Buying Luxuries On A Budget

How to save and invest on big ticket luxury items, just like the experts do

We all like nice things. Purchasing a luxury item now and then transports us beyond the daily grind and makes us feel that we’re at least a little bit special. It could be a fine wine to mark an occasion, a quality piece of art on the wall or a piece of jewelry that will last a lifetime.

Not all of us are in a position to buy these fine things, of course, and none is essential to a happy life. But to treat yourself to something nice every now and then, particularly if you’re not sacrificing too much, is a basic pleasure of life. Of course, nice doesn’t have to be expensive.

Experts on high-end consumer products agree that by shopping smart, you can save a considerable amount of money. So if you find yourself in the market for a high-end item, read on. We’ll discuss how you can afford to buy just a few of the things that your heart desires.

ART: INVESTING A PRETTY PENNY
A work of art, be it a painting, a drawing or a sculpture, can do more than prettify a room. With a little luck and acumen, it can also make you some money. Benjamin Doller, director of 19th century European paintings, drawings and sculptures at Sotheby’s in New York, puts it plainly: “A good thing about an art investment is that it’s not just money in the bank and a balance statement to look at. You get to live with it and enjoy it.”

Understand first that you have some negotiating power. An artwork does not have a shelf price, like a can of peas. Once you have entered the art gallery and spotted a painting that you fancy, feel free to dicker.

What should you do to get a discount? “Ask for it,” says Ronald Greenberg, operator of the Greenberg Van Doren Gallery in St. Louis. “Usually there is a courtesy discount if you’ve bought before, sometimes 10% or more.”

If you depend too heavily on the advice of gallery owners, “you’re letting someone else play with your money, and you’re unlikely to do well with it,” says Marc Rosen, a New York art consultant.

All the experts advise buying artwork that you like and feel good living with. But there is so much money swirling around this world that you can be forgiven for being curious about value. After all, it’s even easier to live with something that’s growing in value moment by moment.

There’s no escaping the fact that there’s the element of a crapshoot in buying artwork. You don’t need that much money to get into the game. A few thousand dollars will give you access to a choice: you can spend it on a Picasso lithograph or a full-scale work by an unknown. Five years later–which, by the way, is the minimum time you should plan to hold on to something for appreciation–the Picasso will have done its blue-chip growth. And the unknown? It will be worth a little less. Or a little more. Or

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