As people continue to navigate their gradually crowded lives, the things which people say they cannot live without have increased in the past few years.

This is according to a recent research by Pew Research Center, which wanted to know whether some of the everyday products used by a consumer are necessities or luxuries.

Even though some of the items like home computers and TVs have been transformed from luxuries to necessities, other items like dishwashers, microwave ovens, cars and air conditioners for homes are perceived as luxuries rather than necessities.

So, what are the luxuries which people can’t live without?


Luxury goods, or also referred too as luxuries, are products or services are the unnecessary and expensive things which are not important, but people believe that these things can improve their lives or make it more pleasant.

Many people who like luxury goods and services are always ready to spend as much as they can for these goods and services.

From the above definition, we can note that luxuries are not things which are just desirable, but also things which are expensive. This tells us that many people like luxuries not for the satisfaction they offer, but also the symbol of status which comes with these luxuries.

For instance, fur coats are considered valuable since they look nice and give the wearer the desired warmth. iPods are valuable because they allow their users to store all their favorite songs in them.

However, what makes many people desire to own these items is the price tags associated with them which are considerably high. Because not every person can afford these luxury products, owning one of these is considered a way of showing your wealth as well as position in the society.

One thing you need to understand about luxuries is that their demand is highly elastic.

That is, the goods and services are very sensitive to any changes happening in the economic environment compared to other goods and services. If the consumers’ income or the price of the luxuries change, the degree in which their demand moves up and down is significant.

For example, if the price of a luxury Bahamas vacation reduces by 15%, the demand, on the other hand, tends to increase by over 15%.

It is good to understand that luxury goods and services are the first things people consider cutting down if their income is reduced.


Luxuries contrast with necessities like bread or milk, which the consumer continues to demand in the same quantities irrespective of whether their income grows or shrinks.

Luxuries are usually costlier compared to other goods and services. Because of that reason, luxury goods and services are consumed by individuals considered to have high disposable income on a regular basis than those individuals who are in the lower ranks of the socio-economic ladder.

In a recent study, over 1,000 people were asked which luxuries people could or could not live without. Expectedly, the first item which most people mentioned was a nice towel.

However, when it came to things like traveling, Netflix, food delivery, coffee and other items in the same category, it became a challenge for the people to make a decision.

From domestic travel to Wi-Fi, there are things which we cannot consider living without. However, if people were given a chance to choose between Spotify and Netflix, it turns most of the people would prefer Netflix.

The top two items which most people said they couldn’t live without is a smartphone and Wi-Fi, and this wasn’t a surprise.

These two items were followed closely by a comfortable mattress, and a dryer, which many people categorized them as must-have items.

Regarding health and fitness, people chose to buy lunch and eating out than going to a gym. When they were asked to choose between coffee and alcohol, most people chose coffee.

A survey conducted recently in the US revealed the top luxuries people can’t live without. Some of these luxuries include:

  • Hair straighteners
  • Wine
  • Coffee
  • TV
  • Smartphone
  • Tea
  • Duvet
  • Home heater
  • Microwave
  • Wi-Fi


One particular type of luxury goods is known as Veblen goods. This type of luxury goods is named a Thorstein Veblen, a famous economist who came up with the term ‘conspicuous consumption.’

For ordinary goods, their demand falls as their price goes up. That is, if the price goes up, fewer people are likely to buy the good.

However, in the case of Veblen goods, the higher the price, the higher the possibility that people will buy the product. The reason behind this is that people believe that a higher price symbolizes higher quality.

Generally, most people use Veblen goods to showcase their status in the society.

Examples of Veblen goods include luxury cars, designer clothes, and original artworks.

Veblen goods can also be items which are scarce, thus making competition for such goods high.

These goods are referred to as positional goods. A good example of this is studying at a world-class university like Yale, Harvard or Oxford. People spend money on positional goods to establish their position in the society.

These goods at times help these people to hold on to such positions.


The marketing strategies for every luxury products usually differ to some extent between each product. That is the reason why all significant types of luxury products are differentiated into the following categories:

Personal and impersonal luxury goods

Personal luxury goods are categorized as luxury goods that consumers use for them to maintain a particular self-image. Those who use personal luxury goods are known to continue building their personal connection with these goods.

Examples of personal luxury products include wristwatches, glasses, and apparels.

On the other hand, impersonal luxury products don’t create too much connection with the user.

Examples of impersonal luxury products include garden furnishing and bathroom or kitchen equipment.

Publicly and privately expended luxury products

This category of luxury products is differentiated by the social setting of their consumption.

Publicly consumed luxury goods are like cars and clothes, which are seen by others while privately consumed luxury products are like household items which are not seen by many people.

For the above category of products, their categorization depends on the situation of their usage. For instance, expensive wine is usually consumed in restaurants or by a person in his or her home.

Accessible and exceptional luxury goods

Accessible and exceptional luxury goods can be distinguished according to their market prices, as it affects the consumption rate as well as acceptance level in the market.

For instance, accessible luxury products like jewelry can be affordable to most people from time to time, but exceptional luxury products like yachts are affordable to only a few people—this means a yacht is inaccessible for many people.

Conspicuous and understated luxury goods

This category of luxury products is usually distinguished by their percentage of conspicuous attributes. Producers of conspicuous luxury products usually focus on their price, that is, making the product image to be expensive.

That is the reason why conspicuous luxury products are usually equipped with typical wealth symbols, rich decoration, big logos and high prices. For conspicuous luxury products, it’s all about their symbols, not substance.

The La Modernista Diamonds is a good example of conspicuous luxury good. It is a fountain pen which works with common ink cartridges, but it is overpriced because it is decorated with 96 rubies and 5.072 diamonds.

Understated luxury goods, on the other hand, are luxury products which are known to hide their conspicuous attributes.

Examples of these products include Bottega Veneta and Jil Sander.

Even though these products don’t have any logo, they possess a characteristic design which can be recognized by their users very easily, thus making these products the best for conspicuous consumption by connoisseurs.

However, the major difference between understated products and their conspicuous consumption is considered sophisticated.

Luxury products can also be categorized according to their production volume and exclusivity, and this matches their production methods. These products can be put into the following categories:

  • Unique pieces this category characterizes the ideal luxury segments, and most of the unique pieces are usually masterpieces created and perfected in a manner which cannot be surpassed.
  • Limited editions this is still close to the unique products but involves products which are of a limited edition. For example, the Guerlain Kiss & Diamant which was only produced in a limited number of 100 pieces only.
  • Limited-diffusion products these products are very rare, and their rarity depends on the complexity of their production which requires high levels of craftsmanship and handwork. Examples of limited-diffusion products include Maybach cars, Meissen porcelain items, and Gucci Bamboo Bags.
  • Expanded-diffusion products even though the production volume of such products is somehow limited compared to mass-market products, the production process of these products resembles the serial production of mass-market. Examples of expanded-diffusion productions include Porsche cars, Dolce & Gabbana jeans wear, and Poggenpohl kitchens.

The pyramid of luxury goods and their accessibility

Source: Heine, K., (2012). Types of Luxury Brands [Web log post]. Retrieved January 25, 2018, from Conceptofluxurybrands


You can easily identify luxury brands, especially Veblen goods through their labels. The Forbes magazine defines luxury brands as those brands which give people style and status, in addition to their mere functionality.

This is the reason counterfeit versions of these luxury brands are so prevalent in the market today.

Designers of the counterfeit goods usually hope to cash in from the prestige of the designer’s label without even having to make significant investments on quality materials to make these goods. Luxury brands are categorized into:

Luxury brands according to their luxury level

As we’ve seen earlier, the degree of a brand’s luxuriousness depends on the major luxury proportions, thus being one of the means of differentiating luxury brands.

Therefore, luxury brands can be split into the following:

  • Entry level luxury brands these luxury brands rank fairly above the top part of the lowest luxury level. The products are not even recognized as the luxury segment’s member. Examples of such products include Mercedes and Hugo Boss.
  • Medium level luxury brands these luxury brands are well recognized to be members in the luxury section. However, these brands are a bit behinds the luxury’s forefront. Examples of these products include Moschino, Dolce & Gabbana and Escada.
  • Top level luxury brands leading luxury brands are usually established as luxury leading brands. Examples of such brands include Louis Vuitton, Cartier, and Armani.
  • Elite level luxury brands these are also known as niche brands and are usually on top of the top luxury segment. The brands determine the standard of the highest exclusivity and best quality within the brand’s category. For example, Puiforcat is considered an elite luxury level brand in silverware category.

Luxury brands are ranked according to the degree of luxury. That is, the luxury brand is usually listed in contrast to other luxury brands.

How luxury brands are categorized usually changes from time to time. That means no particular luxury brand is assured of staying on top of the ladder for a particular time.

Luxury brands according to their awareness

A luxury brand can also be categorized according to their brand awareness. These brands can be put into two categories; star and connoisseur brands.

This segmentation is of the utmost importance for managing the brands, as the marketing strategies of these brands are partly contradicting.

  • Connoisseur brands these are considered awareness brands that are limited and can only be found in a particular market niche. Connoisseurs make these brands for connoisseurs, and the awareness level of these brands doesn’t go beyond their target group. These brands are also known as network brands, as friends at times recommend them via word of mouth.
  • Star brands these brands, on the other hand, aim for optimum brand awareness way past their target group. Although only a few people buy star brands, their manufacturers prefer these brands to be known by everybody. One of the major motives of their consumers is to showcase their wealth to others, mostly those who can’t afford products from the brand.


Luxury brands can be divided according to the products they offer. These following are the five types of luxury brands.

  • Prestige brands these brands provide or showcase top levels of craftsmanship and creativity. Because of prestige brand’s rich heritage and history, they have loyal followers. Because of that, prestige brands are already established symbols of status. These brands don’t follow the shifting market trends.
  • Masstige brands masstige is derived from prestige for masses. These brands are linked to ownership of products of a particular brand name. Prestige brands use the masstige strategy to increase their sales volume.
  • Premium brands what differentiated premium brands from prestige brands is just a matter of degree, which is always blurry. Also, we can say that it is just a matter of preference.
  • Boutique brands these brands are known honor the true meaning of luxury.
  • Fashion brands these are the prevalent trend-setters, which address the needs of everyone regardless of whether they are of high-quality or not. Fashion brands are known to create trends with their seasons and collections and still come up with products which are timeless.


Luxury brands can be put into the following categories:

  • Clothing clothes are some of the times which draw the line between luxury and necessity. Everybody needs to be dressed, but designer clothes usually offer status which your local store clothes can’t.
  • Leather products just like clothes, shoes, which are also a necessity can turn out to be a luxury. Some of the clothing designers also sell handbags and shoes, but there are brands which are specifically known for their leather products.
  • Jewelry unlike footwear and clothing, which everybody needs to own in one way or another, it’s not a must for everybody to wear jewelry. This puts jewelry in the luxury category, even though there are some jewelry brands which are valued more than others.

The following diagram is an illustration of the different types of luxury brands according to their awareness, luxury level, and business volume.

Source: Heine, K., (2012). Types of Luxury Brands [Web log post]. Retrieved January 25, 2018, from Conceptofluxurybrands


Also, luxuries not only include goods, but they also include services. Examples of luxury services include flying in first class, using limousine services, butler services and paying for private tuitions for your child.


Today, buying a luxury product or using a luxury service is no longer an issue for many of us. In fact, buying a designer handbag is the same as buying a pair of shoes from Walmart.

Luxury goods have an undeniable physical appeal, but their prices usually put-off a lot of people. However, regardless of all that, people will still buy luxury products or use luxury services.

Researchers have realized that there is a psychology behind that. So, what’s the psychology behind the consumption of these goods and services?

The illogical consumer

Research has revealed that people can’t behave logically, even after considering the amount of debt they have, they tend not to act according to their financial interests.

For instance, buying or using luxury products and services is an example of how illogical people can be. A good and durable handbag costs an average of $50, but there are those who still want to spend thousands of dollars in buying a brand name. For what reason?

People tend to concentrate on the positive aspects of a product and overlook its disadvantages. This in turns works favor of companies and marketing departments dealing with luxury goods.

Many people consider non-luxury goods to be inferior, and thus they tend to point out the negatives of such goods. Luxury consumers believe that the higher the price, the better the quality, and because of that they end up spending illogically with the notion that whatever they will get will be better than cheaper products from other companies.


A recent study conducted by the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology revealed that low self-esteem is amongst the major reasons why individuals purchase luxury products which they cannot afford.

Most individuals with low incomes believe that buying a luxury product can help them to increase their self-esteem. Also, people like to buy luxury products to with the intention of showing off their accomplishment.

Authenticity matters

There is a reason why illogical people decide to buy authentic products rather than fake ones, which still serve the same purpose.

Despite these products appearing to be the same, the owner knows that the product can’t offer the luxury feeling he or she desires.

The species of luxury a consumer

With the consumption of luxury goods on the rise, many companies and brands producing these services are preoccupied with the mythical of a luxury consumer. That is according to BCG Research, which studied six luxury markets.

The consumer is considered a young, wealthy and beautiful spender who is willing and prone to buy anything just to satisfy his or her desires. This luxury consumer is divided into five different species, and each species experiences financial crisis differently. According to BCG Research, these five species are:

  • The aspirationals – these consumers account for four out five luxury purchases. Individually, the consumers are not big spenders, but statistics indicate that they account for close to a third of nearly all extravagance spending. According to the research, there are close to 115 million aspirational households which have been studied in the market.
  • Rising middle class these consumers are considered somehow wealthier than the actual middle class is. The consumers account for around 25% of all luxury spending. The research revealed that there is over 25 million rising middle class in the markets which have been studied. These consumers use most their money to buy fragrances, cosmetics and they love leather products.
  • New money households they account for around a third of the luxury market, and they like clothing and fashion. There are six million new money households in the markets studied.
  • Old money households – this species is considered to have inherited its wealth, and they like to spend. The old money households account for 7% of all luxury sales. The number of old money households in the markets studied average one million.
  • Beyond money households – these consumers are considered self-made, and they spurn status spending as tasteless and ostentatious. When they decide to spend, they like to buy furniture décors, jewelry, and watches. There are around half a million beyond-money households in the markets studied.

The first three species have really changed because of the financial crisis. As they grow tired of more stuff or their money becomes tight, they start to question why they spend on luxuries. Because of that, they become thrifty, and they start to look only for more value, inconspicuous brands, and discounts.


When asked about luxuries, most people mention high costs, unique designs, limited distribution and great quality.

For these people, these are some of the characteristics which draw the line between luxury and non-luxury products and services. Also, as we’ve seen earlier, consumers buy luxury goods because of psychological factors, particularly emotions.

Neuroscience states that a person’s emotions which are associated with his or her judgments lead them in the decision-making process. Our emotions are parts of rationality as they help in revealing things which are important to us.

Studies have revealed most decisions to buy luxury products are emotional.

Therefore, how a luxury consumer perceives a certain luxury brand gives him or her the emotional end-benefit of purchasing and owning that product. So, what are these emotional end-benefits?

The end-benefit of who I am

The emotional end-benefits affect a consumer’s idea of how they view themselves, and this plays a critical role in their motivation to buy a luxury product.

The drive to buy luxury goods mostly comes from the perceptions of social comparisons, ideal self, self-motivation, and self-identity.

The end-benefit of how I feel

This is another different psychological motivation found insurers, particularly the ones with a deeper connection with luxuries.

Mostly, this is evident in consumers with significant financial gains, and it comprises of high-end luxury goods. Luxury is an integral part of these consumers lifestyle.

The consumer’s experience security, confidence, emotions of trust, and contentment, all because of trust. All these emotions come from the notion that their luxuries are timeless and authentic.


People will always buy luxury products or use luxury services for different reasons. Most of these reasons are connected to the strong emotions that people attach to the luxuries they love.

Whether a person is financially stable or not, he or she will buy or use a luxury, just to show off or gain some level of acceptance from other people who use luxuries.

The Luxuries People Can’t Live Without

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