On Sundays after church when I was a kid, we would go to this Chinese takeout place and order our own food. This was a special treat because the only other times we would go out to eat, we would eat family style, so we never got to order. So I would use this amazing Godlike opportunity by looking at the menu and ordering the cheapest thing on the menu – which was chicken fried rice. I hate chicken fried rice. I love fried rice but I only like shrimp fried rice. But that was sixty cents more and I felt guilty. Once my mom found out that I was ordering food that I didn’t want just because it was the cheapest, she assured me that I could order whatever I wanted and not to be so cheap. (I think the most expensive thing on the menu was $10).
Sometimes I find that I have not changed all that much. I will scrimp and save and buy things that I don’t like, just to save money. I will eat that chicken fried rice like it’s the only thing I can afford.
While so many personal finance blogs are all about how to save money, just like a diet, eventually you break (or at least I do. I have only lasted on a diet for a few days ). And maybe you aren’t interested in living like a monk for every year until you retire – and that’s ok. Also on a totally morbid note, what has freaked me out the most was the idea that I might die, and all the effort I spent saving money would be completely worthless (this is of course balanced by the fear that I will end up old and penniless). But the dollar saved here or there by eating food I don’t even like won’t save me from the latter situation anyway, so I have tried to live it up with some shrimp fried rice!
The problem with lifestyle inflation is not that you have a nicer lifestyle but that you do so mindlessly, spending much more money, becoming much more entitled without becoming much happier. I believe that if you have a problem that money can solve, and you have money, you should at least consider solve that problem with money rather than learning to live with it. Sometimes it’s nice to buy that thing you want, rather than learning to live without it. Personal finance shouldn’t be all about deprivation!
I’ve devised a plan and this is how I want to inflate my lifestyle:
- buying classic, good quality items of clothing that I’ve wanted for years rather than just having (i.e. a nice black blazer, well-made black leather stilettos, a real leather motorcycle jacket, a silk blouse);
- buying from brands that are purportedly ethical (don’t test on animals);
- buying high-quality fresh whole foods (I’m still on the fence about organic but I love food and I love eating a variety of food);
- taking vacations and visiting friends;
- outsourcing activities I hate or can’t do (cleaning my apartment, massages, waxing);
- upgrading my furniture (a couch that doesn’t sag, buying something that isn’t Ikea via Craigslist);
- buying nicer cookware (my stuff is old and not that great to begin with);
- buying the occasional new mp3, movie or TV show to watch;
- creating a beautiful gallery wall with professionally framed stuff (it always seemed too expensive).
To compensate, here’s a list of things I won’t inflate:
- I’ll continue to live without a TV;
- I might continue to live without a car or I’ll buy a beater;
- I won’t buy any new electronics and will likely keep my phone until I’m forced to upgrade;
- I won’t join a gym (I bike everywhere and there’s a free yoga class in my apartment);
- I’ll still use coupons, discounted gift cards and will base most purchases on what’s on sale. I’ll still shop at discounters;
- I’ll still cook most of my meals;
- I’ll try not to buy random stuff just because it’s cheap.
What about you? What things are worth the label of lifestyle inflation? What changes would make your life better just by spending some money?
Image Source: Wild Beauty World