A model of avoiding lifestyle creep

What would I do if I won the lottery?

Afterthoughts: The Night Circus by Erin Morgernstern

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Lifestyle creep is a phenomenon that occurs when one’s standard of living improves as their discretionary income rises. A natural consequence is that former luxuries become new necessities, our thinking and behaviour evolves to view spending that was viewed previously as nonessential to essential.

The first occurence for most people is when parents or caregivers offer them allowances as they enter adolescence. It represents a first level of fiscal responsibility that people are exposed to. The idea of having $X to spend on whatever one desires is quite the privilege in comparison to the being reliant on the whim and charity of adult-minders. Many are taught to be frugal and save for things, while others splurge on trivial purchases like sweets after-school. At this stage, however, the spending (or lack thereof) is innocent enough given how meagre the sums often are.

Things change when people start working, be it a part-time or full-time position. At this point, the sums of money become significant enough for lifestyle creep to become more prone to being entrenched. Whatever our vices are – eating out, purchasing clothes, or frequenting upper-market establishements – this frivolous expenditure leads down a slippery slope.

Combatting lifestyle creep could be as simple as living as though you lived out of a suitcase. I learned of this on a podcast with a perennial nomad who realised that living out of suitcases quelled any semblance of lifestyle creep sans much friction. There is a simplicity in having the ability to pack up and leave at a moments notice, to know all the possessions that are required to sustain our lifestyle can fly with us wherever we go. Granted this approach won’t necessarily prevent anyone from spending large on fleeting experiences but it is nevertheless complementary to doing so.

In many ways, the desire for more is fueled by an under-appreciation of what we have. Living out of a suitcase only accelerates our proximity towards a practice of gratitude. Instead of 10 shoes, there is one, thereby making it easier to imagine what might be if that one pair of shoes were to disappear.


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