Last week I bought my first television in two years, and that prompted me to write a post about luxuries vs. necessities. In that post, I cited a 2009 survey that polled over 1,000 Americans and asked what consumer goods they considered to be a luxury, and which they considered a necessity. The results were interesting, and I wanted to see if they have changed over the last 4 years so I conducted my own informal poll here at GMBMFB.
Just to recap, here are the results from the 2009 survey:
From the GMBMFB poll (338 participants to date), here are our results:
It’s interesting to see that the top 3 things we value in 2013 weren’t necessarily considered necessities just four years ago. A cell phone is now considered to be a necessity at 80%, whereas in 2009 a cell phone was only at 49%. Granted, I think that has a lot to do with people canceling their landline phones and moving over to something more mobile.
I would completely agree with the top 4 things on the GMBMFB poll: like I mentioned in the last post, all of these items are luxuries… but the top things on my list are a cell phone, high-speed internet, and a home computer. Having a car and a clothes dryer is also pretty nice, but I’ve lived without those things before. I’ve never had air conditioning, and rarely use my microwave or my dishwasher. I don’t own an iPad/tablet, cable TV, or a landline.
Do any of the results from the GMBMFB poll surprise you? Or were they exactly what you expected?
My original plan was to check out Black Friday/Cyber Monday flyers to try and snag an awesome deal. But I wanted a name brand TV with a lot of options, that wasn’t happening for me in my < $500 price range. :| I wanted an LG, and since I don’t think I’m going to subscribe to cable, I was really interested in their Smart TVs. So, I headed to Craigslist to see if I could pick up something used within my price range.
Thanks to a sweet Telus deal (where customers could get a 42″ LG SmartTV for free after signing up for a 3-year contract), Craigslist was flooded with these brand new TVs (MSRP close to $800 + environmental fee + tax) going for anywhere from $550 to $700. After lowballing a few sellers, I finally got somebody to sell me his for $450 – and with free delivery! :)
To help offset the cost of the TV, I sold my iPad for $350. When I first bought it a year ago, I thought it would be perfect for traveling. But even with the keyboard accessory, it is extremely annoying as a blogging tool. So I rarely ever used it. I’m also trying to sell my Canon G10 digital camera… but the $350 I got for my iPad means that the TV only ended up costing me $100.
Related: Can lifestyle inflation be avoided?
Finally having a TV in my house gives me mixed emotions. I know it’s not something I need (or have needed for at least two years), but it’s nice to have it. And I can honestly say that in the few days that I’ve had it, it’s been pretty great. Watching Netflix on a screen bigger than my 15″ laptop is nice, and I can finally have people over to watch movies, or to play on my Wii.
But buying the TV also reminded me of a report I read a long time ago (2009) about luxury vs. necessity. In this report, they polled over 1,000 Americans and asked what consumer goods they considered to be a luxury, and which they considered a necessity. The report is old, and it’s polling Americans and not Canadians, but I think it’s still pretty interesting. Here are the results:
|ITEM||IS IT A NECESSITY?|
|Cable or satellite TV||23%|
I would consider all of the items above to be luxuries… but would feel extremely inconvenienced and miserable if I didn’t have a home computer, high-speed internet, and access to a phone (landline or cell). Those items are borderline necessities for my current lifestyle (obviously I wouldn’t die and my health likely wouldn’t deteriorate as a result of not having these things), but they would definitely be luxuries if my lifestyle changed for whatever reason.
So for fun, I created the same survey for you to answer! It’ll only take a few seconds, and I think it would be interesting to see the data after a few days. Note, you’ll have to scroll a bit with the survey. :)
Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world’s leading questionnaire tool.
I first heard about online grocery shopping a few years ago when I lived in a neighbourhood without amenities within walking distance. I used to dread spending the time, energy, and gas money going to the grocery store each week. I was working 70 hours, and a trip to the store could easily take one or two hours out of my day. It didn’t seem worth the hassle, and I often bought take-out instead because it was easier – not great for my waistline or my wallet. :|
When my neighbour told me she had started ordering her groceries online, I was intrigued. For a small fee, she was able to do all her shopping on the internet, and choose the delivery time most convenient for her. It seemed like the perfect solution to my time crunch, so I decided to try it out. It was great, and I used the service a couple of times before I ended up moving into my current home – which is more conveniently located for shopping.
But, I’m feeling the time crunch again. Even though I’m only working 50-55 hours/week, I find myself busy after work almost every day of the week – field hockey practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and running Monday, Wednesday, Fridays. Weekends are filled with more running, field hockey games, and social commitments that I’m never able to fit in during the work week. I was finding it hard to go anywhere but Safeway for my groceries (a 5 minute walk from my house), but everything is so expensive there.
So, I decided to try ordering groceries from my preferred store, Thrifty Foods. They charge a flat rate of $7.95 for next day service (same day is $9.95), which I thought was reasonably priced considering it would cost me $4.60 in gas to drive there and back, plus at least an hour of my time.
It took me about 15 minutes to order all of my groceries online (I did it over my lunch break at work), and I was impressed. I felt like I was able to stop my impulse purchases (which were almost always junk food), and I could see the total amount of my order as I shopped – which helped me stay on budget.
What impressed me about Thrifty Foods is their customer service, although I shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve shopped with them for as long as I can remember, and it’s always been top notch. Their customer service reps will call you if anything you’ve ordered is out of stock, and suggest replacement items for you instead. Their delivery drivers are extremely friendly, and I feel really happy with how I was treated.
However, even though I’ve had some really positive experiences, and the service fees are reasonable, there are definitely cons to having groceries delivered.
For example, even though I was able to leave a note attached to each product I put into my online shopping basket, I almost never got the fruits the way I would have picked them out myself. “Slightly green bananas” can mean different things to different people, I guess. :) Additionally, it’s kind of inconvenient to have to wait at home for the delivery to arrive (a 1.5 hour window), and every other week I end up having to make a supplementary trip to the local Asian market anyway to pick up produce and other perishables.
I don’t think this is something I would do on a weekly, or even a bi-weekly basis. But I do think it’s something I would do every few months when I have a big shopping trip ahead of me.
In theory, anyone with a busy schedule can benefit from ordering groceries online. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to use the service again! However, it might only be worth it on a regular basis for the following types of people:
- People who don’t have vehicles, and cannot make big trips to the grocery store for regular staples.
- The elderly, disabled, or injured, who find it difficult getting out of the house.
- Those who live far from any reasonably priced stores.