Have you ever heard the one about the graduate student who ate beans on toast for 4 years whilst completing his degree, accepted a top-class job with high prospective pay increases but even after 10 or 15 years of working never seems to have any more money in the bank than he did when he was studying as a poor lowly student?
Okay, I made this person up but the reality is that most of us know one or two people who are exactly like this. They are earning lots of money, in some cases more than you, but they never seem to actually have any. Yes, they have great cars or a big fantastic house but they always complain about owing so much on maxed out credit cards.
This could also happen to you if you're not careful. You see, these people are victims of Lifestyle Inflation.
What is it?
Lifestyle Inflation is something that happens to all of us at one time or other. It happens when we start working, it happens when we get a pay-rise and it can happen at almost any other time of our lives too if left unchecked. It's that function of our income which makes us say "Hey, I can afford that because of my new pay-rise" so you go out and spend the extra money on that new 'thing'. Because ... you know ... you're worth it!
It also has another phrase, one that is probably more well known than Lifestyle Inflation. It is also know as:
The more you earn, the more you spend.
You've definitely heard of that one.
Now, I want you to sit back, relax and have a think about what you did the last time you got a pay rise. I'll wait right here until you come back. Think of a few things. To help you out, you might want to consider whether you:
- treated yourself to a nice meal out
- splurged on new clothes, make-up or shoes
- subscribed to another magazine
- raised your cable subscription to the next level up
- increased the amount you set aside for socialising
- went out and bought a new car
If you can tick a few of these or maybe you have some of your own, then you are inflating your lifestyle.
So what? I deserve it
Of course you deserve it, you work hard for that money. That increase didn't come without having put those extra hours in, being good at what you do and finding a good position within your company. All that extra work you put in for that pay rise was worth it in the end and therefore you feel you deserve to spend it on whatever you like.
By all means treat yourself but do something low-key as a one off rather than expensive and continuous. That way, at least it is somewhat contained (and also, you need to treat yourself every now and again, otherwise you'd probably go a bit mad).
But here's the crunch. Yes, you put all that extra work in, your skills have increased and you're worth much more in your field of expertise but how does that benefit you if you spend all of that extra? Especially all that extra on something you have to pay every month for a very long time.
Think about it. Your employer is paying you more as recognition that you have improved both yourself and the company. But you're not recognising yourself. If you go out and spend that extra money in your paypacket every month, then you're not actually giving yourself a pay-rise.
Those extra car payments per month might come from your pay-rise but it's basically wiping that pay-rise out. What you end up with in your pocket is the same - or possibly less - than what you were getting before!
This doesn't make any sense. It means you're more valuable, you're earning more and you're being recognised but the end result is that you come out the same at the end of the month.
That doesn't make sense to me (and yes, I've been guilty of doing this in the past).
How to Stop It
Essentially you need to stop it by not allowing yourself to spend that increased pay-packet. Much like the old phrase PF bloggers like - Spend Less than You Earn - another one can be added to that list:
Don't Increase your Spending at the Same Rate as your Pay
There may be one or two things you want to spend extra on, possibly those things you've been holding out for for years but be careful not to spend every single extra penny you take home. If your expenses increase at a lower rate than your pay-rises, then you'll be doing well.
Of course, if your expenses don't increase at all when your pay increases, then you're doing even better. This is easily done by not altering any of your expenses budget but instead adding that pay-rise straight onto your savings budget.
Recently, I have been a victim of a lifestyle change but happily for me, it is in the other direction. I have no idea if there is such as thing as Lifestyle Deflation but I think this is what I have been doing recently.
I recently chose to stop, cut out or cut down a number of my expenses and hence, even though I didn't get a pay-rise at the time, it sure has felt like one. It was a random time to do it but after almost three months I am already feeling the benefit of it.
To finish off, you might also want to consider what areas of your life you can downsize, cut out, do without, sacrifice or even just spend less on. You'll be surprised at how just a few things here and there add up to a fair amount of saving each month.
Oh, and by the way, the first places to look are those things you recognised earlier as contributions to your Lifestyle Inflation. If you didn't have these things before then you can probably still do without them now.
What is on your 'Lifestyle Inflation' list? What can you cut out to help with 'Lifestyle Deflation'?