This article was originally written by Investopedia. It was adapted to fit the parlance of the Nigerian audience.
What is Lifestyle Inflation?
Lifestyle inflation refers to increasing one’s spending when income goes up. Lifestyle inflation tends to continue each time someone gets a raise, making it perpetually difficult to get out of debt, save for retirement or meet other big-picture financial goals. This is what causes people to get stuck in the rat race of working just to pay the bills.
Let’s Break Things Down
Lifestyle inflation typically occurs when one goes from being a student to a full-time employee.
Despite getting by on very little money as a student and skimping on everything from rent to groceries to nights on the town, once that first big paycheck arrives, things that were once luxuries become “necessities”, and spending increases significantly. Sharing a two-bedroom apartment with three other roommates to keep housing and utility expenses down suddenly seems unacceptable, and you go out and lease a one-bedroom apartment in which you will live alone. Riding a bicycle is no longer seen as a fast and convenient alternative to walking or taking the bus; instead, you need a NGN7,000,000 car. Lifestyle inflation causes us to live paycheck to paycheck, make the minimum payments on our credit cards, and not have any cash to fall back on when an unforeseen setback like a medical bill or job loss arises.
People tend to increase their spending each time their income increases because they believe that the additional goods and services they are purchasing will make them happier.
Often those purchases don’t make them happier, and a better option would be to work toward financial independence by saving more.
People can avoid lifestyle inflation by consciously establishing spending and saving amounts. Creating an automated savings plan is a good way to ensure your savings goals are met and spending is capped. Avoiding lifestyle inflation can mean achieving financial independence at a younger age, having the financial flexibility to choose a dream job over a higher-paying option, and retiring early.
Lifestyle inflation provides you with access to flashes of the good life. It denies you the pleasure of consistently enjoy the good life, a reward that comes with building gradually.
Strategies for Avoiding Lifestyle Inflation
1. Build a wedge: If you are determined to move your financial lives forward, you need a wedge between your earnings and your expenses. This wedge is your savings. You secure it when you lock your expenses down to a definite % of your salary, and savest the rest. Read more here: How Parkinson’s Law Applies to Your Finances.
2. Value experiences over things: If you start making more money, instead of going for a new car, house, or expensive wardrobe additions, consider investing in experiences. Going on a vacation or signing up for a class can create memories that give you lasting satisfaction.
3. Make gradual changes: An expensive car might require a pricier mechanic, and a big house requires more upkeep. Don’t go “from zero to 60” in the first few weeks, following your change in income. Celebrate modestly and pat yourself on the back.