“I could get used to this”

“I could get used to this.”

It's a phrase that is repeated no fewer than four times in this thirty second Lexus commercial.

(sadly, the commercial is gone from Youtube but you can see it here)

“Once you experience this level of luxury, there's no going back.” says the narrator.

He's right. There is no going back… and boy, it'll be expensive to stay there.

It's a well documented tendency known as hedonic adaptation.

People have a stable baseline level of happiness and regardless of what happens around you, you tend to settle back into that baseline. When you buy a new car, perhaps even a Lexus, you'll experience short term increases in happiness but eventually settle back to your baseline.

Luxury is something everyone should be able to enjoy responsibly. Avoiding luxury can be just as detrimental as runaway spending, so learn how to enjoy life the right way and remain financially fit.This might seem like a bad thing, until you realize the same thing happens for negative experiences as well. This adaptation, or desensitization, is a survival mechanism.

There's just one problem… once you buy that luxury car, you're still paying for it even after your happiness returns to the baseline. To get that happiness back, you need to increase the stakes. The special becomes routine and routine just isn't special, even though the new routine now costs way more than the old routine.

What's the solution? It's not to avoid luxury! — as many experts would say.

The answer is to avoid luxury that is out of reach. Avoid luxury that will tie your finances in knots for many years. If you can't afford to buy a Lexus, reaching (financially) and weighing yourself down with a loan isn't the answer. Your payments will continue long after the pleasurable experiences diminish.

(at its core, this is the Prime Directive of Personal Finance)

The key is to treat yourself but do so in a responsible way.

Perhaps you can't buy a Lexus but could lease one instead. Leasing is seen as a very expensive way to take possession of a car but why not lease an expensive car for two or three years to scratch that itch. When the glow has inevitably worn off, send it back for a more financially practical car. You may miss some of the nice features but you'll just as quickly adapt back to the new baseline… plus you'll have enjoyed driving the luxury vehicle you've always wanted.

Or, get a used Lexus from someone who scratched that itch and wants to move onto something more practical.

“I could get used to this” is a nice phrase… but it's best not to.

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About Jim Wang

Jim Wang is a forty-something father of four who is a frequent contributor to Forbes and Vanguard's Blog. He has also been fortunate to have appeared in the New York Times, Baltimore Sun, Entrepreneur, and Marketplace Money.

Jim has a B.S. in Computer Science and Economics from Carnegie Mellon University, an M.S. in Information Technology - Software Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, as well as a Masters in Business Administration from Johns Hopkins University. His approach to personal finance is that of an engineer, breaking down complex subjects into bite-sized easily understood concepts that you can use in your daily life.

One of his favorite tools (here's my treasure chest of tools,, everything I use) is Personal Capital, which enables him to manage his finances in just 15-minutes each month. They also offer financial planning, such as a Retirement Planning Tool that can tell you if you're on track to retire when you want. It's free.

He is also diversifying his investment portfolio by adding a little bit of real estate. But not rental homes, because he doesn't want a second job, it's diversified small investments in a few commercial properties and farms in Illinois, Louisiana, and California through AcreTrader.

Recently, he's invested in a few pieces of art on Masterworks too.

>> Read more articles by Jim

Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank or financial institution. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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About the comments on this site:

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  1. Norman says

    Thanks for the article. I never thought of leasing a nice car as a way to “scratch the itch” although it makes sense. One thing I’ve thought about is renting a nice apartment in the city for a short period to “scratch the itch” and just rent out the place I own to someone else to pay the mortgage.

    • Jim says

      Yeah definitely, once you scratch the itch and it goes away… you walk away. Better than strapping yourself to a financial anchor you won’t enjoy.

  2. Andrew@LivingRichCheaply says

    In my younger days, I had that luxury car itch but honestly I could see you just return to the baseline. When I got my new to me car, I was so excited because my old one was unreliable and lacked newer features, but ultimately it was just a vehicle to get to somewhere. Didn’t really matter what it was as long as it was practical. Now with a growing family, I’m all about practical. Though as I get closer to middle age, it’s possible I might want to scratch that itch.

    • Jim says

      There’s nothing wrong with scratching the itch! Just realize that after a while you get used to it… so make sure you aren’t paying for a luxury you no longer love after you’re done loving it. πŸ™‚

  3. Catherine Alford says

    We’ve found that we do “get used to it” and it takes even more spending to make us feel the same way in the future. It is a vicious cycle for sure.

    • Jim says

      Yeah, it’s 100% natural too… Sometimes we spend so much energy and emotion fighting our natural tendencies and behavior. Just embrace it, be smart about it, and sane too.

    • Jim says

      That’s a good quote, I’m not sure if it’s a necessity immediately and instantly after sampling but if you enjoy it too much it becomes routine… which is the same message. Good to keep in mind!

  4. Dr. Wise Money says

    Definitely agree. Which is why I choose to live in a low cost of living area and always believed in living frugally and vacationing richly. It does parallel your idea of treating oneself to something that has a happiness lasting as ephemeral as its financial impact/dent on once life.
    Awesome succinct post πŸ™‚ Thanks!

    • Jim says

      I like that term “vacationing richly” — we do the same. I think that when it’s a vacation, your mind is in a different frame of mine so the luxurious don’t become familiar. We do this with our kids too. On vacation, they get a lot of things they don’t get at home, like watching TV and drinking juice. It’s the only way it’s a vacation for us too. πŸ™‚

  5. Dr.J @ MedSchool Financial says

    Hey Jim,

    Not to mention the depreciation thats also taking place as soon as you drive of the lot. The mantra needs to be “i could get used to this” but instead be a commercial about wise investments.

    Dr. J

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