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Luxury or necessity?

Luxury or necessity? (Photo Thinkstock)
Image: Thinkstock
I've bought a microfibre mop. "No chemicals, no buckets, no squeezing, no fuss." What a luxury.

We often think of luxuries as expensive items: that wonderful new perfume, first class air travel, or a $3,000 memory foam mattress. They are luxuries because we can live without them.

The trouble is that erstwhile luxuries have crept into the necessity category. It's no wonder that even good earners have no money left at the end of each month. It's not all the government's fault, as some readers post on my blogs. They just can't manage their money and differentiate between luxuries and necessities.

Let's get real here. My Raven Glide mop is a luxury, because I don't need it — however I try to justify it. I have a good-old fashioned mop, and could easily get down on my hands and knees with a cloth and clean the floors just as well. Most things we buy are luxuries.

Consider these thoughts:

  • If you're obsessing about something it's probably a luxury.
  • Good money managers naval gaze about their "needs" and "wants" (AKA luxuries).
  • Admit to yourself that XYZ is a luxury. This doesn't mean you can’t buy it. Rather, it's about being honest with yourself, like I was about the mop.
  • Never cut all luxuries out of your budget. Total denial leads to failure.
  • We all like luxuries. Try to be satisfied with the small luxuries in life. Living with your cup half empty never did anyone any financial benefit.
  • It's a good idea to limit large luxuries. Put in writing lists of what you would like to buy yourself and prioritise it.
  • Saving for luxuries creates anticipation and makes the experience of buying them all the more enjoyable.
  • Look for ways to make luxuries easier to obtain, such as earning more, or taking in a boarder or homestay.

Children are great ones for failing to understand the difference between luxuries and necessities. My son has been trying to convince me that he "needs" new running shoes for the school cross country. He'll compete just as well in the perfectly good, but slightly worn trainers he owns already.

I called his bluff by suggesting that we go to The Warehouse to buy these trainers he needs. He knows and I know that wearing Warehouse trainers would be akin to social suicide for him. What he actually wants is new Nike or Adidas brand trainers to look cool. It’s got nothing to do with winning the school cross country.

It's a really good idea to explain to children that needs are things to keep you alive, such as food, warmth, and housing and to help you make money, such as petrol or a bus pass to get to work.

They also need to know that it's easy to get side-tracked and convince ourselves that the "luxury" brand trainers are needs.

There is even a distinction to be made between basic food and luxury food. Most of what we buy at the supermarket is a luxury.

What's more, all too many people think they "need" to upgrade their car. Newer cars aren't always more reliable, which is a common excuse given for upgrading. The new wheels are a luxury, unless the old car has no chance of ever passing a Warrant of Fitness again.

Finally, here are some of the luxuries in my life, which some other people may consider to be necessities: air conditioning in my car, eating out from time to time, reading the newspaper, buying New Zealand-made body wash instead of the mass-produced imported stuff, owning much-loved pets, buying ready-made MTR curries at $3 each, and owning an Android mobile phone.

Other "luxuries" in my life include only working five days a week (much of the world’s population has to work seven to survive), and being able to buy the luxuries I really want, because I don’t buy everything I desire.

Have your say: what are the luxuries in your life?

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User comments
I would agree with Aldub, it is important to support our fellow kiwis. I know that I am paying more sometimes for the cheeses at the Sunday market but as I say to the stall holder, if you can make the effort to be here then I can make the effort to support you. We live a pretty frugal existence despite being in two well paid roles. We choose not to have a TV, a car, a dryer or microwave. So when it comes to eating and washing I prefer to redirect some of the money we save into supporting the clever people in our community.
The NZ Made sentiment is great and I support NZ made but recently I have been quoted prices on some items so high I could not afford to buy them locally. In one case I was quoted $76.00 for an item I then obtained from Ebay for $7.00 with free shipping! Is this a case of Kiwi riping off fellow Kiwis? The last pair of glasses I purchased in NZ cost about $650.00 eight years ago, I was lucky to get a business trip to China recently and purchased a pair of prescription glasses for $50 with one hour service! Obviously the labour content and overheads are all lower in China but the frames and lenses were quality brands available in the west, it does make you wonder...
Totally agree with most of this and think it's great advice- loved the calling the bluff on the sneakers. Only think I diagreed with was buying the mass produced imported body wash. I think it is really important to support NZ made things as it is much better for our economy which is, let's face it, pretty shoddy at the moment. I try to buy NZ made in everything, even if it is a little more expensive- it's worth it to support others in our community and not putting them out of work.

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