Luxury, A Common Drug
“I’m in control of my luxury spending, I can stop whenever I want to.”
“I’m not like Darren, he really spends too much on luxury items.”
“It’s okay if buying my luxury items keeps me from saving, you’re going to die someday.”
Like a powerful drug, luxury purchases are nothing more than an addiction to a feeling.
When you purchase something that is a luxury item, it’s automatically playing on your emotions beyond the useful properties of the item. You are buying something because of the way it makes you feel. Your mind is getting a rush from the perceived value it has, and the outward perception the purchase displays.
Like alcohol or caffeine, the luxury drug is something that is common place in our culture. And while some people can have a “healthy” relationship with it, we all know plenty of people that can’t. They started down the path of buying nice things, and now you can hear them spouting out justifications for buying things they can’t afford, and really don’t need.
The Graduated Path To Addiction
Another name for an increased addiction to luxury is lifestyle inflation. It’s the friendly name that we give to the concept of not being able to control your luxury habits.
We tell ourselves that we work hard, so we deserve nice things. Or we convince ourselves that we can “afford that payment.”
The problem with buying luxury items is that once you start down that path, it’s nearly impossible to stop. The Diderot effect is a principle that recognizes that one purchase often leads to another. As you bring luxury into your life, it begins to make things that are not non-luxury items feel inadequate.
You may have recognized this in yourself, or maybe a friend. You buy one “nice thing”, and very quickly you are making other purchases to go along with it. Whether it is a house, a car, or a tech gadget, the purchase of a luxury item can begin to open the floodgate to more and more luxury purchases.
Use Luxury Responsibly
I’m typing this article on a MacBook Pro. I have an iPhone. And I thoroughly enjoy a nice dinner out at a local steakhouse downtown. I am no stranger to luxury.
Growing up in a higher income family, I was not fully aware of what was normal, and what was luxury. I assumed that many items that are luxury, were just normal. I had essentially built a up a strong tolerance to luxury.
It was not until after college that I quickly realized that my addiction to luxury could be holding me back.
My wife graduated with student loan debt, and at the same time, we were saving for our wedding. When sitting down and doing a budget, it became apparent that “luxury” was costing me thousands of dollars every year.
I knew by looking at the numbers that if I got control of my luxury spending, we would be able to quickly pay down debt and have a pile of cash ready for our wedding. It wasn’t that I was going to live the life an impoverished monk, but limiting luxury would unlock greater financial opportunity.
How to Limit Luxury Spending
- Recognize A Luxury Purchase – I am now aware when I am indulging in luxury. When I buy something that is nicer than I need, I acknowledge to myself that it is luxury, and that I can’t make a habit of it. This stops the cycle of always justifying the next luxury purchase.
- Focus on Quality – One of the very few legitimate reasons to seek out luxury is if paying more for a purchase means that it will provide a longer, more useful life. Avoid flashy luxury items, and instead only purchase luxury items if there is an actual value implication.
- Budget and Plan The Purchase – Any purchase should always be made in the context of your budget. If you don’t have the cash available to make a luxury purchase, it shouldn’t be bought. You should always plan on a luxury purchase, as to not make it easy to do on a whim.
- Pick Your Priority – Determine where you are going to spend the extra money for a little luxury, and where you can get by without it. If you have hobbies or passions, it can be okay to want to spend more. Just make sure you are not “passionate” about everything in life.