I mentioned that I had ordered this book a week or two ago; I have now read it, and been delighted by more than the title. The author wrote the 1930s bestseller "Live Alone and Like it" before writing "Orchids on Your Budget". This book is not aimed at those with serious financial problems, but at people interested in living well, responsibly and stylishly on moderate means.
It is filled with creative and inspiring ideas, some of which I will definitely revisit in future posts, but the main points I took from it were the following lessons:
-Don't feel you have to maintain a front of a fancy lifestyle to impress others, while scraping a miserable existence behind the scenes. Instead, forget others' expectations, take down the front and spend the money saved on things you care about.
-Work out what you want, and then work away of having that, whether by generating more money - and she offers many creative suggestions for doing so - or by making savings in other areas.
-Know the difference between real luxuries and habits. E.g don't buy a daily newspaper out of habit if you don't actually read it.
-Don't spend so much on housing, or food, that you don't have enough money for miscellaneous extras, whether those are orchids, holidays or theatre trips, or savings. The author is an advocate of getting a slightly smaller house or flat than you think you can afford; this will save not only on rent or mortgage, but also on the extra maintenance of a larger place.
-Plan ahead, whether in relation to your clothes - she suggests adopting a single colour for your wardrobe each year, and sticking to it fairly strictly - or entertaining.
-Play to your strengths, in terms of your assets and skills. My favourite example was that of a woman with a lovely silver tea service, whose preferred form of entertaining was therefore to have tea parties.
-Enjoy the challenge of doing a lot, and having fun, on a little money.
-Don't assume that you would be happier, better dressed and so on, if you were rich. The author considers that those who know about clothes will be well-dressed regardless of how much money they have; they spend time and effort instead of money.
-Do your social duty; return invitations, even if you can't afford a lavish party, and take responsibility for your problems if you do get into serious financial difficulty.
-Don't follow other people's rules on budgeting too slavishly; everyone is different, and you need to adopt a system that makes sense to you.