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Extravagances I Can’t Understand

I am a Boston Celtics fan and I have been since I was a youth during the rather wonderful season that was 1981. I had the joy of going to see the Celtics play regularly in the Boston Garden back when fans could arrive early and, if they thought about it, walk on the parquet floor during pre-game warm-ups (as long as we did not interfere with the players). I still have a great stack of photos (somewhere) that I took of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parrish and the rest of the great teams from the mid-1980’s.

I even got to see several playoff games during the Celtics championship years in 1984 and 1986. I had to pay for the tickets, but my manager at the store where I worked sold me tickets at face value. I think I paid about $14 per ticket.

This year my Celtics played against the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals. I wanted to take my son to see a game but when I checked the ticket prices, I was shocked and dismayed to see that some tickets cost as much as $2,000. Even the least expensive tickets were more than I wanted to pay, especially for the worst seats in the arena.

That got me thinking, if I could afford to pay $4,000 for a pair of tickets to a sporting event, would I? The answer of course, is a resounding “Not on your life!” To do so would be an obscene extravagance. Even if I could afford it, I hope that I would feel too guilty to ever consider doing it. With $4,000, I could put a lot of kids into seats for a regular season game. That would make me feel a lot better about spending the money and it would ensure that more people enjoyed a game of basketball.

There are so many extravagances that I cannot really understand. When I see people wearing Rolex watches, I don’t get it. When I see someone driving a Ferrari, I assume that the driver is compensating for some other inadequacy. The products are nice, but what do the owners really get out of them other than some perception of status?

Now, don’t assume that I am in favor of wealth redistribution, because I am not. I am not suggesting that people with available funds should not be allowed to shower themselves in luxury. I do have to wonder, however, whether people who are fortunate enough to have fabulous wealth really experience any improvement in their quality of life just because they are surrounded by luxury. I would think that the security of having wealth would define the value of having it.

If I won the Powerball Lottery, I would certainly surround myself and, more importantly, my family, in comfort, but I hope I would not cross the line from comfort into ostentatious luxury. Indeed, for me the great luxury would probably be wearing a brand new pair of socks every day. When I look at all of the things that I would like to buy, the only recurring luxury is the notion that my step would have the spring of wearing new socks each and every day! At the same time, there are a lot of charities that I would love to support and there are a lot of charitable objectives that I would like to pursue. Moreover, buying $2,000 tickets to a sporting event that I can watch on TV certainly would not be high on my list of things to do.

What would you do with a huge lottery jackpot? Would you purchase luxuries? Try to help others? Support your family and friends? Give up your job? What luxuries do you see other people purchase, only to leave you wondering what kind of values they have?

15 thoughts on “Extravagances I Can’t Understand

  1. I don’t like creating what-would-you-do lottery scenarios. For me, this is a hypothetical situation that I can’t wrap my brain around. Not only can I NOT imagine having millions (or even hundreds of thousands) of disposable dollars to my name, I also can’t predict how I would react or behave were it to happen. Money can and does change people sometimes.

    My husband and I often say that a smaller lottery winning (enough to pay off our mortgage and a little more for fun and investment) would be so much better than a multi-million dollar win. It would be a wonderful windfall without the stress and and responsibility that goes with the larger amount.

  2. My wife and I have joked about this, although since I have bought exactly one lottery ticket in my life, I admit the chances are slim. Here are the things I would do: pay off both my children’s mortgages and personal bills (or buy them the house they really want); set aside an account for each of my grandchildren to assure their college educations; pay off any outstanding debts of my own; purchase a beach home. Any left over would probably be distributed to a variety of charities, an endowment to my university, and a gift to my town library. Beyond that, I’m not sure what else I would do, but I’m pretty sure my own situation would be primarily unchanged.

    Buying a fancy car or other toy holds no interest. We had season tickets to the Flyers back in the 70s (when they were affordable), but I much prefer watching the game on my big screen TV now. As it stands now, my motto is “simple pleasures for simple minds”.

  3. I have to agree with David that there is a certain point where the money you are paying seems to go more towards some perceived prestige rather than any additional utility. Not having much experience with luxury cars, I assume you could make a fairly successful argument that a $50,000 Mercedes sedan has more to offer than a $25,000 Ford sedan (or not). However, I cannot imagine that a $125,000 Aston Martin (love the looks of them though!) really offers any significant increase in utility or comfort. If I were a bazillionaire (haha), would I want to be that extravagant? I don’t think so, but I might feel differently if I had grown up around a level of wealth that makes that seem normal.

    As for winning the lottery? haha, I think that’s a fun game and we don’t let it go to our heads and sour us when we keep not winning. My Grammy is very frugal, always has been and does a great job of making inexpensive things look like they’re expensive, quality items. She has said a couple of times that she would like to be able to go into a store, just once, and not have to worry about the cost of something. So, after paying off all the bills, setting up trusts, funding charities, buying a new house, etc, I would take her (and others in my family) on a short shopping trip where no one has to worry about the price tag. Even if I won a HUGE pay out, it’s not something I would want to do often, but that once it would be great for the novelty of it and the look on her face. 🙂

  4. My motto about the lottery is “If I win, WE all win!” I would pay off my debts and take care of my mom and sister. I would do some much needed work on my 100 year old home. I don’t think I’d buy a new fancy car but I would upgrade my clunker to a newer clunker 😉 I would not quit my job.. I love it and would continue to work there. I’d buy my children the new shoes they all need and I would be able to buy them all at the same time and not space them out over a period of months!

  5. I see people driving down the road in Hummers and think who are you trying to kid and why do you need such a gas guzzling vehicle? It is all about status in the class society that we live in.

    If I won the lottery, I wouldn’t worry about my socks…I have plenty. I would help family and friends and make donations to charities and would probably travel a lot more.

    It would be nice to win the lottery to give me more security for my financial future but it would take away my drive to accomplish the things that I am currently trying to accomplish.

  6. I don’t play the lottery and never will so I would have to suppose I got an inheritance of some kind (won’t happen either). At this point we need a new car, but it would yet again be a run of the mill van as I can’t get in and out of a regular car, and those expensive sports cars would be the worst with fake knees. I would be happy to pay off our small mortgage and my kids school loans although I wouldn’t want to do to much to make life so easy for them that they lose their ambition. I would love to hire a gardener to do the work around my house with the growing things that I can’t handle. But I live a simple life for the most part and don’t need much expect for…..

    As you started this post with extrvagances you don’t understand, I know my hubby bought me something earlier this month that most won’t understand and that was a new top of the line sewing machine (more than the one ticket). I enjoy sewing but due to my health problems it was getting more difficult for me to use a regular machine. This one goes at the press of a button (no need to use my legs), automatically cuts the thread, and has other labor saving devices in it plus lots of great decorative stitches. I will be spending lots of happy time with this machine and I’m so happy that I got it, while I know many would be happy with a $100 machine from Walmart. It will last me many years. I make most of my clothes and don’t wear makeup or ever do the shop till you drop routine (other than just getting groceries) so in reality the cost of this machine was basically what the average woman wastes in a year, we just spent it in one big gulp! So while others may not understand this extravagnce, I do. I have already spent hours at this wonderful new machine and plan to spend many many more.

  7. Gail, that is totally understandable. Something that will be productive and enjoyable for years can be a very worthwhile investment. Especially if it lets you do something you love and would have to give up otherwise.

  8. My idea of retirement is to buy the biggest piece of land I could possibly afford in the middle of nowhere and have a farm. There is a 10,000 acre ranch in Wyoming for sale for $15 Million right now. If I won $100 Million net powerball, I’d buy that in a heartbeat and quit my job.

    I’d also keep enough to self insure us for the rest of our lives, so about $20 Million in bonds. DW’s lifetime medical bills so far have averaged $230,000 a year. I always budget for people to live to see 90. She’s 26. That’s $14.7 Million just for her. I’m 23. We want to adopt 2 or 3 kids. Another $5.3 Million doesn’t seem an unreasonably large amount to cover me for 77 years and 3 kids until they turn 21.

    Keep another $10 Million to invest to ensure neither of us ever have to work a job we don’t want to do. A 10,000 acre ranch is enough work and income, and work I love to do.
    $10 Million seems like a lot, but over 77 years, it’s only $130,000/yr. That’s comfort, not excess.
    The $55 Million left, I’d take care of my extended family. Aunts, uncles, cousins, etc, come out to about 30 people. I’d give them each $500,000 to do with what they want. That’s $15 Million.

    The $40 Million left would be split between the National Kidney Foundation and helping low income families on dialysis.

  9. I would set aside money to self insure my health and daily needs. I would see to my family members needs. Then I would set up a Charitable Foundation. Part would go to the environment(preserving large areas of land & education) and the rest would go to microfiance/habitat for humanity/education/health care/self freeding in needy areas of the world. I would like to see coordination of services.

  10. It’s so funny you mentioned new socks! That is what I always say when someone asks me what I would want if I won the lottery. Everyone things I’m crazy but now I know I’m not the only one who appreciates new socks!

  11. Spending on what you can afford – isn’t it all relative?

    If one is middleclass (whatever that means anymore…) one buys a Timex watch. If one is loaded, they buy the Rolex. Relatively speaking, it’s the same. Why should those who are rich not spend their money on expensive items?

    The problem is when those who CAN’T afford the Rolex buy it anyway (on credit) and live well above their means.

  12. The comment about the Rolex is funny. One day I stumbled upon a Watch magazine that showed all the high class expensive watches (I sold the magazine for $10!) but for rich people the Rolex is the bottom of the barrel watch. There are so many other very expensive watches with names brands that we have never heard of and probably never will. I mean how many magazines advertise watches that run 1/4 million dollars? Not any that I read except that one about watches. Extravegances are all relative.

  13. Luxury items are interesting to me because so much of the cost is tied up in the brand and not in the actual product itself. In the early 1980’s, I worked in a drug store. At the time, only drug stores could be open on Sundays so we carried a selection of gift items that people could purchase if they were in a pinch. We offered luxury watches that we sold at retail for $500. Our store paid $35 for each watch. With my employee discount at the time I could have bought $500 watches for $40 but, since I have always preferred pocket watches, I never bothered. When my Dad needed a watch at that time, he still bought a Timex for about $8 because, as he pointed out, the other watch was still 5X as expensive!

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