Thursday, September 28, 2006

Luxury of the Poor

I heard somewhere that Starbuck's is the luxury of the poor. People that can't really afford a $4 coffee are springing for it because it feels like a small luxury and something that they can count on every day. It makes them feel included and exlusive, after all it is "the best". This concept has me thinking through what other little pleasures could be considered the luxury of the poor. What am I purchasing to make myself feel included and luxurious?

I can say for sure that for me it is makeup. As I read through any fashion magazine, I realize that I have been like a sheep to the slaughter/cash register buying up all the editor's favorites. It almost rings of propoganda and conspiracy when I realize that I have "chosen" to buy certain repeated favorite and most popular items. There is the Nars Orgasm color blush, the Nars Dolce Vita lipstick, the Shu Uemera eyelash curler, the Rosebud lip salve, and don't even get me started on the products that give volume to fine hair, most often Phyto Actif at a startling $26 for a petite bottle.

Does buying these things make me feel luxurious and included? You bet they do! Is $26 for a lipstick really a reasonable price? I think not.

So why do these little luxuries have such a hynotizing affect on us? The included part is a huge draw. When I read those magazines and already have one of those selected products, I feel affirmed in my decision making. Isn't it startling how much these lists influence your buying decisions. I go to the store already wanting to buy a certain color because I've been programmed to know that a certain celebrity or editor recommends it. So what if there is another color better. Well I may not even look at another color because it hasn't been recommended. Or I may feel such an emotional attachment to that recommendation already that I buy it anyway.

I like to think that I make good, sound financial decisions to meet my needs, but I can see in my own life how I give myself these luxuries that actually add up and may harm me financially. This is true especially if you are using credit for any of these purchases. Heaven forbid that you are putting Starbuck's on a credit card and paying interest to boot.

I am going to say that the boom on handbag sales can also be classified as luxury of the poor. They have created whole lines of status bags classified as "medium" price range, and that's around $400-$500! For me, that would be very high price range, but that is an example of how marketing affects our thinking regarding luxury. If they can convince us that that price is average, then better for them.

The point of this blog entry is to get you thinking about your little luxuries, how they make you feel, and how they are affecting your financial situation? Ask yourself "What are you really buying?". Be honest and dig deep. The power that marketing holds over us is STRONG and strong probably isn't even a strong enough word. I would venture to say we are sometimes powerless against it. That is unless we can look it in the face and recognize it for what it is.

So look at your current obssession and see what you are really getting for it. Is it inclusion into a select group? Is it a "I deserve it" reason? Are you feeling deprived and buying that Starbuck's makes you feel a little rich? Are you making up for a childhood of hand-me-down's? (Me, raising my hand.) Or maybe you just don't like to think about money and have bought into the belief/lie that you must buy those things and you "need" them.

I'll be digging deep in my own psyche as well. Have fun and let me know what you discover in there!

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