You can be elegant with not much money.
I’ve had lots of people ask, “Can I be elegant even though I don’t have much money?”.
Personally, I understand this because, unlike several authors of elegance and stylish living,
I did not come from money.
However, as the world progressed and several opportunities and things become more accessible
and affordable, I was able to be exposed to some things that traditionally
only the wealthy had access to.
Luxury Does Not Always Equate to Elegance
The belief that you have to have money to be elegant bothers me.
It seems like from what some people are saying about elegance, there is a trend to need for expensive beautiful things.
The message is like this: Your home has to somewhat resemble Vogue magazine to be elegant.
The elegant crowd dresses in stylish outfits, of good fit and quality of certain labels such as << insert designer label >>.
Usually, these websites are filled with lots of beautiful visuals with beautiful things that is way beyond our budget!
Then there are the cultured folks who feel that you need to know in detail of writer/poet/artist and
read ABC type of books and speak XYZ language and dine at EFG restaurants etc, to gain approval to socialize with them
and be on par with their sophisticated tastes.
There is also the wealthy mother who is profusely elegant that makes the rest of us cash-strapped folks feel inadequate for the lack of finances
because you need to do this-and-this for your children, sign them up for all these ‘designer’ classes, then they will be adequately and elegantly educated.
While those things may be indeed elegant, those things aren’t true defining yardsticks of what elegance is.
You can be elegant without all these things.
Principles of Elegance are More Important
At elegantwoman.org, there are several reasons why I prefer to write words words words than to focus on perfection and displaying beautiful pictures
(and neither is my writing particularly elegant).
While I love all those elegant stylish pictures and blogs too,
I try to tell my thoughts about elegance as straight-forward as possible, and in an accessible way which you can pick and choose to suit
your own style. I also don’t want to write in elegant language (well, I can’t) and making it sound so stylish but
impersonal and un-relatable to ordinary women like me.
Non-material Elegance Fosters a Confident Elegance
Everyone has a right to express their beliefs and style of elegance. I’m grateful to all those who create beautiful things for us to enjoy, but right now
I believe women with tight budgets can live their lives with absolute dignity and elegantly regardless, and not feel inferior to their wealthier counterparts.
I also prefer to subscribe a non-materialistic sort of elegance so that I am less dependent on things to make me feel
secure with a healthy self-esteem. Everyone should be encouraged to form their own style/brand of elegance. That simply is, a
carefully thought out way of life. Here’s mine.
Of course, no one’s perfect, and certainly not I, but it is all about subscribing to your ideal way of elegant life.
There are lots of stories about people who used to be rich, and who suddenly find themselves poor due to a family tragedy, failure of business
or loss of a job.
However, those who were internally elegant carried on their lives with respect and pride and continued living in a state
of genteel poverty.
Poor but Genteel Kimono Makers
I first stumbled upon that term, genteel poverty, when I was reading about Japanese culture, particularly, the tradition of Geishas, at that point in time.
It describes a way of life where you still tried your best to live as respectably as possible, despite your change in financial status.
The traditional kimono-makers who became poor still kept their home neat and as beautiful as possible, spoke respectfully to one another, continued to encourage the arts and books,
and served tea as much as they could.
Cultural Elegance of Kazakhstan
One of the biggest patrons of Singapore Symphony Orchestra, Mr GK GOH and his wife, told me how inspiring the country Kazakhstan in eastern Europe is, in terms of supporting the
classical music scenes over there.
In most developed countries, classical music concerts have trouble selling out tickets.
The reasons are not because of the lack of money, but rather, a lack of arts appreciation.
However in Kazakhstan, where the spending income is 1/5 of most developed countries like the USA, Australia or Singapore, it spends more
on the arts and music, be it symphony orchestra or The Black Eyed Peas.
Elegance there is cultural. Music and Art is as important as food and water.
Malay Culture of Living Well
In Singapore, in a prosperous, multi-racial country where I spent more than half my life in,
there is a Malay culture who pride elegance over money.
They speak well, immaculately dressed and groomed (and in style too!),
work at their jobs dutifully, smile, respect their elders, may have humble dwellings but decorated to its best.
A happy Malay family at home.
They are warm,
family orientated, cook a lot, pursue inexpensive activities such as camping, walking along the beach, gathering around a guitar, visiting family, watching
television together. They treat themselves to a trip to the zoo or an oceanarium on special occasions like birthdays etc. They are
always tastefully elegant and happy.
They don’t seem to need to dine at expensive restaurants, nor gawk at the windows of luxury boutiques. They are down-to-earth and friendly.
They are an inspiring group of people whom I highly respect and I like to draw lessons from them as much as I can.
Elegant Without Much Money
Here are some suggestions on how you may be elegant without money. The main ideas is to have self-pride in yourself
and your home, but stopping there makes it a superficial sort of elegance. That is why getting outside your world
is essential to becoming a more well-rounded authentically elegant person, whether you have money or not.
Pick and choose or do all!
Shopping at Daiso is fun because this little Japanese store sells pretty nice things for a small price.
- Immaculate Grooming
This is something I believe you can do without much money.
Buy drugstore brands. Research claims that the belief that more expensive skincare products work better is not true. It might be that you haven’t found the one that works for you.
There are so many beauty bloggers and beauty You-Tubers who show you the amazing drugstore brands that allow you to look like a million dollars! Of course,
whether you have money or not, you have to put in the work to learn the art of make up – which you can do so for free (using inexpensive brands and) watching Youtube!
If you can’t afford the $100 hair cut,go for a simple classic style of shoulder length hair, with either bangs or a long fringe.
Lily Van Der Woodsen of Gossip Girl TV series looks incredibly elegant in that hairstyle. You can learn to tie your hair elegantly as well. Here is another page on how to do simple elegant hair.
- Immaculate Home
Get rid of Clutter
I’m constantly at war with clutter. There are tonnes of sites that help you deal with this, but you must! This is for the peace
of mind and heart that is essential to elegance.
Neat and Tidiness
I’m not naturally neat. I go back to Flylady.net from time to time to get a refresher on her housekeeping systems.
My personal rule is 70% one pale color (usually cream in my case), 20% another pale color, for instance, grey and then punctuated with
other colors like gold and silver, greens and browns, blues and sea-foam greens.
In my home, the walls are all varying shades of whites, furniture and coverings are creams, and greys, punctuated with browns, golds, silvers and greys. My plates are all white, fine china and regular
everyday stuff. It was all done very inexpensively. I don’t think my home reeks of luxurious elegance.
In fact, a friend whose family business
is retailing high end designer furniture (for e.g. one arm chair = $25,000) said my house looks like a cosy farm house! Hahaha, I choose
to take it in a good way. Most visitors to my house have said they feel very peaceful and warm. I guess some people must have
liked it because my house was used for filming a movie and a TV series. I’ve not watched the TV series yet, but
you can see bits of my home in this asian movie.
There are ways to do your home beautifully and elegantly. A couple of years ago, a style ‘Shabby Chic’ was very popular because it
made old cheap things look very chic.
And…I’m proud to add, that even Audrey Hepburn decorated her home in a very relaxed way. In the above picture,
you can pictures of her home, with modest furniture in happy colors like sunny yellow. She also always had fresh flowers in her
house from her garden.
See Elegant Decorating for more ideas.
- Immaculate Speech
Speak as properly as you can. Clear, with a reasonable pace and at a reasonable volume. Try to express yourself
as concisely as possible (which I understand can be sometimes hard for women). Avoid slang.
If you have the opportunity to have friends who speak better than you, take note of their elocution and make improvements of your own.
- Reading the news
This is just so that you don’t live in your own tiny world and become self-absorbed. Often, these are popular
conversational topics. If you must, start a twitter account and follow twitter accounts of newspapers. This is so you can browse through headlines. That is also something you can do as long as you have access to the internet.
- Having a hobby, Play a sport, Adopt an art
Depending on amount of time and budget, pick one of these to pursue in your free time. Ideally, pursue all three.
The reason for sports and hobbies are to develop
a side of yourself that contributes to an elegant way of life. It is necessary to pursue something outside of yourself, than waste
your time mindlessly surfing channels.
If you are very involved with taking care of your family, you may find a way to integrate this into family time.
Play a sport, so that you’ll be fit and you’ll have the opportunity to get in touch with other communities of people. Is there
a local community club near by that organizes inexpensive activities? Or do the work yourself, put the word out and organize some.
Find a hobby that you’re interested in and that you can afford. For instance, you can pick up bird watching.
You can find places nearby to go to on the weekend, read more about birds in your area and their habits etc.
Adopt an Artform
You can pick a style of art that you like, and read more about it and do some research on what other people think or it.
Or study the art of one particular artist, be it Andy Warhol, if he interests you. This will lead you to appreciation of other artists. This goes the same for music. You may even study films, film making or acting or directing! With the library and the internet, many
art forms are accessible to you to adopt.
- Volunteering and Giving
If you go to church, volunteer and get involved. Otherwise, a local charity is great too. Giving and volunteering will give you
a priceless sense of perspective and appreciation of life, which is thoroughly elegant that can’t come from buying and accumulating things.
- Inexpensive Education
There is so much you can learn for free or little amounts!
My favorite choice is from the library. You can borrow books and videos and CD-roms.
You then can learn from the internet, Youtube videos or sign up for online courses.
There are also inexpensive classes in community colleges where you can learn a skill – cooking, jewelry making, make up – that was how I started on expressionism oil painting years ago.
There are also many free/inexpensive exhibitions and concerts (hopefully in your area).
You can learn a language by setting aside a weekly budget for lessons and supplement it with free
stuff from the internet, or books from the library or inexpensive language CDs from Amazon.com.
Or pick a topic of interest and read about something deeply. If you can’t think of a topic, just go to the library and browse around
until something catches your attention. I’ve discovered many interesting topics that way.
Conclusions on Elegance Without Money
In conclusion, you don’t have to have lots of money to live well and elegantly. If you find yourself a little strapped,
don’t despair, you can be an elegant person and gain respect from all around you. You also don’t have to be cheap to be elegant.
Having money is also not a bad thing. There are elegant attitudes towards money that you can work on.
Alright, that’s all for now, and if you have ideas on how else to be elegant on a budget (PLEASE SHARE WITH US), do leave some comments below!
Elegant Without Much Money: Please share your inspiring Story!
Are you living very well on a budget? Please share with us!
Go back to An Elegant Life; The Art Of Elegant Living.