In the past couple of years, my hourly wage has doubled. On top of that, now, I don’t have to pay tuition. I think that most people in my situation would be battling some major lifestyle inflation. And I am, of course, no exception.
I think that, when you can all of a sudden afford things that you couldn’t before, lifestyle inflation will hit you a little bit no matter what. Even if that means that you allow yourself to buy a coffee every once in awhile and you didn’t let yourself before, it’s lifestyle inflation.
I really want to curb my tendency toward lifestyle inflation as much as possible. I still have debt to pay off and want to buy a house, so all of that inflation money could go toward saving or paying down debt more quickly.
Here is what I think would work for me to beat lifestyle inflation:
Pretend You’re Not Making More
I’ve considered filling out a form with payroll at my work to transfer the difference between what I used to make and live on, and what I now make, into my savings account.
I think setting it up like this so that it never hits my account will stop me from rerouting the money toward less important things, like new dresses and shoes.
Another way to do this, if you have self control (which I don’t), is the budget just as if you were making the same amount as before, and manually reroute your extra money to your savings goal.
To avoid the cash implications of lifestyle inflation without depriving yourself of the things that you want, cut back in areas that you don’t value.
For instance, I’m spending a lot of money each month on my cell phone bill. This was necessary while I was in school because I was constantly on the phone with group members, checking my email for grades, and navigating to conferences. However, now that I’m not in school I could cut my phone bill back significantly. I could then spend the savings on things that I want, instead of my bill, and then I wouldn’t be hit with the extra cost of lifestyle inflation.
Keep Your Goals in Mind
When your income increases or expenses drastically decrease (like when you pay off debt), keep your goals in mind. Why were you working so hard toward making more money or decreasing your debt? Likely, there was a reason. Maybe you wanted to transition into home ownership. Maybe you wanted to save up for retirement.
Creating a vision board or even just setting your computer desktop background to an image of a goal can be very helpful in avoiding lifestyle inflation. You have lived on less for awhile; why can’t you continue to do so while saving up for a goal?
I try to spend some time each week reflecting on my goals and what I’m saving for. I try to look at the things that I want to buy as barriers to my goals. Lifestyle inflation will only block you from reaching your goals, whereas avoiding it will help you reach them sooner; the extra cash that you’ve come across is just fuel to the fire.
Allow Yourself to Indulge
I think it’s impossible to avoid lifestyle inflation completely, and I think it’s also pointless. If you are making the effort to make more money, or if you were successful in climbing out of debt and have some extra cash, reward yourself! Both of these things can be stressful and difficult to do, so rewarding yourself is important.
While it’s not necessary to reward yourself with TVs and trips to the Bahamas, allowing yourself a night out or a new pair of shoes every once in awhile won’t hurt. In the long run, will the $20 you spent on dinner affect your goal? Probably not. If you spent $20 on dinner 5 times per week, then you’d have a problem on your hands.
Have you struggled with lifestyle inflation in the past? How did you beat it?