Kate Middleton, who weds Prince William Friday, might be joining one of the wealthiest families in the world, but she appears to be as frugal as the queen herself. In addition to shopping sales and doing her own wedding make-up, she and Prince William have opted to live without servants. She prefers heirloom jewelry to new, flashy pieces, and despite her family's riches, she isn't known for living large.
Queen Elizabeth is also famous for her austerity; one of her biographers says she wanders around the palace at night, turning off lights, and the Times of London has reported that she stores her cereal in Tupperware. Prince Charles, meanwhile, has a reputation for being more of a spendthrift. Given the relative popularity of those two royals, Middleton's frugality bodes well for her future relationship with her subjects. (See the Princess and her Budget.)
While the rest of us might not be weighing the pros and cons of a full-time household staff, we can still pick up some pointers from Middleton's habits. Here are six royal lessons in frugality, courtesy of the newest member of the Windsor family:
1. Know when to do it yourself. According to People.com, Middleton and Prince William have decided against hiring a personal chef, butler, valet, or other servants. Instead, they will shop, cook, and tidy up themselves, at least while they continue to live in Wales, where Prince William is stationed as a helicopter pilot.
Middleton's love of DIY doesn't end there. She's reportedly planning to do her own make-up on her wedding day, just as she did for her engagement photos, and she might even have designed her own wedding dress, although the details remain top-secret. The lesson: Taking matters into your own hands not only saves money, but can lead to better results.
2. Go vintage. Sometimes the newest thing isn't the best thing, as Middleton's engagement ring proves. Prince William gave his fiancé the sapphire and diamond ring that belonged to Princess Diana, his mother. Rumors are swirling that Middleton will also borrow royal jewels on the wedding day itself; ABC News has reported that options include a diamond and emerald necklace that also belonged to Princess Diana, or a drop diamond necklace originally given to the queen from King Khalid of Saudi Arabia. The lesson: Older can be better, and it is also free.
3. Buck tradition. Saturday weddings might be the norm, but they are also the most expensive. The Wall Street Journal reports that walking down the aisle on a Friday instead of a Saturday, as Middleton and Prince William have decided to do, can shave thousands of dollars from a wedding bill. The lesson: Flexibility is good for your bank account.
4. Split big costs. No one should have to pay for a massive wedding alone. While the Royal Family is expected to foot most of the costs, per tradition, Middleton's parents are also contributing. Taxpayers are on the hook as well, since the wedding will require massive security details, including surveillance, extra police, and cleanup crews, adding up to about $35 million. (In fact, the firm Investec reports that the wedding will cost the British economy up to $50 billion, given the fact that the big day is an official holiday, meaning most people will be skipping work.) The lesson: Ask your parents for help whenever possible.
[In Pictures: 10 Smart Ways to Improve Your Budget.]
5. Shop sales. The Telegraph reports that so many of Middleton's fashionable outfits come from sales that it's causing problems for designers. People often want to find her look, but the clothes date back to previous seasons that are no longer available. The lesson: Pick what looks best on your body, even if it's a few seasons out-of-date, so you can look good and save.
6. Keep your own cash stash. As viewers of The King’s Speech know, royalty do not typically carry around their own cash. But Middleton will likely be an exception to that rule, especially without a household staff to do all of her shopping for her. She will probably still have her own bank account, just as Queen Elizabeth does. (Buckingham Palace, in fact, has its own ATM.) The lesson: Having a credit card and $100 in your pocket provides a sense of freedom.
Of course, Middleton faces some extra financial challenges that the rest of us don't. The biggest one is that she probably won't be able to earn any of her own money. Her full-time job is being a princess and wife of the future King of England. She might be able to dabble in photographer and fashion design, but as hobbies only. So while the rest of us toil away at our day jobs, watching the royal wedding on television, we can squelch any envy by thinking that at least we have the freedom to earn a paycheck.
Kimberly Palmer (@alphaconsumer) is the author of the new book Generation Earn: The Young Professional's Guide to Spending, Investing, and Giving Back.