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
- Gym membership
- Home decor
- 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?