When something stands the test of time, it becomes a classic. As far as I am concerned, everything else is “contemporary junk” items. I would strongly encourage anyone interested in living well on very little to “invest”, that is, buy and own classics rather than cheap—frugal is sometimes used as a euphemism—junk.
Now, it will very often be the case that classics retain or even increase in value. My Hanwag shoes (now more than a decade old) cost more today than what I paid for them back in mid 1990s. My Norroena backpack costs more today than what I paid for it around the same time. I note that my HiFi system costs substantially more for essentially the same components, only digital components are generally better today than they were ten years, but analogue components matured long ago.
Another way that classics are cheap to own is that you will be able to pay the lower used price, which admittedly is close to the new price if it’s still in production. However, should you decide to sell again a few years from now, you will be able to sell again at the same price or even perhaps slightly higher or at worst slightly lower. The difference can be thought of interest or rent depending on whether the return is positive or negative.
Accumulating classics require slightly more knowledge than driving over to the mall and swiping the credit card, but it is really not that hard. I have little interest in furniture, but a few weeks on internet research will certainly reveal what I should or should not buy. $1000 for a lamp, that’s crazy, you say?! Well, first, remember that you can probably sell it for the same price, so the cost is really much smaller than replacing it with the latest $100 atrocity every other year for the rest of your life. Second, you can consider this a kind of diversification, like investing in art, stamps, gold, or classic motorcycles. Third, I tell you the joy of using a superior product is quite superior to that of using an average product. Fourth, you do not need to accumulate everything at once. Get one when you can afford it keeping in mind that you are not going to replace it again for a long long time and after 10 years or so you will see that the pain of handing over the money will have gone while you still have the item (and the possibility of selling it again). Furthermore, fifth, rather than getting 10 lamps, when you’re only using one or two on a regular basis.
But what about opportunity costs you ask. Shouldn’t you put the money in an index fund and let the supposed magic work. Well, my question to you is, what are you going to spend the million dollars on fifty years from now? Contemporary junk? No, I’d say using at least part of your money and paying 3-5 times above the average or typical price for something is worth it if it has those “classical” qualities. There’s no point in hoarding money for the sake of just having large numbers in your bank account. Consider your savings and investments to be assets that pay for your food, rent, and other fixed costs, and then spend your “working-money” on really good things that last a lifetime.
Here’s a short list to get started: shoes, fishing reel, binoculars, pocket knife, wristwatch, music instruments (non-electronic), clothes (filson, barbour, burberry, etc.), pens, furniture, silverware.