Lynn Roach(Photo: Courtesy of Essence)

In this first of an ongoing series, in which we take a look at how we're spending and saving in these uncertain times, three ESSENCE readers -- a teacher, an accountant and an entrepreneur -- give up the goods on how to afford the things you love. These women know that real wealth isn't characterized by income and spending alone. Rather, real wealth is a mind-set and a lifestyle that is built over time with equal measures of hard work and sacrifice. African-American women who want to look like a million bucks while building wealth understand that you can have designer handbags, elite travel and luxury cars and not spend a fortune. It may mean buying with cash only or swapping designer duds with your always fly girlfriend. "It's about value, not about being cheap," explains Natalie McNeal, author of The Frugalista Files: How One Woman Got Out of Debt Without Giving up the Fabulous Life (Harlequin). Here we met women who have found ingenious ways to acquire what they want at affordable prices.

THE WORLD TRAVELER
Lynn Roach, 41, teacher, Hartford

Lynn Roach is traveling the world and looking great doing it. "I don't make a lot of money," says the eighth-grade history teacher from Connecticut, who spends her summers in Europe. "It's what I do with what I have." She finds that renting apartments is much cheaper than hotels. She once spent a month in Paris for $320 per week, for example, versus paying $320 per night for a hotel room.

"For ten months I work hard, so I can enjoy a luxury lifestyle during my two months off," says Roach. In addition to teaching her class, she tutors, does education consulting, and works after-school programs during the school year so her bills are paid up for the two months she takes off in summer. To pull off her jet-setter lifestyle, Roach looks for deals along the way. "I usually rent a flat with a stove top and refrigerator," she says.

"It cuts down on eating out. This is especially good if you are staying for more than three days." For example, she stayed in Prague, Czech Republic, for five nights and made herself breakfast every day.

She wants to see all the sights, from the Louvre to the consignment shops when in France, so she relies on the rail services instead of taxis. "Europe has the best metro systems, especially Paris," says Roach. "You can get everywhere." For her flights to her world destinations, she makes reservations early to lock in good airfares. She begins looking for airfare deals at least six months in advance.

Great Savings on Family Travel(Great Savings on Family Travel)
Great Savings on Family Travel

Roach also takes full advantage of her teacher perks for traveling. Over the last 12 years, she has spent summers in South Africa, West Africa and Puerto Rico on teacher scholarships. Back home, she has taken education trips that include a civil rights tour in Alabama, as well as visits to the famed Mount Vernon estate, home of George and Martha Washington, among others. She helped fund some of her education excursions with a Fulbright Scholarship, which paid all travel expenses and awarded her a $200 stipend for food.

Lynn's Travel Deal Tips:
BOOK EARLY
Use sites like kayak.com and input your travel dates at least six months in advance. "Put in all the dates you may be thinking to travel, and it will send you alerts every week with prices," says Roach.

RENT FOR LESS
Check for overseas flats and activities on search engines and sites like europeanhomerentals.com. And get creative. "I searched '3 days in Paris' on Google once, and it told me where to stay and what to do and see each day I was there," recalls Roach.

LEVERAGE YOUR SKILLS
Apply for elite programs that grant you travel access. For Roach, it means visiting teachinghistory.org to find global summer jobs.