Wednesday, January 09, 2008

What is Luxury? Town & Country: Luxe is a Moving Target

What is luxury: time, money, big houses, or fancy stuff? In the age of frugal living, globalization and online shopping, the definition of luxury has radically changed. I have my own ideas about luxury (see below) but I was intrigued by the Town & Country special issue on luxe living.

The January 2008 Editor's Letter by Pamela Fiori provides an excellent overview of the topic. Here's a summary with a few of my comments thrown in:

How Luxury Has Changed:
  • Less exclusivity: "The luxury industry is no longer the small, exclusive club of a few-well established brands, most of them French or Italian." -- Pamela Fiori/T&C **Frugal Translation: Don't be a slave to expensive labels or expensive marketing campaigns.
  • Production shifts: The world of luxury no longer means hand-made items in limited supply. **Frugal Translation: Merchandise does not have to be scarce, expensive or heavily hyped to be luxurious. Define luxury in your own terms.
  • New demographics/flea market finds: Old-school T&C luxury couple -- White married couple in formal clothing in a period room decorated with Old Masters paintings and formal family portraits. New-age T&C luxury couple: "[Not] necessarily white, married or even heterosexual." This couple appears in T&C dressed in casual clothing and vintage jewelry, in a home filled with eclectic furniture (including flea market finds and custom-built items) and digital art. **Frugal Translation: Luxury is being comfortable with who you really are and where you really live. Flea market finds are just as good as high-end labels.
  • The wannabe market & the ripoffs: Global production and online shopping have created an unusual playing field in the luxury market. Smaller and mid-ranged players have more clout and produce genuine quality merchandise. But the rip-offs and the me-too players are also out there: "Other lower-level enterprises just want easy entry and are making the claim of being luxury when they really aren't." --T&C **Frugal Translation: Watch your back. Watch out for fakes. Don't overpay. It's all made in China anyway.

Non-Material Definitions of Luxury:

Luxury is not just about stuff. Here are some of the other perks mentioned by T&C
  • quality time
  • privacy
  • space
  • a good haircut
  • spa dates
  • manicures, etc.
My Definition of Luxury/My Wish List
  • Vacations without work, email or computer. (It would feel almost decadent to go on a vacation and not work for even an hour. Note: I understand that I am very fortunate to have work.)
  • More time with my family, including my parents, siblings and extended family.
  • Long walks every day.
  • More beach days.
  • Professional help with housework.
  • A cone of ice cream (at least once a week).
  • More sleep.
  • A quarterly spa date tune-up.
  • Extra time to write fiction.
  • A monthly museum date.
  • Time to donate hours to my children's schools.
  • An elegant restaurant meal.
  • A weekend stay at a four- or five-star hotel.
  • Season tickets for the Miami Heat.
  • Personal yoga trainer.
  • Health insurance. (That's a real luxury!)

Bottom Line: My definition of luxury primarily involves having the time, energy & money to fully enjoy my family without worrying about the next paycheck, bills or work. It's also a luxury to have time to relax. But as I look at my list, I realize that I can tap into some of those luxuries at any time. I just have to jump off of the treadmill of worry. Luxury is not all about the money; it's my attitude also.

Previous Posts:

Reformed Spenders Provide 10 Ways to Save in 2008
Barking Dogs, Stinking Turtles and Sick Hamsters Taught Me About Money
Cheap Travel Guide: Month-by-Month, City-by-City Hotel Savings Rates
Be Smart about Face Time & Other Tips for Building Job Security
Sharon Harvey Rosenberg is the author of The Frugal Duchess of South Beach: How to Live Well and Save Money... Anywhere!, which will be published in the Spring of 2008 by DPL Press.


1 comment:

Katie Gregg said...

How right you are. Some of my favorite luxuries are simple and cheap: a midafternoon nap, a hot bath, uninterrupted time to read, and so on. Taking time to enjoy these small pleasures helps eliminate any feelings of deprivation that come from being frugal (and we all get those feelings...sometimes).