Interestingly, a similar question had been posed that same week in my Tip Hero newsletter: "What 'Necessity' Do You Think Is a Waste of Money?" Readers' responses included new clothes, coffeehouse brews, makeup, bottled water, paper towels, and high-end cell phones. It particularly interested me to see how the definition of a necessity differed from person to person. Some, for instance, declared a cell phone to be a luxury rather than a necessity, while others said that a landline phone was a luxury because they can use their cell (or VOIP) for everything. One reader declared central air conditioning a luxury, while readers who lived in South Carolina and Texas insisted that air conditioning was a necessity for them.
All this got me thinking, as I often have before, about where the line between luxuries and necessities lies in my own life. I suspect that many of the things I consider luxuries would be necessities for many of my peers, yet some of the things that are necessities for me might be luxuries for others. For example:
- High-speed Internet is a necessity; I've tried working from home without it, and it literally wasn't feasible. Cable TV, by contrast, is a luxury—especially since we already have high-speed Internet, which gives us access to nearly as rich a field of entertainment choices.
- A landline phone is a necessity; a cell phone is a luxury. This, again, is because of my job. It's essential to me to have a reliable connection in my home, which is also my workplace, but it's not important—or even desirable—to be reachable everywhere I go. For someone with a different job, one that required them to be on the road a lot, the cell phone might be a necessity and the landline a luxury.
- Central heating in my home is a necessity; air conditioning is a luxury. (An air conditioner in my car, by contrast, I consider a necessity—not so much for cooling as for defogging the windows. Around here, heat is unpleasant but not usually dangerous, while windows you can't see through can be deadly.)
- Hot and cold running water is a necessity. Separate sinks in the bathroom are a luxury.
- A dishwasher is a luxury. A microwave oven is a necessity.
- Having all the meats we purchase be free-range/humanely raised is a necessity, though it isn't a necessity to eat very much of them. Convenience foods of all kinds are luxuries. (Well, maybe not breakfast cereal.)