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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.
Zach is the author behind Four Pillar Freedom, a blog that teaches you how to build wealth and gain freedom in life.
Zach's favorite free financial tool he's been using since 2015 to manage his net worth is Personal Capital. Each month he uses their free Investment Checkup tool and Retirement Planner to track his investments and ensure that he's on the fast track to financial freedom.
Although the bulk of his net worth is invested in index funds, his favorite place to invest in individual stocks is M1 Finance, a site that allows you to build a custom portfolio of stocks for free.
His favorite way to save money each month on his recurring bills is by using Trim, a free financial app that negotiates lower cable, internet, and phone bills with any provider on your behalf.
His favorite place to find new personal finance articles to read is Collecting Wisdom, a site that collects the best personal finance articles floating around the web on a daily basis.
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