Lifestyle Inflation is this almost irresistible phenomenon that we all encounter whenever we obtain a better position at work, more income, a new home or any other financial or lifestyle increase. If you’re trying to get out of debt, save for a home or retirement, or just improve your financial situation, lifestyle inflation can be a serious hindrance on the road to financial success.
Lifestyle inflation can affect anyone regardless of your income. According to a Federal Reserve Report, less than half of Americans earning between $75,000 and $99,000 saved any money whatsoever- and as many as 16% of those within that income bracket actually went into debt. So much for living below your means.
Initially it might be tough to stop feeling entitled to anything and everything but it can be done. By knowing firmly that lifestyle inflation can happen to anyone I combat lifestyle inflation by simply living like a broke college student.
I don’t just model the lifestyle of any broke college student however. Certainly not the ones who sleep in until noon, blow all their money on thirsty Thursday or try to ball out in Florida over spring break. I try to take tips from the hardworking college students who are so dedicated and focused on their future goals that they don’t have the time or energy to feel entitled for more. Most college students live a simple, frugal lifestyle which is perfect for avoiding lifestyle inflation. Here are a few ways to follow their example.
Follow the Free Food
In college there were so many opportunities for free food between the campus organizations and the departments that promoted participation in several events. I remember my university had an organization that served breakfast during specific times and I often participated in the academic department’s workshops for free lunch.
There are plenty of ways to eat for free outside of college as well; they just need to be discovered. From church potlucks to community events, free food is all around. If you have kids there are plenty of restaurants that offer “kids eat free” promotions weekly. I recently found out a non-profit organization offers free dinner to anyone in the community every Wednesday. Scoring a few free meals throughout the month can help lower your grocery bill.
Keep Expenses Low
College students often have small simple budgets so it’s easier to keep monthly expenses low. In order to cut your expenses you can walk or take the bus to places that are nearby to save money on gas, split utilities and bills with others in your household, share and borrow items with friends, find a cheaper gym or skip the membership altogether, and share a family phone plan with others just to name a few. The simpler you live, the better.
Find Creative Ways to Entertain Yourself
If it’s one thing college students know how to do, it’s have fun. Between stressing over projects and finals there is always something fun and interesting going on in a college town. When I lived in a college town for 2 years I not only immersed myself in the university culture but I also got involved with actual community itself outside of campus. I learned a lot of about frugal entertainment and how to find free and unique events.
Between doing free or cheap things like kayaking and biking, going to festivals, attending plays and movie screens, listening to live music, and taking cooking classes, I really didn’t need to keep up with the Joneses and spend a ton on entertainment. If you’re looking to find creative ways to entertain yourself I’d suggest getting engaged in your community and searching for fun and frugal events that don’t cost much.
Stay Busy to Avoid Shopping
In college I was so busy between going to class and doing homework, working, doing an internship, participating in my organization, and trying to get the proper rest that I didn’t even think much about going shopping, upgrading my car or ordering more things. Not only did I not have the money to do so, but it’s important to emphasize that I didn’t have the time to even desire things like that. Staying busy with your career, family and professional and personal goals is a great way to escape consumeristic desires to obtain more and more.
Don’t Be Afraid to Invest in Yourself
I love that college students are not afraid to invest in themselves. Not in terms of racking up too much student loan debt of course, but by realizing their potential and joining groups and attending workshops and networking events. Being in college is all about learning, growing and soaking up the whole experience like a sponge.
After we graduate and land our first job, I feel like people plateau and get too comfortable without realizing that life is a journey and we should be growing and learning every day. Improving your professional skills and expanding your network is a must even if you have the perfect career and make great money. When we stop reading, learning, and investing time in growing our skills and building relationships with others it’s easy to stop being humble as well. Then that entitlement sneaks in.
If you could learn anything from your former, broker college self, it might as well be how to combat lifestyle inflation by living simply and realizing that your overall long term goals are more important that rushing into living ‘the good life’. Avoiding lifestyle inflation is the key to achieving your goals and ridding yourself from having to live paycheck to paycheck.
How do you avoid lifestyle inflation?