When Luxuries Become Necessities

by Khaleef Crumbley on July 15, 2013

in Personal Finance

The other day there was a woman in my office suite at work talking to a couple of her colleagues about the Keurig coffee machine. Besides talking about the convenience and speed of the coffeemaker, she also brought up what I think was a very interesting point about not only that one product, but also the direction consumerism as a whole.

She mentioned that just a few years ago these expensive coffee machines could only be found in fancy specialty coffee shop’s. Since I don’t drink coffee, and I had never seen one of these until my office purchased one a couple years ago, I have to take her word on it. She went on to talk about the fact that these machines , are now in many households across the country. I know that I have gone into the homes of people who I would not consider wealthy but who had this machine.

Necessities And Luxuries: Our Coffee Will Never Be The Same

Instead of getting a coffeemaker, which cost $20 and maybe a few dollars for the filters and add in a few more for the actual coffee, we now have people spending $100 – $175 (depending on the accessories) for these fancy Keurig machines and also paying about $.50 per cup the little refills. With this advance in machinery just to brew a cup of coffee, there is also a higher probability of having an expensive problem down the line.

If you spend 10 bucks on a coffeemaker from Amazon.com, you really don’t mind getting a new one every couple of years – the same can’t be said for this $100+ device!

Necessities And Luxuries In Other Areas

It’s not the with the coffeemaker, but you can see this phenomenon with many items that come out. There was a time when a PDA was something that only a business man would be carrying; the same things with smart phones (which were mainly made at that time by Research In Motion [blackberry] and Palm). They went from an item which was only popular in Silicon Valley or Wall Street, to being something that teenagers and housewives carry.

A small part of this can be attributed to the fact that technology has advanced and progressed to the point where it is relatively cheap to produce these items. However, you have to keep in mind that in the case of smart phones, many people are paying hundreds of dollars for one (every 1-2 years) and then also increasing their cell phone bill by $30 a month for each member of the household in some cases.

Of course, there are many other things that we can look at in our culture which was once a luxury and is now a household item, and in some cases actually considered a necessity. As I said earlier, teenagers are even seen carrying around smart phones and tablets; they have expensive computers and even more expensive (when all the costs are factored in) video games. It probably cost thousands of dollars a year to equip the average teenager in this country!

I see so many people crying about the fact that the middle class is disappearing, but they don’t consider the fact that the middle class is continually striving after things that were once only seen in with the hands of the wealthy. I’m sure that many of us can name devices, or types of clothing, or a myriad other things that have not only increased in complexity, cost, and size (or getting smaller in the case of technology), but also have increased in how common they have become.

This isn’t really about whether teenagers should have things that are considered advanced as far as technology is concerned. In fact, I think that they should be exposed to advances in technology and productivity, especially when it will help them with their development. What I am describing here, is the basic human condition which causes us to lust after something that captures our attention. We get to the point where we want it so badly, that we begin to convince ourselves that it is a necessity, and that our lives will not be complete without it.

Luxuries And Necessities

Is There Such A Thing As A Luxury Car?

I was in my mother’s car the other day and I noticed that the screen popped up with the camera display of what was behind. I’ve seen these things before in luxury cars, but I did not expect to find it in a compact vehicle, which retails for less than $20,000.

These cameras, GPS systems, Bluetooth systems, ways to integrate your MP3 player and smart phone into your car, were all considered luxuries just a few years ago, but I believe we are getting to a point where people expect them to be included in their vehicles. So they won’t mind paying a few thousand dollars more to buy a new car as long as they get these items that they now consider a necessity, rather than paying less for a car that excludes them.

Again, there is not a problem in wanting a luxury and seeing how it can benefit your life, my problem is with people who are willing to go into debt or otherwise ruin their finances because they have convinced themselves that these things are necessity.

There can be no complaining about the purposeful destruction of the middle class when the middle class is chasing after these things their credit cards. We all should take a little time to evaluate our spending, to make sure that we aren’t caught up in the trap of financing luxuries and ignoring necessities/priorities in the process!

Reader Questions

What are some items that you consider luxuries but many people around you consider them to be a necessity?

Have you ever found yourself being convinced that you need something even though your life was perfectly fine without it, and it was really just a minor enhancement?

photo credit: Philipp Lücke

© 2013, KNS Financial, LLC. All rights reserved.

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kostas

There really are plenty of points to be made about using cheap phones, as the comments above me suggested – or at least not changing your phone for a new one until it is absolutely necessary to do so. The advantage that I have found to be the most pleasing is that I am not worried about losing it at all (or getting stolen as a matter of fact)!

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2 Khaleef Crumbley

I think that’s actually a great benefit that is often overlooked. Most of us would panic if our expensive phone got lost!

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3 Pauline @ Make Money Your Way

I don’t have a smartphone and my sister who barely makes ends meet has one with a $75 data plan she barely uses. I told her it ended up to nice holiday after 12 months on that plan but she wouldn’t listen because all her friends have one.

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4 Khaleef Crumbley

That is really sad, especially considering the fact that she doesn’t really use it. Hopefully, she will regret her decision and evaluate the true costs of such things in the future.

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5 funancials

“I see so many people crying about the fact that the middle class is disappearing, but they don’t consider the fact that the middle class is continually striving after things that were once only seen in with the hands of the wealthy.”

This absolutely nailed it. I blame it on the media and advertising. Everyone DESERVES to have everything.

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6 Khaleef Crumbley

I think that is the perfect word…we all think we “deserve” to have everything we see!

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7 Sara

I consider cable TV a luxury, but almost all of my friends consider it a necessity. In my opinion it’s not needed to survive. We don’t have cable now, and when I was growing up we had cable once that I can remember and back then when other kids found out we had cable it was like we were rich! One year for my birthday my Parents got me the Disney Channel and that was like winning the lottery to me, because none of my friends had that it was super special.

I once was helping a co-worker who was having financial troubles, try to find areas she could cut back on so she listed to me her necessities – Rent, Food, Cigarettes, and Cable. – I’ll never forget that conversation and what she counted as necessities. Interesting article, I really enjoyed it.

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8 Khaleef Crumbley

I’m with you on the cable TV! We don’t have it either, and I don’t miss it at all.

I hope you were able to talk some sense into your coworker! The bad thing is that people who default on their mortgage usually will keep paying their cable bill on time!

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9 Edward Antrobus

Backup cameras may be considered a “luxury” but it is really a huge safety feature. Most people don’t realize just how large their blind spot is.

As far as electronics, I think it is mostly to do with the ever lowering costs for even better technology. I have a smartphone now, but it was cheaper than what a basic feature phone cost 10 years ago. And I’m not sure Virgin Mobile even sells feature phones still!

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10 Khaleef Crumbley

The problem is that people get so dependent on the luxuries, that they lose the ability to do certain functions on their own (like that movie Wall-E) :-)

I definitely think a part of it is due to advances, but I also believe that the easy credit of the last few decades have played a large role as well.

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11 Brian @ Luke1428

This may be a little twisted but I have purposefully put off buying a smartphone because I couldn’t see how it would benefit my life. I’ll probably get one at some point but for now my cheap $20 phone has worked fine for me. Plus, I’m not tempted to look at it over dinner at a restaurant when I should be engaging my wife and kids.

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12 Khaleef Crumbley

Definitely not twisted at all. I love that mindset and it has probably saved you time, money, and brain cells! lol

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13 Matt Becker

I definitely get what you’re saying, but I’m not sure this is new. We’ve had advances in consumer goods for a long time now. I do think it’s important on an individual level to evaluate what you’re spending your money on and whether it’s truly providing value for you.

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14 Khaleef Crumbley

Definitely not new, but I think the last 20 years has seen a huge surge in productivity and advances because of the internet and micro-technology. More people are able to afford “high-end” things because of credit as well…a recipe for disaster. I think when I see people spending money on things which they don’t value, it gets to me (I know I’ve done that a lot in the past)!

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15 krantcents

I have owned luxury (Mercedes, Audi & BMW) cars in the past, but my Honda Accord was better and far less expensive. I replaced my 17 year old Honda last year with a Toyota (Prius C) and I think it is every bit as luxurious as some of the more expensive cars. I love nice things and usually indulge when appropriate. I buy good clothes, but at a discount (Marshalls) store. I like staying at 4 & 5 star resorts, but at a discount.

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16 Khaleef Crumbley

I think that is a perfect way to handle it. You obviously aren’t caught up in the idea of luxury (which is why you can say that your Accord was better than the others), and you spend money where you get the most pleasure!

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