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Why You Should Avoid Lifestyle Creep

lifestyle creep dangers
Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.❞ -Epictetus

Reflecting on life several years ago, I realize I like my lifestyle. It's comfortable. We do things that we enjoy. I like my work. I'm comfortable.

I like my wardrobe. Yet, I started shopping at Jos A. Bank. I thought that was a pretty good in-between. Colleagues at work get their clothes from Brooks Brothers, but I'm not like them; that's a waste of money.

I like my car. Yet, it's closing in on 10 years old and I want a black sedan with leather interior and a sunroof. Dog fir gets all over the cloth seats and it's hard to clean, and a sunroof seems cool. All my colleagues have expensive European cars, but I just want a small domestic car. European cars are too much.

I like camping and hiking. Yet, I start taking more expensive vacations. My boss goes on several trips every year to Napa Valley, Naples, New York, and even Europe. I don't need to go on so many trips, though; that's too much money.

As I started making more money, I started spending more money. I was deceiving myself. I didn't spend quite as much as my peers - a clear (to me) justification that I am still, in fact, frugal.

The flip side of that coin, however, is that I had a comfortable lifestyle and spent more money to increase my lifestyle.

Lifestyle Creep Defined

In a nutshell, lifestyle creep refers to how the cost of our lifestyle tends to creep up as we start making more money.

Let's assume you have a comfortable lifestyle that you're perfectly happy with. All your needs are being met, you have hobbies you enjoy, you like your work, and you're generally satisfied with your life.

Now, what happens when you get a good raise, your partner gets a great promotion, or you receive an inheritance?

If you're like most people, your vacations would start to cost a little bit more. You would start to go to more expensive restaurants. You would eventually upgrade your cars. If it was enough of a bump, you might even upgrade your home.

That is, the cost of your lifestyle creeps higher to keep up with your income.

lifestyle creep

Why Lifestyle Creep Happens

It's important to understand this isn't usually something we do on purpose. With rare exceptions, nobody says, "I am going to start spending more money." But, that's what we do.

Often we nonconsciously chase our neighbors. When our neighbors and friends have what we don't have, that affects us. Further, deep down we believe that a more expensive lifestyle will make us happier. Often the hard work that lead to the promotion or raise has us justifying our lifestyle creep by telling ourselves "we earned it."

We don't usually do this with intention, and even if we somehow did intend to increase our lifestyle, we do that analysis only considering our present selves without regard for our future selves.

keeping up with the Joneses

Increasing Your Lifestyle Is Not Necessarily Bad

You might be skeptical about my seeming bashing of increasing your lifestyle, and you should be. However, I want to point out that I am not saying increasing your lifestyle is bad. I am saying that increasing your lifestyle with intention is quite different from letting your lifestyle increase accidentally.