Financial Friday #2 – Luxury Versus Necessity

A Bad Joke

What’s does our dishwasher and washing machine have in common?

They’re both washed up!

Sorry, a far reach for an intro, but it’s done now.

The Definition

This week we were forced to get a really good understanding of the difference between a luxury and a necessity.  Google defines a luxury as an inessential, desirable item which is expensive or difficult to obtain.   I would argue that a luxury is indeed inessential and desirable, but not always does it need be to be expensive.  A morning coffee at Starbucks to me is a luxury not a necessity.  The definition of a necessity is the fact of being required or indispensable.  A simplified example of these would be the difference between diamond-studded teeth (luxury) and teeth (necessity).

Sometimes though defining what is a luxury and what is a necessity is just not that simple.  It’s purely a matter of perspective, and such is the dilemma we were faced with upon the demise of two household appliances, the washing machine and the dishwasher.

Youth Perspective on Luxury and Necessity

As per our children:

                Dishwasher – Necessity!

                Washing Machine – What’s that?

General Perspective

In the privileged lifestyle that we enjoy, most of us would consider both items as necessities and would have a strong argument for such as they both contribute to helping us function more efficiently through our day.   However, we were in a position where we were going to have to use our emergency fund for this purchase which required us to do the following analysis.

The Test

Because we were forced to, I found that the best way to define a luxury versus a necessity was to take said item away and analyze what happens when they’re gone and how well you adjust to living without (for a short while).  In this case, our appliances made that decision much easier in the fact that they turned themselves off and did not go back on again.

Here is a summary of the aftereffects of a week without a washing machine versus a week without a dishwasher.

After a Week Without the Washing Machine

Everyone is donning the dregs of their wardrobe…that sarong from Maui does not make great wintertime attire.   Strange looks from fellow grocery shoppers especially as I’m lacking the tan…would have been better to wear my pajama pants.  Those who do not produce clothes of seasons past start to have a slightly disheveled appearance and talk of turning underwear inside out for more wears.  White towels turn grey.  Dogs think we’ve never smelled better.  People we encounter disagree.  Mom gives up and hauls large baskets of clothes to her own mother’s house for washing.  Retires sarong.

Conclusion: Necessity

After a Week Without the Dishwasher

Early in the week, complaining coming from children about dish washing duty.  Complaining from mom and dad who find said children bringing up glasses and plates from secret places strategically when said parent is elbow deep in a sink full of dishes saying…”while you’re already washing dishes, do you mind?”  Frustration results in enacting a complicated schedule of who washes what when which everyone ignores. Settles to a nice routine when mom and dad accept they’ll be doing the lion’s share of the dish washing during the day, but enact dinnertime as a time when children wash and dry.  Conversations are had between parents, parents to children and sibling to sibling while washing and drying dishes.  Laughter emanates from the kitchen. Washing alone during the day becomes an exercise in mindfulness.

Conclusion: Luxury

The Outcome

We will one day own a dishwater again, but for now, its position as a luxury item counters against us using our emergency fund to cover the cost; though, our son did hint that he is putting it on his Christmas list. The washing machine, determined to be a necessity, has come out of the emergency fund and will be arriving this week.

Financial Update:

Emergency Fund Goal: $6000

Current Saved: $4300 – (Washing Machine – $700!)