The same is true of home appliances. My neighbors bought a Sub-Zero built-in refrigerator, which easily cost twice what I spent for my side-by-side. My "cheap" refrigerator cost less than $1000 and never needed maintenance or repair for a decade. Theirs had the Sub-Zero repairman at the house several times over that same time period. And mine had ice through the door. In terms of features and performance, the "cheap" refrigerator from Home Depot was a better deal. And as I have learned over the years, even cheaper refrigerators in the sub-$500 price range, perform just as well as the $1000 ones.
And so on down the line. Today, people are not content with "look at me!" kitchens and baths anymore - they have to have the "look at me!" laundry room as well, complete with odd-colored front-loading washers and dryers on $500 pedestals. But these machines, despite costing far more, don't wash clothes any better, save that much energy, or are more reliable (actually less so). So why do people do it?
Luxury today means only that you spent more on something and not that the item in question is inherently better or longer lasting. And the entire point of "Luxury" today is to show off to other people your apparent wealth. What is the point of being wealthy if you can't rub someone else's face it it? That is what marketers are selling these days.
So what is the point of all this? Well, to begin with, the word "Luxury" should trigger a response in your brain - if you want to save money, that is. View it as you would police tape roping off a crime scene. As soon as you see the word "Luxury" attached to any transaction, chances are, some marketer already has his hand in your wallet. It is an emotionally-laden word, used to sell products and nothing more. And it usually is designed to sell you things you don't want or need.
And they way they do this is by appealing to your most base and vulgar instincts - the instinct to think of yourself as "better" than other people, in one way or another. What the BMW buyer of 40 years ago was buying, was a sporty performance car. What the BMW buyer of today is buying is a status symbol designed to tell other people, "Look how much money I have!" - even if they don't really have that much.
It is an ugly and repulsive part of human nature, but one that is present in all of us. The desire for status in our society is very strong. And as I noted in another posting, status-seeking behavior can take on all sorts of weird forms. The hippie environmentalist claims "caring about the planet" as status, even as they speed in their Prius. The anti-status person claims "not caring about status" as status - because they are morally better than you for not caring.
But most Americans go for the plain old status kind of status - owning things to project an image about themselves. And this is where the marketers have us, with the selling of "Luxury" appointments in nearly everything in everyday life, from grocery shopping (at the designer store) to designer coffees (at Starbucks, natch!) to what sort of electronic jewelry you carry about (logo facing OUT of course!).
I try not to fall into the anti-status as status trap. I am no better than anyone else in that regard, having bought my share of "look at me!" luxury items over the years. What I have learned, however, is that no matter how much (or how expensive) the crap you buy, there is always someone with more crap or more expensive crap so you can never "win" at this game.
Moreover, in order to play you have to keep spending, spending, and spending. When I had a fancy BMW convertible cruising down A1A in Fort Lauderdale, I was king of the world. But then a decade goes by, and it is just another used car, of course. Still a fun ride, but not something the valets are going to leave out front, at the restaurant (the ultimate status trip!).
You start to realize that it is a pretty stupid game, and one that just cleans out your wallet more than anything else. You also realize that impressing people you don't even know (assuming that they are impressed) is pretty stupid as well.
I live on an island now, where all the houses pretty much look the same. Since I don't drive or go to the office, no one notices what kind of cell phone I have or how fancy my car is. And in fact, this ends up being sort of better than status-seeking, as you blend into the background in life. Nobody will notice you in a beige Camry, and that has certain advantages.
And my experience is probably pretty typical. It is easy to sell "Luxury" goods to a 30-something who is starting to make good money. It is a lot harder to sell to a retiree. And that is one reason why marketers love the younger demographic - they will spend more on status items, up to the point of bankruptcy.
For old people, "Luxury" means not having to work, or having to worry about money. That is, indeed, the ultimate luxury. And it can't be bought, either, only saved up for.