“Lifestyle inflation” is the tendency we all have to start spending more as soon we earn or save more (and sometimes even before that).
It’s so easy to fall for lifestyle inflation, but at the same time, it’s easy to avoid. Sometimes you have everything in place, but out of nowhere, more money appears in your bank account. Sometimes you don’t even notice the money lying around, but you spend it anyway. So what do you do with it?
Why do we do this?
Because we like to believe we’re “growing” in our lives or “progressing” in our careers. Because we think we “deserve better”. Because we’re never happy with our lives or our choices.
We want to keep up with the Joneses. We tend to compare ourselves only to people who are “doing better” than us, at least the way we see it. Nobody ever said, “I’m so happy I have a better life than my neighbours!” But a lot of people say, “When I have the same car/house/pool/job as the Joneses, I’ll be happy!”
This is what we call “keeping up with the Joneses”.
I, Victim of Myself
So it happens that this month, our family succumbed to lifestyle inflation. Here’s the story:
We found an amazing cook who was starting a frozen lunch delivery business. As with any change in our life, we sat down and discussed the idea. We put everything on paper—including the emotional relief of not having to cook anymore—and we determined that we’d end up spending less on food than what we were spending at the grocery store every month.
That’s perfect, right?
Not exactly. There are still human beings and brains to consider.
We used to shop at Maxi. Good prices, good selection, brands we like and trust, the works. It’s not within walking distance from our home, but we set a “Maxi taxi” limit in our monthly budget, so we used to take the bus there and call a cab for the ride back. We’d spend no more than $10 in taxi fare this way.
Then there’s the Metro three blocks from our apartment. It’s a fancy supermarket, with better fruits and meat, a better presentation, a bakery with fresh bread, and everything else money can buy. But here’s the problem: Metro is more expensive than Maxi, and they don’t price match like Maxi does.
Just this once…
“Since we’re saving money with frozen lunches, we could take a look at Metro this weekend,” I said, “just to check out the extras and satisfy our curiosity.”
The first time was fine. We were delighted! Everything from the layout to the products felt more premium than at Maxi, including the price. But it was just a test run, right? Picking up a Car2Go to drive three blocks home felt wrong, but it was starting to get chilly and we bought a bit more than we could comfortably carry in our bags.
You already know where this story is going, right?
Fast forward some weeks: After spending almost $100 in a “quick” run to Metro, my wife told me, “I think we should re-evaluate this decision and go back to Maxi.”
I was happy with my new Metro life! People there looked richer, the products looked better, and even the employees looked happier! But then the month came to an end and my house of cards collapsed…
Every end of the month, we revise our budget and set new goals for the next month. We register every expense during the month into GoodBudget; this way, we always know where our money goes and where we plan to spend it next.
The results were crystal clear: we spent more at Metro than we’ve spent on average in the previous months at Maxi. Add that to the cost of the frozen lunches and our food budget was blown away.
The mere idea of saving money with frozen lunches tricked us into thinking we could afford an upgrade to Metro. And maybe we could, but we’d have to check and recheck our lifestyle and the way we shop at the supermarket.
Is it nice to have baguettes for breakfast? Sure it is. Do we need them? Definitely not. We have a bread machine that makes perfect loaves that everybody loves! Does Coke from Metro taste any better than Coke from Maxi? Absolutely not.
This month, we’ll go back to Maxi to continue the experiment. But one thing is for sure: the frozen lunches are here to stay!