Extravagant Spending, Is it okay?

By glblguy

Big RV
Photo by: chrisscott

While sick last week, I spent the majority of my time reading, working on my StumbleUpon profile and watching TV. One of the shows I ran across on HGTV profiled super high end motor homes. The least expensive motor home profiled was just shy of 1 million dollars.

These RVs were incredible. They included flat panel TVs, surround sound, satellite TV and literally miles of wiring to put it all together. Seats were made of luxury leather and ostrich skin. Interiors had custom LED lighting, mirrors, and real high quality wood. One motor home was manufactured for a couple that had 6 cats. Instead of the area below the floor being used for storage, the area was converted into a luxury suite for their cats, including air conditioning, and a flat screen TV so that cats wouldn’t get bored!

My emotions as I watched the show went from awe, to envy, to understanding. At the end of the show I was left thinking: Is it really okay to spend that extravagantly?

Awe

These motor homes were amazing, they really were. They were far nicer than most homes I have been in. The quality and detail put into these homes on wheels was just plain incredible. They were built for people like actors, race car drivers, and the high-end wealthy. One of the couples profiled had 2 kids and used the RV as a vacation retreat…a 1.5 million dollar vacation retreat. When completed, the interior of their coach looked like a night club, with custom LED lighting that displayed based on the beat of the music. It was really over the top.

Robert DeNiro’s custom tractor-trailer RV is 2 stories, with the lower section containing a bedroom, office, small gathering area and kitchen. The upstairs containing a home theater room with more than 10 flat panel displays and all leather seating for more than 30 people. The shower, located half way up the spiral stair case was bigger than our bathroom and had multiple sprayers for a full body shower and also served as a steam shower.

Envy

Envy then begin to replace my awe. I begin to think how wonderful it would be to own one of these motor homes. We could take month long or multiple month long trips around the country and honestly be in more luxury than our home. I even began to think of all the things I would like to include in our custom built RV, bunk beds for the kids, nice bright colors, leather seating, a few strategically placed plasma displays…

Then the following words appeared in the middle of my new motor home vision, Proverbs 14:30 – “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.

Understanding

At that point I began to realize how over the top these motor homes were and how much of what was in them was just silly and way over the top. Motorized beds, power this and power that. My mind then drifted back to our trip to Guatemala where we met and brought home our daughter. I remembered the children we saw living in tin shacks, dirty, hungry, with little clothing. I remembered the look of surprise and disappointment exhibited by one of the pool staff when I told him how much a Nintendo Gameboy cost. A mere $100.00 to us, but months of savings for him. Our boys gave him theirs to give to his two sons. He cried.

I remembered the stories we were told of mothers and children living in the Guatemala City dump due to the available food and scrap for shelter. I remembered the statistics on the number of children who don’t live past the age of 7 due to levels of disease in the drinking water.

I then began to realize how much of a difference 1 million dollars would make to people living here in America, in Guatemala, and in other areas of the world. I realized how much impact those people driving around in those 1 million+ RVs could make in the lives of others if their money was combined.

Is it okay to spend extravagantly?

It came in a sudden wave of understanding to me: I couldn’t own an RV like that or live that way, not after what I saw in Guatemala. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night. The memories of the stories we heard, the people we met, the children we saw in Guatemala would haunt me as I slept.

This would be the case for anything expensive I might ever purchase in my life that was beyond what I needed. An extravagant home, that BMW I want, that nice RV I thought I wanted. My conscience whispered to me: Is it really okay to spend money on things like this when there are people and children in the world who’s lives you could completely turn around?

I realized it wasn’t okay, it wasn’t okay at all for me. I realized that through our trip to Guatemala I saw the “other side” of the world. The trip changed me. God opened my eyes so I could see, and healed the blindness I previously had. God helped me realize that even the simple life I now lead was a life of luxury in places like Guatemala. For me, it isn’t okay to spend too extravagantly. For me, it’s more important to make a difference in people’s lives and have a “heart at peace [that] gives life to the body“.

How about you? Is it okay to spend extravagantly? Have you done so? What’s your perspective? Add a comment!


35 Responses (including trackbacks) to “Extravagant Spending, Is it okay?”

  1. OneCheapChick Says:

    Interesting question – I’m comfortable with what I consider moderate expenses but not extravagant ones. For example, I’m comfortable buying a good used Volvo but I wouldn’t feel right buying a brand new Mercedes. I’d rather that money be used to help someone in need than to give me a pair of nicer wheels.

    But it’s all relative, isn’t it? The RV owners may have donated tens of millions to charity and they may feel like that’s plenty. And I could have bought a used Toyota rather than a used Volvo and donated the difference to charity.

    If I came into some real wealth, I’d certainly give generously, but I probably would spend some of it on luxuries, too. Like a newer used Volvo.

  2. Dan Says:

    Onecheapchick hit the nail on the head. It’s all relative. If you rub elbows with billionaires, a million dollar RV doesn’t seem excessive. If you live on a block with millionaires, spending $50,000 on a new car isn’t anything showy. If you live almost anywhere in America, having two cars for your family is just middle class, not showing off. And yet if you compare any of these to the conditions of the dump people in places like Guatemala or to those who work in a eastern sweat shop because the alternative is truly worse, all of these are so excessively wealthy and showy above their means that they can hardly tell the difference.

    Jesus said it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to find the Kingdom of God. In America, we are all rich by any measure you want to use, historical, against the rest of the world, any measure except one: Compared to the Joneses, we’re just doing ok.

    I try to provide security for my family, but more important I try to teach them how fleeting material things are. The gameboy was THE toy about a decade ago. Today, the WII is that toy, or maybe the guitar hero. 10 years from now, both will be sold for $10 in a garage sale, or just thrown out. It’s not worth it to lust after things this world can give you. They don’t satisfy and add anything to your life except a moment’s distraction. Focus on the eternal with your mind, heart, soul, and show your focus with your money. That is the only thing you can do with it that will truly last.

    God bless,
    Dan

  3. Ted Says:

    I agree mostly with the sentiments here, but wanted to point out one thing. The definition of extravagant will vary personally over time and income.

    Not so long ago it was considered extravagant to have your own pool, car, several cars, computers, flat panel TVs, and so forth.

    Are there better ways to use our money? Certainly. Could I “get by” without two cars and hundreds of dollars a month in gas, insurance, and so forth? Is this extravagant? It could be. Or maybe not. It certainly would be from some people’s perspectives, but it’s “just normal life” in most of America.

    I guess my point would be this… extravagant might be the 30 seat theater, the ostrich skin, the kitty kave. Extravagant might not be the RV itself. Extravagance in vehicles might be owning an Escalade with fancy rims, but maybe not a 11 year old Ford Ranger. But a few years from now, that Escalade may well be thought of as my older Ranger is now.

  4. Ron@TheWisdomJournal Says:

    Hey Glbl, I went to Guatemala for a summer long missions trip…by myself, when I was 17. It profoundly changed my perspective. Seeing families living in the dump with homes made out of corrugated plastic and cardboard, living with a pig…literally. They would rise the pig until it could be sold at the market, then sell it and buy a new piglet, starting the process over.

    When people say something is “the greatest thing since sliced bread, ” I actually know how great sliced bread IS. They didn’t have it in Guatemala!

    I spent some time in Chimaltenango and at El Lago de Atitlan at a summer camp called Monte Zion. I also worked with Don Virgilio Zapata’s school in Guatemala City.

    My parents have kept Guatemalan children in their home who were in the States to have heart surgery at UAB Medical Center in Birmingham.

    Getting back to your post, is extravagant spending OK, I think it all depends on where your heart is. If Warren Buffet or Bill Gates spent 90% of his fortune helping the poor, he would still have a huge chunk of change to buy just about anything he wanted. I think the key is to give cheerfully, not according to the law, but according to how you are led.

    Ron

  5. That One Caveman Says:

    I prefer to keep it simple and follow John Wesley’s teaching: “Make all you can; give all you can.” There’s nothing wrong with making as much money as you’re able, but the difference between what you need and what you make is supposed to be God’s. I’m still working on getting there, but I look forward to the day when I have everything covered at home and am able to write a large check when the church comes asking.

  6. rocketc Says:

    I agree with all of your post, but we must also consider that people who purchase items like this are employing a lot of workers. They are probably helping more families through an extravagant purchase like this than if they had just donated the money to charity.

    Don’t get me wrong, though, I am all for philanthropy.

  7. Ken Clark Says:

    Enjoyed the article… I saw a similar show on insane houseboats… They were nicer than the real homes that most people live in. Felt everything you mentioned!

    My pick for anyone that wants to read, is a book called “Simplicity” by Richard Foster. Great (Christian) book.

    -Ken

  8. Lynnae @ Being Frugal.net Says:

    I think that’s a tough question. For me personally? I could never own anything that extravagant. I’ve never been to Guatemala, but I used to go into Tijuana and Ensenada frequently when I lived in San Diego. It’s amazing how different things are just across the border. It’s like a line in the sand separates the rich from the truly poor.

    We also sponsored a boy (now a man) from Indonesia. $10 was SO much to him. $10. Less than it costs to take my family out to eat (I’m going to have to remember that….)

    I think Ron hit the nail on the head when he said the key is where your heart is. You need to do what God leads you to do.

    Speaking of, kudos to your boys for giving away their gameboys! That was very sweet! And good job, dad, for teaching them right!

  9. Becky@FamilyandFinances Says:

    Very neat story. All of the above comments were very good, as well!

    One of these years I’d really like to go to a poor country on a missions trip. I think I’d learn a lot and appreciate my quality of life a lot more.

  10. kim Says:

    Even if I had the money I wouldn’t spend it on something this silly.

  11. AJC @ 7million7years Says:

    ‘Extravagance’ is all relative … I budget to ‘only’ live off $250k / year, yet I make twice that just in bank interest, let alone the businesses and investments that I still own, so I could easily double that spending rate … why … because I consider myslef ‘frugal’.

    On the other hand, I will lash out and buy something extravagant (e.g. my Maserati) under 3 conditions: 1. I must pay cash; 2. When it doesn’t make sense NOT to buy something (if I have always wanted one, can afford it even after donating to charity etc etc); 3. Never pay full price (no sense throwing away money … I bought my car just 6 months old with only 1,700 miles on the clock and saved $25k in the process).

    The point here is, the same rules apply no matter how much / how little you have (the % stays the same … only the $ changes).

  12. Anne Says:

    The thing is, it is easy to take this to a reductionist conclusion that anything you spend beyond the bare essentials is “extravagant.” The $1500 you spent on a wedding ring or the $1500 you say you are going to spend on a family vacation could also go a long way in Guatemala, yet you justify these purchases.

  13. hs@ourdebtblog Says:

    Nothing wrong with extravagant, I think if you have the money, spend it!

    HS

  14. Nate Says:

    Not sure if I’d be adding much. I agree with those that say it is relative. What I consider extravagant, someone else may consider moderate and what I consider moderate another might consider extragavant. While motor homes like that may never be on the top of my list, there are some other things that I could throw money into. I think as long as priorities are taken care of (no debt, giving, retirement, giving, kid’s or grandkids college, did I say GIVING) then I would say extravagant is good. I know a couple who lives on 10% of their income and gives 90% away. And with that 10% they could buy one of those RV’s.
    As long as riches and things don’t get in your way–Mark 10:25

  15. M3 Says:

    Isn’t the real issue “why” you buy these things? I can’t imagine being in position where I could even afford a $1 million RV, but I also can go anywhere in the world I want to and not want for privacy. I’ve felt all of the things you mentioned, but I didn’t conclude with guilt, but rather with contentment. The old saying is “There will always be someone richer or thinner than you” and the idea is to find contentment with wherever you find yourself. Should you feel guilty for not sending your incentive check to Guatemala? No, and you shouldn’t feel guilty for wanting to spend it on an “experience” for the whole family, as long as you own the decision. Consciousness in spending should be the goal, not regret. We don’t walk in each other’s shoes, but we try to learn from what we see.

  16. Natural Woman Says:

    Well it’s okay if you have it and you’re not in debt. My thing is who am I to tell someone what’s extravagant. I think 100$ pair of jeans is extravagant. Sure that money can be put to better use, but it’s not mine to tell someone what they should or should not do with their money. I do good with the money that I have and can’t worry about if these darn celebs are spending too much..of course they are, but they “earned” their money. It’s not up to people with money to do everything because they can for people that can’t. I do what I can with what I have and I don’t compare myself to what other people are doing or what they have. Money is for a protection, but wisdom preserves alive its owner.

  17. Lisa Says:

    I think once in a while I need to let loose a little, whether its to go out to dinner or get someone (or myself!) a gift… Otherwise it stops being fun! The reason i do all the saving is so I can do the spending in the right places!

  18. glblguy Says:

    Wow, great comments everyone and very thought provoking. I do agree it’s all relevant and a very personal choice as well.

    What’s interesting is where each of us draw the line of extravagant vs normal. Seems that’s a whole interesting discussion in and of itself.

    @Nate – Hey Nate, how about introducing me to your friends ;-)

  19. Uncle B Says:

    When we can afford to have 72 virgins stuff gold dust up our a**** we will still want platinum dust like the Saudies have. Greed and avarice know no end. Look at Dubai and weep, they have more of everything than Americans will ever have, with one exception, a polluted burned out land filled with polluted burned out people. we need our values system overhauled.

  20. Momma Says:

    Great read, both the article and the comments. Thanks for sharing!

  21. Claire-France Perez Says:

    The possibility of staying home while ill is for some, an extravagance!

    The comparison between what scale of extravagance is available to citizens of such widely different governments, is a difficult one to make “stick,” as Guatamala’s citizens do not have the scale of education, of opportunity, nor do they have an infrastructure as rich as the US. The characters of fame and fortune are not shown here as philanthropists, so we do not know if the actors mentioned are generous to the poor. Someone responded above, saying that there is usually an economy of jobs following these major players, some who might be generous indeed!

    It’s upon a scale of political differences that makes or breaks a citizen’s opportunity at his own small extravagances.

    Is it wrong? Or bad? If millions are put out of their household in the US while an elite class of bankers get a “rescue” for their shoddy “subprime” loans, that is both bad and extravagantly wrong. If Senators Vitter (R) and Craig (R) are still in office, while Elliot Spitzer (D) takes a fall, this is both extravagant, and wrong. The fact that Spitzer went down at the same time as this “save” on Wall Street was occuring was also extravagant, and wrong.

    When extravagance is borne upon a poor population, it is wrong. While maintaining health care for only a small group, excluding many others, that is an unacceptable extravagance for society.

    If the actor mentioned is moved by sharing his bed(s) and shower, he will, and that for him may be an extravagance!

    We cannot judge but merely protest the great divides separating humanity from the humane, our hearts from our ability to share.

    I congratulate the wealthy who are often humanitarians as well. Leave well enough alone on judging someone for their wealth or status. We can only hope they feel something too.

    Great looking truck!

    cf

  22. glblguy Says:

    @cf – Very very well written comment. I commend you on your writing abilities.

    Point of clarification, I wasn’t judging anyone, but expressing my personal feelings of how that wouldn’t be a right decision for me and why. To each their own.

  23. Claire-France Perez Says:

    I hope you didn’t think I was wagging any pointer fingers your way! The editorial “we” just means that I include myself with others who share a point of view about giving and caring for others. I believe we have that in common!

  24. Suechan Says:

    If you could afford it, instead of this one extravagant RV why not buy a few more average RV’s and donate them to the families in Guatemala if they’re living in such squalor?
    Would that be considered too extravagant for them?

    I don’t consider myself very religious (not even Christian) but everyone here does make a very valid point and it’s got me re-thinking my what-ifs with the lottery. Great article and comments!

  25. Claire-France Perez Says:

    I would tend to doubt whether the shipment of housing or vehicles would dent the problems faced by the impoverished. Policy and economy have much more effect on the bottom line, where a social movement of concern brings relief, employment, arable land and water, and the education infrastructures to enable a generations-long event to come to a happier conclusion. It is “very American” to “throw money at it,” instead of slowly growing a sturdy, inbred response to the cycle that creates poverty in the first place. It is the community that determines the rich will live behind the enclaves, and only those with passes may enter. That community must find response from its numbers, and from helpful, and educated persons with an insight. The rich are certainly entitled to their serene Sunday Mornings! They are entitled to employ whom they trust, and can use their wealth as they wish, as much as we (lesser endowed) might wish for ourselves.

    But they also may have solutions, being they are neighbors. As such, they face the dangers of a too-hungry population (look up the problem of kidnappings in Mexico) who commit crimes against them, in order to live one more day.

    It is in everyone’s best interest to balance out the extremes, but not by offering what is known among the Alcoholics Anonymous as “enabling” a piecemeal, a recreational vehicle or two, or a swig from my bottle. This would be “extravagance.”

    It is by empowering that this cycle of impoverishment is brought to end. It is by elevating human dignity, not by stuffing the beak with a only a temporary crutch of relief. 1 or 100 RVs are not the answer, they are only another extravagance.

    Empowerment means they become educated and motivated to divide the economy more equitably, to allow a Sunday Afternoon of fun for everyone, no more scrubbing the trash cans, not for one poor person.

    The rising tide which lifts all boats is what each desert of humanitarian insight requires.

    cf

  26. Dave Buzzard Says:

    Am I able to cancel the order within 30 days if I choose to not keep it?

  27. jon Says:

    just spend money if you have it.

  28. MoveToPBC Says:

    I agree with the author. I could actually afford one of these RV’s, and while part of me wants one.. It is just too much. There are a lot more important things that the money could be going for. Anyone who owns one of these should be ashamed..

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