Rent, coffee, fresh food - it's all getting more and more expensive with no explanation. Our wages aren't rising with the modern cost of living, though. Here's how to feel richer than you really are, and enjoy big city life without a big city budget.
1: When dining out
The easiest way to feel richer than you really are when you're dining out is to opt for non-alcoholic options at the restaurant table. Eateries mark up their booze like nobody's business, but you can still dine in nice places on the cheap if you don't order the usual $16 glasses of wine throughout the meal.
Nobody wants to be completely dry for dinner, so have a glass at home beforehand and let your tastebuds savour the tang of fermented grapes before you go out. Then, switch it up to sparking water but ask for it in a wine glass.
It'll let you enjoy the ambience of the fine food experience without the hindering cost of overpriced monk-made organic wine from the Chilean Archipelagos.
2: When taking someone on a date
If you're taking someone on a date, going to a fancy restaurant without wine mightn't make the best impression. Instead, make champagne cocktails and cook an elaborate three-course at home. Buy some Moët on special at New World, pull out Nigella or Ottolenghi recipes, and serve off your best crockery and out of your finest flutes.
Use cloth napkins, put on a playlist of Nina Simone remixes, and transport your date to a ritzy atmosphere that would cost you upwards of $300 were you paying for it outside of your own home.
If you can pull it off, an at-home date like this will make both you and your lover feel like millionaires. Don't forget, even those with seven figures in the bank still have to master the art of a good home-cooked steak and a personally-poured French 75 to impress their beaux outside of a five-star eatery.
3: When buying clothes
Shopping for clothes might make you feel wealthy while you're in the store, but the thrill of each purchase wears off after mere hours and then you're left feeling skint for another week. More often than not, we don't need the new clothes we buy - we just like the physical experience of buying them. In order to feel richer than you really are when clothes shopping, become a "spirit shopper".
That is, go into the shops you love try on a bunch of garments, take a selfie or two in the changing room mirror, and then leave the store without actually buying. You can do the same online - go to your favourite brands' websites, add items to your cart, then close your browser just before you have to enter your credit card details.
Okay, you don't get the full pleasure of taking the new clothes home; in fact, spirit shopping is a bit like having sex without the climax. But that's still better than no sex at all.
4: When travelling overseas
Travelling on the cheap often makes you feel, well, cheap. In order to journey as if money isn't an issue for you, stay in other people's rooms rented on Airbnb instead of hotels. There, you can get great locations for less than half of the cost of a hotel in the same area.
And, as a bonus, you have access to a kitchen which means you're not begrudgingly dropping foreign currency three times a day on average eat-in food, simply because you have to get some sustenance.
For $200 per night in New York or Paris, for example, you can rent a room in an apartment with a doorman, gym, and even view over a leafy park. For the same price in those cities, you'll get a brown-on-brown hotel that hasn't had its sheets washed since 1978. Which do you think you'll feel richer in?
5: When getting from A to B
Unless you have a commute from the suburbs, it's likely that owning a car in a city like Auckland or Wellington is not worth the investment of both the up-front purchase price and the continual running costs.
Few things make you feel richer than being taken everywhere by a driver, so instead of owning a car that depreciates thousands of dollars every year - and costs a few G's annually to maintain - take Uber everywhere (except for your daily trip to the office, to and from which you can get on the train or bus).
Inner city jaunts on nights and weekends will cost you less than $20 a pop. A few each week might seem a bit extravagant at first, until you realise how good it feels to know you're not losing money hand-over-fist every day simply to keep your piece of German engineering in the garage.
Unlike taxis, with Uber there is no money exchange (the app just charges your account) and if you use it often enough, you'll learn many of the drivers' names. Few things will make you feel so well-heeled than being on first-name basis with the man (or woman) who drives you from A to B.