Live like royalty on $20,000 a year
I'm stealing the title for this post from the cover of a magazine that I saw back in the early 1980s. It caught my eye especially, because at the time I had just gotten a raise and was, in fact, making $20,000 a year. I was intrigued enough to pick up the magazine and glance through the article, only to be terribly disappointed. The author had a very different notion of how royalty live than I did.
I didn't buy the magazine, and I've always kind of regretted it, because, once I got past the cognitive dissonance that the title created for me, it actually wasn't a bad article, about the same topics that we cover here at Wise Bread. It was all about finding bargains, making do, and ways to get what you want by spending time instead of cash.
The only specific piece of advice that I can remember doesn't apply exactly any more. Airlines were still in the throes of deregulation, and there was a constant stream new cheap ways to fly, usually various versions of flying standby. Their example involved something like waiting until three days before your vacation and then scrutinizing lists of destinations for cheap deals. My reaction was, "This is how royalty travels? They decide where to vacation based on where the cheap flights are going? I don't think so."
Now that I've had 25 years to think about it, I have a very different perspective of how royalty live. My wife, for example, spent a few nights in the home of a member of the Balinese royal family. They had been deposed some time earlier, and much of their wealth had been seized, but they had a house and rented out rooms--the princes and princesses would all squeeze together to vacate a room for a paying guest.
They key here is when you think "royalty" don't think "Queen of England." Think "pretender to the Dalmatian throne" or the descendent of some Raj or Khan.
What would you do, if you really were royalty? You'd never rule (nor, if you have any sense, ever want to). Give that, you'd be just like you are now, except that you'd have all the extra baggage that comes along with being royal--history, other people's expectations, family traditions and aspirations.
Seize the advantages of being a commoner!
- Your family still has aspirations, but they're both modest and amendable. If they don't match your own, work to guide them to a better match.
- Think about your family traditions. Hold onto the ones that you value; abandon the others.
- Except for your family, ignore the expectations of others. It won't even occur to them to despair of the future of your house or your family line.
In fact, when you think about it, the fantasy of being royal is being able to do whatever you want. The reality is that being a commoner makes it much easier.
The key here, as in most things, is to think clearly about what you want. Your big advantage over royalty is that, once you know what you want, you have many fewer constraints than a royal does in arranging your life to achieve your goals (rather than the goals of your subjects).
Figure out what you want from life. It may well be the case that you can't get everything you want--but you can get almost anything that you want, if you make that thing a priority, and arrange your life to get it.
You can get much closer to the fantasy of living like royalty than most royals ever do.