The Mont Blanc Effect: Your Fancy Purchase is Costing You More than You Realize


A boss of mine gave me a very nice gift about 11 years ago: a Mont Blanc pen. Excuse me, I should have said writing instrument.

My 21-year old self was impressed. There are a few reasons a gift like that is so exciting:

1) I’d never buy myself one and

2) People would wonder how I ever afforded such a pen. It would add to my pre-married, still in the dating-market mystique. That guy Jesse? I don’t really want to go out with him…but did you see his pen? My my…

I love that boss of mine–still stay in contact with him to this day–but he gave me a debt.

A month of using the pen, and I had to buy a refill. A few months later, I had to buy another refill. I didn’t know they even made pens that required refills. I was used to Bics, and Pilot Precise Point, Extra-Fine tipped pens that seemed to last years, and which you bought in packs of dozens.

This is the Mont Blanc Effect. It’s the maintenance cost of that expensive item you bought.

And it can sometimes fly in the face of the “Buy Nice, or Buy Twice” adage. At least a little bit.

Mark, Chance and I all discussed the Mont Blanc effect, and came up with a few more examples, to get your gears turning. Remember the weight room, where I spent lavishly on mirrors from floor to ceiling, and had the walls all done with real brick? We had our hot water line to the kitchen spring a link, it soaked the ceiling of the weight room, and soaked the north wall where half of our mirrors were hung. So we had to break the mirrors, tear down the wall, and weight room entry. The entry way was the part done with a lot of brick, and that brick made the demolition a lot more difficult (costly). Lesson: the mirrors and brick cost more to build, and cost more to demolish.

I used to want a BMW. So silly. At any rate, you buy one of those and you’re committed to premium gasoline, lower miles per gallon, an increased likelihood of speeding tickets (I know I’d speed more…) and higher repair costs.

Just today, Julie sent me an email mentioning a cutting board that is highly recommended by one of her favorite cooking blogs. Mark said, “You’re going to get that cutting board for her.” And yes, I likely will, because the woman wants nary a thing, so when she does, I get pretty excited about getting it for her for Christmas. Anyway, on Amazon this fancy cutting board costs $158. (Of course, using a service like CamelCamelCamel, probably named in a rush, just like this site, and you find out the average price is $132…I’ve placed a price watch on it.) I digress. What does Amazon suggest as a purchase alongside this fancy cutting board? Fourteen dollar mystery oil.

That fancy cutting board demands some fancy maintenance.

Update: Based on some reader comments, I could get very cheap mineral oil from my local hardware store and the maintenance costs on the fancy cutting board would be minimal.

TOYS are a classic on this. Boats, snowmobiles, four-wheelers, etc. They’re costly to winterize, maintain, store, repair and operate. The excited about-to-be-a-boat-owner has a tough time considering the ongoing costs. A sudden windfall has provided the opportunity of a lavish purchase, but the sudden windfall will be suddenly gone, and the maintenance costs will remain.

What about you? What are some luxury items you’ve acquired that have come with their share of hidden maintenance costs? Where have you been bit by the Mont Blanc effect?

P.S. In my head is a post about Buy Nice, or Buy Twice. I LOVE the idea of purchasing something and having it last, instead of landing in a landfill. This idea of maintenance may seem to go against this idea, but I think as long as maintenance costs are weighed as part of the purchase, everything works out 🙂