The True Cost of Luxury

At first glance they seem mutually exclusive.

On the one hand you’ve got simplicity, frugality and budget-consciousness. On the other hand you’ve got luxury. And luxury, we all know, is ornate and expensive and acquired at the depletion of one’s budget.

Economic theory is pretty clear on what “luxury” means, too. A luxury good is one whose consumption increases disproportionately quickly, given a rise in income. A 10% increase in disposable dolares might mean a 15% increase in consumption of Lamborghinis, for instance.

Perhaps this is the inferior good.
Perhaps this is the inferior good.

At the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got “inferior” goods whose consumption declines in the face of income gains. It’d be unlikely for a recently minted lottery winner to run out and stock up on bus tickets, for instance. They’d more likely be at the Lambo dealership. Inferior goods are decidedly non-luxurious; they’re not deficient in any way, but they don’t exceed the minimum standards for goods in the category like, say, a Lamborghini does.

But there seems to be a missing element to these definitions of “luxury” and “non-luxury.” And when the whole enchilada is considered, I wonder whether luxury and frugality are as diametric as they initially seem.

Parts of the Whole

“But FL,” you say, “isn’t it obvious? A brand new Lambo’s way better than some crummy Greyhound tickets! Lambo is luxe!”

Yup. That’s true. But don’t you think there’s a reason you’ve got to get a special “travel package” for your Lambo to even have a useable cup holder?

I imagine it’s more or less a protective measure to ensure the seats aren’t sullied by some stray Mountain Dew, and I guess it also represents a suggestive cultural admonition against doing anything other than vaporizing Pirellis while you’re in the driver’s seat.

And that’s kind of the issue with most luxury goods. It seems you have to give up a whole lot of freedom or whimsy or life goodness to use these things, even when the dolares are left out of the equation.

But consider, too: It’s way more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow. I know from personal experience. I’ve vaporized Pirellis on expensive cars, and I’ve also whipped 4-bangers around like they’re in a food processor. Unless you’re on the Nurburgring, the slow cars are just way more fun to flog. And they’ve all got cupholders. Meaning no sacrifices to the gods of luxury are required for at least as much goodness in those lowly inferior goods.

Sum of the Parts

Then there’s the budget issue.

When was the last time you splurged on something? And I mean a thing, not a meal out or recreational skydiving or whatever experiential stuff you might do.

Maybe you picked up a new iPhone 12 or 17 or whatever number we’re on right now. Do you love it? Is it everything you hoped it could be, and more? Are you at all worried about dropping it? Or sitting on it? Or leaving it in your unlocked Lambo for someone to steal?

Luxe stuff has a real psychic “worry” cost component that amps up the expense of ownership beyond the money price tag.

It’s like those bros with the fancy rides who park out in the boonies at the Wal-Mart. They don’t want a rogue cart to scrape the paint, and so they end up walking 15 minutes through farm country to get a Rollback discount on socks.

Why do they bother with all the fuss? Cuz those rides are cool, cous.

In other words, to my mind, most luxe stuff is acquired for the impression that stuff leaves on other people. It’s bought as a way to magnify one’s social standing and feeling of personal worth. It’s a way to cloak impressions of personal inadequacy behind a veil of consumption.

And that’s just sad.

So don’t give it a second thought the next time you’re out getting a perfectly serviceable “inferior” good that suits your budget and is decidedly un-luxe.

Making the smart choice is saving you a bunch of psychic anguish over the health of your luxury goods, and it’s speaking to the strength of your character: You don’t need everyone else’s validation to feel worthwhile. You can do that on your own.

And that kind of power, in my mind, is true luxury.

So maybe Lambos are the inferior goods, and real luxury is acquired when we stop worrying about all the shit that doesn’t really matter anyway.

Peace out, Luxedores!

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