Can we really afford our new appetite for everyday luxury?


Yesterday I was out shopping. I went to a store most young professionals frequent because it offers well-tailored looking clothes for a still somewhat affordable price. I was waiting in line at the register when I heard the sales associate tell the woman in front of me, “Ok Ms. [insert name I’ve forgotten here], that’ll be $847.” I was surprised by the total. Don’t we shop at these kinds of stores to avoid these kinds of major bills?

It got me thinking. The affordable luxury market has had the same effect on many American consumers that “low fat” and “low carb” packaging has had on American dieters. We think we’re consuming less calories so we consumer more servings; we think we’re spending less so we buy out the entire store.

Starbucks use to be a treat for many; now it’s an everyday ritual. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that. I’m drink far too many $5 lattes myself. What I’m pointing to is that we’ve nickle and dimed ourselves. We’re spending a lot of money on these pseudo luxuries when, with the kind of money we’ve spent on these affordable luxury products, we could have purchased a few authentically indulgent high-quality items.

What do you think? Do you find yourself binge buying when shopping at a sale or less expensive store?

Enjoy this ad from the launch of Karl Lagerfeld’s collection for H&M a few years ago.


2 Responses to “Can we really afford our new appetite for everyday luxury?”

  1. This is the economic equivalent of the Jevons paradox, just in case you wanted a name to put to it! :) It’s like how if they build a new road to solve a traffic problem, it eventually just ends up making the whole area busier.

    Consider that fast food and eating out are considered a luxury in most of the world, even much of Europe. In the United States, however, I know people who haven’t cooked at home for YEARS!

  2. I’ve been asking myself similar questions since graduating from college (and moving from shopping at bargain-basement places to higher-end chains).

    What I’m especially struck by is the lack of quality control at higher-end chains. I can go to H&M and spend $30 on a sweater, or I can opt to go to J. Crew and spend $150, but both sweaters disintegrate about about the same rate. I live in San Francisco and love shopping at teeny boutiques, but there the quality control is even worse. The prices aren’t bad, but buttons pop off, cheap fabric tears and shrinks, and seams unravel within a month or so of purchase. How much money do you have to spend before you get back to buying well-made clothes? More than you can make on my (perfectly reasonable) salary, I guess.

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