When was the last time you logged into your visa account and did a happy dance at how low it was?
I’m not talking about paying off credit card debt here, though I can definitely see some happy dances arising from that.
I mean an occasion where your month is mostly gone and you are trending well below budget.
For me, that happened a week or so ago. I was ecstatic about how low our visa bill was at the time (we do virtually all of our spending on our credit card). I even projected out how far below our target spending amount we would be. Things were looking awesome.
But I was counting my chickens before the eggs hatched.
Good golly, was I ever.
The next week or so was more like a steady “chaching” of the cash register, my friends.
Here’s the thing, though, it was almost exclusively a case of us buying wants not needs. Thankfully we are in a position to do so, but pausing to think about these purchases from time to time is extremely important.
It is so, so, so easy to get caught up in the idea that all of the little pieces of lifestyle inflation are necessary and needs. I can self-justify with the best of them, and I am sure that you can as well. We get used to the spending decisions that we make and how they play out as a part of our lifestyle. That’s one of the major reasons that many people fail when they attempt to drastically reduce their spending, cold turkey. Humans are creatures of habit and habits can be tricky to change.
For me, staying cognisant of how priviledged I am to be able to make those decisions, and how they add up to the amount that they do, is a good reminder and keeps things in perspective. I mean, I wrote an expert guide on how to spend an obscene amount on groceries, and I have highlighted 7 luxuries that I would have to give up if things went south on me.
One of the best ways to avoid lifestyle inflation is to take stock of your spending in a month and think about how many of those things were optional. Basically every single thing beyond rice and beans is optional, my friends. Of course I am not suggesting that we all live on rice and beans, but to take the time to remind ourselves of the non-purchasing extreme, so that we can see how much abundance we really have.
This September, we spent hundreds of dollars on wants, thousands if you include the true cost of some things.
All of these one-offs add up to the lifestyle that I am lucky to have, but they are also a reminder of how much leaner our spending could be.
In no particular order, here is a list of things that we spent money on in the latter half of September, which are wants not needs:
- airport parking
- checked bag
- wine for friend’s we stayed with – we were generous and helped them drink it
- hunting supplies, accessories and tags
- donation to a friend who was attacked by a grizzly bear (warning, the image is jarring)
- 2 tops and a pair of dress pants for me
- a new hairbrush for me ($7 at winners… it feels so nice on my head!)
- dryer balls ($7 at winners… noticing a trend?)
- vegetable spiralizer ($8 at winners… I broke the trend)
- 3 cases of wine
- a rather nice bottle of wine – a non-drinking friend’s name is on it, and he asked for an empty as a keepsake. What are good friends for?
- a wedding gift
- a taxi ride back from the wedding
- diesel for the trip we took
- beef jerky for the car because I forgot to pack snacks
- subway for the airplane because I didn’t bother to pack breakfast
- birthday present for my dad
- birthday present for my friend
- lunch out with a friend while we were in Toronto
- dinner take out with friends in Toronto
- a soy london fog – the last time I had a fancy coffee out was when I wrote the Day in the Life post in June, and I had a groupon that time
- entrance fees to a heritage site
- custom framing of a diploma – ouch, is all I have to say to that
- paid parking – cities, you suck
To make our spending look more fun, we also renewed the insurance on one vehicle and paid our house insurance this month. Let’s just say that we earned a lot of visa reward points this month.
For those of you scratching your heads, wondering where the airfare was listed, it is absent. I had the winning bid on an charity auction package several months ago, which included a $1000 flight credit. Our flights were $160 on top of that.
Our visa gives us flexible travel credits, so I have submitted $278 worth of transactions to use up our credits, which will be nice. We do not treat visa credits as “free money,” they are simply a nice benefit to utilizing a credit card and have no bearing on our spending decisions, except for when I can get a better overall rate by paying more with my visa. (I know it sounds batty, but read through the math!)
Every single one of the transactions listed above was completely optional or could have been optimized in some way. We didn’t have to go to the wedding, if we did, we could have parked at a friend’s house, we could have given a less expensive gift, we could drink less wine, we could be more prepared, etc. etc.
Amidst all of this, there were also lots of savings, like taking packed lunches for the trip back, availing ourselves of my in-laws wine collection while in town, being able to borrow our in-laws vehicles, staying the night with friends on the way to the airport for our flight, getting a pair of (fast, disposable fashion, horrible for the planet) work pants for $8, taking snacks with me to a medical appointment an hour away, giving people a ride for gas money on our way home from the airport, and buying wine by the case for the discount.
This snapshot is of a short time period (albeit an activity packed one), but I am sure there are things on this list to which you can relate. All of these decisions added up to quite a lot of spending, and most of them were not huge purchases on their own. That is lifestyle inflation in a nutshell, buying wants not needs until your lifestyle barely resembles what it used to look like. I am thrilled that I have the option to support a friend in need and to celebrate with friends, but those are indeed luxuries.
Where have you spent money in the past two weeks that was 100% a want, not a need?