How to Avoid Lifestyle Inflation … and When to Embrace It

A strange thing happens every time my income increases. My life magically gets… easier, better, and happier.

Getting my very first raise at work made it easier for me to pay off my student loans ahead of schedule. That meant the money I used to spend on student loans could instead be spent on making my life more comfortable. And that meant moving out of the house I rented with six roommates and finally buying decent food.

Getting a job that cut out my daily commute allowed me to spend more time doing things I love instead of impotently cursing the traffic. I could get drinks with friends after work, or go to the climbing gym, both of which cost money. Or, for free, I could stand by the highway yelling “SUCKERS!” at passing commuters at 5:30 p.m. every day!

And getting a new job at almost double my previous salary meant I could afford things I previously thought would take years of saving. Plane tickets to a friend’s destination wedding in Mexico. Drywall for my unfinished basement. Eating at a shmancy restaurant without checking the menu for prices.

If all of this sounds suspiciously like lifestyle inflation, that’s because it is! And yet I feel no guilt over inflating my lifestyle from time to time when my income significantly increases.

This is generally considered a cardinal sin of personal finance. It’s right up there with buying lattes or taking the name of Dave Ramsey in vain. So let’s unpack that.

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