7 Ways to Live Like a Millionaire (Without Going Into Debt)


Baker’s Note: This is a guest post from Sean Ogle of Location 180. In his brand new projectHacking the High Life, Sean teaches every day people how to have experiences most *assume* are reserved only for millionaires

The first time I met Baker, we were on the tropical island of Koh Phi Phi, Thailand.

We started our blogs around the same time, and I never in a million years expected our first meetup to be in a place as exotic as Thailand.

After all, only rich people get to travel to places like that, right?

After I graduated from Oregon State University with a degree in finance in June of 2007, I had two goals for my life: I wanted to own my own business and travel the world.

I got lucky and stumbled into a job as a financial analyst six months before graduation. Two years later, we were in the worst financial crisis of our generation, I’d received a 20% pay cut, and I was as far away as ever from both of my goals.

I wasn’t happy.

I’d always had dreams of living this lavish lifestyle, with fancy trips full of high-end hotels and restaurants. I could have gotten there in my old job. It’d take about 20 years, and once I had the money for it, I wouldn’t have the free time to be able to enjoy it.

There had to be a better way.

Despite numerous warnings from friends about giving up my stable job in a terrible economy, I quit my jobmoved to Thailand, and set off to live that lifestyle on my own terms.

Two years later I’ve created a lifestyle business that gives me the freedom to do what I want, when I want, work on projects I love, and also live the lavish lifestyle I’d dreamed of.

Well, kind of.

No, I’m not rockin’ a Ferrari. I don’t own a 90″ LED TV. I’m not poppin’ bottles or making it rain on anyone, but I’ve had more high-end, “millionaire” experiences in the last two years than (almost) anyone else I know.

The bottom line? It’s not the money most people want – it’s the experiences.

They want to tell their friends all about how they scored a sweet ski trip to Vail, or snagged a penthouse condo in Playa for a fraction of its retail value. People want stories.

While you might not be living in a big house, or driving a fancy car, if you put a little effort forth, you can live out lavish, high-end experiences for little or no money.

Here’s how.

Seven Ways to Live Like a Millionaire (Without Going into Debt)

1. Take Advantage of Geo-Arbitrage. Have you been saving up to take your annual trip to Hawaii or someplace similar? Consider heading farther across the pacific and go some place like the Thai Islands or Bali.

You can blow thousands of dollars wherever you go. However, basic living expenses are way less in Asia than in the West. Your flight might be a few hundred bucks more, but for the price of a basic room in Hawaii, you can get a lavish suite in Asia. Food? Incredible meals for two or three bucks.

And after all, who goes to Bali? It’s exotic and only for rich people, right? Wrong. No matter what your budget, you can afford it. Have the flexibility to go longer-term? It has the potential to be even less expensive.

2. Start a Micro-Business. If money wasn’t an issue and you could do anything you want in your free time, what would you do? OK, take that idea, and turn it into a business. Whatever it is, there’s a way to do it.

Personally, I love photography. So a friend of mine and I started a site dedicated to HDR Photography. This site makes us more a month than most casual photographers will ever make off their hobby. We get all the free software we want because we’ve established our expertise in the area. We can take this business anywhere. We’re able to write off our photography equipment.

If I had a million bucks, I’d travel to cool locations and take cool photos. Now, I get paid to do this. Think about how you can translate your interests into a small business; you might be surprised with what you can achieve.

These next few strategies have taken some fine-tuning, but when executed properly can lead to some of the coolest experiences of your life.

3. Help Someone Else. Let’s say you want to get a free room at a 5-star hotel or free meal at a two-Michelin-star restaurant. Right now, you’d probably say in order to do that, we better whip out the Amex and worry about it later.

Au contraire.

What can you do to help out that establishment? Do you have a personal blog? A relationship with a travel site? Some SEO or copywriting skills? What unique to you asset do you have to help spread the word about their brand?

Leverage that and put together a plan to help them out.
At this point you don’t need to ask for anything in return. Simply present your idea for publicity or otherwise and start a conversation.

That’s step #1, start a conversation and do everything you can to provide actual value to their cause.

I’ve done everything from writing posts on my blog in exchange for free hotel rooms, to exchanging web services for free golf at world-class resorts.

Baker wanted to take an RV tour. Adaptu needed to legitimize its brand and build a following. It was the perfect example of a win/win scenario that allowed him and his family to have an incredible experience.

Think outside the box, and figure out what the other party wants most, then devise a solution.

4. Build Rapport. People want to help people they like. Have you started talking to a PR or sales rep via email or on the phone to pitch your idea for helping them? Find common ground, ask their opinions, and give them the opportunity to impress you with their knowledge of their location or business.

The more rapport you build, the easier it is to move onto step #5.

5. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask. How often do you ask for the things you want? I’m willing to guess not very often. Whether it’s because you’re too polite, don’t want to seem greedy, or any number of other reasons that have been ingrained in you, it’s time to change your mentality.

If you’re helping an organization expand their brand, it’s usually not too much to ask for something in return. After all, many organizations have huge budgets for these kind of things.

For instance, I wrote a post awhile back about how to get luxury for less in Vail – one of the most expensive ski towns in the world. After sending some emails back and forth with a PR rep for the company, I was treated to a free two-day pass to help me write my article – plus an extra food voucher.

I helped open up Vail to an audience who originally didn’t think they could afford the town, and in return, I made it affordable for myself. What would have originally been over a $3,000 ski trip ended up being around $500 total.

Moral of the story? If you’re doing everything you can to legitimately promote another company or business, don’t be afraid to ask for something in return (often, they’ll offer it up anyway).

After all, it doesn’t cost them anything to toss me a couple lift passes.

6. Willingness to Do What Others Won’t. This is a big one.

I’ve only been able to have these experiences because I took a risk. I sold my nice car, left my comfortable job, and took a risk in order to pursue something that made me happy.

There will always be excuses for why you can’t do something. But once again, let’s take a look at Baker and his family. Rather than make excuses, they conquered their debt, embraced family, and have lived a life many would kill for.

It won’t be comfortable, it will be scary, but some of the coolest experiences this world has to offer are attainable if you’re willing to take a small leap of faith.

7. Start Small. Many of these strategies take a lot of work, planning, and a bit of a passion for the process. However, you can get started on a smaller scale.

Let’s say you have a passion for food. For me personally, when I first started my blog, I wasn’t totally sure what to write about, but I loved doing happy hours in Portland. So once a week I wrote about a different one.

Email the general manager and give them an in-depth pitch about why you want to write about their establishment and promote them with a review. You might be surprised how often they’re willing to help out.

If you do a Google search for any of the restaurants I wrote about and add “happy hour” to the query, I still rank on the first page for every single one. Who wouldn’t want a glowing review on the first page of the search results – in addition to Yelp and TripAdvisor reviews?

This works even better in tourist destinations, as tourists are even more likely to do searches trying to find the best spots.


Your Next Step…

Here’s the deal. I’m not writing this post to say, “Hey, look at me, and all the cool stuff I’ve done.” Rather, I want to illustrate that if you’re willing to think outside the box, you can do some pretty cool stuff.

Don’t wait until retirement to do this kind of stuff.

Start thinking of creative win/win situations where everyone benefits.

So, if you could do anything – right now – what would you do?

What creative solutions can you come up with to experience that now?

We want to know!

37 thoughts on “7 Ways to Live Like a Millionaire (Without Going Into Debt)”

  1. Last Friday, I went to a conference about retirement planning. The speaker said, “It’s sad when our clients come in and realize they don’t have enough money in their 401(k) to fund the lifestyle they want. Your 60’s and 70’s are supposed to be the best years of your life!” I threw up in my mouth a little when she said that…

    Sean, this post is spot-on: like a lot of people my age, I want to be able to earn income from anywhere and have a flexible enough lifestyle where I don’t have to beg for vacation. Geo-Arbitrage is a great strategy to get there without a lot of money.

    Great stuff!

  2. My husband and I also went the geo-arbitrage route (sort of, as I’m from South Africa and my family is here), by buying a house in South Africa, paying it off quickly while being based in Boston, then moving here this year while maintaining income streams in Boston (I as a public health researcher and PhD student, my husband as a freelance graphic designer.) We also spent a couple of years living very frugally to pay off student loan and consumer debt. We have two small kids so life is still very busy, but we work far less and we have the flexibility to host many friends, enjoy Cape Town, and consider more trips (we spent 3 months traveling from the U.S. to South Africa at the end of last year, so we’re taking a break this year). We feel so rich, despite having less than the U.S. median income.

  3. Hey Sean,
    I love these “trade” concepts – I offer marketing services for two of the best Mountain Trail trainers / competitors in the horse industry in exchange for riding in their clinics whenever it fits into my schedule. A huge win/win – their marketing gets done without a lot of effort on their part and I receive some of the best training money can buy – not to mention, my writing porfolio gets a great boost with national and international publications!
    Now I’m looking to expand to other industries!

  4. I think your point about living life on your own terms is one of the best ones. We area lulled into living life a certain way…go to school, get a job, get married, ect… Love how you are breaking the “rules” and finding much more happiness. Two years ago, my husband and I sold our home and bought a motor coach, much to the horror of our family. However, now everyone has seen how much joy we have in our new lifestyle and they have come around. It was a scary thing to do, but worth it.

  5. #5 and #6 are huge.

    I struggle with the willingness to do what others don’t want to do. Being different and daring takes balls, and I really want to try to aim for this more…

    Also traveling to places where we can get more for our money is something I always think of. When you say “vacation” people automatically think expensive, lavish hotels – but there are a lot of beautiful places where you can get so much more bang for your buck.

    Really great post!

  6. Great post! Two things really stuck with me:

    1) Think of what you would be doing if you could do any hobby all the time and build a business around that – GREAT tip!

    2) Use your blog or website to your advantage – I’ve used mine, even though it is only a month old to get some major discounts on some products!


    1. Thanks Thomas! If you learn to leverage a blog the right way you can do some really cool things for yourself, AND help a lot of people in the process. Always best to look for the win/win.

  7. Great post here Sean. I can see you are following Chris’ steps. He did wrote a lot of guest posts to put his book $100 start up in the face of everybody who reads blogs online (heard he’s sold 300k copies now).

    About the post, i quiet agree with the low spending in Asia and i wish to go live there once day when i get married. I did enough research and always come to conclusion that Asia is the place to be.

    So Sean, how is the sales going? Great i guess


  8. Greetings from sweden. Lovley post

    And i do whollyheartedly agree with it. One thing though since a few years i have kinda lost my “passion” and it seem to be nowere around. Any idea or suggestions on how to get it back? ( Because momst posts either if its get free of debt, loose weight,earn a living the word passion is almost always mentioned )
    An other thing i am a “scatter brain” or “shape changer” who i am is usally a reflection from current relations to my surroundings(i see this as a good thing brings lots of new experience but also a bad. seems to be harder too become more then avrage in anything) . And my intressted may as easly change on a daily basis. An suggestions on
    that part?


  9. I think I need to write out a post on my own blog about how I feel about this… I wanted to comment, but ended up writing so much I felt the need to do an abbreviated version….

    I love cars. LOVE cars. We don’t make a ton of money, but I’m currently saving up for my first Porsche 911, with a goal of paying for her in cash. (The generation I’m looking at is ~$20k, which isn’t much!) But the cars I’ve gotten to drive this year include:

    A brand new 2012 Porsche 911, the first 911 I ever got to drive.
    A 2011 Ferrari 458 Italia on a track. I paid for 6 laps, but ended up getting 9. 🙂
    A 2007 Porsche 911, driven for the dealership to an event we got to attend with them thrown by a company that makes wooden boats by hand.
    A BMW M6, my first bimmer….

    I’ve also driven a ’78 MGB as a favor to a friend, another friend’s ’78 Porsche 911 and the one the dealership is tempting me with, an ’86 911. This past weekend, a new friend offered to let me drive his M5 sometime and I really need to take him up on that offer.

    Most people don’t understand how I get to do it….. And most people think I work at the Porsche dealership. I don’t, but I help out with their Facebook page & am working on video for them. I also take photos for the Porsche Club, so they never mind having me along on events. 🙂 I believe that’s part of what this post was getting at — you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours kinda deal.

    I find it great fun that I feel the need to buy more sun dresses to keep prim & proper because I never know exactly where I’m going to end up….. 🙂 And I can’t wait to get my own Porsche. That’s going to be one of the best days of my life.

    1. Meg,

      This is awesome! While not as into it as you, I’m definitely a car guy as well. One of the things on my bucket list on my site is to drive a Ferrari – still trying to figure out how to make that happen, but I also feel like if I make an effort, it shouldn’t be that difficult 🙂

      Thanks for sharing, and I’m going to shoot you an email to see if you’d be willing to write about some of your strategies 🙂

  10. This is a very interesting article. Thanks for the tips.

    I have already started with #2, and will now try to incorporate/practice the other 6 ways.. 😉

  11. Great post Sean. We live in South West Australia and there are so many hotels, resorts, etc that are in desperate need of some way to stand out from their competitors. So, when an experienced blogger comes along and offers to review their stay, they are usually very happy to provide a free stay in return for that review.

    I also struggle to ask, but a good blog review could send 2 or 3 new customers their way, which more than covers the bill for your stay. That thinking gets me over the fear of asking 🙂

    Also that room would have probably been vacant.

    Having a Wife and 2 kids means we explore our local area, but in a few years we’ll be exploring Asia and applying some of your tips… I can’t wait!

    Ian McConnell
    Western Australia

    1. Ian, Thats a really good point. Where I was in Bali there were SO many hotels and resorts, and if they get someone who can get them to stand out even a little bit in Trip Advisor or in Google through a review, it has the potential to dramatically increase their business.

      That’s not to say it always happens like that, but when the cost to them to give it a try is so low, they might as well.

  12. I live in Thailand and it’s all true. I spend equivalent $600 to live here so my life overhead is small – allowing me more time to travel from Thailand to other locals in the region. One small thing about living abroad however most seem to overlook however – visas.

    Many countries including Thailand make it difficult for you to stay longer than 5 months there are different ways around this (like getting a job in said country), but visas will always be your biggest obstacle if you want to live abroad in a foreign country.

  13. Sean – great message for people.

    So many people are afraid to take the leap that will make life really worth living. You can’t encourage people enough to drop their fears, examine their lives, and just start doing what makes them happy.

    My husband and I are at that crossroads ourselves. Nothing has been truly wrong in our lives. We live in a safe neighborhood in a comfortable home and have lots of friends and family around. We’re healthy; our kids are healthy.

    But we have a thirst to travel. Since we have operated with the mentality you describe for the last dozen years, we own our own business and I’m a writer. We realized we COULD take this show on the road! So now we are contemplating a 6-month to a year-long sabbatical in Belize, living a simple, off-grid lifestyle. This adventure will teach our kids (and us!) how to fend for ourselves and how to appreciate a simple, spiritual life that’s not packed with consumerism and that Stuff most Americans seem to love so much. We’re leaving our home, our friends, and our comfort zone to do this and we couldn’t be more excited!

    As a writer, I look forward to the opportunity to write a book about our experience that highlights the juxtaposition of the consumer-centric, middle-class American life and the simpler, more natural life of Belize.

    Thanks for the post!

  14. Carl Lassegue

    #3 is really great advice. Most of us have something valuable to offer, we just need to be creative on how to use it. I really need to start doing doing what others are not willing to do. It opens you up to being different but it is very rewarding.

  15. Hi Sean,

    Thanks for writing such a useful post. I was trying to think up ways to travel more cheaply so reading #6 was really helpful!



  16. Enjoyed reading the post and I’m envious of those who have careers that allow them to take their work on the road. Unfortunately I don’t have any creative talents, writing, photography or otherwise. I love to travel and hope to one day be able to do that and will definitely keep in mind your suggestions of looking at other options outside of the usual tourist destinations. For now I’ll live vicariously through others (blogs etc.).

    1. If I may butt in, don’t forget his great advice
      “2. Start a Micro-Business. If money wasn’t an issue and you could do anything you want in your free time, what would you do? OK, take that idea, and turn it into a business. Whatever it is, there’s a way to do it.”

      I am working on something like that and am sure not counting on my meager creative/artistic skills to do it. Toward that end , I have read, and highly recommend the book “The $100 Startup”.

      1. I’d recommend Chris’ book to anyone thinking about doing something like that as required reading. His blog his how I personally got started, and it to is a great resource for people looking to create very small businesses.

  17. I like the strategy of focusing on having the experiences of the rich without having to bother with all of that money!

    In the section about trading services for things you would like, I can see offering design or marketing or similar services as barter for something, but in the case of effectively offering a “glowing review” in exchange for free food, drinks, or lodging from the reviewed, how do you avoid the glaring ethical pitfalls, and/or diluting the authenticity of your blog?

    1. Often times I don’t promise I’ll write about it. I’ve had free meals where even though they were at nice, expensive places, it just wasnt up to par. So usually go in the next day or talk to the PR person or manager that I was working with and tell them exactly what happened, and why I felt I couldn’t write about it.

      Usually they are understanding, apologetic, and eager to get the feedback so they can improve their establishment.

      But yes, it’s a constant battle with authenticity in situations like this, so I strive to work out deals where I’m not put in that position.

  18. Nice post, I liked the part about “It’s not the money most people want – it’s the experiences” …. that fits in to my take on things, that in your life its the experiences not the toys you want to share with the grandkids…. im still working in my little part of the sandbox but the tough step is done, which to me is making the choice and starting the action… enjoy your time folks

  19. Love this article and I wish everyone would read it and apply it to their life. My husband and I took the leap almost 2 years ago. We quit our jobs, put the camper on the truck, and traveled the country for a year…what an incredible experience and many people thought we were crazy. After being on the road for a year we didn’t want to go back to waking up to an alarm clock so we landed a job being Winter Watchmen in an Idaho ghost town and are now working at Elk Lake Resort in Montana. Our commute is a hiking trail or a canoe ride and the stress level is nil. As long as our house keeps renting we intend to keep up this lifestyle and no, it’s not putting much money in the bank but we are richer than we have ever been. My blog is called Eating Up The Road…

  20. Great post. the best thing is that expenses in Asia are nothing compare to the west.
    You can travel and live for a month on a couple hundred bucks in Asia.
    thanks for sharing

  21. This is a great list. I’ve been all over #2 since I started my first business when I was 12 years old.

    I love geo-arbitrage for both cost saving travel as well as making money. I have used this technique for years to generate income from various products that I’ve purchased at their full retail value in one market and sold in another market for a decent margin. It’s an amazing way to turn some time researching price points in different markets into cold hard cash without having to go “all in” on one business idea. eBay, shopify and/or Amazon are great outlets to sell these products and sometimes you can even negotiate drop shipping and never have to manage inventory!

    I’m looking to become less location dependent and am working hard to build up my online income from niche and authority sites. I haven’t explored the ideas of leveraging the online presence for discounts or freebies but it’s something that I may look at doing for some of my niches sites in the future.

    Great list and I’m sure you’ve inspired a lot of people!

    Here’s to your $uccess!


  22. Several years ago someone I knew over the Internet moved from Australia to Thailand (where he’d lived in the past and spoke the Thai language very well). He opened up a fish farming business. He made all the right contacts etc. Unfortunately not long after starting up the business there was heavy flooding, rivers overflowed, and his fish farm was ruined, along with the business. Moral of the tale is that sometimes circumstances outside of your control can conspire against you. I’m sure in time he’ll dust himself down, and when the timing’s right try his hand at setting up another business.

  23. Wow! This was super informative. Thank you:) I can’t wait to start some of these ideas. I love blogging and I’m still very new to all of this, but I didn’t even think about asking an establishment to write a blog for them.

    Also, I am an up-and-coming financial coach and I also talk a lot of about coupons. I wonder if I let some grocery stores know about how well I promote them if they would give me a few extra coupons or something to say “thank you”.

    You’ve definitely given me some great ideas.

  24. Thank you so much for this post Sean,

    It’s given me the courage not to just try and pursue ‘Living like a Millionaire’ but more so the journey of trying to set up and work at what it is I love.

    Thank again,

  25. Living like a millionaire?

    Ha! This is your country not mine, though I’ve living here all my life as did my parents and grand parents. The one thing I Despise are the Entitled.

    You couldn’t Pay Me a million to Want to Live Like A Millionaire!

    I believe in self-sufficiency, self-reliance. I believe in Efficiency and not Waste. I believe in helping the environment and wildlife–not Raping it.

    That’s the problem with 21st Century America and Capitalism in general: it all gravitates upwards. And everyone needs to Conform to be something. It’s all about Surface over Substance, when it should be the other way around.

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