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First Person: Living a Six-Figure Lifestyle on a $30,000 Salary


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  • First Person: Living a Six-Figure Lifestyle on a $30,000 Salary

    Like millions of Americans out there, I like the nicer things in life. I have an affinity for high-end cars, designer clothing, and name-brand home furnishings.

    There was a time when I had the six-figure income to afford these things. That was before the crash of what has now become known as the dot-com era. After losing many nice things, I learned that even living at one's means can be a risky proposition. So the challenge became how to continue to live that lifestyle while spending drastically less than I did before.

    I wanted to figure out how I could afford these things at a $30,000-a-year salary, just in case I ever had another salary decrease. That planning all paid off when the great recession came. Here's how I learned to have a six-figure lifestyle with a $30,000 yearly budget.

    How to Get the Big Home

    This one was all about patience, hard work, and discipline. First: New homes are out of the question. They're generally overpriced. I almost bid on a couple of for-sale-by-owner homes, but just couldn't get the right combination of price and neighborhood. I focused on HUD homes and foreclosures, and learned quickly that banks don't want homes on their books. I found a HUD home in a neighborhood with prices averaging above $200,000. My home was more than 60% less than that. It required a bit of work -- I spent a lot of free time on it as a do-it-yourself project -- but in the end I had my nice home. No one knows that I paid less than $80,000 and that I have a monthly mortgage payment of less than $500.

    Getting the Car to Match the Lifestyle

    I'm a sport and luxury car enthusiast. First I wanted a Mustang, and this was the easiest deal of them all to find. I didn't go to dealers for this one. I went to Craigslist and the classified ads. I know many people will say that this is immoral, but I found a desperate seller who was willing to almost give the car to me because his notes were too high. I was happy, and he was happy to be rid of it. A simple refinancing and I had a car note for less than $150 per month. Not long after that I decided that I wanted a Lexus, and I did go through a dealer to get that one. I got a great deal on a used Lexus (I no longer buy new cars). Here's how I saved about $5,000 on that deal.

    I Love Movado Watches

    Anyone who knows me knows that I love Movado watches and will rarely, if ever, wear anything else. At a $30,000-a-year salary, I certainly can't afford to shell out $1,000 or $2,000 on a watch. So I had to find a new source. I began scouring Craigslist, eBay, and pawn shops for good deals on watches. I found three Movado watches that were used and paid less than $500 total for all three of them. I recently sold one of these watches on eBay for $600. I now wear watches valued at more than $800 each, and I basically paid nothing for them.

    Got to Have My Designer Clothes

    I am an avid wearer of brands such as Ralph Lauren, Armani, Perry Ellis, and Gucci. Jackets for these brands can run from $300 to $3,000 dollars, so there's no way I can afford these on a $30,000 salary. I had to really swallow my pride and begin browsing through eBay for good deals on used items. A few of you may say there's no way you'd wear used clothing, but I say one trip to the cleaners, and they're as good as new. I found that even better deals can be found at consignment shops and Goodwill stores. At one Goodwill store, I found an Armani jacket for only $15, and I get constant compliments on it.
    Life is what you make of it

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