When is Lifestyle Inflation Ok?
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Mention the term lifestyle inflation and you’re bound to get a variety of responses, with many in the personal finance world likely ready to pelt something at you. When many think of the term they start to think of crazy and unmonitored spending to the point that you’re bouncing checks and maxing out credit cards at an alarming rate.
What I’ve been struggling (ok struggling may be just a bit of a reach) with lately is determining at what point some lifestyle inflation is appropriate in order to enjoy life more. Essentially, at what point is lifestyle inflation okay?
Honestly, this is a question that has been on my mind lately as we deal with a growing business and want to have more time to ourselves and with our kids. I’m not saying we would be going out to eat four times a week by any means, but spending in categories that we normally would not to either free up more for family time or to increase our efficiency. The two categories we’ve thought of are house cleaning and child care – sort of two different things really and honestly just the first things that came to my mind.
Lifestyle Inflation is Okay…Within Reason
I know I wrote a few weeks back about how paying off debt can change a person and make them get to the point where spending money on things, even necessary things, becomes an agonizing experience. This might make the question of lifestyle inflation seem a little odd and I’ll give you that.
However, what I also discussed in that post was the need to have balance in life. If all you’re doing with your money is saving, paying off debt, etc. life is going to get boring awfully quick and thus potentially make room for you to give in to lifestyle inflation. At the risk of spending a whole post on explaining why lifestyle inflation may be okay to a point, I’ll leave it at this: it’s unavoidable for many but balance is still required in how it is approached.
The Search for Balance
Going back to what we’ve been dealing on a personal level, we simply are seeing ourselves facing an increasing lack of time. That lack of time seeps in to other areas of life and ultimately impacts our time with the little Frugal Rules. Thus, we’re looking for ways to mitigate that.
So, the planner in me thought to see what the housekeeping option would cost us. As an aside, neither one of us hate cleaning our house by any means. We’re simply looking at things we could hire out and this was the first thing that came to mind. I called three local housecleaning services and following was the average estimate given to clean our house on a biweekly basis:
- The initial cleaning would cost us anywhere from $190-$250. This would be done on a per hour charge to gauge how long it takes to clean the house.
- After that, it would range anywhere from $120-150 every two weeks to clean our house.
- If we went to weekly, it would cost us $100-120 to get our house cleaned.
Talk about getting your house cleaned! If we went the weekly route, we’d have enough money to max out a Roth IRA with a little under $1,000 left over for the other at the end of the year. With the bi-weekly route we’d be at roughly $4,000 at the end of the year. That’s just craziness in my opinion! On my completely unscientific testing, this would save us roughly 90 minutes per time we clean the house which could be time devoted to the kids. While more time with our kids is always good, outsourcing our house cleaning isn’t wise at all considering the cost, in my opinion. I’ll keep looking for other more cost-effective ways to responsibly free up our time.
Another option we’ve looked at was hiring one of our friends to come watch our kiddos for an afternoon a week or every other week. I know, this seems a bit contradictory to the stated goal of more time with them, but hear me out. The two younger ones would be napping and thus leaving the oldest of our brood for them to truly watch.
Based off what our friends have charged us we likely could get threeish hours for roughly $25-30, so even if we did this once a week it would cost $1,560 for the year and I’m certain we wouldn’t be doing this every week either. This would allow both my wife and I to go to the library and hammer out some work in a way that we wouldn’t normally be able to at home, thus freeing up more time to spend with them in the long run. This is also not to mention the fact that they say absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? 😉
As I look at the numbers, we could do one of three things – nothing, hire out house cleaning, or have a friend come be with the kiddos. To be honest, the house cleaning isn’t an option at all on any level. I’m confident our workload isn’t going to diminish, thus we need to strike some balance with that and lifestyle inflation so we can have more time for the things that are important to us.
Be Careful Not to Rationalize
The problem I’ve seen with lifestyle inflation, both personally and with others, is that it can be incredibly easy to rationalize. This rationalization can trick us in to thinking that we “need” certain things in life when we really need very little when you come to think of it.
We can be our own worst enemies at times and that is most certainly not our desire as left unchecked it can be an incredible budgetary drain. That said, it brings me back to seeing lifestyle inflation in light of value spending and what is important to you. Meaning, do I want to spend on “things” now at the sacrifice of my future, or do I want to balance my spending so my future self is well prepared for whatever it is I’ll want and need then?
I believe this requires us to be aware of our situations and honest with ourselves so we don’t just jump at something because it’s what we want or feel that we need to make life easier. It’s this honesty that helps us not hurl ourselves into the vacuum of lifestyle inflation, but strike a balance between living a disciplined life and one that is enjoyable as well.
When do you think lifestyle inflation is “okay”? What other monotonous duties would you look at hiring out in order to save yourself some time?
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John is the founder of Frugal Rules, a dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry whose writing has been featured in Forbes, CNBC, Yahoo Finance and more.
Passionate about helping people learn from his mistakes, John shares financial tools and tips to help you enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. One of his favorite tools is Personal Capital , which he used to plan for retirement and keep track of his finances in less than 15 minutes each month.
Another one of John's passions is helping people save $80 per month by axing their expensive cable subscriptions and replacing them with more affordable ones, like Hulu with Live TV.