There are few sensations that can beat the thrill of a frivolous purchase. After struggling all month to make sure that the rent, bills, and car payments are paid in a timely fashion, it can be downright exhilarating to blow a big chunk of change on something unnecessary.
Sadly, the thrill passes once the next billing cycle kicks in. That $300 pair of shoes may have seemed like a well-deserved extravagance, but now it’s starting to feel like an ill-advised and anxiety-provoking mistake.
The morning-after regret of the frolicsome purchase is familiar to almost anyone living on a budget. However, it’s something that billionaires never have to confront. They can indulge their whims and buy every toy that catches their fancy, however briefly. This includes antique cars, jumbo jets, and even spaceships. No urge is too outrageous and no desire is too extravagant.
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Microsoft’s Bill Gates may get all the coverage, but he shares credit for founding Microsoft with Paul Allen. Though less recognized, Allen’s role in turning the company into what it is today cannot be overstated. He came up with the Microsoft name, and he brokered the deal to put the operating system that his company owned into every personal computer manufactured by IBM .
Allen stepped down from the company in 2000, but not without walking away with 138 million shares. Today, he has a net worth of $13 billion, and he used some of that money to buy “Octopus,” a yacht that he bought for $200 million . The yacht is more than 400-feet long and is outfitted with a basketball court, a hot tub, and, of course, landing pads for two helicopters.
Phil Ruffin is involved in a diverse number of businesses, including gambling, real estate, and oil production. He lives in Las Vegas and is no stranger to the Forbes 400 List. In his 2008 appearance , the magazine estimated his net worth at $2.1 billion.
A private jet is the de rigueur mode of travel to spirit a billionaire from one luxurious locale to the next. However, Ruffin is no ordinary billionaire, so he spent $70 million on a Boeing 737 jumbo jet , then put an additional $15 million into renovating the interior, which he outfitted with leather seats, two full bedrooms, and a $1 million entertainment system.
S. Truett Cathy is the founder of Chick-fil-A, a fast-food chain headquartered in College Park, Ga. The business has made a very rich man out of the now 90-year-old Cathy, and today his net worth is an estimated $2 billion .
The World War II veteran is also, one presumes, a big fan of superhero vigilantes. While 1992’s "Batman Returns " film may not be the most memorable installment in the "Batman" movie franchise, it made such an impression on Cathy that he spent $250,000 to buy himself the Batmobile used in its filming.
Hassanal Bolkiah is better known by his job title, the Sultan of Brunei. His home, the Istana Nurul Iman, holds the current Guinness Record for the largest single-family residence on earth. Its 564 chandeliers use 51,000 light bulbs, and a house tour reveals more than 250 bathrooms, a mosque that can hold 1,500 people, and a garage for 110 cars.
Speaking of cars, the Sultan is a collector, and he owns more than 1,900 automobiles, including Bentleys, Ferraris, and Porsches. However, the prize of his fleet is the “Star of India,” a Rolls Royce convertible that he bought for $14 million , making it the most expensive car in the world by far.
Roman Abramovich is the owner of Millhouse LLC, a private investment firm. The Russian businessman is also the owner of the Chelsea Football Club, and together these ventures have brought him a net worth of more than $13 billion , a sum that would have been inconceivable to his fellow countrymen just a few decades ago.
Abramovich spent $450 million of that wealth on “The Eclipse,” his private yacht. It’s the largest yacht in the world and it has amenities that can be hard to find on most luxury yachts, such as a missile-detection system and a submarine.
To most people in the industrialized world, Bill Gates needs no introduction. Microsoft’s chairman has been one of the richest people in the world for nearly two decades, and he has held the title for wealthiest overall on numerous occasions. As of March 2011, his approximate net worth is said to be $56 billion .
Gates has not been shy about purchasing items that can be described as “big ticket.” This includes one of Leonardo Da Vinci’s few surviving scientific journals, which he purchased at a 1994 auction for almost $31 million . Rather than keep it to himself, he had it scanned and made its contents available to the general public, who can buy it on CD for $30, or less than 0.0001 percent of his original purchase price.
Richard Branson is the chairman of the Virgin Group, a conglomerate with 400 companies under its umbrella. These companies include Virgin Atlantic Airways, Virgin Mobile, and the somewhat less well-known Virgin Galactic. This company was founded in 2004 with the goal of offering six minutes of space travel to anyone with $200,000 .
Branson unveiled his galactic vessel, “SpaceShipTwo,” at the 2006 NextFest technology exhibition in New York City. It seats eight, including two crew members. Once in sub-orbital space, passengers are encouraged to unbuckle themselves and enjoy the experience of weightlessness inside the fuselage. Branson’s craft is not ready to go into service, but when it does, his exotic toy is expected to fly passengers from London to Sydney in 30 minutes.
Movie director Steven Spielberg has helmed some of the most popular films of all time, such as "Jaws," "Raiders of the Lost Ark," and "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial." In 2011, he was said to have a net worth of $3 billion .
In 1982, he purchased a piece of movie memorabilia at a Sotheby’s auction for $60,500 . The item was “Rosebud,” the sled from the 1941 Orson Welles classic film "Citizen Kane." At the time of its purchase, it was the most expensive movie prop ever sold.
Mark Cuban is the owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team, as well as Magnolia Pictures and the Landmark Theaters chain. As if that weren’t enough to keep him busy, he also serves as chairman of HDNet, a television station that broadcasts exclusively in high-definition. As of March 2011, his estimated net worth is $2.5 billion .
In 1999, Cuban bought a Gulfstream V, a private plane normally used for business travel that’s sometimes used as a military vehicle. It set him back $40 million, and it also earned him a spot in the Guinness Book of Records , as it constituted the single most expensive e-commerce transaction in history .
Victoria “Posh Spice” Beckham is a regular fixture in supermarket tabloids. Technically, she should be ineligible for inclusion in this slideshow, as she and her husband, footballer David Beckham, have a collective net worth of only $271 million , well short of $1 billion. However, they engage in displays of conspicuous consumption that rank right up there with those of billionaires.
One such purchase was noted in February 2011 by The Daily Mail , who caught Beckham at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport carrying a custom-made gold iPhone. The device cost just under $36,000, and featured a photo of her dreamy athlete husband in all his shirtless glory as its wallpaper.