What are the most expensive things you’ve ever bought?

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My most expensive items.

For this post, I thought it’d be fun to look at the most expensive things I’ve ever bought in my life. By listing them together irrespective of category, I wanted to see the equivalence between different items or categories of items, and the opportunity cost of my dollars. Is a luxury item really the same cost as a household appliance? Let’s find out! Note that I’m counting physical goods only, not services or repair.

1) Six figures: Condo

Two years ago, I bought my condo for ~$250k. The city I live is not the nicest area of California, so the housing costs are not that high (that’s definitely a pro, but there are also cons of this area). My family gave me the down payment (thanks!!) My monthly payments are about $800 mortgage + $200 HOA + $200 property taxes. It’s about $300 less than renting in this area. I probably could’ve waited a year to put the down payment myself, but I’m glad I bought in earlier because the property has already appreciated by ~$30k.

Honorable mention: Although I’m not counting services in this list, I’ve done a bunch of small repairs around the condo. The most expensive was replacing the carpets, which cost $2000.

2) $5000: Car

Another necessary expense! I bought this car used 6 years ago when I was a grad student and got my first summer internship. The location was pretty remote, so I needed a car. I stalked Craigslist for a while but didn’t find anything good, but eventually found this seller on our local college bulletin board. I felt comfortable buying from the seller, because he went to the same college. The car came with 100k miles on it, but has been fairly reliable since then.

Honorable mention: When the AC broke in the middle of last summer, it cost $1300 to repair. The car itself is only worth ~$2000 at this point, but I figured repairing was still cheaper than buying a new car. Again, services are really a huge cost.

3) $1000-5000 level: Chanel bag, Macbook laptop, refrigerator

Laptop: My work basically involves sitting at my computer all day, occasionally punctuated by meetings and visiting the grad students in the lab. This laptop is reimbursed by my research funding, and I basically carry it around everywhere. Couldn’t live without it. Worth it? Totally.

Bag: The Chanel was a gift from my partner before we were married, back when we were first dating. He really wanted to gift me something, so I picked this out, and it was the first luxury item I ever owned. Would he buy the same thing for me now? “Honey, no way, we could buy two Google stocks with that kind of money” 😉

I probably get to use this bag a couple times a year (a few nice dinners, and whenever I travel). It’s definitely not worth it in terms of cost-per-wear, but who the heck cares? I totally enjoy using it!

Refrigerator: For some reason, apartment rentals in my area don’t come with fridges what the heck, right? Apparently this is a thing). So when I first moved in, I spent the first week without homemade food and spent all my time shopping online for a fridge and some big strong men to deliver it to me.

When I moved into my condo, it already had a fridge, argh! I sold that one on Craigslist to a very nice but rigorous family. When they came by to check it out, they left a thermometer and a glass of water in the freezer and came back the next day to verify that it was frozen 😮

5) $500-1000 level: Burberry jacket, smartphone, couch

Burberry trench: This jacket was a gift to myself for finishing grad school and getting my first full-time job. I already had a similar, cheaper trench coat, so I knew this would get a lot of use, especially out here in California where I have no excuse to buy anything heavier. So far, this has turned out pretty useful. I wouldn’t say it’s my most-worn coat, because it is a little fancier than the average Joe around here, but I do wear it regularly.

Smartphone: After I dropped my previous phone, it developed cracks in the screen. I tried in vain to continue using it, but stopped when little bits of glass started falling off and embedding themselves in my fingers :/ I actually waited a month for a particular smartphone model to come out (Google Pixel), and used a dumbphone in the meantime, which was quite the experience and something I’ll blog about at some point.

Couch: It’s a couch. We sit on it every day 🙂

7) $500 level: Shoes, wallet, mattress, dishwasher, TV

At the $500 level, we have a bunch of items. In the household category, we have a TV, mattress, and dishwasher, all of which I consider these fairly useful. I sleep every day, watch TV almost every day, and use the dishwasher ever few days.

In the luxury goods category, we have these Salvatore Ferragamo Vara flats and a Prada wallet. The flats were the result of long deliberation (plus some influence by Franish), and the Prada wallet was a gift. The usefulness? The opposite! I used the wallet all the time, and the flats rarely. The flats ended up being too fancy for my lifestyle, and slightly too small. They’re on the donate list to my mom.

Analysis I: Mostly practical, with a sprinkling of luxury

So, all the stuff from the list above basically falls into several categories:

  • House/appliances/furnishings
  • Car
  • Electronics
  • Luxury goods

The first three categories I consider as good value and are things I use every day, or nearly every day. Therefore, I consider them as dollars well-spent.

The last category, luxury goods, is probably not great in terms of cost/use (except for the wallet, which I did use daily). Seeing the equivalences in the graphic was pretty fun:

  • Chanel bag = Macbook = refrigerator?
  • Burberry jacket = smartphone = sofa?
  • Ferragamo shoes = dishwasher?

This really nails home the point that luxury goods are, well, luxury. Despite the fact that luxury items are handmade (or at least the Chanel is), the number of person-hours spent on a bag is presumably MUCH LESS than the number of person-hours spent designing a laptop and all the components within. I also use the luxury items less than my electronics or household appliances. So the cost per use is definitely higher. But you know what? I enjoy these luxury items and get a kick out of them whenever I do use them. So I consider the money well-spent.

Analysis II: A pyramid of items

As I was organizing this list of items, I realized they formed a pyramid. At the top, there are a few expensive items. At the bottom, there are a bunch of cheaper items. This makes sense; there aren’t that many super expensive items I need to buy, and I’d rather spend my money on multiple, useful ~$500 items.

I also noticed that the must-have / useful items are distributed equally throughout the pyramid. Housing is a must-have (1st row), as is a laptop (3rd row), refrigerator (3rd row), and a mattress (5th row). This was surprising to me, as I thought the most expensive items would be the necessary ones.

Finally, there are more luxury items in the bottom half of the pyramid. I have one expensive luxury item (the Chanel), and the rest are at the $500 mark or lower. This makes sense, because I can’t think of that many luxury items above the $5000 range that I actually want. (Sorry, not interested in Birkins!)

Final thoughts

Overall, this was a fun exercise! It was surprising to me to see the distribution of must-have items throughout the pyramid, and to see the equal cost of a luxury good like a Burberry jacket with a sofa. It definitely makes me think more about the opportunity cost of each dollar.

I might write a follow-up post aboutthe top service and maintenance costs I’ve incurred, if it’s interesting to people. At the top of that list would be college tuition and US immigration costs.

What are the most expensive things you’ve ever bought? Do you get good use out of them?

13 thoughts on “What are the most expensive things you’ve ever bought?

  1. I’m going to go sulk in the corner now as I recall how much I spent on my condo and all the renovations done to it, haha. We certainly get use out of everything in our home, but it’s not as fun as new luxury purchases might be.

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    • Haha, renovations are definitely a lot! And maintenance and HOA and all the random expenses that come up. Maintenance is a never ending hole! For example, you send your car to the garage, pay $1000, and it comes back feeling exactly the same! A $1000 bag, on the other hand… much more tangible.

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  2. Similar kind of pyramid! House – high 6-figures, cars – high 4-figure/low 5-figure, appliances (or does that count with the house since we bought them at the same time?), mattress – about $1500 for ours 8 years ago, it would cost less now of course. Then it gets down to under $1000: phone, a really good winter coat I’ve used for 8 years.

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    • Seems pretty reasonable! I’ve really been thinking of getting a new mattress and car lately – our student versions are still serviceable, but lifestyle inflation here we come! Although mattresses are so tricky. I slept on a really nice one in a rental once, and still remember the brand and model, but who knows if it’s still available or if the insides are the same as before. Phone – check. Winter coat? That sounds very practical. I’m still unfortunately the type who switches it up every few years as the styles change.

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  3. Fun post! And hahaha at: “Honey, no way, we could buy two Google stocks with that kind of money”

    I’m all about opportunity cost, but if I think if I thought that way all the time I would never buy anything!

    Interesting to see how things in different categories cost about the same, like the Chanel purse and the Macbook. I wouldn’t bat an eye spending that much on a laptop, but a purse at the same price would be a long, drawn-out process.

    We don’t own so we haven’t had the fun of buying cars or appliances yet. We did buy a $1,700 couch, which was definitely not in the fun category. I think I’d also have trouble buying a new mattress. Apparently they can cost over $1,000. I mean, rationally it makes sense, but I’d be worry I picked the wrong mattress and would have to deal with returns.

    Right now, I am looking for a Cartier watch, and that would def be my most expensive item when I pull the trigger.

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    • Yah, either 2 Google stocks or 1 Amazon stock in today’s market 😛

      I know, right, the different categories definitely matter! I’m about to buy a new water heater for $1000 this winter, but I’ve spent way more brainpower in the last few months agonizing about a $100 piece of clothing (although maybe that’s half the fun?)

      Well, colors must’ve been fun for the couch at least! And so so practical, probably as useful as a laptop in terms of use. It’s just weird to think that a couch could be equivalent to an appliance in terms of cost. Although they are both probably equally useful, the appliance seems to have so much more design to it (or maybe that’s just me, an engineer, talking).

      Mattress shopping is on my list, too, and it’s really confusing. My colleague told me about this place nearby that lets you customize and mix-and-match the layers of the mattress (hard, soft, material, etc), which in theory sounds great, but in practice sounds like way too many options leading to massive indecision on my part.

      I saw your posts about the watch! It seems like a really useful purchase. And I really liked how you talked somewhere (in one of your posts?) about doing a trial run for a year with another band. Otherwise, who knows if you’ll like it? I’ve done similar things with certain styles of clothing before – a test run with a cheapo version, then upgrading later once I’m absolutely certain it fits my lifestyle.

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  4. i had the money for a cartier watch years ago but spent 2 years in new orleans instead. that was the right move. our couch was 2400 but i won a bet on a horse race and bought it with winnings. one car cost 15k and one cost about 19. we keep them forever. i remember a 400 dollar lunch in the past too. our big stone house was only 98k.

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    • Woah, a horse race? Cool! I should’ve included food too, although it’s a consumable item. There was a period when my partner and I went to a whole bunch of fancy restaurants and basically ate our fill. We don’t have much desire to go back, but it was good to get it out of our system 🙂

      98k for a house (ooo stone) sounds amazing. I’d love to have a nice cold stone house with a basement, but out here there are earthquakes, so everything is stucco and bungalow style.

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  5. In my >$1,000 category, it would just be a laptop and a Persian carpet (best purchase ever. I admire it every day)
    In the $500 – $1000 category, I have a 10F down sleeping bag that weighs 2 lb and a pair of skis
    In the $200 – $500 category, I have an ultralight tent, 60 L backpack, leather winter boots, and an Isabel Marant wool coat. If you added up all of my climbing gear it would be in this category too. Oh, and a bike. And a gorgeous vintage chair.

    So… by this you can tell that I’m really into outdoor activities. I have very few luxury items (perhaps the boots and wool coat count?), and I haven’t spent very much on furniture. It’s true- we got most of it on craigslist for <$150 per piece or from family members who were downsizing. The Persian carpet seems excessive, but it is beautiful and was completely handwoven of wool and silk. At $1500 it was a total steal, as it would have taken someone months to complete.

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    • A Persian carpet sounds amazing! My in-laws are always trying gift me a Persian-style rug, but I’ve been hesitant because of the extra luggage that would entail. So far we’ve just got a mini one hanging on our walls. I love the patterns! So intricate and colorful. When we visited the rug shop in that country, the shopkeepers just laid the carpets outside on the dusty side to display them to us, and I was like – no, what are you doing??

      Outdoor activities sound like such a practical use. Although I’m not a big outdoorsy person, I like the product design and quality (for example, those tiny sleeping bags and tents that magically expand and are built to last). I think the wool coat and boots definitely count. And the chair. Those vintage ones are so comfy, can’t find anything like that in stores these days for a reasonable price.

      You made me realize that I forgot to add my bike to the list. $400 off of Craigslist, and worth every penny over the last few years.

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  6. Fun idea! Mine would not be quite as interesting because there’s a lot of typical “grown up” expenses (a home, a car, appliances, any furniture nicer than IKEA-level) that I haven’t had a need to buy, or ability to afford buying, yet. At the top would be my law degree, if that counts, there wouldn’t be anything in the $2000-$5000 dollar range (unless a set of medical or dental bills counts, alas, then there’d be one thing), in the $1000-$2000 range would be two Mac laptops (one in 2011, one in 2014 when the 2011 one had a massive hardware failure a few months out of my three-year AppleCare period, but the 2014 one is still going strong now!), and after that, there’s not too much (2 handbags in the $500-$600 range, the Ted Baker coat was ~$415).

    Our student loans definitely really delay our ability to consider some of the big “grown up” purchases I think, particularly those associated with buying a place and furnishing it.

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    • Yeah, those “grown” up items really hit you with big ticket expenses! Oh, you need a new carpet? $2500, please. New water heater? $1000. Plumber? $200… oh and there was no leak, so you just wasted your money. And I’m still living in a condo that handles exterior maintenance, so I imagine a house would be even more work.

      I suppose the environment (plus student loans) affects the onset of the grown up lifestyle and associated expenses. When I think of my peers, the ones living in the big cities are still renting and having more of the bachelor(ette) lifestyle, whereas the ones in smaller cities like me have bought a place and are starting a family. When I think of myself, I suppose I’m somewhere in between – picking up all of the grown up expenses, but not necessarily the lifestyle (I realize this is a bit of a ramble from your original comment… oh well :).

      Anyway, I agree with you about services and education costing a lot. Harder the calculate the “cost per use”, though. Well, I suppose health is basically #1, so that is always worth it. The value of a degree? Harder to say, although I’m sure there are ways of calculating it in terms of income afterward.

      You seem to have avoided the lure of luxury items! Good for you, although I suppose it was a necessity. If there’s one thing (among others) that I learned from reading your blog, it’s the insane cost of student loans.

      PS: Welcome back from your trip!

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