Let’s Talk About Lifestyle Deflation

Lifestyle Deflation

When you hear advice about saving more money or getting out of debt, it often involves avoiding lifestyle inflation. Johnny and I have tried our best to avoid lifestyle inflation over the years, despite the pull of changing careers, income, or cost of living. By fighting the urge, we’ve almost been able to meet our savings goals. We’re not paying down debt anymore, so we’ve loosened our purse strings some, but our mindset remains the same, and we continue to try to keep our lifestyle constant.

But one thing we don’t hear very often and that sparked a typical nerdy conversation between Johnny and me is the idea of lifestyle deflation, or cutting back on your current lifestyle. Sometimes a person or a couple who’s trying to save money truly cuts back in every single way possible. But other times, they only tell themselves they’re cutting back as much as possible because they’re unwilling to deflate their lifestyle.

Whether we like it or not, money and what we spend it on becomes part of our image. It makes up a good portion of how we see ourselves and how others see us, too. And that’s why lifestyle deflation is so hard. Maybe we find ourselves identifying with any of the following:

  • Nice cars
  • Impeccable fashion
  • Hair, lashes, spray tan
  • Starbucks
  • Gym membership
  • Home decor
  • Housekeeper
  • Pricey restaurants
  • Club sports and programs for kids

Those are just a few — and sorry, I’m mostly in the know of the girly stuff. These sorts of things are part of our identity, even if we don’t think about them that way. And to be clear, none of them are bad things to have in our life, if we can afford them. If you’ve spent any time reading our blog, you know we try not to pass judgement on how people choose to responsibly spend their money.

But when we’re frustrated and thinking of how we can save, we may be coming up short because we can’t imagine giving up those things that we consider part of our identity. We can’t deflate our lifestyle because it feels like we’d also be deflating who we are. Expenses where we should cut back are off the table when they should be just as eligible for the chopping block as, say, cutting grocery expenses.

Here are some more normal examples from our own life:

  • We need a three-bedroom house and a garage. Reality: We need two bedrooms, and it’s very nice to have a garage for getting the kids in and out of the car.
  • We need a four-wheel-drive car in Utah. Reality: I might avoid a few roads hear and there, but it’s really just a convenience to have a four-wheel-drive car during the winter.
  • Johnny needs a new suit. Reality: He does, but he could go without it and still be fine.
  • I need to replace the decorative pillows on our couch. Reality: One of them is looking especially scrappy, but no one would notice but me (Disregard this one, Johnny. I really DO need to replace them!).
  • We need to join the rock climbing gym to stay sane this winter. Reality: We want to join really, really bad.

We trick ourselves into thinking that we need expenses in our lives that we don’t really need. And we get used to living a certain way and moving backwards from that feels like some sort of failure. If you find yourself wondering why you don’t have money left over at the end of each month, consider whether lifestyle deflation could help. It’s not easy or fun, but it’s worth it. And it’s probably just temporary until you’re able to grow your savings or your paycheck.

Not everyone who’s struggling to save enough is in need of lifestyle deflation. But some are. And deflating your lifestyle won’t deflate who you are. That was cheesy, but whatever. Lifestyle deflation shouldn’t be something we’re ashamed of, but something we’re proud of because it means we’re ultimately in control of our lives and our finances.

Would you ever consider lifestyle deflation? Or have you?

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  • Reply Heather November 10, 2015 at 9:36 am

    Before I moved in with my boyfriend, I had spent the previous 15 years living in small apartments, most often with roommates. Now, I have to admit that it’s nice having more space, but I hate cleaning it. Three bathrooms?! Ugh! That’s an upside to lifestyle deflation. I don’t know how people can live in monster houses. I suppose maybe they are paying someone to come and clean…?

    My bf wants a larger home, one that he can entertain in. I think ours is fine. You can entertain in any space; I really don’t think your friends care.

  • Reply carlotta November 10, 2015 at 9:50 am

    one day I was proud to have found a deal on mineral water: 1 eur for 6 bottles. i bought 60 bottles, and I proudly declare it to my mother in law.
    her reply was “one does not become rich for a 1 eur save”

    but you know what? you actually do. well if you win the lottery it’s easier, but it’s only deflating your lifestyle that you’ll be able to take that trip you’ve always wanted or afford the downpayment for the house.
    so yes , I deflate. a lot. friends make fun of me a little when it’s the end of the month and I have to eat beans out of a can ( ok, maybe is lazyness);
    but then I’m the one that gets to go to New York in the middle on September and everyone wonders how!

  • Reply Money Beagle November 10, 2015 at 10:11 am

    I had to laugh about the decorative pillow example. Ours have been looking shabbier and shabbier but we’ve always put off getting new ones, but in the last month the covers have all actually started shredding. We’re STILL holding out, though, as we’ve just taken the two worst ones (where the covers have completely ripped) and taken them out of the mix. Pretty soon we will have to get new ones, but we are taking it to the max!

  • Reply Cat@BudgetBlonde November 10, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    Lifestyle deflation is not a popular choice. It’s hard to give up some of those fancy, more expensive things you’ve grown used to having, but it must be done sometimes in order to get your finances in order.

  • Reply Lisa November 10, 2015 at 1:33 pm

    I gave up monthly manicures and pedicures. I spent some money putting together a DIY home kit so I could do it myself. It was hard initially as I missed the pampering and having someone else do it for me. But the reality is I save over $500/year this way and now only go before a trip or a special occasion.

  • Reply Ramona @ Personal Finance Today November 10, 2015 at 3:47 pm

    In some areas we have downsized a bit, a good idea after our baby was born, since she did come with a new set of expenses. I have stopped purchasing clothing almost entirely, since I work from home and don’t need fancy attire to go to the parks, husband has done the same (we did get some cool stuff years ago and the clothing is still in top shape). We don’t purchase gadgets unless they break, we still use my almost 8 year old car etc.

    There are some things we can give up on and this would free up money for something else. It allows us to not break our budget and also enjoy what really matters to us.

  • Reply Kelsey November 10, 2015 at 6:17 pm

    This is something that we’ve made tons of progress on although I still struggle sometimes. I do love creating a welcoming and cozy home. This definitely does not have to mean buying new things but I do have a running list of house updates, etc that I would love to eventually make. We do have someone clean our house and mow our lawn but for us it comes down to time versus money. Since my husband and I both work full time and have two young children we value family time over doing those tasks (although the house is cleaned once per month so we still do a fair amount of cleaning!).

  • Reply Melissa November 11, 2015 at 8:28 am

    I love saving as much as we can and have pretty big goals. But one thing I realized in doing so, that we often can almost get obsessed with it, if that makes sense. We save more than most people and we often have to step back and remind ourselves life is short, we have a good plan in place, let’s also be ok doing fun things and making memories. It’s always going to be a balancing act, but I encourage big savers to not hold onto their money too tightly, it can be as bad sometimes as though who have a spending problem.

  • Reply Katie @ This That & the Budget November 11, 2015 at 1:04 pm

    Great post and a fantastic challenge. We are about to start house shopping in the spring and this will be a good subject to keep in mind. I don’t want our lives to inflate too much after we have a house and I don’t want to buy more house than we need just because it seems like it’s a “must.” We are planning on filling it with a couple of kids, but still. Want to stay realistic. We have things to save for!

    My one question: why are decorative pillows so expensive!? 🙂

  • Reply Melanie December 26, 2015 at 6:07 pm

    Nice car, fashion, girly luxuries, shopping, not really issues for me. But the restaurant thing is certainly my downfall. I have decided to go on somewhat of a restaurant fast for January. I need kind of a cold turkey restart for 2016. i think I need to spend some time thinking about lifestyle deflation. Cool blog entry.

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