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 3840×2160 pixel screen of this feathery “ultrabook” laptop. I’m on front porch, 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 recession.

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.

  • 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.

    • 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?

      • 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.

        • 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?

          • 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…

            • 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.

            • 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.

    • 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 :-(

      • 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.

        • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

        • Gerard November 28, 2014, 12:59 pm

          Kevin, aren’t all the books you mention basically CRITIQUES of the way of thinking that they describe? Weber’s a Marxist, no? You’re not really assuming something is good because smart people have written about it, are you? I know smart people who write about diseases… :-)

    • 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…

      • 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.

  • 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.

    • Jason September 1, 2013, 11:45 am

      I know people who literally do that.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

    • 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 =)

  • 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?

  • Jay Bee August 30, 2013, 12:24 pm

    Rick James said it best:

    “Luxury is a helluva drug.”

  • 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.

    • 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!

      • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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..

    • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • Evan September 3, 2013, 1:40 pm

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

    Sums the whole post up!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • Elaine September 4, 2013, 6:35 pm

    I’ve been reading a lot lately about gratitude, by just searching quotes online that contained the word. I found a massive collection that included some of the most influential philosophers, scientists, historical figures, writers, etc. throughout all of history. All of whom had made a point of addressing the topic of the dangers of ingratitude. I think when we come to semantics on the differences between types of luxury or what constitutes a poisonous luxury, it all comes down to gratitude or a lack of gratitude. The difficult part is that gratitude shouldn’t be parceled out for individual events or objects or people, it should be present in every area. If your foot hurts, be happy you have a foot. If you live with the gratitude of your feet each day, you will never at your core “need” a pair of designer shoes. At that point, wether or not you have designer shoes is irrelevant.

  • WalletEngineers September 6, 2013, 10:11 am

    Getting my wife to realize luxury was not something we could afford on a day to day basis was a difficult task. She was raised an only child and givin every indulgence she could ever ask for and got use to being fed the luxury drug. After moving into our own apartment and having to take responsibility for her own finances she learned quickly her Coach purses and designer clothes came at a high price which we could not afford. Now that she has been weened off the luxury drug we are able to indulge in luxurious things less often but appreciate them much much more.

  • Scots girl September 6, 2013, 4:33 pm

    Have just come across the blog and love it ! I think its really important to keep a little luxury in your life, the moot word is little here though . If you get to the stage of calculating the cost of a sheet of toilet paper (seriously saw this on another finance blog) then its become a mania.

    I share Mr Mustaches love of travel I’ve been on every continent on earth and I use extensive pre trip research to make my holiday budget stretch as far as I can possibly make it go. The posts about business travel surprise me I travel a lot for work and I will usually take public transport to and from the airport etc. I work on the principle if I wouldn’t spend my own money on something then I shouldn’t be spending corporate money. One example a taxi from the office to the airport is £25 each way the bus is 2 minutes walk from the office and its £5 , guess who takes the bus.
    Keep up the inspiration mr Mustache and I will be reading your blog from now on in .

  • MonicaOnMoney September 8, 2013, 3:00 am

    Mr. Money Mustache, Thank you!! This article is very timely for me because I’ve been wanting a Mercedes-Benz convertible for years!

    But right now, I can’t afford the luxury because I want to payoff my house and pay for law school in cash BEFORE I spend extra money on anything luxurious.

    There is definitely a time and a place for luxury and of course, we all have our priorities right?!

  • Cecilia FerrerHeyne September 9, 2013, 3:08 pm

    Thanks, MMM!! I love seeing other people who want to live consciously. I have become more of a frugal person since I became a mother. I went from wanting a Mercedes and fancy clothes and purses to wanting more time with my family and friends. Reading your blog helps me refine my goals to a higher level. I now want to pay off my home and cut my work hours.

  • Brett September 9, 2013, 11:25 pm

    This was something I really needed to read right now. I’ve been saying I need to replace my phone for being too old and slow and the screen cracked, when clearly I need to stop being a complainypants whiner and realise how luxurious it is for me to have a smartphone of any kind when I have debts to sort out. If it comes to it I’ll go for a sub £10 Nokia handset, which would probably outlast any smartphone anyway.

    Not the only example of where I’ve let the notion that I need/deserve luxury creep into my thinking recently. Thanks MMM for the kick up the arse.

  • Chris September 11, 2013, 4:26 pm

    Check out the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon about halfway down this page. Under the heading, “Think big…” If you could have anything you wanted, what would it be? Hobbes has the answer. http://www.progressiveboink.com/2012/4/21/2912173/calvinhobbes

    He expresses a similar sentiment in this cartoon – my favorite: http://www.fark.com/comments/4809342/Looking-for-Calvin-Hobbes-The-Unconventional-Story-of-Bill-Watterson

  • ShaiDorsai September 17, 2013, 4:27 am

    Question regarding borrowing money for a car:
    assuming you’re making a smart purchase regarding the total cost of ownership of the car (i.e. not luxurious, at the flat end of the depreciation curve, etc.), why is it a bad thing to take a loan, as long as the interest rate on that loan is lower than an expected excess return on an investment?

    To wit:
    1) Save up $10,000 for a car
    2) Car costs $10,000
    3) Loan rate of 2.67% (present 60-mo. rate at Bankrate.com)
    4) Expected excess annulalized return of 7% on investment

    Why not set the $10,000 in an investment account, take the loan, and pay it down as normal?

    Under these circumstances, with a 5-year loan, your total loan cost will be ~$10,700 and your investment will yield ~$14,025.

    I understand that you shouldn’t use debt to REPLACE cash flow or capital that you don’t already have, but what’s the negative about using debt intelligently? The depreciation and cost of ownership of the car is a sunk cost: it will be the same regardless of the method of financing the purchase, so why not use a method that minimizes opportunity cost? Additionally, utilizing low-interest rate debt in an even moderately inflationary economy is a net positive for the debtor (i.e. Inflation reduces the real value of future cash flow obligations).

    (Note: I’m a newly-minted management consultant and I’m driving a 17 year-old Volvo that I paid $3k for. No worries about excess luxury here!)

  • MikeyP September 20, 2013, 7:08 pm

    Very timely post MMM, you saved me from buying a car.
    I have a 2008 coming off lease and was going to finance a new one. As well I was going to dump a 2001 focus wagon.
    I was lusting over sunroofs and heated seats. Oogling cars at dealerships. Having conversations with salesmen. Rationalizing in my mind that this was okay and necessary.
    Now I’ve DIY d the focus into shape and am not planning on getting new. I’ll save the payment & insurance amounts to pay cash for my next car after he ficus dies.
    Keep it up!

  • Veroljub Zmijanac June 13, 2014, 4:08 am

    You can connect luxury & drugs in this analogy, but in the same time, you can choose not to see luxury as something that gives you rush.

    What I am trying to do is to have still mind whatever I use:
    – Driving my Fiat Stilo (car under 5k) great! Driving in new Mercedes (car over 60k) super, nice
    – Running in my 70 USD running shoes, great, running in new Newton 150 USD great
    – Eating my own prepared salad consisted from olive oil and green, super fresh! Eating in premium restaurant the-same-thing-with-some-extra-you-cant-find-ingredient great!
    – Going all inclusive hotel or backpacking with guys… the same thing…

    Only if you make emotive distinctions between luxury and not-luxury you are kicking your bat.

    One group of people is hooked to luxuries, and other is fighting off. These are two end positions of pendulum.

    What is needed is quit pendulum. I am trying to make it still, and you are helping me :)

  • Kelly July 31, 2014, 2:50 pm

    This is a great article and I love your website! With that said, I have a question about a third car. My husband and I have two daughters (almost at driving age) and we are considering getting a used car for them to borrow and share. For now, we both work full time and this would free up some of our time if our oldest could drive the two of them around. We are definitely working on retiring early and we would pay for the car with cash. We do not live in a place where they could bike to school or after school jobs/activities safely. Would it be more reasonable to have them pay for part of the car? Many people around us (I would say most) have purchased new cars for their kids which is ridiculous to us, but is a 3rd car in our situation ridiculous too?

    • Joe Average April 7, 2015, 1:14 pm

      have them pay for the car or pay for the insurance and fuel. That way they have a horse in the race (they are invested in the car somehow) and more likely to take care of it. The kids that seemed to wreck their cars the most in high school years ago where the ones who go everything given to them. No appreciation. A fair number of those same kids were given replacement vehicles too.

  • Rick October 10, 2014, 12:57 am

    Yea its like a drug . Most of my life was lived frugally . A few years ago I started to fly internationally . It was crampt so I started upgrading to economy comfort for a mere $340.00 more . Then one time I got upgraded to first class , was like a crack high . Then I start noticing that there are a few select seats in first class that are the absolute best. You just get so hooked on luxury its like drugs. This website has slapped me back to reality , thanks

  • Guy Madison January 1, 2015, 10:45 pm

    I agree that luxury is just another form of weakness, I guess thats a great way to put it. I tell people to spend money on things they enjoy, after reading this I will tell them to spend money on things you enjoy but don’t borrow for it.

    I live on the west coast, nice cars can be had dirt cheap used here. I love rich people they spend $70,000 on new cars and 10 years later when I buy them they have depreciated %90 of that value.

    Luxury follows attachments in life, once you learn to live with a lot less attachments it all falls into place. As MMM has found out… it really gets simple and you need so much less to be happy.

    • chrisbo January 2, 2015, 4:06 pm

      you’re clearly attached to $7000 cars. I work in Pound Sterling but you can get better deals than that surely? or alternatively cycle for free whilst getting fresh, fit and happy whilst the motor heeds get competitive, fat and angry

      • Guy Madison April 7, 2015, 11:32 pm

        Try hauling a family around on a bicycle.

        I work at home, never have to commute so I could care less about competitive motor heads.. and I drive the speed limit because I am not in a hurry. I drive a motorcycle everywhere, so I take the bike lanes also.

        The key thing is if you think gas mileage is a critical decision in buying a car you don’t understand the economics of cars. The real cost of a car is in depreciation and opportunity cost (what you spend on a car or a carbon bicycle frame vs what it will make invested). Then calculate how much you really save. I pay 36 cents a mile, a Nissan Leaf is 70 cents a mile with cheap electricity.

        Its easy to say oh I can use by bicycle.. if you live in an area where you need to go is close or have no children to bring with you. Try that when you have to deal with hundreds of miles and no mass transit to get you there.

  • Keaton April 2, 2015, 4:22 pm

    This post inspired me to make a neat excel calculator that generates how much “time” in retirement I forego when I buy something. If anything, it helps visualize the results of self-discipline, the time that I am “buying” when I don’t spend my money on worthless stuff. I’d be happy to share it if you’re interested.

    • kittyshooz April 8, 2015, 9:32 am

      Please do share!

    • Guy Madison April 8, 2015, 6:02 pm

      Good idea! Remember things you buy today are from money you could have invested today also… so rate it against an appreciating asset include the depreciation and you will have the true cost of the item.

  • Brenda July 30, 2015, 1:46 pm

    While I agree that luxuries can get excessive, some choices like borrowing to buy a car makes sense. Recent new car APR rates for those with good credit have been 0%, and if negotiated to a dealer invoice type price, makes sense even if you have the money in a CD. Investing it in index funds still makes more sense than spending it right away on a new car. Now obviously, you can get a used car, but similar principles apply if you can get favorable lending rates. Some people borrow money because it is the SMART decision.

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 30, 2015, 3:37 pm

      Hi Brenda, I’d disagree with that for two reasons:
      1) New cars are generally unnecessary to even consider, especially for non-millionaires
      2) If you borrow money for a car, the lender insists that you get full insurance to protect their collateral. If you own the car, you can go without comprehensive/collision and carry liability only, which will save you hundreds per year. Much more than the potential investment returns on that $5-10k you spent on the car.

  • Danny September 30, 2015, 11:26 pm

    The Western culture of pursuing luxuries has definitely spread to Asia. Especially the Generation Y, we are told to spent lavish amounts in catching up with technologies, hanging out at over-priced cafes etc.

    I am glad that the frugality movement is active here; I’m not alone here. Back to my society, frugal people are considered as ‘stingy, selfish and lifeless’.

  • Bill October 7, 2015, 5:35 pm

    Ecclesiastes from the old testament is basically a story of a mustachian. He gains all the riches in the world, but finds them ultimately meaningless. He has to search for meaning outside things. These ideas are very old, but we still struggle to believe them. The bible, while often outdated, still has some timeless truths and wisdom about human beings.

  • Cynthia January 26, 2016, 7:48 am

    One thing I think is worth adding here is Americans, especially, are too luxurious in our eating habits. It has lead to poor health, disease and disability. Higher incidences of heart disease, cancer and diabetes are found in richer cultures and can be directly linked to diet. It has always been this way. Peasants were often robust and healthy while rich nobles suffered with gout and other unpleasant ailments. Today, we tend to rely too much on quick, easy and processed over real food.

  • Ray March 23, 2016, 9:59 am

    Great post! I thought you summed everything up perfectly in your last line. “Luxury is best appreciated as a strong and interesting contrast to, rather than the fabric of, your daily life.”

  • Tom August 1, 2016, 9:34 am

    ON LUXURY TV SETS…….you can purchase used high end older TVs like a 33 inch “Panasonic Super-flat” for practically pocket change. They are big, heavy , have a glass picture tube, require a cheap digital adapter but they will last an eternity. I have one that’s 18 years old and it is as good as the day I bought it. People are giving them away. In fact my brother has found three of them that were thrown out on the curb as trash

  • Jay McConnell October 21, 2018, 1:05 pm

    Love this. I have to admit I’ve become whiny and entitled. It is a drug. ‘I need the best. My kids must have the best.” After a second trip to the country club, my 10 year old boy said I’d become “infected’. Wow. From the mouthed of babes…
    Time to get back on my bicycle.

  • BP October 22, 2018, 2:12 pm

    Proverbs 23:1-3 “When you sit to dine with a ruler, note well what a is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony. Do not crave his delicacies, for that food is deceptive.”

  • Cody A. Ray February 4, 2021, 8:29 am

    This blog post just got a shout-out from Ramit Sethi in his mailing list and blog post at https://growthlab.com/the-hidden-hypocrisy-of-wanting-more/

    It’s interesting because it feels like there’s bits of “truth” (imo) in both articles. MMM is effectively preaching Stoicism, which was embraced by some ultra-wealthy folks to ensure they didn’t just become “trapped” by their wealth instead. But many bloggers similar to MMM do effectively preach asceticism, which is where Ramit’s claim that “wanting more is a moral weakness” is more true.

  • Martize Smith September 24, 2022, 3:32 pm

    I think everything is relative. I dont think luxuries are a weakness unless a person allows it to disrupt their FIRE or financial goals. If a person can manage their finances and have luxuries that dont keep them from thier success it is a good thing. We are not going to live forever. Some wealthy people, from articles, use formulas are personal judgment to act on buying luxriies at to what extent. For example a person may be comfortable with saving 65% of income and pouring into investments to get richer and then allocate 10% to charity, 20% expenses, 5% luxuries. I made this up but wealthy people do have a percentage they decide on to buy luxuries. Other sources may even use luxuries as a motivation to earn more but usually let their assets or businesses buy them. This is a mature way of thinking most people just go out and buy luxuries and dont think first. Some people struggle with this i mean we have all seen the news of celebrities making $20 million a year and then going broke from overspending.

  • Tyler December 7, 2022, 5:41 am

    When you indulge yourself too often in luxury’s they no longer become luxury’s. You will be more financial sound and be happier if you only indulge yourself on occasion. Example: I made around $500 in over-time so went to Denny’s and indulge on eating out. Spent like $6…


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