Buying Things that Cost a Lot

Maegan Tintari via Flickr

How do you spend your money? Liz Waid and Colin Lowther look at the moral question of buying things that cost a lot of money.

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Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid.

Voice 2 

And I’m Colin Lowther. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

What do you think of when you hear the word “luxury”? Some people may think of lying in the sand on a beautiful ocean beach. Others may think of sitting on a costly boat in the sun, enjoying a cold drink. These are experiences of luxury. But luxury also involves goods and services. Here are some real luxury goods that people can buy:

A solid gold baby bed for 16 million dollars

Women’s underwear, covered in jewels, for 10 million dollars

A brand-name watch for 42000 dollars

A popular hand bag for 4,900 dollars

A martini drink for 1,000 dollars

A one-person dinner for 270 dollars

Voice 2 

These are extreme examples of available luxury goods. Most people could never buy these expensive things. But many people can, and do. What makes people want luxury? Is it good for us? Today’s Spotlight is on luxury.

Voice 1 

To some people, luxury means excess, or having more than what is necessary. To others, luxury means goods and services that cost a lot of money. In this case, luxury can represent high quality. Or it can also just represent the image of a particular brand name. The Oxford Dictionary defines luxury as both a state of being and as a thing. It says that Luxury is a state of living with ease and excess. And it says Luxury is a thing that is not needed, but desired, expensive, and difficult to get.

Voice 2 

The global market for luxury goods and services is growing. Euromonitor reports that in five years, from 2010 to 2014, the luxury goods market grew 36%! It estimates that by 2019, the global market for luxury goods will have increased 88% in ten years.

Voice 1 

So why are luxury goods so popular, especially since they are difficult to get? One of the reasons is because they are so difficult to get. It makes people feel like they have status, or a high position, that other people do not have. The website Psychology Today states,

Voice 3 

“Buyers purchase luxury goods for different reasons. One reason is that luxury goods give a sense of status and wealth. They help people feel exclusive, or more rare and special than others.”

Voice 2 

Luxury brand names want to stay exclusive, or only available to a few people. They encourage the sense that people who buy their products are better than others. If too many people have a particular product, it loses its appeal. Simon Peck is from the House of Luxury, a company that sells watches and jewels. Peck told the BBC,

Voice 4 

“When the person who drives you around owns the same watch as you, it is time to look for something better.”

Voice 1  

But not everyone wants luxury just to feel better than everyone else. Some people simply want to be like everyone else. Farnoosh Brock writes a blog on the internet. She wrote about her desire for luxury products. Brock travelled several times to Japan. There, she saw many women with expensive, $5,000 bags. Then, she wanted one. She wrote about it on her blog ProlificLiving. She said that buying particular brands is very popular in Japan.

Voice 5

“The brand buying popularity in Japan is about a person’s place in society. The top Western brand names speak loudly in that culture. So naturally, everyone buys them. Possibly this is because everyone wants to belong – to be accepted as an equal.”

Voice 1 

But Brock is also conflicted about the strength of her desire for a luxury bag. She writes,

Voice 5  

“I really, badly want a luxury Prada bag. Suppose I buy my Prada bag. Will I stop wanting the beautiful sun glasses that go with it? What about the perfect little black dress? Or will I need to learn to redefine the meaning of being pleased and satisfied?”

Voice 2

For other people, luxury is more about beauty. Writer Dana Thomas wrote a book about luxury. Thomas says that not all luxury is greed. She told the Luxury Society,

Voice 6 

“Luxury is moral when it comes from creativity and not greed. When you create to make something beautiful, then you are being moral, spiritual, and true.”

Voice 1 

Luxury does not have to only represent a fashionable brand. It can also represent high achievement in beauty and creativity. But you still need to have wealth in order to possess luxury.

Voice 2 

Buying and experiencing luxury puts a person in a rare group. Many, many people in this world are poor. The World Bank reports that more than 2 billion people live in poverty, and more than 1 billion live in extreme poverty. The United Nations reports that almost half of the world’s children live in extreme poverty. Three hundred million children actually go to bed hungry every night.

Voice 1 

The inequality of people living in poverty and in luxury is very clear. And it brings up an important question: is luxury morally WRONG? Is it wrong to spend 16 million dollars on a golden bed for a baby? Is it wrong to spend thousands of dollars on shoes? That money could buy food for very poor people. It could support schools. It could do many other things too

Voice 2 

This is a complex debate. You may not be able to buy $5,000 shoes. But you may be able to spend $50, or $100, or possibly even $500. These are still large amounts of money! Any of those amounts could help a poor person. But you need shoes too! How can you tell what exact amount is morally right to spend?

Voice 1 

Christian teaching moves the question away from numbers and products. The Christian Bible does not say that having wealth is wrong. Or even that desire for beauty and comfort is wrong. It says,

Voice 3

“Keep your lives free from the love of money. Be happy with what you have. For Jesus said, ‘I will never leave you.’”

Voice 2 

This teaching asks us to examine our hearts. Jesus’ followers believe that they do not have to chase wealth. They can have money, but they should not love money. They believe that God will provide for their needs, including the presence of Jesus.

Voice 1 

The writer of this program was Jen Hawkins. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at This program is called “Buying Things That Cost a Lot”.

Voice 2 

Tell us what you think about today’s program. You can leave a comment on our website. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

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Do you own any luxury items? What is the most expensive thing you have ever bought? Why did you buy it?


Avatar Spotlight
said on September 10, 2015

I think everyone has to live warm atmosphere with their neighbors. When we buy a luxury thing that mean we want to have a higher of level to our neighbors from that we will put down the pity in our hearts and the friendship will go down and the loneliness will increase in us. Do we want to hold the luxury thing and lost friendship or buy a common thing and get friendliness with everyone?
In addition when we show that we are a rich person, may be we get many watching from others especially from robbers. And God said “woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep”. God does not bless for those who does not show the pity to our neighbors.

Avatar Spotlight
said on November 23, 2016

Thank you Spotlight
I have no any luxury items. I also don’t want to have any luxury items. I want to have a simple life,  luxury items are not necessary. If I have much money, I will use it to help poor people.

Avatar Spotlight
vu huynh
said on November 24, 2016

Tks Spotlight !
it’s a great lesson. i don’t have lots of money to buy luxury things. But if i have a lot of money, i never buy luxury things, it’s not necessary for me. i will use it to help poor people because my country have many pool people. Tks

Avatar Spotlight
said on November 26, 2016

No I’m not a supporter of purchase of precious stuff, but I’m looking always about the best quality . I support the idea of helping miserable families , instead of wasting money on luxuries . Even I can’t explain this human behaviour, somtimesbfeeling them sick

Kaleb Kolaibi's avatar
Kaleb Kolaibi
said on November 26, 2016

I think that the buy of luxury items or even buy many expensive and amounts things of the necessary things such as cars, mobile .... etc, while millions of people can not find enough to eat, is not moral.
For me, I am poor. I do not have the necessary things up, the house, the car ... even family!
God bless you

Avatar Spotlight
said on November 26, 2016

The strict statistics of many people living in extreme poverty including the alarming number of starving children in the world should provoke us into limiting our possible desire for buying the expensive, luxury things we do not need necessarily.
Primarily young people often wish for getting luxury, fashionable goods in order to be equal to others or even exceed them in being exklusive, more rare and special.
However, living in luxury doesn’t have to mean being happy and satisfied. Therefore we should prefer modesty to greed, we can spend money reasonably, mainly we must avoid any enviousness because attraction of luxury may be illusory considerably!
I suppose all of us must support poor, needed people, we mustn’t forget those who suffer in any case!
Thanks Spotlight for another excellent topic!

Avatar Spotlight
said on November 26, 2016

i’m listening this while being about to get out for a new 100$ jacket, should i..?

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on January 01, 2017

From: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Severino Ramos)
To: spotlight programme
Subject: answer to the questions above
Date: Sunday 01, January 2017
São Paulo SP Brazil

Dear Liz Waid, Jen Hawkins, Colin Lowther, and Michio Ozaki:

At first, I want to thank you for bringing us readers and learners of English more one great article, thanks!

No, I do not.
The most expensive thing that I have ever bought was my apartment to live. I bought it because I needed a place to live. Before, I lived in a rented   apartment in the downtown and its rent was very expensive. For that reason I am very thankful by God to give physical power to work to buy it.
For me luxury is not the most important thing to have. The quality about everything is the most important. We know that the competition in the world is unavoidable between human people but there are another way to show our difference with a good smile, greeting each other sincerely, doing anything to each other what we would like to do for ourselves, too. And etc.

Your regards,
Happy New Year. I hope you have a wonderful 2017
Severino Ramos

Avatar Spotlight
said on December 26, 2019

I think the simple things are the best. I love simple food made like the customs of my country. I don’t like expensives cloths and I never buy goods moved by the “fashion”. Ever I can, I help poor people who needs food or medicins… I think also that the most important character trace of a person is their love por knowledge and their respect for other persons.