Rethinking Luxuries: How Luxurious Are They?

Recently, my boyfriend and I took a somewhat last minute trip to Seattle. The goal was simply to get away from the grind for a few days and explore a new environment. In the spirit of frugality, we decided to relinquish one big luxury: car rental. Yes, we thought the convenience would be nice, but it would've cost upwards of $300, and we figured we could make the sacrifice and “rough it” by taking public transportation or just walking.

Turns out, roughing it wasn't rough at all, and renting a car would have actually been less of a luxury and more of a burden.

During our long walks from the hotel to the Space Needle, Pike Place and Pioneer Square, we made some pleasant and memorable stops at various coffee houses, restaurants and boutiques — stops we wouldn't have made had we opted for the “luxury” of driving. We also spent a lot of time talking during those walks, and those conversations have become some of my favorite memories. Had we rented a car, those talks would have probably revolved more around where to park, which streets to take, and other thrilling, driving-related topics.

Burden or Luxury?
Sometimes burdens disguise themselves as luxuries. By definition, luxuries already cost more than they're worth, but we want them anyway, because they provide some sort of happiness. But lately, the question I've been asking myself is — do those luxuries provide happiness? Or, frugality aside, would I actually be happier without them? If I'd be happier without them, then those luxuries serve no purpose and are only big wastes of money.

Here are a few personal examples of how I suspect my burdens are disguising themselves as luxuries:

Going out
As my bank statements will tell you, I really enjoy going to restaurants and bars. Yes, I budget myself, and I'm frugal about it, but I choose to spend a certain amount on this each month because I just really, really enjoy it. But here's the thing: I also enjoy my home. It's my sanctuary. It's not as if I like going out because I don't like being home. But when I'm out every weekend, it keeps me from enjoying my apartment, and rent is my biggest expense. If I'm mostly using my home as a place to sleep and work, I'm actually missing out on truly enjoying what I spend the majority of my income on.

Thinking about this, when I have friends over, it gives me the same “high” as going out. Therefore, it's not restaurants, bars, or other venues I enjoy as much as it is being around people. I'm not saying I should slash my restaurant budget to zero, but I bet I could cut back, invite people over more, and my time would be just as enjoyable–actually more enjoyable, because I get to simultaneously enjoy my home. I do like going out, but probably not as much as I think, and therefore, it's likely not as much of a luxury I think it is.

Cable
Every frugal person will tell you this is the biggest luxury on which you could waste your money. But I really enjoy cable, both for the convenience and the programs. I really enjoy turning on the TV and knowing I just might stumble upon an old episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air when I least expect it.

But still, there are better things to do than watch reruns of that show (no matter how awesome it was). I have a long list of books to read and movies to watch. Perhaps if I didn't have the convenience of cable, I'd actually get around to that list. My justification is: “well, I wouldn't, because I'm just in the mood to turn on the TV and zone out.” Zoning out is my luxury. But when I think about it, it's a pretty crappy one. Without cable, I would be forced to be more conscious about my entertainment choices, and I bet those choices would then be of better quality. This isn't to say that The Fresh Prince isn't a quality show, but there are only so many times in my life that I need to see Will get stuck in that basement with Tisha Campbell.

Note: Tomorrow's “ask the readers” column is specifically about alternatives to cable television.

Soda
Maybe this is a silly one, but I used to really love my soda. I drank one around the same time every day, and I considered it my little luxury. In the spirit of saving money (and being healthy), one day I decided to stop drinking it every day. Turns out, I actually don't really like soda. Who knew? I had one last night, for the heck of it, and I realized it's not very good. Perhaps I liked the ritual, perhaps it was the sugar I was addicted to–I don't know. All I know is, for whatever reason, my body doesn't even want soda anymore. It was an unnecessary luxury, and actually, not even a luxury at all, but a costly burden/addiction.

I could go on, but you get the point. So now that I've pinpointed these burdens disguised as luxuries, what do I do? Here's my plan.

The Value of Luxuries
I've asked myself how much I enjoy my “luxuries” in the first place. What do I like about them? In Seattle, I wanted to rent a car so that I could drive from the airport to my hotel and from my hotel to the Space Needle. Ooooh, so luxurious! Sure, convenience can be a luxury, but is that convenience really worth $300?

  • Money aside, what would I do without the luxury? Is there a possibility my indulgence is keeping me from doing something I enjoy more? Am I paying money to be less happy? For example, I'm healthier and happier without my soda habit.
  • Why do I like it in the first place? What's at the core of the things I deem to be luxuries? Why do I enjoy them and seek them? Is there better and cheaper way to get that feeling? I suspect I enjoy going out because I like being around people. Well, being around people is free. So this is an area I need to visit. It just might be that, at its core, my luxury is free. That's something I need to determine, which brings me to…

My plan is to go without some of these luxuries for a month or so and see if they can't easily be replaced by something better and cheaper. Maybe I'm actually happier without them altogether. This is how I plan to weed out what's a burden and what's an actual luxury. Maybe I do truly enjoy the simple act of zoning out on reruns. But there's a good chance I don't enjoy zoning out as much as I think I do, and a trial run without cable will help me to determine that.

We do so many things in life without questioning them. Sometimes we even determine our happiness without giving it much thought. Like me, you may find that your luxuries aren't that luxurious at all. Sometimes, they're just costly burdens.

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Holly@ClubThrifty
7 years ago

I agree that a lot of “luxuries” are actually burdens. Personally, I think that a lot of technology falls into this category. It seems like whenever I get a new gadget, it just ends up pissing me off. Either it is too complicated or I can’t get it to work right….or something is wrong with it and I have to exchange it for a new one. It hardly seems worth it to me. We cut cable tv a year ago and it was one of the best decisions we have ever made. No more mindlessly staring at the tv. No… Read more »

imelda
imelda
7 years ago

Great first article, great first comment.

Debt Free Teen
Debt Free Teen
7 years ago

I also cancelled cable about 2 years ago and its been great. You spend more time on whats important like hanging out with friends or staying active outside. Not to mention you don’t waste time watching pointless TV. The best part is most TV Shows are also on HULU so you don’t miss out on anything but sports & local news.

Another Kate
Another Kate
7 years ago

An added benefit to not having cable: When we are someplace that does have cable, watching is a true treat. Of course, there have been times when I’ve been in a hotel and thought I’d watch a little something before bed, and found that there was absolutely nothing I wanted to watch. Just like the Bruce Springsteen song…. Now I see other people weighed in on the quality issue just below. Well, I do enjoy the occasional chance to watch What Not to Wear or Chopped, though I wouldn’t want to make a habit of it. And I first watched… Read more »

Ben
Ben
7 years ago
Reply to  Another Kate

We have not had cable for 5 years and we don’t miss it at all. The only time we watch any TV is when we are on vacation and there is a TV in the hotel room. It’s a treat, at least in the beginning. But after a few hours of channel surfing, I remember why I cancelled cable.

David
David
7 years ago

I’m spending the summer months in an extended stay style place (in Seattle, actually), which means I have cable TV, something I don’t have back home. Honestly, I can’t understand why people pay for it. The only plausible exception is big-time sports fans. But sometimes I really want to kill time, and I flip through every. single. channel. and find nothing of interest, nor anything that I could imagine being of interest. I’m aching to find something, anything, to waste time on, and I never find anything.* My current theory is that TV is a habit that is acquired by… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
7 years ago
Reply to  David
Jane
Jane
7 years ago
Reply to  David

“My current theory is that TV is a habit that is acquired by slowly whittling away your tolerance for poor quality entertainment.” Then you are flipping to the wrong channels or looking at the wrong time. I hate this type of snobbery. I have at least six or so shows at the moment that I love and really engage my mind. There’s no need to name them – each person will have different ones on their list. I didn’t expect this article to bring out the anti-television squad, but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. If you don’t like television,… Read more »

Mom of five
Mom of five
7 years ago
Reply to  Jane

We love TV in our house too, but ever since we bought the Roku, getting rid of cable (once an unthinkable idea) has become a real possibility. Can’t wait to read tomorrow’s discussion!

Amanda
Amanda
7 years ago
Reply to  Jane

I don’t think anyone here hates TV. It’s more the cable purchasing format. We have gone without cable for a while and love it. We still watch TV, but now we can watch it at the times we want without any commercials. I love that I can watch every episode of a show and not worry about missing one (we have roku and netflix). And just how it is good to practice conscience spending, it’s good to practice conscience watching. Not having cable lets you do that. The only shows I miss from my cable days are the ones on… Read more »

Jane
Jane
7 years ago
Reply to  Amanda

Amanda, losing HGTV was our one regret when we dropped DIRECTV this week. We’ve haven’t figured out a way to get it yet. Perhaps in the future, Netflix or another carrier will broker a deal to at least have some of the earlier seasons of, say, House Hunters available. We’re also not sure how we are going to get certain HBO shows when they air. With DIRECTV, we would just subscribe to HBO when the particular show was on (mainly Game of Thrones), but I’m not sure what we’ll do in the future. As far as hating television, lots of… Read more »

Amanda
Amanda
7 years ago
Reply to  Amanda

When people ask me if I am going to watch a show that night, I usually reply with a “I don’t have TV”. I know it’s an over simplification since I do own an actual TV and watch streaming netflix. But I am not set up to watch things in real time and that is what I think of as TV.

Ami
Ami
7 years ago
Reply to  Amanda

Amanda – cant answer the HGTV issue – but many public broadcasting networks now carry a station called Create TV (it’s a separate channel, look for Create http://www.createtv.com/) – which may be available for free. It’s got Home, DIY, gardening, and other shows that may give you your HGTV fix…

Kristin Wong
Kristin Wong
7 years ago
Reply to  Jane

Jane, believe me, I love television, too! There’s definitely some TV out there that’s better than a lot of movies that come out, or even books. But the point I gather from that quote is, there’s a lot of unnecessary stuff amid the pearls, and that stuff is so easily accessible that it’s hard not to get sucked into it when you have cable. I guess it ends up giving all of television a bad name.

David
David
7 years ago
Reply to  Jane

Thanks for proving my point, which was that “paying for cable TV” is pointless. I too watch several shows, namely Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Modern Family, and a few others, but I watch them on Netflix, Hulu, and iTunes.

Why would one need cable (besides sports)?

The constant TV-hating on the internet hasn’t missed me, but I guess I appreciate it a little more now that I have access to cable.

And to the person who mentioned it, not having a TV was an entry on the “stuff white people like” website, if I recall.

Jane
Jane
7 years ago
Reply to  David

If that was your main point, it was lost in the overall discourse about lowbrow entertainment and how you are above that. I just assumed based on the way you described it that you never watch. But lo and behold, you do. How in the world is watching Hulu not watching television? Sure, it’s not cable, but, um, it’s still television. Trent at the Simple Dollar tried to pull the same argument a few times, and it makes no sense. I guess you were trying to arbitrarily separate yourself from the hoi polloi who pay for cable. “I don’t have… Read more »

Kioni
Kioni
7 years ago
Reply to  Jane

I agree. While I would like to start limiting my daily TV time (as well as computer time), the writing, the acting and the production values on some of today’s shows are seriously amazing. A good story is a good story–visual, auditory, or written. It’s always disappointing to me to hear people malign a whole MEDIUM of expression.

Suze in CO
Suze in CO
7 years ago
Reply to  David

“The only plausible exception is big-time sports fans.” Amen to that! But it’s not just “big-time” fans. We aren’t huge sports fans in our house, but we do enjoy watching the Rockies games. (Well, not so much this season…) We were going to dump our satellite service and spring for MLB TV so we could still watch, but it turns out that we still wouldn’t have been able to watch the home games – those are blacked out since we live in the area. (But we’d still get to pay the same not-so-low price.) So until we figure out an… Read more »

ChezJulie
ChezJulie
7 years ago

I really enjoyed this post, Kristin. Good food for thought! I know that I often enjoy great Thai food from a hole in the wall more than a disappointing meal at a fancy restaurant.

Kristin Wong
Kristin Wong
7 years ago
Reply to  ChezJulie

Yes–I too enjoy hole in the wall places so much more than upscale frou frou places. Don’t get me wrong, I like going out on the town like a fancy lady every now and then, but having a relaxed meal at a place where you feel comfortable is usually much more enjoyable. And cheaper.

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
7 years ago
Reply to  Kristin Wong

I actually get performance anxiety if I’m eating in a place I’ve never eaten before, or if I am with people I don’t usually eat with. So I really only enjoy going out under specific circumstances (though more than once I have gone somewhere, ordered, had two bites, taken home the leftovers, and inhaled them all within 20 minutes of getting home).

Amanda
Amanda
7 years ago
Reply to  ChezJulie

If you do it right, eating out can cost the exact same as eating in. You just have to figure out about how much you spend making a dinner at home and then use that as a budget when eating out. Ok, breakfast is never cheaper unless it is Micky D’s. But lunch out for $7 or dinner for $13 is coming close especially if you can save the leftover and get two meals out of it. We usually eat at restaurants that are small local ones, although I do love chipotle. Oh, we also never order anything but water… Read more »

The Bazinga Ninja
The Bazinga Ninja
7 years ago
Reply to  Amanda

I wouldn’t say they cost exact same. Not for the same quality, at least. Restaurant foods are marked up to cover costs and make some profit so there’s always some dollars lost there. It comes down to time, which also equals money. If you can take the time to make your favorite restaurant dishes, then all you’ve paid extra for it is with your time, no? Adding value to that time would be to cook with a loved one or a friend. Splitting the cost of ingredients would make eating at home that much more cost-effective and add a decent… Read more »

Mom of five
Mom of five
7 years ago

I really enjoyed this article and I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s cable alternative discussion. My husband and I have agreed that if it weren’t for baseball we wouldn’t even use the cable (our kids, however, are another story). Ever since we bought the Roku, my husband and I have been mentally putting cable on the chopping block.

Krose
Krose
7 years ago

I enjoyed this-congrats on becoming a staff writer! I think luxuries can definitely be a burden, especially when you factor in lifestyle creep. In my house, we don’t have cable, we don’t purchase soda, but we do love going out. This summer, we moved from a more isolated bedroom community to a much more centrally located, fun urban neighborhood. Our going out budget just went out the window, and while it was fun getting acquainted with all the new bars and restaurants nearby, we’ve realized that these luxuries are now affecting us negatively by taking away from our other goals.… Read more »

Kristin Wong
Kristin Wong
7 years ago
Reply to  Krose

Krose, I went through the same thing when I was living in Houston. I moved from the suburbs to the city center and spent so much more than I anticipated on going out. Sometimes it pays to be a hermit.

Thanks for the welcome!

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
7 years ago

I wish I had time to reply to the general luxury/burden hypothesis, which vaguely reminds me of Hegel’s master/slave dialectic (see here, and especially here), but I am in a hurry, so– on the subject of car rentals: 1) Big cities are generally walkable! Cars are a pain to park and look after. 2) Cabs rule, and you can get good tourist pointers from a friendly cabbie. You can also ask to go places– “do you know a good steakhouse?” etc. 2) Need a car after all? Get a zipcar! $50/$35 yearly membership, pay only for what you need, gas… Read more »

IdaBaker
IdaBaker
7 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

I don’t usually do cabs much. With a little research, many major cities have fantastic public transit services.

Much cheaper, for me, more relaxing, and conversing with the locals is often fun!!

Love the Zipcar idea!!

Kristin Wong
Kristin Wong
7 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Interesting links, El Nerdo, and I think I can see the connection. From what I gather, the point is, luxury and burden are meant to be total opposites, but they can sometimes mirror each other or be one in the same. “With great luxury comes great burden,” so to speak?

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
7 years ago
Reply to  Kristin Wong

Hi Kristin, I’m back briefly, so I’ll summarize while trying not to butcher poor Hegel. The Master rules over the Slave (acquires a luxury, in your context). The Master then proceeds to shirk work and become dependent on the slave. The Slave through the create activity of work becomes empowered to challenge the master. This is much more applicable to the current dynamic between First World vs. Emerging Economies, and not so applicable to your article in a literal sense. But what I suppose brought up the association in my brain, when I read this, was that the things that… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
7 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Amen, El Nerdo. Tea is where it’s at. I HATE coffee and only rarely drink soda.

Jamie
Jamie
7 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

I just wanted to say that I absolutely love reading the conversations here between the new staff writers 🙂

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
7 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

When we travel to visit family, they are all at least two hours from the nearest airport and not in walkable communities (although that’s largely because there’s nothing to walk to!) so we rent a car. But I’ve never rented a car when visiting a major city. Then again, I HATE driving, so why would I do it if I were on vacation? To me, the luxury is not having to drive.

Hm. I will have to think about whether that limits me 🙂

Rosa
Rosa
7 years ago
Reply to  Honey Smith

We just had the best (and cheapest) vacation we’ve taken in years, the first one in a long time that didn’t stress me out worse than not taking a vacation, and I realized it’s because we didn’t go with/to anyone in our family.

I *hate* driving everywhere, and all our family members either live in the middle of nowhere or insist on driving even if we’re all in a big city. Renting a car is totally on the burden side for me.

The Bazinga Ninja
The Bazinga Ninja
7 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

I agree. All major cities have a public transit system and most are up to par and easy enough to navigate. We took a trip to DC last year during the Fourth of July. We rented a car, big mistake. We ended up taking the Metro everywhere and walked a good 12-15 miles the few days thay we were there. Although, we did make a trip to Greenbelt, MD to visit the Goddard Space Flight Center, but it wasn’t worth the almost $200 it cost us to rent the car including gasoline. We could’ve zipcar’d for a fraction of the… Read more »

chacha1
chacha1
7 years ago

Unfortunately, not all. You cannot get from LAX to West LA or Santa Monica or the South Bay by train. And in a city that is bigger than Liechtenstein, taking a public bus is both inconvenient and likely to eat your entire tourist day.

Some cities do require cars. Horrible, but true.

IdaBaker
IdaBaker
7 years ago

A while back, I did a similar soda thing. Used to drink it all the time, but cost and health took over.

Now, I make ice tea and drink it all the time. Love the stuff and the cost savings.

Tara
Tara
7 years ago

Nice article! I agree on the money-wasting low-satisfaction aspect of many luxuries. I prefer to take public transportation when I visit a city, and TV ads drive me insane so I rarely watch. I make my own «soda» by mixing half fruit juice and half sparkling water, much better tasting and healthier. I also only go to restaurants to buy food that I can’t easily make at home, and prefer low-price places that won’t blow my budget. I have been out with friends who have spent $500 on a dinner that made me just shake my head – no matter… Read more »

Lmoot
Lmoot
7 years ago

This concept definitely falls into “what you’re willing to spend on with your finite finances”. I think people determine luxuries in different ways. Some people may want things because they are “supposed” to, or because that item is categorized as a luxury item. Things such as the latest electronics, fashion, movies, games. Other people are more mindful consumers and carefully weigh the use they will get out of things before acting on it purely based on the reputation of it being a desired item. We are all human and of course there will be certain common desires, but we are… Read more »

DB
DB
7 years ago
Reply to  Lmoot

I love this point! Family and friends keep asking us when we will “upgrade” to a single family home from our current townhouse in an incredibly walkable neighborhood in Northern VA. The thought of this “luxury” actually terrifies me – when I envision the extra years of our lives that would going into paying down the mortgage on a bigger place, the likely loss of walkability (therefore likely forcing us to buy a 2nd car, when we currently get by on 1), and the additional time and money needed to renovate a new place (we are those crazy DIY types… Read more »

Rose Marie
Rose Marie
7 years ago

Excellent article! I agree with the ‘sans’ cable people. For me, at least, cable TV was a waste of my money. I’ve been without it for over two years now and don’t miss it at all. Reading this article got me thinking about other items that may be luxuries for me. Thanks!

Marisa
Marisa
7 years ago

Great article! This is what me and my partner strive for. We’d much rather make memories than have stuff. We enjoy our friends’ company far more than the company of television. Actually, I haven’t had cable or soda in over 7 years and I’ll never look back! We are continuing the not-going-out trend by growing our own food. The truth is even if you don’t have much in the way of materialistic stuff, if you grow your own food, you will feel like the richest person alive.

Sara
Sara
7 years ago

I really enjoyed this article because it makes me look at my habits/instincts from a new perspective. What could be better than simultaneously saving money and becoming happier? Thanks, Kristin!

Mrs. PoP
Mrs. PoP
7 years ago

In regard to your old soda luxury, you might want to check out the book “The Power of Habit” by Duhigg. It’s a really interesting read on why we do what we do – and one of the more personal examples in the book is the author’s analysis of why he eats a cookie every afternoon at work. It takes him some time to figure out if it’s the sugar, getting away from his computer, or the social interaction that he’s seeking out, but ends up getting to the bottom of it and ‘fixing’ his cookie habit.

Quest
Quest
7 years ago

I got sick of the constant advertising on TV, which is why we dumped cable. We couldn’t stand the commercials any longer. Mind you, ALL TV is one big giant advertisement but at least I can select what I want to watch commercial-free via Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and swapped DVDs from friends and family. All that still costs less than cable.

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
7 years ago
Allow me to be more blatant: Tomorrow’s post is about cable television and alternatives to it. I almost didn’t run this post today because I didn’t want the discussion to get bogged down in TV stuff. It’s fine to talk about it some, of course, but remember to save some energy for tomorrow. 🙂
Lance @ Money Life and More
Lance @ Money Life and More
7 years ago

I definitely see your point. Definitions will be different for every person though. Great job on the article as a new staff writer. I look forward to more of your articles!

Megan
Megan
7 years ago

I’m running the heck away from the TV debate, but I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed this post. Great job!

Kingston
Kingston
7 years ago

So, to get away from the TV issue, here’s a luxury that always seemed to me really to be a big burden: a second home. I dislike maintaining one house — looking after two, plus paying property taxes and all the other expenses, sounds horrible to me.

Lauren
Lauren
7 years ago

Owning a car is one “luxury” that it has vastly enriched my life to do without. It meant moving from suburbia to the city and the attendant higher cost of living, but I’d much rather live somewhere where there are things to do and where I’m close to everything. I’ll pay more for rent not to have to deal with a car payment, insurance, gas, oil changes, inspections, broken belts… Maintaining a car is such a pain, and there isn’t a whole lot of awesome it brings in return.

Ramblin' Ma'am
Ramblin' Ma'am
7 years ago
Reply to  Lauren

Same here. I never learned to drive, and probably should at some point, but I still don’t think I’d want a car. Everyone talks about the freedom owning a car gives you. But what about the financial freedom of not paying for a car, inspections, gas and maintenance?

Of course, this assumes that one lives in an area where a car is not necessary.

Chase
Chase
7 years ago

A great article!!!
If you don’t have anything, you don’t have anything holding you back!

Michell
Michell
7 years ago

I just usually ask “will it matter in five minutes?” In other words, will I care five minutes after I finish with the “luxury”? If not, I don’t do it. Why waste my time and money on something that won’t have a lasting impact on my life or bring a longer-lived pleasure. That doesn’t mean that I don’t buy fast food, or don’t own a car, or buy books, or read on the internet…simply that it is important to measure the usefulness of the action and/or expense before indulging in it. If I am not going to care five minutes… Read more »

Hannah
Hannah
7 years ago

What I believed before we bought a house: the more bathrooms/yard/garage space the better. What I have come to learn: bathrooms need cleaning, the lawn needs mowing, and a huge garage tends to encourage hubby to “need” more power tools. It certainly felt very luxurious moving from a tiny apartment to a house with 3 bathrooms, but I never imagined the time suck they would be. They do feel like a burden, and I would happily move into a house with only 1 or 2.

Ely
Ely
7 years ago
Reply to  Hannah

omg this!! I thought a big yard would be nice – turns out it’s a nightmare! I dream of condos…

Donna
Donna
7 years ago

Had you rented a car in Seattle, you would have also paid a small forture in parking downtown, too!

Paul
Paul
7 years ago

My wife used to drive a BMW X3 until about a year ago. We got a great deal on it, but the payments were still around $650 per month, and we still had another year of payments. Before we got it, she used to drive a VW Beetle and loved that car. She decided she needed something bigger when we had our son. It was really a pain to get the car seat in and out of the bug, so the SUV was the answer. Well, our son had grown and we didn’t need a vehicle of that size any… Read more »

Sam
Sam
7 years ago

In most big cities a rental car is more of a hassle than its worth. Do the research before you travel and figure out if you can get a public transport pass. We did that in San Fran, we could use the buses, the trolley, the street car and the in-city metro (forget what’s called). We did get lost a few times, meaning we took the wrong bus or trolley or we missed our stop, but it was an adventure and ended up being a fun part of the trip.

Ren
Ren
7 years ago

Great article. I enjoy her writing style.

And I agree. Whenever my wife and I got Seattle and Portland we only utilize public transit and an occassional cab. Like Kristen, we have made wonderful discoveries through walking around the area that we would have completely overlooked if driving. Plus, like mentioned above, the cost of parking is staggering in many areas.

LMR
LMR
7 years ago

I agree on several points, especially about cable, but the rental car one can be debated for sure. It really depends on where you go. I have never been to Seattle, but I get the impression that it has great public transportation. However, when I travel, it’s usually to visit friends and family members who live in small towns or where there isn’t good public transportation. In that case, if I don’t rent a car, they would need to pick me up and chauffeur me everywhere thus making me a burden on them! If they insist on it, fine, but… Read more »

Kristin Wong
Kristin Wong
7 years ago
Reply to  LMR

Good point! It definitely depends on the situation. Since our purpose was to explore the city, I suppose it didn’t make much sense to do it from the car (though we did kind of wish we had one on the last day, when it started raining). But if the purpose of my trip was to visit friends/family, I would probably also consider car rental part of the travel budget and not so much a luxury.

stellamarina
stellamarina
7 years ago

My luxury was Haagen-dazs ice-cream bars. Now my new luxury is Melona bars….an ice-cream bar out of Korea. Way cheaper and less calories

Beth
Beth
7 years ago

I had to travel for work to San Antonio a few weeks ago and I rented a car. We drove the car from the airport to the hotel and back with one other trip. I honestly wish I had not bothered. I much preferred walking everywhere and not having to worry about parking.

Jamie
Jamie
7 years ago

I love this article. My boyfriend and I do not have most of the luxuries that people consider to be necessities– We don’t have cable (we pay for HuluPlus, I do love TV!!!), we do not have a car, we live in a tiny home that baffles my parents, we rarely buy anything new– clothes, kitchen appliances, furniture, etc. Not having a car, by the way, is amazing– and I never thought I would ever be a person without a car! I really notice how much people complain about expensive repairs, gas prices, parking, tickets, fender benders, insurance costs, etc,… Read more »

Kristin Wong
Kristin Wong
7 years ago
Reply to  Jamie

Jamie–I love your idea of splurging on something small to feel “luxurious.” A $7 bar of chocolate seems crazy expensive, but I bet it’s good chocolate, and it’s a small splurge in comparison to say, a $50 dinner or something. Love the idea of trading off and/or choosing the “cheaper” luxuries to enjoy.

Joseph
Joseph
7 years ago

Wow. This is incredibly insightful and so refreshing. My wife and I have already started to see the possibility that our smart phones and data plans are more burden than luxury, but this inspires me to look through the rest of my life for those things that might just be stealing my time rather than enriching it.

chacha1
chacha1
7 years ago

DH and I are high-income, so our standard of living is pretty luxurious by American standards, let alone by absolute world standards.

But I am right there with Kristin in thinking dinner at home can be a bigger luxury than a dinner out. For the cost of dinner for two at one of the fine steakhouses here in the First World Problem that is Los Angeles, DH and I can have a dinner party for six with better wine. 🙂

Kristin Wong
Kristin Wong
7 years ago
Reply to  chacha1

Chacha, have you been to Umami Burger? That’s one luxury I’m willing to splurge on every now and then!

Deb
Deb
7 years ago

Things we would have missed in Seattle if we had rented a car: The friendly little ink pen shop that I found a beautiful gift for my husband. The exercise of walking around before a cruise so that I didn’t feel like I had to skip the desserts.(We won’t reveal the mathematical result of that overestimation.) The friendly cab driver from the airport who told us about the wine shop in Pikes Place Mkt. The lady in front of the drug store with the green tatoo eyebrows and lips. You just don’t see that stuff in Texas (unless you are… Read more »

Samantha
Samantha
7 years ago

I also really enjoyed this article. Well written and new food for thought, which is rare these days.

thethriftyspendthrift
thethriftyspendthrift
7 years ago

We actually cut cable almost two years ago when I wasn’t working for a brief period of time and we didn’t have the money for it. But I actually do miss it. I used to watch it regularly and as much as people love to talk about Hulu, Netflix, etc, there are still programs that I used to watch that are not really available to me otherwise. I also enjoyed watching “educational” programs on TV because I remember A LOT more that way than I do from reading. In terms of cars, we live in a major city with awesome… Read more »

Paula
Paula
7 years ago

Good article Kristin; Making home your sanctuary can be spendy, but worth it. We eat tons of fresh produce, lots of it is organic. Eating healthy, at home, is costly but is a good form of health insurance. The tea habit, for me, is a luxury because I buy the best teas available and they are enjoyable and promote health. My husband watches TV so we have cable but previously I was without TV for thirty years and only watched movies occasionally. My library has provided my most important luxuries for free. I request new arrivals; DVD’s, audiobooks, books, CD’s,… Read more »

Mr. Everyday Dollar
Mr. Everyday Dollar
7 years ago

Giving up soda and cable are no-brainers when it comes to improving your health and pocketbook!

SweetCoffee
SweetCoffee
7 years ago

The only real “luxary” I have right now is home brewed coffee. I have been thinking about weaning off of it but am so addicted to the caffeine and the habit of having a hot cup every morning. I used to roast my own beans until that became unaffordable. Sounds like others do tea and maybe I should give that a try. On the other hand, I just might keep this little luxary as it seems to keep me sane right now.

WorldCinema
WorldCinema
7 years ago
Reply to  SweetCoffee

Cutting yourself off from coffee sounds like cruel and unusual punishment.

Anthony @ EachPesoCounts
Anthony @ EachPesoCounts
7 years ago

Welcome Kristin! Great article. Cutting out the soda is really a big thing in a small change. Not just the money, but also the calories.

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