Hanging on to our favourite luxuries

2012-09-19 00:00

AS U.S. architect and author Frank Wright once said: “Give me the luxuries of life and I will willingly do without the necessities.”

We see this bizarre logic reflected in shows like Survivor where contestants will trade a chance to win “immunity” for a plate of chocolate doughnuts. The envy of other contestants is so evident — and we can all relate.

In a world that is flooded with innovative products, it is difficult to restrain oneself, but when the economy takes a downturn one has to learn to rein in those spending habits. But apparently there are some luxuries people cannot do without.

Henry David Thoreau, the great philosopher who spent two years in a cabin in the woods living a “simple life”, said: “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to leave alone.”

I tried to digest this philosophy.

I wondered how this advice would go down with a poor family who battle daily to make ends meet. I believe a simple life is actually a rich man’s luxury. For it is better to have the choice to live simply than be forced by circumstances to battle to survive.

During World War 2, lipstick was promoted as a product that would help satisfy women’s desire for luxurious things. It was termed the “lipstick indicator” and economists have since noted how the sale of small luxuries can increase during uncertain economic times.

Times are tough, there is no doubt about it. Business Editor Kavith Harrilall started a conversation with a focus on toilet rolls. He warned the newsroom optimists that the economy is not likely to get better this year and that in fact it was probably time for us to all tighten our belts.

Luckily, I wear elasticated waists! But like many, the end-of-the-month “Salticrax story” has become a regular occurrence in our home as the cost of living soars. I have changed my shopping routine from a monthly shop to a weekly shop.

But despite my fiscal restraint, there are those few luxuries that make life worth living. For me it’s good coffee and hair dye. Nescafé is my morning tipple, hair dye is a camouflage to my ego. Witness Editor Angela Quintal agrees, but she likes hers to be a latte (preferably a skinny one). Harilall is also a coffee addict and has his stash of coffee grounds at the office.

Ingrid Oellerman says that good coffee just has to be accompanied by some chocolate to complete the experience. That’s her family’s luxury. One of our staffers (no names mentioned) confessed that he could not part with his Camel filter cigarettes no matter what the sin tax and despite the dire warnings from his mother.

Sub-editor Janice Whitelaw said that as a vegetarian she splashes out on organic meat from Woolworths for her children.

Features editor Shelagh McLoughlin admitted that she bought butter in preference to margarine, while arts editor Estelle Sinkins (who did work in the UK for a few years) said she always bought Five Roses Tea. A good cup of tea can solve all life’s problems — according to my gran. That and a Disprin!

Sonti Mahlatsi said she just had to buy Pampers disposable nappies as they were worth the premium price. I, too, have tried no-name disposables in a past life and had to deal with the joys of screaming babies. This is a miserable scenario worth avoiding.

One staffer said she had to have her Chardonnay — we understand, we really do! All this economising can drive one to drink. Another said fresh fruit and veg from Woolworths was a good investment even if it was a bit pricey. Busi Zulu, our editor’s PA, said she could never do without her olive oil.

This office survey proved that if it’s a choice between giving it up, having it all and choosing one’s luxuries — we all have our favourite favourites!

What are your can’t-do-withouts?

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