189 comments

Luxury is Just Another Weakness

limoseatI’ll be the first to admit it: Mr. Money Mustache is known to indulge in a few luxuries. Hell, I’m doing it right now, with my fingers tapping comfortably on a brushed aluminum keyboard while the letters instantly pop up on the 1920×1080 pixel screen of this feathery “ultrabook” laptop. I’m on the front porch of my luxury house, looking over the hundreds of beautiful plants in the front garden, my belly is comfortably full from a breakfast of espresso with frothed organic milk, almonds, mangoes and avocados. Aren’t I Mr. Fancypants?

No, actually I am not. This stuff isn’t anything to brag about. Although I am enjoying it at the moment, it is actually an indulgence of a weakness, and I had better watch myself, lest I start to depend on this sort of pampering all the time.

When you really look at this fancy picture, I’m sitting around on my ass, consuming stuff. This seated position is bad for my bones and organs. My muscles are atrophying away as the body takes the hint that they are no longer needed. The typing is straining my wrists and nibbling away at the joints, trying to lay the foundation of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. The laptop is wearing out and depreciating and the luxury home is tying up close to half a million dollars of precious capital.

In fact, the most rewarding part of this exercise is the fact that I am working to create something – this article for you, for which most of the surrounding luxury is not even necessary.

If I were to get used to all of this, to feel like it were my inalienable right to have it, and become unhappy if I could not have it, I would be pretty much screwed. Because at that point, I would have designed a lifestyle so narrow and delicate, that it could easily be toppled by something as trivial as an economic collapse.

And yet people do this all the time. Most people, even. When you borrow money to buy a consumable product, you are instantly teetering atop the ultimate house of cards. You are getting yourself used to the rare luxury of your new toy, even while you are speeding up the treadmill you have to run upon even to get close enough to use it. This is why I laugh and cry with frustration at the absolute insanity of borrowing money for a car, and the fact that ninety percent of Americans do it.

But it’s not just borrowers that are the fools here. Even those of us with a comfortable ‘stash who can fork over a few thousand dollar bills for the odd treat here and there would be wise to watch ourselves. And yet, here is Mr. Money Mustache talking about his own luxuries. What gives?

In fact, the relatively material-rich lifestyle of the MMM family is one of the primary reasons this blog doesn’t scare everyone off. People say, “Oh yeah, they have a kid, cars, and a nice house – seems like a reasonable lifestyle, I guess we can dip our toes in as well.” For a blog that preaches living a larger life with a smaller footprint, the contradictions are rife.

Fortunately, there is a way to reconcile the ideal and the reality. You can dabble in luxury, without becoming a whining slave to it, just by understanding the concept that luxury is a drug.

Most of us have tried drugs in one form or another, right? Coffee gives you a little boost. Alcohol makes you a bit more silly and friendly. Ibuprofen lowers your swelling and fever and can really cut down the misery of a cold or flu. Marijuana is amazing for bringing out creative ideas and highlighting the texture and humor in life, and the list goes on. But the key to all drugs is that they come with a balance of positive and negative effects.  So only a fool would overdose on any of them in a breathless pursuit of their positives, while ignoring the well-documented negatives.

Luxury behaves in exactly the same way. I remember taking a big hit of it on a business trip a while back. I stepped off the plane in an exotic destination and smelled the warm air off the sea as I watched the palm trees and flowers blowing in the wind. A black Lincoln was waiting right at the curb to pick me up. I threw my backpack into the back seat and climbed in, noting the contrast between my sandals and shorts and the black leather seats of this business-oriented car. The driver zoomed me through the city to the luxury hotel while I casually flicked through emails on my phone and watched the skyscrapers roll past.

“I am Mr. Bigshot”, I thought to myself. “I sit in bigass cars, with muscular V-8 engines which waste huge amounts of gas while people drive me around. I sit upon polished strips of sliced-up cows, dyed and stitched together by workers who earn far less than me. When I get to the expensive hotel, I will be presented with an internationally-sourced meal prepared by chefs, and a large private suite, while others bow down and wait and pay me for the priceless solutions I deliver from my powerful mind. THIS is the treatment I deserve! Why have I been taking the bus and riding my bike and setting up tents all these years?”

A scientist could probably measure exactly the rush I was receiving from this drug. All the chemicals that come from the feeling of being powerful, pampered, and getting used to it.

It was fun, but it was an experience to be tucked away and cherished and laughed at, just like being drunk off your gourd in the company of friends or high on any other substance. Because even that one executive pampering was enough to start me idly pondering the option of luxury airport transit on my future trips. Tentatively sorting the list of hotels from “high to low” instead of “low to high”. Chuckling at the dowdy furnishings of the Best Western or cowering away from the heat of a Houston day in August.

And while constant pampering of this level would soon make me flabby and dependent, there are ready examples of even more pampered people further along the scale. Some kings and queens of the past grew so dependent and accustomed to their ornate surroundings that they would imprison or execute any servant that failed to deliver their luxuries exactly as ordered. Some movie stars today add special clauses to their contracts, specifying that they only be sheltered in the top grade of limousine and hotel, and the demand is backed up by threat of whining and legal action. My experience with the Lincoln Town Car and the Marriott would be deemed an upsetting step downwards. “Lincoln! Don’t you know those are made by Ford? .. And the Marriott is a place for middle managers and tourists.. not A-list movie stars such as myself!”

When you wriggle yourself into the narrow nook of luxury, your perspective on the world, and your ability to survive and thrive in it, also constricts dramatically. Like any drug, it can be fun to indulge in occasionally. But to seek to constantly maximize luxury in all areas of your life to the limits of what you can afford? Pure insanity. Just as it would be insane for me to say, “Since I can afford it, I need to start taking drugs for as many of my waking hours as possible. Alternating shots of espresso and fine scotch all day, with hits from the bong every hour on the hour!”

Even more insane is for people with financial problems to seek out luxury and even buy it on credit – exactly like a man with a damaged liver reaching for the bottle of vodka while the surgeons are trying to perform a transplant.

So by all means, if you’re not tough enough to abstain totally, go ahead and dabble in luxury just as you might have some fun with the other bits of naughtiness. Think of it as part of an exploration of the full human experience: many luxury products are, after all, the culmination of the art and science and effort of your fellow humans. But approach it from a position of strength,  rather than the whining dependence that most of your fellow rich people develop.

Luxury is best appreciated as a strong and interesting contrast to, rather than the fabric of, your daily life.

  • EL August 29, 2013, 10:55 am

    I agree as luxury should only be expereinced when you have your financial life in order, never on debt. It is a dangerous drug to expect luxury when you have not worked for it, aka maximizing the credit cards. I understand the cushiness of having an expensive house, but if you are debt free and saving enough for retirement then we all should see that as a gift for achieving a new status in your money life.

    Reply
    • Debt Blag August 29, 2013, 11:17 am

      Maybe. One of my favorite things about this site is that it doesn’t follow in the same path of others. MMM isn’t being frugal so that he can spend a lot more later. He’s frugal so that he can make the money he’s already saved last a whole lot longer.

      It’s pretty great

      Reply
      • Free Money Minute August 29, 2013, 2:29 pm

        Well said Debtblag. Living a sustainable lifestyle after saving like mad is more desirae in my mind than the luxurious hotels and cars and food that are so fleeting.

        Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache August 29, 2013, 3:31 pm

        It’s even crazier than that – I’m not being frugal to make money last longer (at this point we could triple our spending or more, and never run out).

        Instead, we are living a slightly-less-ridiculous-than-average life just because it is more enjoyable. And there are some useful things you can do with a bunch of surplus money too.

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        • Andy August 29, 2013, 11:20 pm

          I have known for a long time that happiness is easier to obtain by wanting less than by acquiring more. Your blog has helped me have more confidence in pursuing that goal.

          Reply
        • Andrew Norris August 30, 2013, 4:26 am

          Yes, some people seem to worship the idea that just to get rich will be great and solve all of their problems. They think of the brief drive they had a friends’ car or how they felt on holiday – and think being rich will be like that all the time! But modern psychology has shown this is absolutely not the case. The new car feeling lasts a short time, then it feels just like the last car. We quickly get bored of holidays. Better, studies have shown, that we help others in areas we care about, and use our signature strengths, getting into flow. This is different to what most people do, which is to work painfully hard and aim to be rich, yet when (and if) they get there – it does not work for most of them – they feel they are living a lie. Studies have shown this, and these need to become more common knowledge.

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        • Jay Bee September 18, 2013, 11:17 pm

          I agree with this. I’m not to the ridiculous amount of money part yet (getting there!), but we live very “simply” but it’s also “extremely well.” I don’t know, it feels luxurious and/or abundant even if it “isn’t.”

          And, it is well within our means — comfortably. Which is awesome. :)

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    • Middle Finger Project August 29, 2013, 1:14 pm

      I don’t know if I wholly agree. Of course I’m not advocating people with no money to go out and purchase expensive luxurious items like big TVs and new laptops but I don’t think luxury should be the reserve of the rich. You can have luxury and even luxurious items on a budget – if you do it right. Plus not everyone values the same things – some people no matter how much money they had – simply wouldn’t spend it on expensive cars, TVs, laptops etc.

      Reply
  • Aaron August 29, 2013, 10:56 am

    lux·u·ry
    n. pl. lux·u·ries
    1. Something inessential but conducive to pleasure and comfort.
    2. Something expensive or hard to obtain.
    3. Sumptuous living or surroundings: lives in luxury.

    Reply
  • Early Retirement Extreme August 29, 2013, 10:59 am

    Sounds like you could use a cold shower… ;-D

    Reply
    • Debt Blag August 29, 2013, 11:18 am

      Ha ha. Is it weird that I had that exact same thought? :)

      Reply
  • Buck August 29, 2013, 11:01 am

    Powerful post, MMM. It reminds me how most of life is all about moderation and things usually turn bad when done in the undercurrent of mindless excess.

    “It’s best to rise from life like a banquet, neither thirsty or drunken.” – Aristotle

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    • Mr. 1500 August 29, 2013, 11:28 am

      Love the Aristotle quote!

      All of the fancy stuff doesn’t make for true happiness. I especially don’t understand the car thing. What does driving from point A to point B in a Lexus instead of a Toyota do for you? Nothing except drain your bank account and postpone your retirement.

      If you think you need stuff to be friends with certain people, you should re-evaluate your friends.

      With that said, I’ll throw another quote back at you. Well, actually song lyrics:

      It’s a mystery to me,
      We have a greed with which we have agreed,
      And you think you have to want more than you need,
      Until you have it all, you won’t be free.

      Society, you’re a crazy breed,
      I hope you’re not lonely without me.

      -Jerry Hannan (later covered by Eddie Vedder)

      Reply
      • CalDMint August 29, 2013, 11:52 am

        Funny you say that. My wife and I call a Lexus “an over priced Toyota”.

        We see a ton of this sort of behavior around here. Heck. Most of my previous life debt was due to luxuries in the travel market. Took much more than debt to get me to break that habit. And as MMM says, it was a habit. Full on addiction.

        Now the debt is nearly gone, the car is ours, monthly savings have more than tripled and living better lives.

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        • Mr. 1500 August 29, 2013, 9:29 pm

          “Heck. Most of my previous life debt was due to luxuries in the travel market. Took much more than debt to get me to break that habit”

          I would like to know what made you break the habit. Change isn’t easy, so it’s cool to hear about people who turn it around.

          In any case, congratulations!

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          • CalDMint August 30, 2013, 8:19 am

            I’m still not all the way there with dumping the luxury. But it is now to once a year if that.

            It was a combination of a lot of things. Stagnant wages, better tracking of expenses (i use mint) to where I was able to see a huge portion of my budget went to new toys, travel for travel’s sake, the massive devaluations of rewards programs, and of course the interest on the debt. when the interest got to the point of being a semi lux vacation per year, we knew we had to change it.

            Also playing a part was a year spent emptying the mileage accounts traveling in business. Sounds counter intuitive, but with the balances empty and a whole year off of earning during the burn, the desire to chase the status and balances back to the top is much less.

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      • Welfare To Well Off August 30, 2013, 9:30 pm

        I love ‘Society’ by Eddie Vedder, and the movie ‘Into The Wild’ for which it was recorded. It is definitely a mustachian song.

        I’ve just taken a new job at a mid-sized bank, and I notice the weakness for luxury when it comes to all the 20-somethings getting married. A recent CNNMoney article said that the average wedding costs over $28k, and from brief conversations with a few of these young adults, I think they aren’t much off that pace. Since I’m new on the job I’ve kept my opinion to myself.

        My wedding was a mustachian affair: We got married at the local courthouse. In full disclosure, my wife originally took some convincing to go along with it. She now calls it ‘the best financial decision she ever made.’ Nearly 9 years later, we are just as ‘married’ as the people spending $28K.

        Just for the heck of it, I ran the numbers: Assuming that money earned even 6% above inflation, it would be worth $45,308 today.

        Society is a crazy breed . . .

        Reply
        • SpeedReader March 4, 2014, 7:50 pm

          I’ve seen too many young couples blow a fortune on the wedding, then end up divorced from fighting about money problems in the marriage.

          Reply
  • Stephen August 29, 2013, 11:11 am

    I too tend to dip my toes in the water of luxury on occasion. Required business travel tends to disrupt the efficiencies and often puts me in precarious positions of extensive luxury. Luxury is a drug. I think the analogy is quite apt and I think I’ll carry this concept around for a while. The drug of choice for many is money and the luxuries it provides. I’m looking forward to the discussion tonight with the wifey about the concept.

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  • Mark ferguson August 29, 2013, 11:12 am

    I understand the point of not getting sucked into luxury, but I think luxury has its positives as well. You mention the town car that picked you up, I always get a town car or taxi now because the super shuttle takes about an hour longer to get me to my destination. As a businessman my time is money and the more time I can save the more money I can make.

    Many luxuries will save time and make things easier, increasing the bottom line if used properly. Luxuries can also provide a driving force for success. If I really really want a certain car, I can make myself a goal for saving or investing before I allow myself to get that car. I don’t go out and buy it with a loan because that’s how much I qualify for, but I do get a loan because I can invest my money in rental properties at a much higher rate than the auto loan rate.

    In fact, I take out all kinds of debt in order to invest in rentals to make a higher return. I don’t suggest doing this in order to purchase consumer goods you could not otherwise afford. I always have plenty of reserves, but the loans allow me to have reserves and invest more.

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    • Giddings Plaza FI August 29, 2013, 12:08 pm

      Mark, using luxuries as a time-saving tool to increase your success makes sense for you. For me, I’ve been on the path of simplifying and de-complexing my life, which includes any paid work I do. My experience is that business people and executives often create complexity (exotic investment types, personal assistants, leveraging capital and debt) in order to increase their status. Status being just one more addiction you can purchase with your capital. I vote for innate self-esteem and simplicity.

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      • Mark Ferguson August 29, 2013, 3:32 pm

        If you do it for status I agree. If you do it for freedom, passive income and being able to purchase things you really love I disagree. The more money you make, the more you can give away to help others.

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        • Andrew Norris September 1, 2013, 8:45 am

          Trouble is studies in psychology have shown items like cars, give pleasure for a short time, then it feels like any other car. But people believe they will get lots of pleasure for it. Yes you could use a car to motivate yourself to work hard. BUT if all you are likely to get is the money for the car, it would not be worth it. If you are likely to get a lot more than the money for the car for your efforts – then yes maybe use it as motivation. Most people although they think they are not affected by status do find it hard to give a car up even if they grow used to it. They end up just wanting another better car. It’s an endless trap. Just be aware of this and be prepared to take a knock to the ego and sell the car after it does nothing for you anymore. We only know our level of ego when we have to give something up that is a status symbol. Then we know where we are. Try to stay conscious and aware of what is going on inside. Is as much about developing ourselves inside as it is gaining things on the outside.It’s sad but most rich people today give less to charity in % terms than your average man. They end up with big boats and endless toys they get used to.

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          • Mark Ferguson September 3, 2013, 12:48 pm

            That may be true for many people, cars are a passion of mine. I have had one car for 11 years, another for 3 years and then my daily driver.

            I completely agree with developing yourself inside. I purchase cars for the car, not how much it costs. The older and rarer the better.

            True the rich give less percentage wise, but they do donate about 70-80 % of the total money donated in the US. Even if they give less as a percentage basis, they have so much more money they are able to help much more by being rich.

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          • Kevin Akey September 4, 2013, 4:54 pm

            From someone who travels for a living on a consultant expense plan (Middle Management Marriott hotels and intermediate cars). I really do notice the difference between a low end rental and my 2004 BMW x3.

            I agree that on a lot of “things”, it is very much what you get used to and where you selectively decide to spend.

            That said, I notice a lot of other things as well:
            1. When you live in a hotel for a month(event the luxury ones are pretty sparse) you really come to realize how much “crap” you have in your house that is not important or useful and how much you really need.
            2. When you stuff your life into a backpack and a piece of carry on luggage and live out of it for a month you really come to realize how little you need to live an efficient and happy life.
            3. Small non-luxurious cars suck (Yes I know … work in progress … I have decouple many of my other addictions this one is … tougher).

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    • Mr. Money Mustache August 29, 2013, 3:38 pm

      Indeed – Giddings Plaza is catching my drift a bit more than Mark. My philosophy here is about slowing down, and throwing some challenges at yourself.

      I’m not a businessman, I’m a retired man. So my biggest risk is not running out of time to make more money, it’s getting lazy.

      Thus, a better way for me to get to and from the Denver airport would be a bike (which would take about 2.5 hours from my house), rather than either the town car or the supershuttle. Challenge. Effort. Time out in the plains looking at the mountains slowly growing closer as I go West towards Longmont. Sometimes, even when you can afford anything, you need to say Fuck the luxury and the rush.

      Reply
      • Willis Montgomery III August 31, 2013, 3:42 pm

        I’ve had to suddenly start to commute a few times a week about 140 miles round trip. I go up one day, and return the next(staying at a friend’s place) There is a train 40 miles away that takes me the rest of the 70 miles. Realizing this was a great opportunity to ride my bike and get much needed exercise, I’ve been able to figure out ways of take the train/bike option rather than the expensive car option. I can’t always do this, but it’s a chance to think differently, save some money and get some good miles in on the bike. It beats getting dropped on some training ride too. Once I get to the train I cool off and study. If anything, the bike/train option seems more luxurious than the driving option. No, it’s not convenient in some ways, but I feel grateful that I can do it at age 45. When I pack my lunch for the train, the one way trip is only $10, as opposed to the car which is at significantly more (obviously, this depends on how you calculate driving expenses). Define your own luxury. Luxury might be feeling healthy and knowing that you don’t have to feel reliant on a car and being forced to drive. Luxury is not worrying about what I am “supposed” to want. The less money I need the better off I’ll be.

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      • Mike August 31, 2013, 10:46 pm

        Biking from Longmont to DIA would be pretty badass. You ever actually tried it?

        Reply
    • Peachy August 30, 2013, 2:59 am

      In many places there is an airport train/subway/light rail that is faster than sitting in traffic in a town car. When I used to travel for work I found out most of my coworkers wouldn’t be caught dead in public transport when the company would pay for a town car. But what about sustainability and the environment? That’s also the beauty of rejecting luxury. Most of the time there is a cost to society when we choose a luxury over another option.

      Reply
  • FI Pilgrim August 29, 2013, 11:13 am

    Luxury in and of itself doesn’t cause too many problems, it’s just how you prioritize it. However, when you attach impatience to the desire for luxury, then you get yourself in trouble! Great post MMM.

    Reply
  • Debt Blag August 29, 2013, 11:15 am

    This is so true! Luxury is as addictive as anything out there and once you start, luxury very quickly becomes the norm.

    I’ve always thought that one of the best things about cutting out luxuries is that there are two benefits:

    (1) You save money immediately by cutting that luxury out of your budget
    (2) You don’t have to save as much money to get by because your budget is smaller (since it doesn’t include luxuries)

    Great post!

    Reply
  • Debbie August 29, 2013, 11:27 am

    Who is it that said: Be careful–luxuries will become necessities.

    Reply
  • Tony August 29, 2013, 11:34 am

    MMM, it is true: I read you because there are just enough congruent aspects to our life (kids, car, house). That said, you just ran the gambit on the definition of “luxury”; by the end of the post I didn’t quite follow. Sure, we can all agree that SUVs, expensive hotels, etc. are luxuries. And I think we all need to adopt a mindset of gratitude much more than we do currently. But the beginning of your post eludes to promoting deprivation (a computer and a garden are too much?). Depending on that type of “pampering” is not too much for us to…EXPECT is the wrong word…strive for.

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    • Shawn G August 29, 2013, 1:25 pm

      I’m not sure how old you are, but my generation (millennials) absolutely expect to have these luxuries. My wife and I do not have cable or smart phones and the people we come across wonder how we can possibly live without them.

      They are luxuries, but people believe they are necessities. When you jump from luxuries to necessities, the correct word to use is “expect” not “strive for.”

      Reply
      • Tony August 29, 2013, 5:05 pm

        Fair enough, Shawn (I am not a millennial…only 1 kid got a trophy for stuff on our teams). However, I didn’t mention a smart phone in my post. If we are talking one item at a time, we’ll get subjective either way you cut it (very much based on generations, by the way).

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        • nunayo August 29, 2013, 9:34 pm

          I am a millenial, and only one kid got a trophy on my team too. we were not all as pampered as the stereotypes lead one to believe.

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          • rosaz August 30, 2013, 7:16 am

            Yeah, I have to second nunayo on that one… not sure where some of these generational stereotypes come from.

            But I do agree with Tony’s point – “If we are talking one item at a time, we’ll get subjective either way you cut it (very much based on generations, by the way).” Maybe more millenials than boomers do consider a smartphone a necessity; but in my experience, more boomers than millenials view a car the same way. Speaking for myself, getting myself and my little one around everyday without a car is fine, but the bus tracking app on my smartphone… yeah that feels pretty necessary. (But no, I don’t have cable – and incidentally, I know a lot more millenials than older people who go without that too. But admittedly it’s a small sampling size)

            In sum – to each their own. It’s easy to pick out something someone else prioritizes and call their lifestyle luxurious, but you need to look at the whole picture.

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            • Kenoryn September 7, 2013, 11:43 am

              I think we all have to recognize that anything beyond basic food, clothing and shelter is a luxury. Luxury means that it’s not necessary, it’s just a bonus. Could you get by without a car? Absolutely. Could you get by without the furniture in your house? Sure you could. Could you get by without electricity? People have been doing it for thousands of years, and 1.4 billion people in the world currently do not have electricity, so the answer there is a resounding yes! And it’s silly to even ask if you could get by without a computer or flower garden. (Veggie garden might be a different story.) These are luxuries. Compare the way you live to the way most of the world lives: average residential floor space in the U.S. is 832 square feet per person, similar in Australia and Canada. In Hong Kong it’s 161 square feet per person. In India it’s 103. (Developing countries don’t seem to have stats readily available.) We’ve come to believe that electricity and other luxuries are not luxuries but necessities. What does that mean for us? It means they don’t make us happy anymore. They only have the potential to make us unhappy, when we lose them. If you’re not excited and grateful every time you turn on lights after dark, if you’re annoyed when the power goes out and find you can’t do the things you want to do, well then, you’ve come to depend on and expect a luxury. Maybe you’re OK with that, but it doesn’t hurt to reflect on it once in awhile and think about how unbelievably, incredibly, mind-blowingly wealthy and lucky you are to have things like computers and electricity all within your ready grasp on a whim.

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              • Andrew Norris September 7, 2013, 12:09 pm

                There is an in-between solution too. For many question is not “could you get by without a car”, but “could you get by without a luxury car”. There are plenty of good quality reliable, safe, comfortable cars that don’t cost that much. True some people like MRMM have increased their badassity – and enjoy taking the bike instead for most journeys. That is they actually find it better than a car. Most of us spend too much on cars, and don’t bike enough. Most of us think we need more luxury than is actually good for us. It spoils us, we lose the ability to use our resources and initiative. It’s easy to come to depend on expensive things for status.

                I have a nice PC that cost me £100. It’s a core 2 duo and is fast enough even though I am a programmer and work on it a lot. It’s not that don’t need a computer – it’s not all or nothing – it’s choices over how much we spend (waste) on the item. A computer like mine 4 years ago would have been £1000. By being just 2 years behind I save myself £500+ a year. You can have lots of things without spending massive amounts on the luxury choices.

                Agree with you that we expect too much. I count myself very lucky that I just have a computer. One so much better than I have had in the past. By making the less expensive choice I remind myself a lot how much I have saved, and how crazy those people are to spend more! I think we do take too much for granted. We all should visit a poor country. We then appreciate what we have and will do more to help them. It should be mandatory (was a joke but who knows maybe a good idea, like army service used to be mandatory at 18, now maybe we should be made to work for a charity abroad for a year).

        • Kenoryn September 7, 2013, 11:37 am

          While we’re on the ‘correct word to use’, I would just like to note for your future reference and because I am seeing it all the time lately, that ‘running the gamut’ and a ‘gambit’ are not the same thing. :)

          Reply
      • Lindsey August 31, 2013, 2:44 pm

        Yesterday we went into the car insurance agent to sign a new policy we had negotiated—down almost half from the past few years. The secretary whispered to us, “He gave you a really good deal—he feels really bad that things are going so badly for you that you had to get rid of your second car and second motorcycle…” We had to make a concerted effort not to look at each other or my husband and I would have burst out laughing. We made a deliberate decision to simplify, even though we have no debts, no mortgage and nearly 800,000 in savings—as well as great jobs. But it is inconceivable to the agent that we would do this voluntarily. (And, wait for it, we refuse to carry cell phones! And we don’t have cable!)

        Reply
        • Jason September 4, 2013, 12:39 am

          Please tell me more about not carrying cell phones! I have a very basic smart phone and a pay as you go plan and no home phone.

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    • jennaw August 30, 2013, 12:41 pm

      He’s not saying that having a computer is a luxury, rather, having a top of the line computer is when you don’t need it for work etc. I can’t speak for his garden but it is entirely possible to spend hundreds of dollars on plants each year if they are purchased from a nursery rather than grown from seed. So, yes, a garden can be a luxury too.

      Reply
  • Ree Klein August 29, 2013, 11:35 am

    Great post, Mr. MM. The point you make about little luxuries creeping in is very true for me. When you are making good money, your expenses are low and your savings high, it’s easy to rationalize some luxuries. Too many of them perhaps.

    For example, I’m about ready to plunk down $1,300 for a new iMac to replace my 10-yr old PC (MS will stop supporting my operating system in April so I need to do something…!).

    Macs are a new form of luxury for me; I’ve created all sorts of good “reasons” for why I should take the leap. It won’t hurt me financially…but is it really the right thing to do? Hard to tell…

    Cheers,
    Ree

    Reply
    • AB August 30, 2013, 3:32 am

      Switch to ubuntu then.

      http://www.ubuntu.com/desktop

      Reply
    • Peter H August 30, 2013, 9:16 am

      I would suggest against the iMac for longevity. Their newer models have substantial design flaws which make them designed to fail after a few years. Specifically, they’re poorly ventilated and tend to overheat after a few years of dust buildup, and they’re extremely difficult to service/upgrade. Even stuff like RAM which used to be user-upgradable is now hidden behind the screen which requires specialized tools to remove.

      If you want a fancy-pants computer, I’d look at Puget Systems, who are an excellent custom manufacturer out of Seattle. But if you’re trying to not make a luxury buy, you can get a decent tower for $300-$400, and a decent laptop for about $400-500.

      Reply
      • none123 August 30, 2013, 2:19 pm

        I recommend learning how to build your own rig.

        Buy a quality tower and assemble the components. You can easily upgrade to current era specs for a fraction of replacing the entire system.

        You can learn how to assemble in a couple hours. You just need the confidence to do it for the first time.

        I’ll never go back to crappy brand computers. Apple included.

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache August 30, 2013, 3:44 pm

          Yeah.. I happen to be typing this on a freshly-built homemade PC myself (another luxury.. sigh). You do indeed end up with a cheaper and more powerful PC this way. Yet another article for the drafts list!

          Reply
          • Alvaro Gil September 3, 2013, 1:17 pm

            I second ubuntu. It’s so rewarding to fire up a Used $175 ultrabook with a $200 SSD + Ubuntu. It makes me so happy every time I use it. Don’t get me wrong, its a learning experience, it wont “just work” right out of the box. Wanting something that “just works” is a luxury. When you pay someone else for their hard work its a luxury. When you do it yourself it’s harder, but much more rewarding Plus you have learned something. Learning something out of some work is the reward! Maybe its not for everyone, but if you like computers try making something awesome with open source software.

            Reply
  • Syed August 29, 2013, 11:36 am

    Thoroughly engaging post. I experienced such a luxurious rush when I flew first class for the first time a couple of years ago. Granted it was with credit card signup bonuses but soon after I found myself comparing first class amenities on different airlines and I almost even booked a first class flight without points! Luckily I stopped myself and I’m over it now.

    Your article was a great commentary on what a slippery slope a life of luxury can be. Look forward to exploring your site more.

    Reply
  • FrugalDCguy August 29, 2013, 11:37 am

    I was recently thinking about the “luxury” craze in the context of marketing. Many condos are marketed as “luxury,” as are cars, of course. Even cigarettes, sometimes. What is a “luxury” cigarette!?! Clearly this idea taps into something deep in our psyche, probably related to wanting to convince ourselves that we are higher in the social order than our fellow man. A smart economist friend once tried to convince me how it was sensible for some people to spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on fancy versions of simple goods, like purses (handbags). Clearly only rational in a very artificial social environment.

    Reply
    • 9 O'Clock Shadow August 29, 2013, 1:15 pm

      Paraphrasing here: “Clearly only rational in an artificial environment” – really great observation on the selling of the word ‘luxury’.

      Rationality in artificial environments sounds like an aspect of game theory! Create or observe the rules and rationally apply them to your advantage. It’s why some gurus/ nihilists/ religious-political-philosophical partisans can rationally stick their head up their ass and murmur “I WIN!”, but to someone with a different reality, they are just asshats.

      I think MMM, this community, and millions of others offer reassurance of what rational behaviour is across many realities, artificial and other: spending your time and contributing to family, friends, and community. Using self-reliance, offering and accepting help from others when needed (“…a friend is someone who lets you help”).

      BTW is anyone else “hungry” ;) after reading this post? I had an image of the postman slipping on dozens of avocado pits strewn about the porch and MMM doubled over laughing.

      Reply
    • Jeff August 30, 2013, 2:10 pm

      The funny thing is, I actually look for hotels that decided not “luxury.” Luxury just means you have to pay for internet and everything else.

      Reply
    • Mike August 31, 2013, 10:52 pm

      Spending tons of money on fancy versions of simple items is EXTREMELY rational… if you’re selling said items. Or if you’re an economist trying to explain the notion of economic pies. Not so much for everyone else.

      Reply
  • Modest Money August 29, 2013, 11:47 am

    Like some drugs, I think luxury alters our perceptions of reality. We begin to feel, huh, I can really get used to this or I deserve this, I mean, am gonna live only once, right? That though as you point out becomes quickly addictive and soon we are borrowing even more to sustain the lifestyle.
    Modesty and moderation in all things, luxury inclusive.

    Reply
  • Emily Capito August 29, 2013, 12:08 pm

    It’s much more tempting to indulge in a wee too much alcohol when you are at a party surrounded by drunkards and with ample booze available at no additional cost beyond the bottle of booze you contributed.

    In America the luxury party seems to go on and on and it can be difficult to surround yourself with folks who are not drunk on spending. The cash is quick and seemingly free with credit card offers in your mailbox starting at age 18.

    Even if you have earned the resources to have a crazy spending binge lifestyle, you are quietly addicting your children to the excess, producing economic dependents who will never be able to recreate the excess resources required to sustain their minimum lifestyle.

    Lesson: Rich or poor, don’t live like Bill Gates.

    Thanks for another excellent post!

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache September 1, 2013, 8:32 am

      Great point that I didn’t capture very well in this article, Emily! — the perception of what Luxury is depends on how many around you are taking the drug.

      Just as my snowboarding friends and I end up consuming FAR more recreational substances than usual on our annual one-week trip. Then I come back and write articles like this one in penance: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/02/13/understand-the-marginal-utility-of-booze-and-drugs/

      I know of some in the “30something Professionals” set which surround me who think that a brand-new Audi A4 is an appropriate purchase for someone who still has a mortgage and other loans. The mentality spreads, and pretty soon everyone has one.

      On the other hand, if you hang out with a bunch of Mustachians in the similar age/income group (who tend to have a MUCH higher net worth), getting a car like that would keep your friends up all night in confusion. “Why did they buy such an insane car? Did they lose their ability to bike? Are they compensating for something else inadequate in their lives?”

      You’d be the only 2013 Audi in a sea of bikes (and early-2000s Japanese cars left mostly at home in the garage). And thus, you’d feel pretty out of place, and maybe reconsider what is appropriate.

      Reply
  • WageSlave August 29, 2013, 12:11 pm

    Another angle to the “hedonistic adaptation” theme you blogged about a while back. And a great one at that.

    From a science/psychological standpoint, luxury consumerism is interesting. But actually dealing with it is frustrating. For example: I’ve been looking to downsize from two cars to one, and replace the remaining fuel-thirsty beast with a small, efficient MMM-style hatchback. My well-to-do friends have given me a lot of grief about this. One conversation in particular almost turned ugly.

    It ended when my friend literally said that he’d rather enjoy life now, and worry about the costs later (he’s driving a luxury auto bought on credit).

    The same friends look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them I don’t have cable. Or when I tell them that my wife cuts my hair (and her own as well).

    Despite these little frugality hacks, I’m at best half as efficient as MMM and similarly “ultra frugal but ultra happy” folks. If I enumerated some of the luxuries that we’ve let into our lives, there’d be a mad scramble to see who could face punch me first. And despite that, my friends call me “cheap” and act as though I must be miserable.

    I believe that’s hedonistic adaptation in action. And it’s a matter of degree, too. I can smugly point at my friends and say they are hooked on luxury… but then the real Mustachians could do the same to me.

    Reply
    • Rachel August 29, 2013, 6:46 pm

      I think sometimes people see someone living differently than they are and they attack it simply because it makes them uncomfortable.

      Some people come at it from a sense of concern that you must not be enjoying your life – which really only shows that they don’t yet grasp the concept that money and things don’t bring love or happiness…. no matter how much they may claim to “love” or to be “so happy with” their new luxury SUV.

      Other people come at it from an angle at which they feel nearly personally attacked that you would dare to try to live your life differently than their view of how life should be lived.

      I recently touched on the subject of FI in a conversation with my dad, who recently retired at 53. He brought up some friends of his who spend their money frivolously on the idea that life is short and support this idea with some recent health scares for both the husband and wife.

      He told me that they recently bought a very expensive camping trailer and truck to tow it. He said that they figure they might as well buy since who knows what life will bring. But the interesting thing is that if they lived more like my dad (who really isn’t all that frugal, just more careful with money than most), they would be free to retire from their high stress jobs and enjoy life together. The disconnect is that this couple thinks they’re buying happiness and a chance to live life. In my opinion, they’re mortgaging their precious remaining time in the pursuit of temporary consumer highs.

      I asked my dad how much he figures that couple’s camping trips end up costing them once you consider the per use cost of the camper and truck. We figured, only half jokingly, probably about 10k per trip.

      Reply
  • Mrs PoP August 29, 2013, 12:18 pm

    I tend to think that the bigger the luxury the easier it is to step back from it afterwards and be able to revert to your previous experience.
    A business flight on a private jet? Ridiculously luxurious. But I can still step back and fly on coach for a future vacation and not feel deprived since the luxury of the private jet was just so out of reach.
    But what about if I had just stepped up to business class for my business flight? Perhaps on my next coach flight I’d be disappointed not to have my extra 3″ of tilt that the seat might provide. So I might look at paying $50 or $100 for a gate upgrade whenever it was available instead of just being satisfied with coach the way I was before ever taking a business class flight.

    I tend to look at luxury as two different types – large scale luxury can be refreshing and a true treat (like the private jet), but incremental luxury (like the business class seat) can lead to hedonic adaptation and lead to a new standard of comfort.

    Is it weakness? I think only when you stop appreciating it and start taking it for granted. Continual gratitude for the luxury in your life (however small or big those luxuries are) doesn’t seem like a weakness to me. Feels like something that could be a real source of strength.

    Reply
    • Matt Becker August 29, 2013, 2:00 pm

      “Is it weakness? I think only when you stop appreciating it and start taking it for granted. Continual gratitude for the luxury in your life (however small or big those luxuries are) doesn’t seem like a weakness to me. Feels like something that could be a real source of strength.”

      Love that quote! I think it’s tough to paint things in black and white. While I think it’s absolutely true that are many people reaching for “luxuries” that only end up hurting them, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using money you’ve earned on things you enjoy, some of which others might consider a luxury. As long as you continue to enjoy them, and as long as they don’t lessen your financial security, then I don’t see any problem with it. But what both this quote and the post in general I think are both saying is that it’s when you stop feeling gratitude or appreciation and start simply expecting that luxury that you get into trouble.

      Reply
    • Aja September 30, 2013, 10:02 pm

      I agree that gratitude is key. So is resetting downward again. So where business class might up the standards, doing something to drop them and being grateful for that, too, is important. After spending a year living in a place with one electrical outlet, poor lighting and ventilation, and non-potable water, just being able to wash my salad greens in tap water feels like a luxury! Because really, my life was pretty great despite those complaints. Though I’ve mostly adjusted to it, I try periodically remember all the reasons I chose to double my rent and be grateful that I can easily afford all the little luxuries of my current place.

      Reply
  • Modest Abundance August 29, 2013, 12:24 pm

    I used to get super high off of luxuries. What was terrible was my desire for more and better luxuries. I was never satisfied. That’s where the debt troubles start to rear their ugly head. Fortunately, my perceived luxuries are now much more simple. Rather than driving a nice car, I have a cheap paid for car that my fiancé uses to get to work, while I luxuriously walk or ride my bike. Now instead of coffees everyday from Starbucks, I make my own espressos at home. Now my favorite luxury of all is cooking a meal at home with my fiancé instead of blowing $100 or more on a fancy restaurant dinner. I enjoy my current luxuries more than my old ones because they don’t have the same negative impact on my finances. Thanks for the post MMM!

    Reply
  • Kali August 29, 2013, 12:32 pm

    Nice post to remind us all what luxury REALLY is. I think everyone who tries to live within or below their means can relate to that rush you feel when you get a little taste of luxury every once in a while. I know I can! And comparing it to something like alcohol is spot on.. it’s fun to indulge on occasion, but it can come back to kick you in the pants when you partake in too much of it. In fact, the feelings I associate with hangovers aren’t that much different than the feeling I get when I’ve spent too much on a luxury that I didn’t need and did nothing to bring meaning to my life.

    Reply
  • Insourcelife August 29, 2013, 12:35 pm

    Luxury is relevant… What I consider luxury might be a level too low for Trump. What a homeless man considers luxury might be too low for me. MMMs life is full of luxuries compared to Jacob from ERE, yet both consider themselves happily FI and retired. You can move up and down this luxury scale as long as you remember that it can all change in an instant. Using the drug analogy – go ahead and enjoy (if you can truly afford it) but don’t become dependent.

    Reply
    • Early Retirement Extreme August 29, 2013, 1:30 pm

      Luxury does not exist on a single cost scale and it may have other dimensions that aren’t measured in dollars. The problem is that if you only look at what was paid, you might be comparing apples and oranges—especially if you have to buy your oranges while you can pick your apples for free. For example, I drink a large variety of wines and meads—more than one can buy in a wine store—because I make them myself, at about $3-6/gallon. I eat tacos and sushi for dinner on a regular basis which is comparable to restaurants because we learned how to make it (it’s not hard). I wear custom made to size dress shirts because my wife knows how to sew them. Our furniture is solid wood and custom built to the dimensions of our home. Because I built it.—Using hand planes each of which cost more than most people’s smartphones and, apparently, hold their value better than gold…better than smartphones anyway. I recently made an 18″ toy locomotive complete with six wheels and coupling rods for a friend’s toddler. Apparently you can’t even buy such a complicated toy, so I guess it’s priceless although I only spent $1 on a dowel to make it—the rest came out of scrap wood. If you want such a toy, you have to make it. This year we went bass fishing (I caught two) in NY staying at an RV resort only paying for the transportation to get there. Last weekend I was fishing at Turner Lake in Illinois—and we’re within walking distance of Lake Michigan (perch, salmon, trout). We can relocate and move our home thousands of miles within 14 days because we’re not tied down in any way and have done so several times. Denmark, Switzerland, Indiana, California, Chicago. All to the tune of about half the $ of the MMM family (2/3 of our budget go to rent). Is this not luxury solely because we don’t resort to buying as much as [most] other people do?

      There’s another aspect to luxury than spending. Other ways to obtain it than buying it. When you buy, you only get the limited amount of options that the market place offers. However, with creativity, there are so many more options available and they don’t need to cost much.

      So, actually, in contrast to the dangers mentioned in the post I’m quite happy about my luxuries. And I think it’s because they’re not a result of consumption but of personal creation or expression. They are result of me making them. They’re an expression of me or the ERE family as it may be. They don’t obtain from a credit card. They can’t dissappear in an instant.

      Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache August 29, 2013, 3:21 pm

        Ahh.. very nice examples – you’re absorbing the Luxury feel out of things that most consumers would not consider all that luxurious. Which is exactly the way to get the most fun out of it.

        Although my lifestyle is expensive overall, like you most of my favorite luxuries are stuff that I built – like the interior carpentry on my house, the gardens, etc. I find it really satisfying to be surrounded by my own work, and to remember the effort that went into making it when relaxing later.

        But at the same time, I like to remind myself that even the comforts I’ve built here are not really necessary for a happy life. For example, when we go out traveling, we are either in nature (no fancy bookshelves or nicely tiled showers there).. or at hotels or the homes of friends, which are generally not as tricked out as my own house. Yet miraculously, we still have a good time in these places. So I try not to get too attached to even my handmade luxuries.

        Reply
        • lurker August 30, 2013, 12:03 pm

          what you describe in your article sounds like a bad case of CEO-itis…or the entitlement disease….look out!

          Reply
    • phred August 30, 2013, 12:47 pm

      When Jacob was poorer, and lived in California, he used to go sailing almost every week — now that is luxury. And, he didn’t even have to pay for the boat or take care of it — now that is even more luxurious.

      Reply
  • Bryan August 29, 2013, 12:50 pm

    Haha, Luxury is a tough one. I think most people find the rush of excitement with a new luxury purchase passes quickly. My wife and I decided to only pay cash when we do splurge on luxuries. Nothing would be worse than having the joyful rush pass…..but still paying the dreaded bills. Of course companies everywhere have an allies in advertisers and marketers….to keep the masses coming back for more.

    It’s tough to resist marketings pulls, but my wife and I have found life more and more rewarding (and less cluttered) the LESS things we have. Keep up the good posts.
    -Bryan

    Reply
  • mike August 29, 2013, 12:54 pm

    Just got back from Vegas, thought I’d check out my Reader, and here’s a fine article by MMM.

    Years ago I was hitchhiking through Vegas with no money and I was not treated very kindly. One police officer was unnecessarily rude. I was waiting in the Greyhound bus station for money to purchase a bus ticket and since I didn’t have the ticket in hand, I was kicked out 3 in the morning.

    Forward to 2 days ago, arriving at the Tropicana casino. Beautiful room, AC, hot water on demand, 42″ flat screen TV, a speaker to dock my iPod, wifi, glass elevators to view the outside on the ride down, state of the art gym and pool–all for $31/day.

    Before even leaving I wrote a review on a website, giving it 5 stars. Then I read other reviews and I was saddened to see how many people gave the casino only 2 stars and were mean spirited in their comments. Find the same thing on Yelp quite often too.

    BTW, I’ve never owned a towel with the thread count of their towels. Now that was luxury.

    Reply
    • Meghan August 29, 2013, 3:48 pm

      I have to ask how you got this room for $31/day. Please do tell. Hubby and I are going to Vegas in 2014 for our first big overseas trip. We’re trying to work out the best way to do this in comfort but for a reasonable price.

      Reply
      • Mike @ UB August 29, 2013, 5:30 pm

        My wife went to Hotels.com–Remember, we also went during the week, so hotel prices are lower than the weekend.

        The nice thing about Tropicana is that it is on the Vegas strip. Probably one of the busiest intersections on the strip. They have walkway bridges so the crowds don’t bother the flow of traffic. Good place to stay to walk around and visit the casinos.

        Also down Tropicana Blvd about a mile or so is a casino called “Orleans”. Just ask for a “Players Card” and get a few dollars off at the buffet. They have one of the best buffets in Vegas and the breakfast one is only $7.95. It’s really 1st class, but try to beat the crowd so you don’t have to stand in line.

        Reply
    • Jen August 29, 2013, 8:57 pm

      I like not having too much luxury in my life because my standards are not too high and I have fun almost everywhere I go. My ex and I booked a trip to Vegas right after 9/11 when they were trying to get people to fly again…it was $400 total for round trip air from Chicago and two nights at the Stardust!! Unbelievable deal. Since we don’t really gamble, we went out to Red Rock Canyon and the Hoover Dam and had an awesome trip. I was perfectly happy with the hotel although many others would have felt it was dumpy and it was even razed a few years later.

      Also, I was in Maui recently (nice!) and we went to the Old Lahaina Luau. It was incredible and super luxurious!!! Free drinks, great food, classy luau show. When we were leaving there was this attractive wealthy looking young lady behind me bitching to her boyfriend about how she thought the show would be “more exciting” than it was and she was so disappointed. I wanted to ask her what she expected, for people to levitate or something!? I am glad I wasn’t her, I bet she is miserable everywhere she goes…

      Reply
      • Self-Employed-Swami August 30, 2013, 7:36 am

        We also went to the Old Lahaina Luau last year (Took my Mother in Law as a birthday gift) and I thought it was great. We all enjoyed ourselves immensely.

        Reply
  • Mom @ Three is Plenty August 29, 2013, 12:57 pm

    I have to admit to enjoying business trips – I stay in much fancier hotels, get to fly business class to Europe, and generally get to indulge in my eating out wants. But, when I book trips for myself or the family, it’s the cheapest clean option all the way for hotels/hostels, and the cheapest flight (or purchase with miles outright). I really have gotten used to flying business class for overnight /really long flights, and I’ll try my best to get that with my miles. The older I get, the less comfortable sleeping in economy is for me! But given the chance to go somewhere new – I’d still take economy :)

    Reply
  • kai August 29, 2013, 1:12 pm

    Great article. I love this blog. It has totally changed my whole approach to how I behave with money. I am in my mid thirties and up to now have been a complete idiot with money. Living beyond my wage led to me going bankrupt a number of years ago. I wish this blog had been around ten years ago but hey ho. I am now more careful with spending and have opened a funding circle peer to peer lending saving account which is very interesting to be involved with as well as having a great return on my money. I am seriously considering buying a field and living in a yurt or converted bus and growing my own food now. Too extreme? If I did this then I could save tons of money and reach my passive income goals quicker as I wouldnt actually need so much money with this lifestyle. Has anyone else done or is doing anything along these lines? Looking forward to the next article. Thanks MMM. Keep up the great work.

    Reply
  • Tara August 29, 2013, 1:21 pm

    Luxury is definitely a state of mind. I moved to a new city so I could ditch my car and take public transportation to work. This to me was a luxury because I don’t have to pay for a car any more and I don’t have to drive in hideous commute traffic. I know many (most) people might not consider this a step up but for me it was!

    Reply
  • Crystal August 29, 2013, 1:22 pm

    We fell into the luxury trap these past couple of years and are returning to our conscious spending roots again. It really does draw you in and makes it harder to be content.

    Reply
  • Kat Jones August 29, 2013, 1:23 pm

    I have become pretty darn addicted to being frugal since reading your blog. It gives the same high to save money as it does to spend it! And my news and Facebook habits are now checking my net worth on Mint.com and my stock values. You just can’t escape!! Oh and riding my bike, that too is taking over my life :)

    Reply
    • Michael ET August 29, 2013, 11:39 pm

      I totally agree with your statement. These days i get a high from being frugal, saving money and watching the returns from my investments. Two years ago i used to get a high from just driving to nowhere. These days i get a high from not driving anywhere!!

      Reply
  • luke August 29, 2013, 1:33 pm

    This is quite inspirational – I almost want to read it every morning, when I get up.

    Reply
  • Mother Frugal August 29, 2013, 1:43 pm

    I find that it takes some time to get over the luxury withdrawal. It’s quite a letdown to return to an oh-so-average home where I know all of its faults and unfinished projects, especially after “living it up” for a little bit. After a while, though, reality resumes.

    I wonder if there have been any studies about this?

    Reply
  • Pretired Nick August 29, 2013, 1:44 pm

    Epic post, MMM. I am completely guilty of living a way-too-cushy life. By the standards of my peers I may be quite spartan, but I can see how I’ve slipped into a life of luxury in many ways. I reached the point in my life where I had lots of money before I had lots of smarts and I got a taste for the finer things. Now I’m looking back and trying to keep the smart pieces (things that are made with quality like good furniture) and dropping dump flab-inducing luxuries (nicer car, big house, etc.). I won’t pretend it’s easy but I feel better after every success!

    Reply
  • ChiStache August 29, 2013, 1:50 pm

    I find the *relativity* of luxury so interesting.

    There is a highway underpass in my neighborhood that I often walk under. In the warm weather months, homeless folks will set up sleeping bags and neatly piled personal belonging between the concrete columns under the bridge. After a walk through their camp, on my way home from errands or whatever, it feels positively luxurious to walk through the front door of my little house.

    Reply
    • nunayo August 29, 2013, 10:03 pm

      I had a similiar experience riding my bike through a public park. A homeless guy with a shabby old bike cart carrying all his belongings stopped and admired my nice new, actually low end, bike cart and asked me about it. What I had thought of as a cheap cart suddenly felt like conspicuos consumption. Not to mention I was taking my little cart back to my warm dry house. Luxury is truly relative.

      Reply
      • Jennifer August 30, 2013, 7:02 am

        This reminded me of a time we were in Denver. A homeless man on a bike had rigged up an old rolling suitcase as his bike trailer. I never thought of our bike trailer as a luxury but I guess it is.

        Reply
  • Joe August 29, 2013, 2:10 pm

    I have always be averse to luxury. I’d rather keep my money. I guess I’m just cheap by nature. We were somewhat poor when I was young so maybe that’s why I like money so much more than luxury items.
    I’m really glad we never really started spending money on luxury though. It kept our lifestyle cost down.

    Reply
  • Ezekiel Messenger August 29, 2013, 2:16 pm

    As I look at what the auto industry has to offer I see nothing but overpriced luxury vehicles. Considering that most of the new vehicles are designed to be unserviceable without expensive equipment it borders on the ludicrous to purchase one at all let alone purchase one on credit. Unfortunately auto loan interest rates are unbelievably low and as a result have lead to record auto sales. I know several people that have purchased very expensive new vehicles using a longer term bank loan with 2% interest. While they marvel at the low interest rate they fail to understand that they are paying a premium for a commodity that rapidly loses its value. Often the low interest rate is used to manipulate the buyer into believing that they cannot negotiate on the price. The result is a great many buyers purchasing vehicles that easily cost more than half a year’s salary (depending on the buyer) that will be completely broken before the loan is paid off. Considering the fragile state of the economy amidst serious upheaval in the job market due to technology consolidation I suspect that these overpriced vehicles will act as yet another endless series of boat anchors on our credit system. Thank Goodness for channel stuffing or the auto dealers would have gone bankrupt before they could mimic the housing market.

    Reply
  • Heather August 29, 2013, 2:27 pm

    MMM-
    Thanks for the great post!
    In my own gipsy life, I change places seasonally. This constant change of vastly different living arrangements (a small boat, a ski resort, crashing with family) constantly “zeros out” my luxury tolerance. Once I arrive to live on my boat, I’m delighted by the views (water!) and once I get back on land, I’m delighted by modern utilities (unlimited hot water!). This life keeps me in a state of constant thanks for the little things (access to a car, access to the water, access to the slopes) that others take for granted.
    It is so easy to become used to luxury – at which point it is no longer luxurious but standard. Yesterday’s luxury is the new standard! Resorts, gyms, retailers, clothing makers, hotels, universities, private homes and others are caught in this ever-escalating game of luxury. Yes, it is a drug. And like a drug, too much use increases tolerance and desensitizes those who over indulge.

    Reply
    • Mr. Krumbly September 3, 2013, 1:04 pm

      Heather I must say, your life sounds very rich indeed.

      Reply
  • Markola August 29, 2013, 2:53 pm

    Am sitting here by the pool (Awesome public pool at Piedmont Park in Atlanta – free admission 3-5 on Thursdays and, yes, I rode my bike here!) reading “Your Money or Your Life” by Dominguez and Robin. Chapter one features a graph showing how you should spend on survival, comforts and luxuries up to the point that you reach maximum fulfillment. That peak state is called “ENOUGH” and spending beyond it brings decreasing marginal returns.

    Reply
  • Mr Fancypants August 29, 2013, 2:58 pm

    Don’t be so quick to judge to the crazy contracts that lead to legal action by celebrities, the real reason behind Van Halen’s demand for only brown M & M’s in the green room is to see how detail oriented the venue is, if the mess up such a trivial stupid task, one can only imagine how little attention they paid to the on stage lighting and sound equipment which could cause serious hazard to the band and/or audience.

    If the M & M’s are not correct, they then choose to review every detail of the show in a lot more detail even to the extent of canceling, the use it as quality control.

    So on the surface it might seem like over the top celeberty brat luxuries, but in reality it is cheap effective quality control.

    Reply
  • Cod August 29, 2013, 3:03 pm

    Great article. So true.

    What about billionaires? Isn’t it relative? Take this article for example.

    http://www.businessinsider.com/most-frugal-billionaires-2013-1?op=1

    They call Apple CEO Tim Cook frugal but he owns a 1.9 million dollar condo.

    I’ve often heard people say that the only thing keeping Bill G out of hell is the millions that he gives to charity.

    I have to admit that if I had a billion dollars I think that I would be a serious luxury junkie. How many people can honestly say that they wouldn’t?

    Cod

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache August 29, 2013, 3:23 pm

      I can honestly say it! No amount of money will increase my spending on myself, since we’ve already been seeing drastic increases in wealth and still finding ourselves wanting to downsize rather than supersize.

      Reply
      • Cod August 29, 2013, 8:40 pm

        MMM,

        I don’t doubt, even for a second, that your words are true.

        I on the other hand would go on a cruise around the world. I know it is selfish but I has been my dream for more than 30 years.

        Thanks again for a great blog. Always look forward to reading your articles.

        Cod

        Reply
        • Ike September 4, 2013, 6:54 am

          You want to cruise around the world? Easy Mustachian way is to find a huge sail boat, and just ask to help out. They will most likely take you and feed you! They might even pay you for your time!

          Reply
    • Miss M. August 29, 2013, 4:23 pm

      I dunno. Given how much money Mr. Cook makes, he could be living in much more luxurious surroundings. And given home prices in the bay area, he could REALLY be spending the big bucks. I lived in a small condo (as a guest of a friend) in Menlo Park that cost over a half million and it really was nothing special.
      My hubby knows Mr. Cook through work and says he stays at the same basic hotels many of them do in Ireland and other countries where Apple has factories.

      Reply
  • CarlosM August 29, 2013, 3:04 pm

    What is luxury?

    An expensive item that will last you a life time (or a very long time)? Or the inexpensive plastic stuff we buy to save money because it’s cheap but that hardly lasts?

    My point is treating items we buy as “luxury” (favoring artisanal products, quality fabrics, at the risk of paying a bit more), and not expendable crap, is probably a sounder way to go.

    Reply
    • mariarose August 30, 2013, 8:54 am

      I so agree with this. Part of the ‘race to the bottom’ has been our demand for cheap, at all cost. That is not to say that a desire for real value can not escalate to luxury drug status, because it can. But what you say is SO true and so important for us to consider.

      Reply
  • Biliruben August 29, 2013, 3:04 pm

    I wonder if anyone has developed a luxury or frugality index. As I attempt to incorporate some mustachian flourishes into my lifestyle, my eyes have been opened to how many people around me share my changing values that I didn’t notice before.

    I’m wondering if Seattle is just particularly frugal, or if I just didn’t notice it when living in New York or Chicago to charleston.

    Reply
    • Jen August 29, 2013, 9:01 pm

      I think it is Seattle. I live in Indiana and I hardly ever meet anyone like this!

      Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache August 29, 2013, 9:26 pm

      I agree – Seattle is a hotbed of Mustachianism – you should have seen the meetup we had there!

      They are the first ones to adopt the ideal that “Frugality is the new Fanciness” (http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/03/07/frugality-the-new-fanciness/)

      But in this country, the tradition is that new stuff starts on the West Coast, then fans out to the East, eventually becoming commonplace everywhere.

      Reply
  • Momster August 29, 2013, 3:06 pm

    time to go watch “You’re Cut Off” with my medium Mustache daughters!

    Reply
    • lentilman August 29, 2013, 6:38 pm

      Had to google it, looks like a fun show.

      Ironically, it is only available on cable. :)

      Reply
  • Krat August 29, 2013, 3:12 pm

    I often have a difficult time extrapolating what is or isn’t luxury in my life. For example, I recently bought a pair of glasses. My old glasses are 4 years old, the wrong prescription, and they’re mis-fitting and somewhat damaged. So… I finally gave in and bought new eye glasses – an expensive purchase at $200. But, here’s the thing, I will still continue to buy contacts throughout the year (for a similar cost) because those are what I primarily wear. I use the eyeglasses when my eyes feel tired or itchy, or I’ve had my contacts in too long.

    But I have a hard time justifying both, the new glasses, while they make me very happy, and are nice to have for relief from my contacts, seem like an unnecessary item because, well I already had a pair. Yeah, they were out-of-date and bent and a bit ugly, but… they did the job. Its nice to have a pair that I can go out in public in now – but I didn’t NEED that.. I have my contacts.

    What do you think of purchases like these Mr.MM?

    Reply
    • makincaid August 30, 2013, 7:59 am

      Next time, check out zennioptical.com . I ordered some nice glasses from them for $20 per pair.

      Reply
    • Stacy August 30, 2013, 12:20 pm

      For me, both glasses and contacts are an imperative. My field of vision is much better with contacts (better peripheral vision) and contacts are better for being active (which I am), but nobody should wear contacts 100% of the time (fatigue, irritation). And in my case I am blind as a bat. Hence, glasses for when I’m not wearing contacts. To go without one or the other, for me, makes no sense. Better to seek mustachian savings elsewhere…

      Reply
    • GayleRN September 1, 2013, 6:59 am

      This is your vision we are talking about. The old glasses were useless as they were the wrong prescription. It is not unreasonable to spend 200 on a pair of glasses over 4 years, which works out to $1 a week. Having glasses that don’t work and not spending the money to replace them is cheap not frugal.

      Reply
  • Jeannine Wheaton August 29, 2013, 3:16 pm

    MMM,

    Picking up on your thread of luxury being an “interesting contrast” — it is also enjoyed with heightened senses and enjoyment if tasted rarely. If you fly — and pay — first class for 6 trips in say two years; is the enjoyment the same on that last trip as it would be if, once every 5 or 7 years, you save up enough frequent flyer miles to fly first class once — and for free?

    Reply
  • BecaS August 29, 2013, 3:49 pm

    After years of shift work and call in health care, “luxury” for me is being able to sleep until I wake up every morning. “Luxury” is the time to grow some of our own vegetables. “Luxury” is the time and the energy to wipe down the bathroom and run the vacuum quickly over the floor before I jump in the shower. “Luxury” Is a clean house! “Luxury” is being at home when my husband is at home on evenings, weekends and holidays. “Luxury” is sitting here browsing the internet and getting ready to pick up my knitting while watching the evening news. “Luxury” is filling the fridge in our little travel trailer with food that we love, taking off down the road with our trailer and our dog, and staying at beautiful national, state and county parks on our terms. “Luxury” is the time to take our kayaks on the water.

    I can live without all of the high end vehicles, high end vacations, must have electronics, designer clothes, etc. Having this time and the freedom to use it is the biggest luxury I’ve experienced in my adult life.

    Reply
    • Chris Turner August 29, 2013, 6:21 pm

      Well said Beca!

      Reply
    • Kingston August 30, 2013, 4:17 pm

      I was once in the parking lot at a Grateful Dead show in Massachusetts, where a couple of deadheads with a cooler full of fresh oysters were shucking and giving them away on the halfshell. I happily partook and remember thinking that life could not be better at that moment if I’d had Bill Gates’ or Warren Buffett’s riches. A luxurious treat, gathered by hand (I assume) and given away in a parking lot to appreciative strangers. (And no, no one got sick.) I don’t exactly know what point I’m trying to make, but the memory seemed apropos.

      Reply
    • louise August 31, 2013, 4:57 pm

      Same here BecaS. I also work in a health care. My biggest luxury is having the freedom to work less and more time to spend with my family. We are one of those success stories behind MMM’s blog after a year of being frugal. I will write him one of these days, a unique experience for us.

      Reply
  • Sergey August 29, 2013, 4:08 pm

    MMM, do you consider buying more expensive things a luxury? For example, I recently started playing bass and of course, I could have bought a cheap guitar for like $200 or even less. However, cheap instruments don’t sound as good. Instead, I paid more than $500 for the guitar.

    Also, I built my own computer a few years ago and spent about $800 altogether. Could have bought a laptop for like $500 instead.

    Shoes… I used to buy crappy shoes for like $20 or $30 a pair and they lasted less than half a year and were really uncomfortable. This year, I bought a nicer pair for $150 and hope it will last longer than couple years.

    Reply
    • Tallgirl1204 September 3, 2013, 10:49 pm

      I don’t pretend to be an expert about guitars, but I know a bit about pianos. and what I would say is that being patient and looking around can lead you do an excellent opportunity to purchase or find an instrument that is both good quality and inexpensive.

      Case in point: I bought an upright piano for $300 about 15 years ago. It was old, and very heavy, a little beat up in appearance and a brand I had never heard of, but it had a beautiful touch and sound. It was the third such instrument I had owned, because uprights are heavy and difficult to move, and people are often eager to unload them to the person who will come pick them up. (I have paid to move the piano twice at $300 a pop, so I am really up to $900 at this point.)

      My friends, in contrast, insisted on buying a new instrument for their son because they didn’t want to wait and look around, and they tend to think “new is better.” For $2,000 they obtained a spinet piano with very poor tone, and I feel they made a bad bargain.

      As another example, when I took up playing accordion, folks came out of the woodwork to lend or give me their old instruments. I have two perfectly playable instruments that I am enjoying using. I fantasize about buying a new Weltmeister Saphir accordion for $4,000, but I see less fancy versions on eBay for $500– and realistically, the instruments I’m playing now are just fine. And maybe one day a Weltmeister will come to me.

      I guess my point is this: sometimes, more expensive is not better. You have to not be fooled into thinking that price is always an indicator of quality, especially when dealing with musical instruments. I’m sure someone else in this group can speak to how this applies in the world of guitars and basses.

      Reply
  • Stuart S August 29, 2013, 4:11 pm

    “This is why I laugh and cry with frustration at the absolute insanity of borrowing money for a car”
    ****
    I don’t think borrowing for a car right now is insane, have you checked car loan rates lately? My CU will lend me $17k for a used Mazda 3 at 1.74%. Given an inflation rate of 2% the lender is paying me 0.26% over 5 years to take their money, so who is the insane party in this transaction? It’s true that in more ordinary financial times paying interest on a depreciating asset is foolish but with negative real interest rates when you account for inflation it is a good time to borrow for a car. I would go so far as to say there will never be a better time in our lifetimes to borrow for a car.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache August 29, 2013, 4:54 pm

      Right.. but is it wise to spend $17,000 on a car in the first place? My $6,000 2005 Scion xA does exactly the same thing as a Mazda3, for example, and even it is way more luxurious than anyone needs.

      For most people, car loans serve as a way to disguise the true cost of the things. Sure, if you already have many times the value of the car saved up in income-producing investments, and $17k is just a rounding error in your monthly cashflow, you might treat yourself to an expensive car like that (whether in cash or credit it doesn’t make much difference once you are wealthy enough to afford such a car).

      In keeping with the idea of this article, you’d just have to remind yourself that you are dosing up on the luxury drug, and enjoy it without becoming dependent on it*.

      *For example, if someone saw the $6000 figure for my own car and said, “Waah! I could NEVER be happy with a $6000 car!”, congratulations, you’ve already grown weak and dependent from sucking too long upon the Teat of Luxury!

      Reply
      • Stuart S August 29, 2013, 6:18 pm

        Your points about luxury and borrowing to disguise the true costs of things are well taken. I’m speaking mostly from my own personal situation- I’m 1.5 years out of grad school with $46k in remaining school loans clocked at 6.8%. I’m paying about 2/3s of my monthly income on the debt and should have it paid off at the end of 2014. I’m driving an inherited 97 Thunderbird with only 65k miles on it, but age wears a car like miles and it costs me $500-$1,000 per year in repairs. A control arm here, o2 sensors there, it adds up. My job requires me to drive fairly heroic distances that average about 1000 miles per month so I need a very reliable vehicle to avoid being stranded in a remote area. (These miles are all reimbursed, this isn’t commuting distance- I actually work from home.)

        So to make a long story short, if my beloved T-Bird flies to the great beyond before my school debt is retired, it makes sense to me to take on a $17k car loan at 1.74%. That doesn’t seem like an insane action considering the high returns the driving yields from my job. The repairs to my “free” car over the last 8 years demonstrate the up front capital investment doesn’t reflect the real operating cost of a vehicle over time. My guess is that being from the same market segment, the overall cost of owning a $6k car and a $17k car over 100,000 miles is roughly the same.

        Anyway, that’s just my current situation and when I get my way eventually I will be car-free because I love cycling and ride about 350 miles a month for utility and fun :-)

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache August 29, 2013, 9:32 pm

          Dude, it sounds like you are on the right track, but your car math is WAY off! There is no way my $6k Scion will cost as much as a $17k ANYTHING over the next 100k miles. I will barely need more than oil changes, filters, and tires in that time (current odometer is somewhere in the 70,000s), and all while getting in the low-40s MPG.

          My prescription for you with the ultra work driving is a 2004-2006 Prius from Craigslist with the lowest miles you can find. Under $10k, 50+MPG, and you get to bank all the mileage reimbursement instead of spending it on car payments and gas. Prosper!

          Reply
        • Rachel P. August 30, 2013, 11:58 am

          Stuart, DON’T DO IT man! I wanna try to talk you off the ledge.

          I bought a 1993 Honda Civic VX with 103,000 miles on it in 2000 for $4,750. The guy I bought it from was totally anal (I love that in someone I am buying a high ticket item from). By “totally anal” I mean his garage had wooden peg board with every single tool outlined and hung up perfectly on it. He would not wear his shoes in the house and everything was in its place in the house (no kids). He had every paper on the car, papers on all oil changes, etc.

          Fast forward to 2013. I am STILL driving that car. It has 199,500 miles on it and I have spent $3000 in repairs in 13 years. It runs great, sips gas, and is cheap to insure because it is so old. More importantly, I have put away enough cash to buy a new Honda outright (I would not do so, but it is nice to know I could if I wanted to), put tons in my 401K and IRA, given to charities, and owe zero debt. To anyone.

          If your company wants you to drive so much, why can’t they provide a company car? You could at least ask. Unless they are giving you a $17,000 K raise to cover the cost of that car, it seems strange to consider such an expense out of your own pocket.

          Or, as MMM has pointed out, you could buy a newer, used, low-mileage Honda or Toyota and save yourself a bundle. If you don’t have the cash for that, save up until you do. If you bought an older, used car for $3-6 K you would come out waaaaay ahead in the long run.

          Reply
          • Mr. Money Mustache August 30, 2013, 1:15 pm

            Awesome, Rachel. The legendary Civic VX is one to watch out for on the old market: a rare fuel-efficiency-optimized model of Civic hatchback that Honda only offered for a few years. It has a special learn-burn engine, lightweight wheels and thinner tires for lower rolling resistance, and higher gearing to save loads of gas on the highway. A friend had one of those and it was difficult to get less than 50MPG at legal highway speeds.

            Reply
            • Rachel P. August 30, 2013, 2:02 pm

              Hi MMM, yes, ‘Lucy” has been a real wonder. Got through my Masters degree and Phd with no debt thanks to that baby. I ran into a guy in my town who had the exact same car and he put, brace yourself, 360,000 miles on his! The wheel wells in his car are rough looking with lots of rust but otherwise the vehicle is still running strong. Since I ride my bike everywhere, I am aiming to have that car for 10 more years (should make a good story one day)!

              Reply
          • Jacob September 10, 2013, 2:34 pm

            This ^ . Rachel, you’ve got the right idea here. Both mar cars are 1994 Hondas (Civic and Accord), get mid-30MPG, and have almost 300k miles on each! And they’re still running great. The best part is that I’ve put less than $2k into both over the past 7 years, and can sell them for more than i bought the for originally.

            I hate new cars, I can loans on cars, and the math never shows it to be a better use of money. I solely buy 10-15 year old cars, put 100k miles on them, and sell them for the same price I bought them for. Essentially I am borrowing cars for life. And your civic has another 100k miles, easy! Well done!

            Reply
        • Tom M. August 30, 2013, 5:46 pm

          Bought a 1992 Paseo w/114 miles on it in 2008. Now it has 150k miles and only put 2k in it so far (timing belt, brakes, tires). The money saved from not buying a new car went into the stock market at decade lows and has since doubled.

          More risk (a old car) more reward. But many times the risk of buying a old car is really exaggerated.

          Also this is a good resource if you buy a used car…(it seems to expand it to a fullsize picture…sorry about that)

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rks40ng2C2Y

          Reply
  • Charles August 29, 2013, 4:46 pm

    Luxurious living also pertains to your dietary habits. At my wife’s hospital there are far too many patients on dialysis that just got out of surgery due to poor diet and lifestyle choices. Yet even under supervised care while in the hospital they eat the same “luxurious” high fat greasy items that got them there in the first place.

    If you have medical conditions you can’t have the luxury of eating what you want, and no pill will resolve it.

    Reply
  • Laura Sanders August 29, 2013, 4:55 pm

    Great post! Our family started embracing MMM living within the last month, and we are amazed at the “luxuries” we happily do without. We traded in our air conditioned weekend errand car rides for bicycle errand “adventures” (even though we live in Phoenix, AZ and it is 87 degrees at 6am) and give ourselves Mustache high fives when we complete our circle. We recently discontinued our landlord’s lawn service for what we thought would mean a $45 savings a month. Our landlord surprised us with a $90 discount and we one month’s savings to buy a barely-used push mower and trimmer off of Craigslist! Our family of four takes turns mowing portions of the yard and laugh at how easy we thought it would be on our patchwork lawn. We have found that by removing luxuries, we find more joy in everyday living.

    Reply
  • Roxie August 29, 2013, 5:45 pm

    I really needed to read this. I’m guilty of this addiction. I purchased my first house at 19 and lived a very frugal life, till I met my husband at 24. He spoils me rotten and I have gone from enjoying the simplest of things to being a complete complainypants. I’ve quickly forgotten what such a lavish lifestyle we live. My husband and I love your blog and are making changes. I feel we came across your blog at the right time. I recently lost my father unexpectedly and it was a huge shock, he was only 46 years old. The only comfort my family and I take is the fact he RETIRED early and died a very HAPPY man. He always said to us “work hard, save hard then enjoy life!” He talked the walk and walked the talk. Your blunt talk reminds me off him. Keep up the good work MMM, you’re kind of a rock star in our house. :)

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache August 29, 2013, 9:53 pm

      That is a very happy story Roxie! Any person who openly calls herself a complete complainypants is bound for success. Much more effective than justifying, denying, and defending one’s own weaknesses, thus reinforcing them. It is much more fun to mock them, call them out and then throw them on the bonfire for disposal.

      Reply
  • Dividend Mantra August 29, 2013, 7:33 pm

    MMM,

    Great post. Luxuries are only luxuries until you get used to them. Hedonic adaptation, and all that.

    I personally sometimes bellow out a good, hearty laugh when I’m riding my scooter to work in the morning. I suppose it’s the feeling of the wind across my face and the fact that my tank still reads “F” after three days straight of riding to and fro’. I just laugh at all the money I’m saving and the progress I’m making towards financial freedom with every passing day.

    Luxuries? I can think of none greater than owning my own 100% of my available time.

    Best wishes!

    Reply
  • Harry August 29, 2013, 7:41 pm

    Luxury – and the “exclusive” lifestyle that it brings is the downfall of many terrific authors, musicians and many other folks who lose touch with the side of their personality that made them great in the first place.

    Reply
  • SomeYoungGuy August 29, 2013, 8:05 pm

    You seriously need to travel the world and stop looking under the microscope. I recommend Dubai, to see what true luxury is, then India and China, to see what ‘the competition’ is motivated by, and also Norway and Tanzania’s Serengeti to see alternative but fulfilling ways to live.

    Reply
    • Jen August 29, 2013, 9:07 pm

      Well, aren’t you a fancypants world traveler? Oh please enlighten us rubes who do not know the ways of the great big world out there?

      Reply
      • SomeYoungGuy August 30, 2013, 7:03 am

        I’m not aiming for fancypants, I just love to travel and thought I’d throw out a perspective that most parts of the world would love to have access to these ‘first world problems’ and many other parts of the world have luxuries like verdant nature or servants to take care of the garden, the house, the cooking, the kids… what is normal to an American is luxury to others, and vica-versa. So trying to eschew luxury seems like a fool’s errand, other than the one nugget of wisdom: Even more insane is for people with financial problems to seek out luxury and even buy it on credit. I’d expand on this theme, not to start with a base model (‘anchoring’) then get sucked in to unnecessary and overpriced upgrades.

        Reply
        • Mike August 31, 2013, 10:41 pm

          I’m curious why you think eschewing luxury is a fool’s errand? If I follow your argument, you’re taking the position that what luxury is depends on your point of view, that people in other parts of the world have varying ideas of “luxury” and thus when I avoid the luxury of driving my nice car to work in favor of riding my bike, someone in Dubai would look at my nice car and think it’s a pile of crap compared to their Lambo and someone in India would jump at the chance to even have that choice to make, so I should… go buy a nicer car since I have the cash for it? I’m all for travelling the world to take in other perspectives, but how does it follow that someone should spend their money on luxuries just because they can?

          Reply
          • SomeYoungGuy September 2, 2013, 4:18 pm

            I just don’t see how foregoing luxury really accomplishes anything, other than making an individual stick out. In Dubai, we didn’t have a live-in maid and we got no end of how we were depriving someone of a job while my wife was being forced to do such demeaning tasks like cooking and cleaning the house. In the US, not having access to a car will get you no end of derision… so this article didn’t really do much for me, other than get me to think about how luxurious modern life is all around the world, and that it is only getting more luxurious for each passing generation…

            Reply
            • Mr. Money Mustache September 2, 2013, 9:02 pm

              It’s fine if you don’t see it yet – it just means you have more study ahead of you, Grasshopper!

              Foregoing luxury accomplishes a bunch of things. Sure, one of those is to make you stand out as unusual in society, and that is something you will quickly learn is a good thing – in a modern society of mostly bullshit, standing out is the only sane option. In the US, a person foregoing car ownership gets massive high fives and handshakes from the mayor, not derision.

              But more importantly, foregoing luxury increases your badassity, i.e., makes you into a stronger and less dependent person. Skilled in more things, able to see the larger picture, able to prosper in more situations. Foregoing luxury is the only thing that makes occasional luxury worthwhile at all. It’s basically the Spice of Life.

              Having a maid do the cooking and cleaning is, in my opinion, a great thing to avoid for life.

              Reply
              • crazyworld September 4, 2013, 9:22 am

                Wait though – I have a sibling in Dubai and his life is honestly so much happier than mine. They have a live in maid. They don;t have to worry about cooking/cleaning etc. They have free time to do things with their kids, their friends. Contrast with life here – I spend my evenings cooking/cleaning and my child spends his time playing video games. Weekends – yardwork, laundry, grocery, bills. Child still playing video games. Time spent with friends – a few times a year. I am somewhat exaggerating, but how is this better in any way? This maid gets a day off each week, so they are used to not having her one day each week, as well she gets a few weeks off each year to travel to her home. It is a win-win for everyone.

            • Mike September 3, 2013, 12:48 pm

              There’s a whole world of difference between “having access to a car” and buying more car than you need for luxury purposes. It’s that whole avoidance of derision thing that will get you in the end. I don’t care where in this world you go, there will always be somebody (and probably several somebodies, like a whole group even) up for deriding those who don’t meet their definition of high social status. Also I’m not sure I agree with you on needing a car in the US. You could probably easily dig up a ton of New Yorkers who don’t even have a drivers license, let alone “access to a car”, by which you seem to mean ownership. And yet there they are, living lives of incredible luxury in one of the premier cities in the world.

              Somebody derides me for not having access to a car, assuming I care enough about their opinion to feel it necessary to respond, I can just tell them that I own two but I prefer the bike. I’ve considered responding “yeah, you look like you could use a good bike ride”, but that seems rude.

              Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache August 29, 2013, 9:42 pm

      Are you talking to me, SomeYoungGuy? I’m surprised to hear you find my perspective to be microscopic. This is all supposed to be general humans-around-the-world stuff, but maybe I’m not being clear enough.

      I write in a US-centric style directly to address this country, because it’s fun and that is what all the US media does. It’s supposed to be a bit of a parody of itself. But I do read quite a bit about the countries I haven’t visited personally – you should check out the book the Post American World if you haven’t already.

      But man, I definitely don’t need to travel personally any more than I do – I have already burned more jet fuel than any human really should and yet I’m packing up the backpack again for Ecuador next week :-(

      Reply
      • SomeYoungGuy August 30, 2013, 7:16 am

        Thanks for the book recommendation, I’m always looking for new insights and perspectives, even if I don’t necessarily agree all the time. In fact, that’s one of the most interesting things about this site, that I don’t agree with a lot of the content, but yet it sends my mind into a blur of activity about why I believe the things that I do.

        Reply
        • Andrew N September 3, 2013, 2:50 am

          Maybe you are being active in justifying your existing beliefs? It’s another step to actually see that maybe they should be changed.

          Reply
  • Melanie August 29, 2013, 10:47 pm

    I realize I have many luxuries as well, but I try not to add to them. For instance, in my neighborhood, it is common for people to hire a company for yardwork. I have almost done it on occasion, since my husband doesn’t really like to keep up with it. But in the back of my mind, I think, I grew up in the country. We just don’t do that. Can I not just go out there and do it myself? It does give you a feeling of satisfaction to do the work yourself. Plus, I don’t want to get used to someone else doing the work for me. Then I will be whining if the time comes and I need/want to cut the expense. So I don’t plan on becoming one of those people who can’t do their own yardwork or housework.

    Reply
  • Mr Milita Money August 29, 2013, 11:56 pm

    I have had a few run ins with this same mentality. When I moved back to the states I had a bit of excess cash and decided the best way to use it was to buy a very overpriced Lexus and take a few lavish trips. Once I started spending it was very hard to stop. I look back at those trips a realize that I could have had the same experiences in the exact same locations but saved money on the food and hotels. My only memories that involve the luxury spending involve being disgusted with myself because of the waste.

    Reply
  • Mike Edwards August 30, 2013, 4:45 am

    As a slight aside, on (mis)reading the name of an early commenter I thought you’d invented a new term:

    Debtlag: the time between buying something on credit and realising how much it’s actually going to cost once you’ve paid it off.

    Then I read the name properly (Debt Blag) and realised it was just me.

    On the subject of movie stars and their demands I suspect (though I don’t know any, so can’t be sure) that some of it stems from the world-at-large feeling it’s now OK to demand autographs and (increasingly) photos from these people who might just have popped out to the shops. I was reading earlier about Catherine Zeta-Jones who apparently rarely steps outside her home in New York state, and has things ‘brought in’ instead. Given the pack of photographers waiting to snap her every move or mistake and sell those snaps all around the world, I think in her position I’d probably do the same.

    Reply
  • MoneyAhoy August 30, 2013, 5:10 am

    I almost fell into the temptation of luxury. I had my set on a new BMW M3 – $70,000 plus about 16 mpg. Ugh… I can’t believe I was close to getting one.

    Something nagging me in the back of my head told me I was being stupid, but the allure was so strong. Thankfully right about that time I ran across this blog and decided to change my life in efforts to retire early and follow in MMM’s footsteps.

    Reply
  • TheGoyWonder August 30, 2013, 6:37 am

    Luxury goes hand in hand with convenience, and this is magnified by the fact that all business people WANT to cater to the top end. High-end apartments, high-end retail, big-name concerts. If you go to a restaurant downtown, you’ll have an easier time finding a $30 minimum place than a $10 dining experience. You’ll have an easier time dropping $$$ at Ticketma$ter than chasing down a great free show. Luxury is a habit as long as ignorance reigns and luxury is all you know.

    Travel without some dose of Luxury takes a huge amount of preplanning or you will be FORCED into luxury just by your human existence. Do you think there are dudes standing outside the terminal trying to lend you a bicycle? No way, it’s $5/mile taxi service clamoring for the big shots and nada for the 99%. That’s why the rush of beating the system and traveling on the cheap far exceeds the rush of experiencing luxury…which feels more like queasiness to me anyways.

    PS brilliant idea…there should be guys who sell you a bike when you arrive at the airport, then buy it back when you return.

    Reply
  • Mr. 1500 August 30, 2013, 7:04 am

    This is completely off topic and I apologize, but I can’t help myself. This most-excellent cartoon that cashreb.com linked to could be MMM’s life. Swap out artist for engineer and girl for boy and there you have it. Is Bill Watterson really MMM?

    Reply
  • Kevin August 30, 2013, 7:17 am

    Again, MMM, you’re confusing luxury with waste. From the perspective of a Mustachian it might be, because of lifestyle choice, but luxury exists as a quick and easy way to 1) save time 2) rapidly accumulate social capital.

    Even Mustachians would find some utility in this, because they understand well the value of their free time. Luxury can both shortcut the time it takes to do a thing of value, as well as shortcut the time it takes to make important social connections for a project or goal.

    Don’t think of luxury as waste, think of it as the manifestation of the value you place on your own time.

    Reply
    • Mike August 31, 2013, 10:24 pm

      I think you have this whole thing backwards. Trading hard-earned money that you’ve spent hours of your life obtaining for some luxury that you do not need devalues your time. Essentially you’re saying to the world “The value that I place on my time is less than $X”, where $X is whatever you paid for said luxury item. While my time may have a finite value to my employer, it is infinitely valuable to me and I’m not willing to trade it for a Bimmer or an Uber ride or a massage or any such trifle. I’m extremely skeptical that the “social capital” created by flaunting luxury purchases has any value whatsoever.

      Reply
      • Kevin September 3, 2013, 2:59 pm

        It is not backwards thinking, it’s a well understood and studied social phenomenon with a literature going back centuries. If you want a primer, read:

        The Theory of the Leisure Class by Thorstein Veblen
        The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism by Max Weber
        Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste by Pierre Bourdieu
        A Discourse on Inequality by Jean-Jacques Rousseau

        There are hundreds of follow-on studies, papers and texts on the subject. The fact of the matter is that this is how people in the West rapidly accumulate social capital and save time. It is very much a Western, Protestant cultural meme, but since that is the dominant meme of North America and the Commonwealth, I think it has particular relevance as most of MMM’s audience comes from the selfsame culture.

        Reply
    • MoneyAhoy September 4, 2013, 5:12 am

      This is probably one of the most inane comments I’ve ever read…

      How does have a Mercedes vs. a Corolla save time? I guess I just don’t get why it’s necessary to artificially generate social capital for a project by purchasing luxury things…

      Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache September 4, 2013, 4:11 pm

        Some of the concept of “social capital” might be from the former era – the one before Frugality became the new Fanciness. In the future, you will get more credibility with those in the process of taking over world power, by foregoing the old high-consumption luxuries, rather than embracing them.

        As for “saving time” – it depends on which form of luxury you’re going after. A good computer or chef’s knife might cost more but help you get more done. So it’s a tool and a nice luxury all in one – good choice. An air-conditioned car will save time in getting to work, but most executives end up physically crippled due to lack of exercise, so it was a misguided quest to save time.

        And as you slide down the income scale, the importance of saving a few dollars here and there grows rapidly – to the point where foregoing a few luxuries makes the difference between being an early retiree and working an entire lifetime unnecessarily in an unsatisfying career.

        To put it another way, how much more “saving time” could I have done? By ignoring all luxury and imagined social status, I retired at 30 with a great life.

        It’s all about digging beneath this layer of fancypants and status and looking more into core human happiness.

        This article is not about waste at all – it’s about the drug-like effect of any form of luxury, and how you choose to flirt with it: head-over-heels-addiction, or a wise sampling from a much higher perspective.

        Reply
  • JC August 30, 2013, 8:27 am

    “Since I can afford it, I need to start taking drugs for as many of my waking hours as possible. Alternating shots of espresso and fine scotch all day, with hits from the bong every hour on the hour!”

    This made me laugh. That would certainly be an experiment worth writing about. I especially like the punctuality of the smoking. Maybe you could name the bong Big Ben.

    Reply
    • Jason September 1, 2013, 11:45 am

      I know people who literally do that.

      Reply
  • captainawesome August 30, 2013, 9:03 am

    I fell into that trap for a few years. Military member, buying cars I could afford but were wayyyyy more than I needed, and not very practical. Fast forward 7 years, lessons learned, I drive a used mazda 3. Completely covers what I need, and I enjoy trying to get better gas mileage when I do have to drive. The house I bought was a foreclosure, and I’ve done most of the work myself. I’ve built a bunch of pieces of furniture, I buy and sell things on craigslist (and ebay) and have reduced all my debt to just my mortgage and my wife’s student loans. I’ll admit, convincing my wife to buy into the lower spending lifestyle has been a challenge. But it’s a journey not a sprint, and we will have things pretty good. Considering the places I have seen and been to, I’m fortunate to have a well paying job, a house on the water in a beachfront community, money in the bank, and hopefully the ability to retire by 35.

    Reply
  • FloridaStache August 30, 2013, 10:18 am

    MMM- once again your article topic shows an uncanny synchronicity with my own experiences. I returned yesterday from just such a business trip as you describe. The whole time I was somewhat uncomfortable with the luxuries around me, but they were enjoyable at the same time. However, I was distinctly aware that the only reason they were enjoyable was because I experienced them for a short time- any longer and the “buzz” would have worn off.

    I sure was glad to get back home to my modest house and hop on the bike this morning to work, and resume my “normal” living conditions!

    Reply
  • wedschild August 30, 2013, 11:20 am

    Just finished reading Happy Money by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton.

    One of the 5 take-aways is that you should make expensive/luxurious things a treat.

    Actually, the entire book made me think of you and your blog/community. If it’s at your local library, I think you might enjoy it.

    Reply
    • Mrs PoP August 30, 2013, 1:32 pm

      I’m in the middle of reading this right now (on loan from the library of course)! No spoilers =)

      Reply
  • No Waste August 30, 2013, 11:28 am

    I marvel at the amount of luxuries becoming necessities in our modern existence.

    Cell phones, flat screens, manicures and pedicures, you say really need those things, but how can you be sure?

    Reply
  • Jay Bee August 30, 2013, 12:24 pm

    Rick James said it best:

    “Luxury is a helluva drug.”

    Reply
  • meadpointofview August 30, 2013, 12:33 pm

    Great post like usual. My 2002 (overpriced Toyota) Lexus, with all the luxury trappings and 130,000 miles cost me a whopping $3,000.00.
    I saw a brand new Cobra Mustang in the Ford Dealer this week for $85,000.00, and I thought to myself “who in their right mind will buy this car?”, but it will undoubtedly be sold and I am thankful for the person who buys it because it will keep a lot of people at the dealership employed for a little while longer.

    Reply
    • Wasteful Jack September 1, 2013, 11:50 am

      I once spent $75,000 on a vehicle, which sold four years later for $43,000. During that time, I drove it approximately 9,000 miles – for a total cost expense of ~$4.20/mile traveled after adding in gas and insurance.

      Talk about wasteful!

      Reply
      • Insourcelife September 3, 2013, 2:00 pm

        I wish more people would do this type of a quick analysis after trading in their car every couple of years. Sure beats the “I can afford the monthly payments” problem we have going on in this country. Compare this to the 12 cents per mile we got after selling our Toyota Corolla bought new and after 10 years/130K miles. This includes all costs including maintenance and depreciation but excludes insurance and gas. Car was mostly serviced at the dealer and you can do even better by buying used and doing at least some of the work yourself.

        Reply
  • CU Tiger August 30, 2013, 3:34 pm

    I think that many people my age (47) and younger get in trouble with desiring/needing luxuries, and allow that to lead them into debt and financial madness, because when they “grow up” and leave school, they want to live in the same style of their parents.

    The parents who are in their prime earning years and have spent many years to get a higher income and now have some nice things.

    I saw this in people my own age when I was in my 20s. I lived fairly frugally and did NOT fall into credit card debt, or new car debt. When I moved out of our house, my mom gave me an old kitchen table from the basement. From each of my first four paychecks, I bought one chair. I know others who would (and did) go out with their credit card and buy a whole room full of new furniture. I knew someone who treated herself to a Mustang when she graduated from school because she believed she deserved that luxury for getting out of school.

    Those of us who are raised in comfort often believe we need to live in the same level of comfort/luxury, even if we are making a fraction of the money our parents are, or if it took them the first 20 years of their working life to work up to the level they now live in.

    My mother used to like to tell us the stories about how she and my father lived in a one bedroom apartment when I was born. My first bedroom was the closet in their room. My Dad sold blood to get money to take Mom out to eat. I remember as a little kid that Mom would often tell us we were not going to buy ANYTHING until after Dad got paid. We always had food, clothes, and a clean, comfortable house, but my Mom was clear on the fact that money was in limited supply and she would not be wasting any of it. I believe her example led me to understand that when I moved out on my own, I would not live at the same level my parents did.

    What can parents do to teach their kids about eschewing luxury?

    Reply
  • Accidental Miser August 30, 2013, 7:05 pm

    Damn, Mustache…

    It’s posts like this that make this the best financial/lifestyle blog on the ‘net.

    Powerful, insightful, seminal stuff. You have my deepest thanks.

    Reply
  • Brian S. September 1, 2013, 7:43 am

    This article really hits home for me. My wife and I are currently debating about getting a second car after my car was totaled back in April. We’re looking at buying a 2008 Toyota Prius for $14,000 total (68K miles on it) from a dealer. We had the car checked out by a family member who is a mechanic and got a clean bill of health. The car has a lot of luxury, leather seats, gps, bluetooth, etc which we won’t use.

    My wife is very slightly leaning towards getting the car, but I’m having a very difficult time paying that much for a second car, even if it is reliable and gets great gas mileage. We’ve been getting buy with one car, but we’re also expecting our first child in November. She’s worried about not having a car before that time for appts and whatnot.

    We would plan on driving the car until it dies, which would hopefully be in the 250K-300K mile range. What are the thoughts of some Mustachians? I don’t know if it makes a difference, but my wife and I are completely debt free (no student loans, no mortgage, no other car payments) and would pay for the car in cash.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache September 1, 2013, 8:19 am

      Brian, I admire your hesitation as most people would immediately spring for a Porsche Cayenne Turbo SUV in your financial situation!

      I’d think of the Prius as a luxury that you can afford, and thus decide how much of the drug you feel like dosing on at this time.

      If your level of driving on that car is extremely high (12,000+ miles/year), it might even equal out to the cost of a less expensive car over 10 years or less due to fuel savings (a few alternatives listed here: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/03/19/top-10-cars-for-smart-people/)

      But if it’s just for the odd errand and trip out of town, and you still have a use for increasing wealth over time, I’d go for a $4-$8k car instead.

      And of course if you DO get the Prius, you’d want to assign it to whichever driver has the most miles to cover on any given day..

      Reply
    • MoneyAhoy September 4, 2013, 5:16 am

      If it has leather, GPS, bluetooth, etc. and you aren’t really interested in those features, I say pay and get another Prius/Corolla without those things for $2,000 less. No real point in paying extra for something that you don’t want or won’t use.

      Reply
  • KruidigMeisje September 2, 2013, 3:19 am

    As for any drug, luxury should be something one take sparingly (and enjoy to the fullest then). But mostly abstain.
    That sets me thinking about a nice experiment in my life: abstain for a limited period from things we THINK we need but where should be able to do without. (whether in Lent or in other times of the year) Candy I already cut out. But I recently checked my tea brands, and the luxury brands were commonplace. So I put a moratorium on those. No more buying those. And I wil take only luxury brand when I get myself a luxury (which is a few times a week), the rest doing the common brand again. Just to remind oneself what is a luxury, and what is normal. And perhaps even going without that, (and drinking plain water) sometimes – taking the frugal option. Otherwise the luxury trap can get you in unexpected ways.
    Anybody any suggestions for the next rounds I will set up in november and january?

    Reply
  • Lulu September 2, 2013, 10:23 am

    I’ve been around a lot of luxury as part of my work. After awhile, it feels sort of tacky, actually.

    That said, everyone’s idea of what luxury is is so different, obviously. I have an old clamshell phone with no camera and a big 911 on it, because I don’t care about phones—just a tool. I use Mac computers because they are easier for me to understand and work on. We don’t have cable TV because we don’t watch very much TV, but we do buy really excellent foodstuff (as well as grow it when we can) because that’s important to us. Good functional design is important to me; I don’t consider that a luxury. I want things to WORK and last and cheap badly designed things usually don’t.

    And lastly, I just spent $300 on a leather handbag which gives me huge pleasure in it’s excellent function and beauty and design. It will last me a very long time. Is that luxury? I don;t know. For me, it doesn’t feel that way.

    That said, I am in the process of generally trying to consume less. Maybe that’s the real luxury—to be able to do that.

    Reply
  • Evan September 3, 2013, 1:40 pm

    A buddy once said to me, “Once a luxury now a necessity! ”

    Sums the whole post up!

    Reply
  • Willis September 4, 2013, 2:44 am

    Is there a bigger distinction to be made between frivolity on faux luxury and being a ‘connoisseur’ of real luxury? To me splashing a load of cash on an iPad or flying business class is a total frivolity. Whereas getting a deep satisfaction, enjoyment and interest from occasionally enjoying a fine wine or meal, or buying something hand crafted or bespoke is acceptable. For want of having a debate about semantics, true luxury needn’t be expensive and is more about quality and the skill of how it is produced. The faux luxury product or experience is all about the cost with a few bells and whistles thrown in – “It is expensive therefore it must be good” is a classic argument. Clearly there are some products that blur the lines (a Rolls Royce for example!). But I don’t think one should exclusively avoid what is seen luxury just for the sake of it. The contra position to the above would be extreme frugality “It is cheap therefore it must be good”. I guess one needs to be a conscious consumer and pay for, and enjoy something with open eyes and a questioning mind.

    Reply
  • Anton Ivanov September 4, 2013, 10:40 am

    Very thoughtful reflection! I have observed something similar in my life as well – when I occasionally indulge, I often even feel guilty afterwards at the amount of money I spent in a short period of time. Best to treat luxury as an occasional occurrence and not the norm. Besides, if you indulge all the time, the effect will be far less enjoyable.

    Reply
  • Brian September 4, 2013, 2:38 pm

    A friend of mine said to me once:

    “You know you’re addicted when you’re taking a drug just to feel normal.”

    Perhaps that applies here. One should dabble in luxury to feel better than normal.

    Never let luxury start feeling like normal.

    Reply
  • debtfreeoneday September 4, 2013, 3:01 pm

    Luxuries would be appreciated more if they were few and far between. I was one of those people who just had to go on holiday and if I couldn’t afford it, then I would just ‘pay for it later’ on my credit card. Looking back I have some good memories but I’d rather not have the debt!

    Reply

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