People say I'm lucky. I don't really see that, but I'm going with it because I need to if I'm going to get through the holidays without blowing my budget, my cool, my mind, or my diet. (Did you know that stressed backwards spells desserts?)
I define luck as getting more than you bargained for in the best sense. This time of year, when we're all stretching our resources, I'm not just wishing for luck, I'm banking on it. So I scouted out ways to get luckier.
I started thinking about luck last month, after I bought $5 in raffle tickets at my daughter's school play and won a $500 Gucci wallet. (Support your school's drama department!)
"You always win!" my daughter said.
"Not true," I said, "but I do always enter!"
That, according to Richard Wiseman, who's studied luck and written a popular Reader's Digest article about it, is rule one for lucky people. Put yourself out there.
Lucky people also put a positive spin on misfortune. When Wiseman asked the 400 volunteers in his study to imagine their reaction if they got shot in the arm by a bank robber, unlucky people said that would be bad luck; lucky people said it could have been a lot worse. No kidding! The bullet could have hit my Gucci wallet!
Lucky people look for luck the way others looks for trouble. They expect to find it.
Recently, along with half of America, I was standing in a checkout line at a Michael's craft store buying Christmas decorations. I asked the checker, out of habit, if she had any coupons behind the counter that could apply. She rummaged around and found one that saved me 20 percent.
My presumptuousness bothers some members of my family. The other day my husband and I were grocery shopping. I wanted two Anjou pears for a salad I was making, but the store only had Bosc. I asked the produce man if he would check in back to see if they had any other pears.
"If he had other pears, they'd be out," Dan said.
"No harm in asking."
The man returned and shook his head.
"Okay," I said, "so here's what I'd like you to do for me. Go find the two Bosc pears that will be absolutely perfect for my salad by dinner tomorrow."
He went off on a mission.
"He's not your servant," Dan said, mortified.
"He's the produce manager. It's his job to assess produce."
A few minutes later, the man found me and handed me a plastic bag with two pears inside. On the bag was a sticker that said, "No charge."
"You didn't have to do that," I said.
"I'm sorry we didn't have what you wanted."
"Don't encourage her!" Dan said, smacking his forehead.
"Thank you," I said.
"How do you do that?" Dan asked afterward. "He not only did your bidding, he apologized and gave you free merchandise."
I shrugged. "You don't ask, you don't get - lucky."
To get a little luckier this season and keep more money in my Gucci wallet, I asked Vicky Oliver, author of "The Millionaire's Handbook: How to Look and Act Like a Millionaire Even if You're Not" (SkyHorse Publishing, November 2011) how to harness fortune to pull off some cheap, stylish holiday ideas.
• Lift a lucky look. Use your catalogs, not to buy stuff, but as style guides. "The art directors and stylists behind these pictures spend hours, sometimes days, setting up shots," said Oliver. "Draw from their good taste." Find a look you like, study the backgrounds and re-create the feeling for a lot less.
• Keep your eyes open. Know what you need (after looking at what you have) to create the look you want, but don't be so rigid you miss a better opportunity. "Unlucky people miss chance opportunities because they're too busy looking for something else," Wiseman wrote. "Lucky people see what is there rather than just what they're looking for." Stay open so you can stumble across something even better.
• Know luck when you see it. When you see a gift that really works, buy it in bulk, Oliver said. Don't be so set on a gift idea that you miss something brilliant that's cheaper. While shopping in New York City, Oliver lucked upon some gorgeous over-stocked, hand-carved chopsticks for a few dollars each, though they looked like they cost $50. She bought them for everyone on her list.
• See new uses for old things. Get party clothes from the thrift store, and reuse the fabrics. Make placemats, table runners, or a Christmas tree skirt. Shop vintage, Craigslist and eBay for lucky finds.
• Ask for what you want. Increase your odds of having your party click by being specific when people ask what they can bring - or you'll get another Christmas candle. Say you'd love them to bring a punchbowl or a centerpiece. The evening will come together "magically" for less.
• Host a swap party. Invite friends over and ask them to bring holiday décor they no longer want. Then have a swap-till-you-drop exchange. No one has to spend anything, and everyone gets to clean out what they don't want, and get something they like more instead, which feels lucky.
• Knock on wood. And put a found penny in your pocket, just for luck.
Syndicated columnist and speaker Marni Jameson is the author of "House of Havoc" and "The House Always Wins" (Da Capo Press). Contact her through www.marnijameson.com