In a place like Los Angeles, image is everything. Sure, you’ve heard it all before, but it’s true. You could be dressed head to toe in designer rags by Dior or Dsquared, but if you roll up to the hottest spot in town rocking a ’96 Toyota Corolla, you might as well be wearing burlap.

I’ve been living in this city for more years than I’m proud to admit, and I must confess: It never gets any easier. Sure, I could win the lottery tomorrow and all my troubles would instantly go bye-bye, but until hell freezes over, I’ve learned some nifty ways to enjoy the luxe and trendy life on mere pennies.

Let’s say you’ve met a hot new honey or a devastatingly handsome hunk and you’ve asked him or her out for drinks. You could easily take your date to the same old skanky dive bar and run the risk of another cutie turning their head. Or worse, running into your ex or your nosy friends who may wish to be introduced to your new pal before either of you is ready for such a leap.

If these are unappealing scenarios for you, then consider bringing your date someplace nice and upscale for a drink. Five star hotels such as the Chateau Marmont (8221 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles;, Four Seasons (300 S. Doheny Drive, Los Angeles; and Sofitel (8555 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles; have killer bars and lounges that offer chic respite from the world.

Since you’re only having cocktails, you can easily spend $25 on a couple of drinks and some stellar conversation. Not only that, but you’ve just shown your date that you know how to enjoy the good life.

If you love labels but don’t have a pot to piss in, don’t get upset. Simply rethink your strategy. Many fashion houses offer smaller, less luxurious products such as perfumes, key chains or T-shirts for way less cash than an entire outfit.

Edgy designer Marc Jacobs has created a number of wildly popular fragrances such as Lola, a yummy scent perfect for any contemporary girl. Recently, I went online to Tiffany & Co.’s Web site ( and saw a number of gorgeous items for $100 and less. My favorite? A pair of sterling silver earrings with the Tiffany logo engraved on each. SO hot!

Recently, actress Kristen Stewart was photographed behind the wheel of her black Mini Cooper. She’s not the only fan of this sporty British import. Since 1998, the Mini has been a top seller and favorite of the rich and famous.

If gigantic luxury cars are a little too mom-friendly and out of your price range, snag yourself a Mini – for the day. That’s right: Companies like Beverly Hills Rent-A-Car ( and Enterprise Rent-A-Car ( are a couple of the local car rental chains that carry the Mini among its fleet. So, instead of facing off against this ride’s estimated $20,000 price tag, you can now rock out with one for under $99 a day (check individual locations for price and availability).

Finally, if philanthropy has always been in your heart but fanaticism has been in your soul, try volunteering. Pretty much every celebrity in holiday has caught the do-gooder bug (think Jessica Simpson and Operation Smile or Hayden Panettiere and Isabel Lucas saving those poor whales from greedy poachers). Sports stars are also in on opening their hearts and wallets to good causes. Many have their own foundations that not only offer them coveted tax breaks, but also allow Mr. or Ms. Fabulous the opportunity to give back to those less fortunate.

Where do you come in? Well, by volunteering, you allow yourself some instant good karma and the chance to help out a needy friend. And on a superficial level, you will be putting yourself in the same air as your favorite singer, writer, director, model or musician. Each time he or she steps into the place for a photo op or to check the progress of a new initiative, wouldn’t you LOVE to be the little joiner giving the breakdown? Yeah, that’s what I thought!