During my decades as a well-compensated network television producer, I paid all my bills on time and spent money on my share of luxuries, including pricey vacations, restaurants, fitness trainers and fancy health clubs. Oh, those were the days!
In a survey of 1,000 people from across the country for personal training supplier Methodfitness.com, 60 percent of Americans agree that everyone should experience a bit of luxury in their lives. As to the meaning of luxury, more than one-third of people define luxury items as status symbols, and one in six believe luxury is synonymous with good quality. I agree with one respondent who said, "Luxury in my world is all the bills are paid at once."
When I became a business owner, I had to find ways to drastically reduce my luxury spending to make my new professional life work. I'll share the three luxuries I gave up to become an entrepreneur and tell you how I went from living a luxury life to living luxury-lite.
1. Luxury life: Health club memberships
I have always loved exercising and have belonged to a gym most of my life, even as a college student. Once I started working and making a good salary, gyms became high-end membership health clubs. In New York City, these clubs are pretty fancy, offering top-of-the-line classes and personal trainers, gourmet foods, spa treatments and more.
The health club initiation and yearly membership fees were almost the cost of a five-star vacation. A crazy splurge, but in my mind, it was worth it. I worked very hard as a producer, and this luxury was for my health. How could I deny myself?
Luxury-lite: Wearable workout equipment
As a new entrepreneur, the health club membership wasn't a necessity. With no more trainers or high-energy sculpt classes, I had to be the keeper of my own workout. I discovered that walking and riding my bike, both free, are good options when it comes to burning calories. Add a Fitbit activity tracker and it's like having a personal trainer again. Worn on my wrist, the tracker measures my activity data such as calorie intake and calories burned, the number of steps I've walked, the quality of my sleep, steps I've climbed and other personal intel.
Now I ride my bike daily and walk as much as possible. My version of the Fitbit even has a heart rate monitor. Who needs a trainer? While I still miss my hot yoga group classes, I think my new workout routine is getting the job done.
2. Luxury life: Last-minute vacations
Overall, 43 percent the people surveyed say they treat themselves to luxury items, and on average they do so more than twice a year. Taking a couple of nice vacations a year alone or with friends was standard for me. But I had a habit of booking tickets at the last minute and not trying to negotiate a better deal.
Luxury-lite: Plan vacations in advance
I still like to take vacations, but this entrepreneur appreciates a great deal. Now, I plan and purchase plane tickets months in advance and have become a better negotiator. While I still use my credit card frequent flyer miles, I have joined a travel group. I have a list of discount travel sites, including skyscanner.com and theflightdeal.com to monitor daily, and I always ask if a discount is being offered when I'm planning a vacation. I've found that most things are negotiable -- all you have to do is ask.
3. Luxury life: Shopping in stores
When you are working every day in a professional setting, it's important to look good. And while I enjoyed shopping for designer goods, I did and still do appreciate a good sale, and it turns out I am not alone. One in four surveyed says an item of clothing was the last luxury item they purchased. Nineteen percent purchased jewelry and 11 percent purchased shoes with an average $1,069 spent on luxury items each year. Six percent say they spend more than $5,000 per year on their dream items.
Luxury-lite: Shopping in the closet
No more shopping in the stores for me. I've found a new store: my closet. Over the years, I've accumulated a few classic pieces that still work well. If you've invested in quality pieces, then you should be able to find a few new outfits by shopping in your closet. If you can afford it, it might be a good idea to invest in hiring a stylist or wardrobe consultant to help come up with different combinations of existing outfits. Consignment shops are a great resource for finding gently used designer items, as are sample sales. These short-term sales give shoppers the chance to get merchandise at a fraction of the price.
When it comes to clothes, especially in the summer, Katie Keating, creative director and founder of Fancy LLC, says this about her work team: "We’re lucky to be located in New York City where there are terrific sample sales all over the place all the time. We definitely spend less overall now that we have our own creative boutique vs. when we worked for big agencies, where ... every day was a fashion show."
Don't get me wrong. I still miss certain luxuries from my old life, and while my former trainer argues that a personal trainer is not a luxury but a necessity, I know better.
The survey did provide a bit of good news. Turns out, we tend to treat ourselves to fewer luxury items as we get older. Sixty percent of people ages 18 to 24 say they treat themselves to luxury items, but that number continually declines in older age groups, with only 36 percent of people over 55 saying they would spend their money on luxuries. Finally -- an upside to starting a business later in life.
What luxuries did you give up when you became an entrepreneur? Let us know in the comments section below.