Status update: our symbols of success upgrade from ponies and cordless phone to nanny and first class travel

The 1980s have long been the decade synonymous with excessive materialism. But a recent survey shows that, by today’s standards, life back then seems relatively modest

The survey, which questioned 2,000 brits, reveals that the criteria of success has changed in the past 30 years from two cars to two homes, holidays abroad to holiday homes abroad and from conservatory to swimming pool.

Desirable income was just £18,291 per year in the 1980s; today it is £105,490 and an aspirational home costs £603,67 compared to £46,618 for the previous generation. The top three 1980s must-haves were car phone, dishwasher and private schools. Today's are a high-powered car, designer watch and swimming pool.

man calling phone in car

(Image credit: TBC)

While an increased standard of living is no bad thing, the survey reports such aspirations can have disturbing connotations.

Andy Oldham, Managing Director of Quidco, who commissioned the research, said 'material items go such a long way to showing you are successful that it seems many are buying these status symbols, even if they can't really afford them.'


According to the survey, 14% of consumers in the UK have bought a particular thing or brand just to appear more well off than they really are. One in four also admitted they used a credit card to make the extravagant purchase, while more than one in 20 took out a loan. And fewer than half used money they had saved.


house with french windows and grass and trees

(Image credit: TBC)

It's also interesting to note that the list of 1980s desirables contains assets such as a dishwasher and colour TV, which were in fact commonplace in the 1970s or even 1960s - well, in America at least. The current list seems to indicate, however, that our materialism and ability to fulfil it has caught up with our friends across the pond.

Once upon a time we were intent on merely keeping up with the Joneses. Now with our desire for designer goods and second homes, it seems we won't be satisfied until we're keeping up with the Kardashians....

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Heather Young

Heather Young has been Ideal Home’s Editor since late 2020, and Editor-In-Chief since 2023. She is an interiors journalist and editor who’s been working for some of the UK’s leading interiors magazines for over 20 years, both in-house and as a freelancer.