Crystal – Crystal has been the go-to material for the elite for centuries, but it can be really pricey, especially if you don’t inherit it from family or get it on a wedding registry (do people still ask for that?). If you do buy crystal and its meant for food or drink, be sure it is lead free. You don’t want to slowly poison yourself. Budget Alternatives – Lucite, acrylic, glass or plastic. If it is high-quality, no one will know the difference unless you tell them. (And that whole idea that you can tell real crystal from its ring if you tap it isn’t even true!) You can even look for clear quartz
Gold – It’s called the “gold standard” for a reason. But real gold jewelry will wrack up the bills fast. If you don’t mind the color change, you can always do silver or titanium (that’s what my high school class ring is made from), but if if you want to retain the warmth of yellow gold, you’ll have to do an alternative metal. Budget Alternatives – Gold plated, gold over sterling silver, gold-filled, brass.
Watches – Thanks to our smartphones, not as many people wear watches anymore. But for some reason, they are still considered status symbols. Budget Alternatives – You can always look for a designer replica or Amazon frequently has them as their Deal of the Day. That’s how I got this one from Anne Klein for only $40.
Diamonds – Another standard. We all know that they are a “girl’s best friend,” but they are your bank account’s worst enemy. There are also ethical concerns over so-called “blood diamonds” that are mined using slave labor. Budget Alternatives – Lab-created diamonds, cubic zirconia, moissanite (carborundum), corundum (synthetic white sapphires), rhinestones, glass, paste, plastic.
Cars – Want a fancy car without the sticker shock? You don’t even have to steal it! Budget Alternatives – Try pre-owned cars (your local dealer should have them) or buy from a rental agency, like Enterprise. Fleet cars can be a great bargain.
Designer Clothing/Jewelry – I wrote a whole separate post about this, but there are many, many ways to get designer duds at discount prices. Budget Alternatives – Rent the Runway, Thrift shops (especially in/bordering nice neighborhoods), replica/imitation sites, Etsy, resale sites, Amazon.
Homes – McMansions used to be the ultimate sign of wealth and high-rise, penthouse apartments are still the envy of many. But even as we dream of living in 90210 or the Upper East Side, we can make our home little luxury havens. Budget Alternatives – Spruce up what you have! You can slap on some paint, buy or make some cute accessories, or go full DIY. That’s what this site is all about.
Luxury Vacations – I’m writing this during COVID-19, so no one is going anywhere. Go ahead and put that trip to Fiji, Big Sur, Tuscany, Greece, or wherever on your bucket list for when things open up again. Budget Alternatives – Staycations, spa day at home, “couch cruise” (when you look at pictures from old vacations on your couch – thank you to Married With Children for that term), local hotel weekend, etc.
Fur – It used to be all the rage (even my grandmother, who is not rich, owns several real furs), but thankfully most people have gotten conscious of animal rights so this one isn’t quite what it once was. Budget Alternative – Go faux!