skip the watch, there's no way around the shoes. Find a high quality pair, even if they are gently used, and take them to a shoe shop where they are good at jazzing up an older pair of quality leather shoes. If that grosses you out, save up until you can get a good set at an outlet store or on clearance. Pick a style that's versatile and don't wear them out unnecessarily. Save them for those meetings where you know you need to make a statement. Keep them repaired and shined, and you've got an investment purchase you can get years of service from.
If possible for long periods of time in highly coveted destinations. Think you can't afford it? Consider a long term house sit in London or Paris, or a long term trip in an exotic location like Africa or Southeast Asia via the hostel or English language teaching circuit. I've covered affordability strategies a time or two, so I won't get back into the specifics here. Suffice it to say, you can do it. And guess what? Nothing gets you in the door faster than a shared knowledge of a location, region or world known heritage site. And if you're there long term, you'll have plenty of opportunity to take advantage of the free admission days. Take lots of pictures and have them playing in a digital desk frame during your next investor meeting. Travel experiences provide a common ground for discussion. And if Mr. Big Shot can only manage to make it to London once or twice a season for a weekend at a time, and you spend every winter there and can recommend some great little cafe next to a fabulous museum, who do you think he's going to call the next time he's in town?
Celebrate the power of basic black.
Whether it's the right dress or suit, or a fresh coat of touch up paint on that pile of thrift store frames, black is classic, oh-so-Euro, and one of the most inexpensive paint treatments out there. Got a couple of freebie floor lamps that have seen way better days? Spray them with a coat of primer and either matte or textured black spray paint. Shop for some stylish discount shades and you've got a remake on the cheap.
Com is king.
This is literally our family motto, and has served both of us well professionally. You need to be able to have communication with contacts regardless of any temporary set of circumstances. You can solve your own problems more quickly and nobody will really know how much you've been thrown for a loop if you still have communications established. Being out of the loop for too long is a huge professional risk. So is changing your phone number and email too often. Even if you are transitioning to the role of stay at home parent, you can still keep up with business contacts and start an online gig or two to keep in the game.
Coffee versus drinks.
If dishing out a bar bill of several hundred dollars to court a client isn't in your budget, consider treating them to coffee at a well known stylish establishment. I have a friend in PR who has had numerous meetings in Los Angeles within the entertainment industry. One of her most common meeting spots? Starbucks. Apparently she's not the only one as The Frugal Duchess recently made the same point about record deals at a press event in New York. Just because these shops aren't the most frugal for your daily budget doesn't mean they can't be a frugal choice when trying to climb the corporate ladder.
Streamlined is sexy.
Consider some of the photo shoots from the popular design magazine Dwell. Uncluttered, low on hype, and all about the space. Bonus? Not too many extra trinkets to purchase since you won't be filling up your house with “stuff”. Keeping it simple also allows for the most efficient use of your time, and leaves loads of opportunities for extra projects, meetings, or getting it done on the golf course, so to speak.
Of course none of these ideas amount to a hill of beans without a great deal of hard work and determination. Not to mention talent. And I realize it's basically the pits that “the game” is even something you have to play. But if you are in the situation either by choice or circumstance, these tips should help ease the financial burden. Got another great money saving tip for those stuck in a high end lifestyle as part of their career choice? As always, I'd love it if you'd chime in. Come on, share the love!