After basic elements for survival are met—food, water, shelter — what modern luxuries do you consider indispensable? And what could you honestly do without? We surveyed 1,000 people and asked them about common American "luxuries" — smartphones, dishwashers, personal trainers, etc — then we rated their answers based on commitment level and cost. See how people responded below!
It's no surprise that Internet access and smartphones rank at the top, each with the highest score of the lot. Nearly all basic needs, as well as convenience needs, can be researched or accessed through the Internet. As a bonus, the Internet also provides entertainment and communication, thanks to devices like smartphones. Yes, one can survive without a computer in their pocket (civilization managed just fine before 2007, when the iPhone made its debut) but with so much information and connectivity at our fingertips, Internet-enabled smartphones are as ingrained into our daily lives as food, water and shelter.
The scores for entertainment luxuries boil down to personal preference. Mostly men, singles, and Millennials rated items such as premium headphones and music streaming services like Spotify as more essential, and women and Gen-Xers gave premium cable TV and DVR recorders higher scores than their counterparts. Everyone agreed that flying first class was a lower priority, but travel in general rated quite high.
After entertainment, food and drink landed in the mid-grade area on the essential luxury list. Eating out at restaurants, buying lunch during the work week, and eating organic produce all rank high on the index, mostly because of the higher cost associated with these activities. Responders recognize that there are cheaper ways to eat—for example, brown bagging their lunch and buying canned produce instead of fresh—but the convenience, lifestyle match and social aspects make eating out and higher quality foods very popular.
A category as broad as household items allowed for a wide range of what's essential and what's not. Having a clothes dryer, a dishwasher, and a microwave ranked among the higher items for "needs" because while there are alternatives — air drying your clothes, washing dishes by hand, using an oven—the convenience and speed of modern appliances make these items as close to essential as they come. Items like a Jacuzzi and maid service, while convenient and personally appreciated, aren't nearly as crucial to daily care and health.
Surveys like this show that while we may live in the Digital Age and technology is constantly outsourcing more and more tasks to automated machinery, we are only one power outage, Internet service disruption, or zombie apocalypse away from relying on just the basics. It's good to remember what's essential and what's simply a luxury.