How to Live Like You’re Rich, Even When You’re Not

“The very rich … are different from you and me,” F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote. Whether you believe that or not, it’s certainly true the wealthy have — or have access to — some things people with smaller bank account balances don’t. The most fabulous houses, the fastest cars, and the fanciest clothes all end up in the hands of the rich while the rest of us are left with peanuts.
Should the average among us envy the very rich? Perhaps not. There’s little evidence that money buys happiness beyond a certain income level — around $75,000 a year, according to some research. And then there’s the fact that a good chunk of Americans of more modest means are still rich both historically speaking and compared to many people around the world.
Still, what if you’re dreaming of a Champagne lifestyle on a beer budget? Well, it might be closer than you think. We’ve rounded up some surprisingly affordable ways for the less wealthy to live like the 1%. But because the rich didn’t get that way by blowing their money on private plane rides and designer clothes, we’ve also highlighted the different ways the very well-off really approach managing money, so you can eventually go from living like you’re rich to actually being rich.

1. Fly private for pennies

private jet
A private plane experience is attainable. | Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images

You know the rich don’t fly commercial. But a private jet can cost thousands of dollars an hour to rent and millions to buy (to say nothing of annual operating costs). Does that mean the rest of us are stuck dealing with the TSA? Not necessarily.
To get the private jet experience without the private jet price tag, book a single seat on a flight with JetSuiteX. The airline’s planes depart from a private terminal, legroom is generous, and snacks and alcoholic drinks are on the house. And it doesn’t cost as much as you might think. When we compared the cost of a round-trip flight on JetSuiteX from Los Angeles to Las Vegas in July 2017, the cost was roughly the same as a first-class seat on a major airline — a little less than $300.

2. Rent the runway

runway model
A model walks on the runway during a fashion show. | Leon Neal/Getty Images

So you really want to make a splash at your high school reunion but are a little short on cash? You can convince your former frenemies you’ve made it by borrowing, not buying, a killer ensemble from Rent the Runway. A $695 floral cocktail dress by Marchesa Notte can be yours — for a few days — for just $105. Need a designer handbag to complete your look? Bag Borrow or Steal has got you covered.

3. Upgrade your wheels for less

mercedes benz hood ornament
Consider a used vehicle if you want a luxury brand. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Sure, your Camry is a sensible, affordable car. But you’re not going to wow anyone when you’re driving a Toyota. If you’re longing for a vehicle that doubles as a status symbol but are short on cash, consider buying a used luxury car.
For the same price as a new Accord, you might be able to get a gently used BMW or Mercedes. If you’re stuck in a lease on a vehicle you no longer want, you could get a sweet deal on the car of your dreams with a service, such as Swapalease, which facilitates transfers of car leases from those who no longer want them to those who do. Trading up can have some downsides, such as the possibility of higher maintenance costs, but if you must have more upscale wheels this can be a cheaper way to get them.

4. Sail away for cheap

A happy senior couple sitting on the front of a sail
Yachts aren’t only for the mega rich. |

Relaxing on your sailboat or yacht might seem like a pastime only the well-off can afford, but a taste of the nautical life doesn’t have to break the bank. Get My Boat is basically an Airbnb for watercraft. You can spend $100 or so for an hour or two on the water, or upward of $10,000 to rent the yacht seen in the James Bond movie Casino Royale. In other words, it’s time to grab your Top-Siders and get ready to head out to sea.

5. Hire some help

young female worried by what she sees on cell phone
Too busy? Delegate some of your tasks to a virtual assistant. |

So you can’t afford a butler or private secretary. But that doesn’t mean you have to handle all of life’s little tasks on your own. You can get a taste of how the rich manage their busy lives by outsourcing some of your responsibilities to a virtual assistant.
For just $20 a month, the folks at OkayRelax will scratch five items off your to-do list. You can get help with everything from wedding venue research to scheduling dentist appointments to creating a travel itinerary. Does hiring an assistant still sound a little extravagant? Think of the money you’re spending as an investment. The time you’re not wasting trying to figure out what birthday gift to buy your nephew can instead go to working smarter (and hopefully earning more money), as Lou Carlozo explained in this article for Money Under 30.

6. Embrace small luxuries

Woman relaxing in spa studio
Indulging in the occasional luxury can give you a taste of the good life without busting your budget. |

The smartest rich people don’t blow their money on every shiny new toy they see. Instead, they spend a lot where it matters most to them and less on the things that aren’t so important. You can adopt the same approach by identifying one or two things that will really improve the quality of your life and allowing yourself to splurge on them.
Whether it’s a vase of freshly cut flowers, an expensive bottle of Scotch, or a fancy spa treatment, a once-in-a-while treat can make you feel like a million bucks without spending like a mint. Plus, allowing yourself the occasional affordable luxury can make it easier to stick to a financial plan over the long term because you won’t be dealing with feelings of deprivation.

How to actually live like you’re rich

Borrowed finery and spending hacks might make you feel rich for a moment, but the effect they produce is only temporary. What if you actually want to be rich, not just look it? Then, you’re going to have to start thinking like a person with money, not spending like one. Here’s how.

1. Live like you’re broke

Scrooge McDuck
Scrooge McDuck | Disney

“Rich people stay rich by living like they’re broke. Broke people stay broke by living like they’re rich,” or so goes the saying. Many rich people are — or were, at least — famously frugal. Warren Buffett still lives in the Omaha, Nebraska, house he bought for $31,500 in 1958. Mark Zuckerberg reportedly drives a $30,000 Volkswagen GTI. These billionaires might not be picking pennies up off the ground, but they’re not spending like there’s no tomorrow either.
“[E]ven the glittering rich spend below their means,” Thomas Stanly, the author of The Millionaire Next Door, told Bankrate. Or at least they do if they want to remain part of the 1%.

2. Make your money do the work

jar of coins with plant growing out of it
Find ways to make your money work for you. |

Many people think of the rich in terms of income. If you have a six-figure salary, you must be doing pretty well, right? On one measure, you are. A family earning more than $112,262 a year is in the top fifth of all U.S. households in terms of annual salary. But if you spend everything you earn, you might be part of what The Atlantic dubbed the “high-earning poor.”
The rich, on the other hand, might have high expenses, but they’re also always working to create and preserve wealth. They invest some of what they earn, so eventually they have passive income streams in addition to, or instead of, traditional compensation.

3. Invest in yourself

A man is working on touchscreen laptop
Learning new skills could put you on the path to becoming rich. |

The wealthy haven’t just invested in the stock market or real estate. They’ve also invested in themselves. That’s because short of winning the lottery or having a rich uncle leave you a boatload of cash, you are your own best chance for getting rich.
“You are the best resource you have to accumulate wealth. Investing in yourself means spending more time on your education, refining your own skill sets, and branching out to meet new people who might help you achieve your goals,” Jayson DeMers wrote in Inc. magazine.

4. Get advice

A couple getting financial advice
A couple get financial advice. |

Wealthy people don’t manage their money on their own. They have a team of professionals to help with everything from taxes to investments to estate planning. Although you might not be at a point where you need a full-time team telling you what to do with your money, even people of average means can benefit from not going it alone. Working with a financial adviser can add 3% to your portfolio, a study by investment firm Vanguard found.
Fortunately, there are more options than ever for average Joes looking for some financial advice. Roboadvisers will help manage your portfolio, even if it’s not in the six figures, while hourly-fee planners can work with you to assess your financial situation and create a plan for your money. Getting objective advice is especially important if your financial situation has suddenly become more complex, such as when you’ve inherited a large sum of money or have a big jump in income. Just make sure you know how to hire one who has your best interests at heart.