Buying Things That Cost A Lot

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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.

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.

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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.

man's arms with gold watch
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.”

collection of clothes
Photo: Junko Nakase
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.


Do you own any luxury items? What is the most expensive thing you have ever bought? Why did you buy it? Write your answer in the comments below.

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  • I don’t have any expensive things and i don’t like buying things they coast alot . I don’t agree with this idea because there are alot of poor people in the world

  • -No.
    -Before 7 years ago I bought ticket for SUNWAY LAGON in Malaysia and it was multiple entry tickets the price was around 200 MYR but the sad think is i had never used until it is expired the period was for one year but I never used at all.
    -To enjoy in my free time.

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