When Luxuries Become Expectations

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2 min read

Yesterday afternoon I got one of my tires replaced at Tire Discounters. As I sat in the lobby, I used the free WiFi to connect to the internet on my laptop and do some apartment shopping.

What’s funny is that I didn’t call Tire Discounters ahead of time to ask if they had free WiFi available. I just assumed they did.

If this had been just five years ago, though, it would have been a different case. Access to free public WiFi used to be a luxury. But now, as Wifi has become more common, I have come to expect it even at obscure places like tire repair shops.

What was once a luxury has become an expectation.

Later that evening, I saw Deadpool 2 at a Cinemark near my apartment. The theater had those big comfy reclining chairs that make you feel like you’re in your own living room. Again, if this was five years ago, these comfy chairs would have been a luxury. Very few theaters had them. But now they’re the standard, which is why I didn’t call ahead of time to ask about the seating. I expected the reclining chairs.

What was once a luxury has become an expectation.

This brings up a curious phenomenon. When new products and services first enter the market, they are a luxury. They’re rare and exciting. But as time goes on, these products and services become commonplace. They become the standard.

This has been happening for years with air conditioning, refrigerators, washers, dryers, iPhones, TVs, rear view cameras, streaming services, and the list goes on. All of these things were once luxuries when they entered the market. Now they’re expectations.

And while there’s nothing wrong with enjoying new products and services that make our lives easier, the fact that our expectations are constantly on the rise can be dangerous. Particularly for our finances. 

As phones become sleeker, homes become bigger, cars become faster, and technology becomes more impressive, our expectations rise accordingly over time. This naturally means we must empty our wallets in order to secure the next luxury item.

This is partially why most American households routinely save less than 5% of their income each year. It’s why so many people have such little financial flexibility. 

Fortunately, there are a few ways you can combat this behavior:

Look around your home and notice the incredible technology that you take for granted every day. The dishwasher, refrigerator, washer and dryer, toaster oven, air conditioning, WiFi, flat screen TV,  iPhone, laptop, tablet, etc. Recognize that all of these things were luxuries at one time. And to a few billion people in the world, many of these items are still luxuries.

Be honest with yourself about what products and services add value to your life, then cut out the rest. Personally I get tremendous value out of my laptop, my headphones, and Netflix. On the other hand, I don’t gain much by owning the latest iPhone, a cable subscription, or an excessively large wardrobe. 

Recognize that the thrill of the next purchase fades quickly. Take stock of the clothing, furniture, gadgets, and other objects sitting around your house. More than likely you were stoked about those purchases when you made them. Notice how the thrill has worn off over time, though. That’s exactly what will happen with future purchases as well.

As time goes on, innovation will lead to even more impressive products and services. Some of these will be worth owning and using, but many of them will be unnecessary. By resisting the urge to constantly turn luxuries into expectations, you’ll be able to find contentment with less stuff and you’ll be able to keep more money in your pocket.


My favorite free financial tool I use is Personal Capital. I use it to track my net worth, manage my spending, and keep an eye on my monthly cash flow. It only takes a few minutes to set up and it makes tracking your finances simple and easy. I recommend trying it out.

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3 Replies to “When Luxuries Become Expectations”

  1. How did you like Deadpool 2, I’ve been wanting to go, but my wife isn’t interested… I might have to wait till it comes out on DVD 🙁

    But to your point, that’s exactly what drives our consumerist society, new is always better… The problem is, there is always something newer and better around the corner.

    We need to decide whether we want new toys, or dignity and freedom, which comes from having a strong financial footing.

  2. Hi Zach, Your observation is a good one. Wait until you get a little older and then reflect on change. I remember my 90 year old Grandpa in the late 1970s and 80s used to comment about all the change he had seen in the world. I was a teenager and just shrugged my shoulders and thought nothing had really changed. And to me, it hadn’t. But now I look back over the past 20 years and the change is unbelievable. Things and services I have today didn’t even exist when I was in my 20’s. And to your point, my expenses are much higher because of it. Very insightful stuff, as always. Tom

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