Hey everyone, it’s Finance Fridays again and this is going to be a short post today (I think). Today I’m going to discuss “Lifestyle Creep“.
By the way, that picture is only kind of related. I just kind of searched for “hiding” and this picture came up. I think it illustrates the idea of “creep” with a harmless looking squirrel “creeping up” on you from the front of their toy train. It made me smile at the thought so I used it.
Anyways, this post is mostly for my own self-reflection into lifestyle creep. This isn’t the first time I’ve written about something similar as I’ve talked about Trimming the Fat before. In terms of that list, I’ve kind of failed at the Starbucks thing and Eating Out at Work. However, I’ve done a pretty good job of cutting back on Cheesecake Factory and Buying Random Toys, so that’s a win there. Either way, I hope to continue to improve on Trimming the Fat and getting back on the wagon.
That said, I haven’t been spending that much more money (I think), but what you feel and what actually happens are two different things. For this reason, it’s a good idea to go through your credit card statement at least once in awhile to see the numbers in front of you. In general, I have an idea of what my monthly credit card bill should be. There are times when it is less than this number and times when it is more than this number.
For example, these last few bills were pretty high because of the California Family Trip of 2018. Like I said, buy experiences, not things, so I don’t regret how much money we spent on the trip (1, 2, and 3). However, for the next trip we may dial back on some of the more expensive options. The major reason for the upcharges on this last trip was because I wanted it to be as convenient for the family as possible. This was especially because kids (especially Lucas) are so young. The next time we go to California well probably pick and choose what we want to do and spend money on more carefully. I’ll discuss this in a future post.
Looking at your Credit Card Statement
Like I’ve said before, carrying credit card debt is cancerous to your finances. As such, your credit card should be on autopay all the time. Also, if you have a particular big ticket event coming up, you may even pay your credit card off ahead of time. For this last trip, that’s exactly what I did. As soon as the flights and hotel were on the credit card, I paid it with money I had saved in our checking account specifically for this purpose.
However, one of the problems with having your credit card on autopay is that you may not even look at your credit card statement on a regular basis. Of course, I scan through my credit card to make sure there are no aberrant charges and nothing seems out of the ordinary. That said, I think it’s a good idea to sit down with your credit card statement on a regular basis and really see where all your money is going. Of course, there are apps that track this stuff for you and even categorize it. However, I still think doing a line-by-line approach to your credit card statement once in awhile is an exercise worth doing.
The reason for this exercise is because it makes the money you’ve spend real. It’s not just this money that flows into and out of your account monthly. You are spending the money and should be responsible for what you’re spending it on. You may be surprised by what you see:
- Did we really eat out at Cheesecake Factory X times this month?
- How did we spend so much money at Costco?
- What did I buy from Amazon that was X dollars?
- Wait a second, how much did we spend at Target? How many times? (this is a meme, by the way)
Oh come on, does this really make a big difference?
Well no, at least not at first.
It just kind of creeps up on you. Perhaps you make a little more money, or your job is more stable, or you’re more settled and there are less big ticket items.
The normal consumption is that if you have it, you’ll spend it.
This is why I try to stay ahead of any potential increased spending before it happens. I’ve tried my best to make plans for any increase in salary by pre-allocating it to places I think are more worthwhile. For example, the 529s or our student loans. I think that by doing this I can curb any lifestyle creep. It’s a choice based on the goal of retiring early, one that my wife and I both agree on.
My family and I are what I would call “comfortable” and “reasonable”. I don’t think we spend too extravagantly — but I also don’t think we’re all that frugal.
So here’s my major concern about lifestyle creep — it’s hard to go back. Don’t forget about Dr. Yoloswag. As a physician you will see increases in your salary over the course of your career, and you will probably get a few of them the first 3-5 years post-training. The reason for this is because you go from being a “new attending” to an “experienced attending”, which should command a commensurate increase in pay. Or maybe you make partner, or become chief, or any of those.
However, if you don’t have any plans for this increase, you will spend it and more so than that you’ll get used to it. Then, if you ever decide to drop down to part-time, take a lower paying job, or move to an area with a higher cost of living — you will find the transition difficult, or maybe even impossible. I’ve discussed this before in Choosing Your First Job, The Temporary First Job, and Time to Look for a Job.
Be comfortable – but not extravagant.
After a certain level, more “stuff” or “nicer stuff” probably won’t make you any happier. “Which stuff”, of course, is dependent on you. Like I said before, I thought I was a car guy. Turns out I’m really not. I can’t justify or rationalize paying over a certain amount for a car anymore. Any exponential price increase over a Camry just isn’t worth it to me. However, it may be for other people. Know and understand your own internal Value Cost Ratio.
- Find your level of comfort and make sure whatever you buy is really worth it to you.
- Buy experiences, not things.
- Be aware of Lifestyle Creep.
- Pre-allocate any extra funds you have into areas that will get you the most return.
- Everything has an opportunity cost — everything.
- Life is short, be happy.
Be aware of Lifestyle Creep. It’s hard to go back.
Check your Credit Card Statements on a regular basis.
Everything has an opportunity cost — everything.
Agree? Disagree? Questions, Comments and Suggestions are welcome.
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