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The Big Question: Luxury Tithe Edition | Manolo for the Big Girl

The Big Question: Luxury Tithe Edition

Ah luxury. It’s interesting how the definition changes.

Once upon a time, luxury for me meant a new Hermès or a call to my gal at Barneys in New York to get my hands on the latest and most exclusive Le Labo or Serge Lutens export.

Now luxury is toilet paper with anything resembling structural integrity.

Then vs. Now


Yet even in those heady days, I was still just a Career Girl in the newspaper industry.

What the dead tree biz lacked in job security it made up for in low wages, and my attempt to indulge in champagne tastes on a cava budget was not exactly effortless. Each glittering bottle of rarefied perfume, each instantly recognizable square orange box, represented weeks or months of sacrifices –most small, some large– in other parts of my life.

I call it my Luxury Tithe, a phrase I first heard from my friend Amy, author of the brilliant and sadly dormant Style Spy, as she diligently squirreled away a portion of her pay each week to save for a pair of Miu Miu sandals or a trip to her beloved Paris.

The eminently tithe-worthy Alexander McQueen Seasonal Satchel, click picture for link

I’m happier in Scotland than on the Seine and Miu Miu sandals rarely fit my feet (not that it matters since I refuse to support Miuccia Prada anyway after her fatty-firing opera stunt) but aside from the ideas of paying cash and not living beyond your means as just good sense, I had two reasons to start my own luxury tithe.

First, I knew my dream job –the real one, not the designated thigh oiler for Real Madrid (although if anyone’s hiring…)– has even less money in it than the newspaper industry, and believe me, very few things have less money in it than the newspaper industry.

I knew someday the reasonably well-paid party would end, and when it did I wanted to be able to walk away with an accessories wardrobe to last a lifetime and not a penny of credit card debt, which is exactly what I did.

Second, I wanted to learn the joys of living a discriminating life.

It’s painfully simple, but if something’s not extremely good, I don’t want it. I’d rather go without than have my fill of mediocrity or worse. It’s probably why I’ve lost so much weight in Mexico (well, you know, that and the cholera): Mangoes, fish and veggies are good here; pastry, meat and sweets are not, at least not to a palate that prefers butter to lard and thick ribeyes to thin strips of carne asada.

Television isn’t very good in America (it’s worse in Mexico) so I happily gave it a miss and the money I saved by not paying to have Real Housewives of a Culturally Declining Nation piped into Château Gâteau bought me a Paris-only bell jar of the shiveringly dry yet animalic Bois et Musc  (which smells exactly like my lynx coat after a post-prandial walk in the woods) and fuchsia Dolce and Gabbana heels in suede so buttery I want to spread it on toast.

Let’s turn this into a Big Question.

Right now my Luxury Tithe –pathetic as it may be– is dedicated to funding an exploratory trip to Buenos Aires to see whether the so-called Paris of Latin America is destined to be the next stop on the Miss Plumcake Expatriate World Tour.

Today Miss Plumcake wants to know whether you have a Luxury Tithe. If so, what’s the desired result? If not, what’s your preferred method of acquiring what you want?

22 Responses to “The Big Question: Luxury Tithe Edition”

  1. Andrea May 16, 2012 at 1:32 pm #

    My tastes are not nearly as luxury as yours. I save up all year for 2 annual purchases. One is for a pair of http://remixvintageshoes.com/ reproduction 1940’s wedges and the other is for a tattoo..

  2. Rebekka May 16, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

    I don’t do this, but I should. But what I really want/need is some extra hours in the day!

  3. cadpig May 16, 2012 at 2:50 pm #

    I too save the money… squirrelling it away until I have the cash for that trip (my previous luxury was travelling…now it’s saving for the next round of IVF)…squirrelling away…wondering where I can trim excess spending…I would then purchase the tickets or the hotel rooms on my credit card to earn my travel points and then pay it off with the money saved. It always made me sad to see my bank account dwindle down but I always felt so deliciously sanctimonious when I could see my zero balance credit card.

  4. Miss B May 16, 2012 at 2:53 pm #

    I put aside for travel – that is my luxury. This year I am going on a cruise of the Mediterranian and need spending money. Next year may be a beachy vacay with my honey!

  5. TeleriB May 16, 2012 at 2:54 pm #

    No tithe for me. My wants are few and are generally satisfied by mediocrity, my income is generous, and my discipline in saving is strong. When I do see a shiny thing I want, there’s money to buy it.

  6. Miss Plumcake May 16, 2012 at 2:57 pm #

    @Cadpig: Oh yeah, one can never underestimate the joys of delicious sanctimony.

  7. Thea May 16, 2012 at 5:04 pm #

    Travel is my indulgence as well. And when we’re paying for the mundane necessities like, oh, groceries, with the air mile credit card, hubby and I always joke “That’s another 15 feet down the runway”

  8. SarahDances May 16, 2012 at 5:19 pm #

    Right now, it’s a vacation to California with my best friend (who lives 2000 miles away and whom I haven’t seen in two years), and also at least two trips for her – surprise! – upcoming wedding.

    He’s a military guy, so it’s all happening really fast and on a time frame they can’t control, so we shall see how all this works out!

  9. class factotum May 16, 2012 at 5:30 pm #

    Buy nice or buy twice is my motto. That said, if one looks, one can find nice at consignment or on eBay for much less than retail.

    Our goal right now is to pay off the house. We don’t see the point in spending one dollar to save 28 cents in taxes and we’re sure not getting a 3.75% return on any of our other investments, so paying off the mortgage is the highest-yield option we have. I will forgo dinners out, watch all my movies on DVDs from the library, and buy my jeans at Goodwill if it means I can get rid of my debt and be financially free.

  10. MelM May 16, 2012 at 8:05 pm #

    I’m a bit of a magpie and jewelry is my weakness. When I was younger it was a new shiny every couple of months. Now I save for a once a year blowout. Some years it is a single high value item, other years multiple smaller items. But the fun is from having a full year of planning the shopping spree.

  11. cedarg May 16, 2012 at 8:09 pm #

    When I was a grad student (which was a very long time) my luxury tithe was for travel and only travel. I took a month of travel in England, two weeks in Germany and multiple trips around the US while living on $14000 a year with no debt. That requires serious frugality in other areas of one’s life. And yeah, I’m sanctimonious about it. (Although it helps to go to grad school in a rust belt doldrum when housing costs are laughably low and there’s nothing of interest to purchase outside of the farmer’s market.)

    When I got a “real” job in my field in a city with actual amenities I continued my travel tithe, along with precision stalking of sale racks and consignment shops so I could finally have really nice clothes and the thrilling bi-annual addition of “presents for my house” – i.e. acquiring furniture from sources other than relatives or yard sales. My tastes are perhaps not at the Plumcake level of extremely good – my “luxury” shoes have to stand up to a mile on cobblestones and perfume (sadly) gives me migraines – but every time I sit on my perfect, long researched, long saved for down-cushion sofa I pet it like a kitten.

  12. g-dog May 16, 2012 at 8:12 pm #

    Right now retirement is my luxury goal – this ‘proudly serving my corporate master’ is wearing thin (and its lost poundage seems to find me!). I challenge myself regarding how much money can I save in the next year, 2 years, 3 years… What if no more contributions go into the company plan…? Etc. Scary, but freedom — priceless!

  13. M.K. May 16, 2012 at 9:27 pm #

    Yes. Right now it’s a really good handbag/project bag (I’m eyeing Namaste and Moop), and a plane ticket for my baby sister this fall so we can spend time together.

  14. Jen209 May 16, 2012 at 10:27 pm #

    I’ve actually never thought of it this way, but the concept of a luxury tithe works here – no cable TV = season tickets to the Shakespeare Theatre. Totally worth it.

  15. barbara May 16, 2012 at 11:29 pm #

    I hadn’t thought of it as a “luxury tithe” exactly, but I’m trying to save a little money from each paycheck for a big trip to central europe next summer.

    I do like the idea of a luxury tithe. And i probably need to learn to only spend money on really worthwhile things…

  16. Desideria May 17, 2012 at 1:38 am #

    Least expensive luxury aquisition = coloured leather gloves
    More expensive luxury addiction = papal-sized rings
    Most expensive luxury indulgence = international travel

  17. Monica May 17, 2012 at 3:09 am #

    Slightly off-topic, but I adore BA and cannot recommend a trip there enough. I hope you love it! It is a foodie’s dream, and the shoes and leather goods are a dream come true. Would be glad to send you my family’s list of beloved eateries there, if you like.

  18. marvel May 18, 2012 at 3:24 pm #

    We just bought a piano (used, but high quality). Seriously. I’ve wanted one for > 15 years.

  19. bushpiglet May 18, 2012 at 7:56 pm #

    Premium seating at concerts and shows. Cant go back to the cheap seats now.

  20. Debs May 19, 2012 at 2:09 pm #

    Celine mini-luggage handbag. (Oops-forgot to save first).

  21. ananas May 23, 2012 at 8:10 pm #

    I tried to explain just this thing to a friend the other day, and suspect I mostly managed to deeply offend her. Belts were the topic in contention, and I maintained that buying one, better built but more expensive was better then buying two cheap.

  22. Christine June 3, 2012 at 3:01 pm #

    I am in the middle of a very sad divorce and suddenly, I’ve realized that a lot of the material things I wanted were substitutes for things my husband did not give me, like love and affection. I often bought things and told people he had bought them for me. I know it’s pathetic. He earns a ton of money and would buy me gifts that were very cheap; not in terms of value but that showed he had no idea what would like. Actually, they were always inexpensive but I didn’t care.

    So, now I am selling the things I bought are for sale. I’m keeping my Mom’s pieces, pieces with sentimental value and a few pieces I really love. Now I want to travel, to see my family, and my friends, that over the years I have lost contact with. I want to donate to charities who need money. And share with family members.

    But, ok, there are still some material things I covet! If I can lose the weight I am buying an Alexander McQueen dress. My mom left me a topaz ring that i want to remodel so I can wear it. I am suddenly covetous of an old perfume I used that may only be in a hiding spot I have to beg and pay Plumcake to reveal to me.

    I wish all of you the best in getting your luxuries! It’s so thrilling to save and be rewarded!