Why I’m Embracing Lifestyle Inflation

Lifestyle Inflation

Hello everyone! Welcome back to The Green Swan. I’m a proud frugal millionaire. Over the last 10 plus years of my adult (post-collegiate) working life I have foregone most all luxuries and completely disregarded the notion of keeping up with the Joneses. I’ve lived comfortably, don’t get me wrong, but I have always heavily scrutinized every discretionary expense and it is a rarity for me to ever make a “large” discretionary expense (over $500 or so).

To me, frugality is a means to an end. The end has always been Financial Independence and Retiring Early (“FIRE”). With that end in sight, just a handful of years away, I’ve given a lot more thought on how I envision life in retirement. I’m now approaching a transition point with my view on frugality.

Frugality is a Means to an End

Retirement represents the golden years. Retirement represents freedom. Retirement represents pushing aside all the things I no longer want or have to do for the purpose of managing my financial condition. Retirement is freedom from any financial consideration. That may not be the case for everyone, but that’s the plan for me. As long as I’m being rational when spending money, financial considerations should not restrict me from living life.

In a nutshell, that is what retirement means to me. Am I alone?

So the question is, if that’s retirement and I’m only a handful of years away from financial independence, how do I bridge from my full-on frugal lifestyle? At what point and to what degree do I begin to embrace lifestyle inflation, begin sacrificing money for more time and start to enjoy a few of the modern luxuries life has to offer?

The Frugality Tipping Point

Like I said above, I’m approaching a transition point. I’ve cut a lot of expenses out of my lifestyle. Basically every expense, large and small, has been scrutinized and economized over the years.

  • I cut cable back in 2014 and never looked back
  • We’ve minimized our phone bill contract and now solely rely on work provided cell phones
  • Lucy cuts my hair as well as my 3 year-old boy’s hair and eventually our newborn baby boy’s hair…this is a big savings which will add up huge over the years
  • We use a rain barrel to cut back on the cost of water
  • We use our “home built gym” and the great outdoors instead of a gym membership
  • We make great coffee at home
  • I DIY everything I can around the house and even my iPhone screen replacement
  • We’ve tried hang drying our clothes
  • Lucy and I commute to work together to save on gas, etc, and rely on free parking provided by her employer
  • We’ve gone Vegan, as I recently pointed out, which I’d expect to lower our monthly food bill and our long term health care costs
  • We travel hack which saved us a few thousand last year alone
  • Nobody enjoys paying more tax than required, so I do everything I can to reduce my tax payments which includes in retirement, at which time I hope to never pay taxes again
  • I’ve even targeted our electricity bill with a creative solution designed to save thousands over the long-run with my purchase of solar panels.

I’m not about to undo all that I’ve done in the past. I’ll still get my haircuts at home, etc. That’s a part of my normal life now and I’m completely satisfied with the frugal changes I’ve made to my lifestyle. When I talk about embracing lifestyle inflation, I’m taking about adding back expenses on the fringe which make life easier, gives me back more time to my day, and allows me to live more of my life doing what I want. In a sense, I’m talking about coasting into retirement.

Targeted and Intentional Lifestyle Inflation

What do I mean? Examples, you ask? Let me explain a few situations I’ve been jockeying with lately.

  • Vacuuming: maid service / Roomba iRobot
  • Yard work: Trugreen, mow service
  • Grocery delivery

Those have the potential of giving me back loads of time on my weekends to instead spend with family and friends. My weekends can be filled with more walks to the neighborhood park with the kiddos and afternoons trips to the pool.

How much does this all cost? We’ve tried maid service, but weren’t completely satisfied. We may rely on this for the occasional deep clean for a few hundred bucks a year. The roomba was a one-time $600 cost ($100 off on Mother’s Day weekend!!! — so sexist of them huh?…actually not sexist at all as they had the same special on Father’s Day!!). The yard work will cost approximately $500 annually. The grocery delivery (Instacart) will run maybe $300 – $400 per year when including the annual service charge and delivery fees.

All-in-all, embracing lifestyle inflation in this fashion will cost around $5,000 to $6,000 over the next five years as I bridge toward financial independence and early retirement. That may sound like a lot, and it always has to me in the past, but my tune has been changing lately. This could be offset fully by my wife and I simply working two more weeks, a theoretical delay in retirement that we can live with considering all the time it frees up on the weekends for the next handful of years.

Lucy and I have cut out so much that adding some targeted and intentional spending back seems like a great luxury, but in reality it is a marginal expense increase. A marginal expense that is worth it as it will help reduce our weekend rush of household chores.

After all, frugality is a just a means to an end.

Thoughts?

What do you think? Am I starting to go off the deep end? Have you embraced targeted lifestyle inflation as you neared financial independence, and if so, what are you embracing? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Thanks for taking a look!

The Green Swan

Save

Save

Save

Save

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestmail
share on:

39 Comments

  1. It is just completely understandable. The whole point is to be deliberate with your money and if you are saving enough for all other expenses and retirement why not?

    It reminds me of when I listened to Dave Ramsey and he was talking to millionaires. They wanted to buy a new expensive car. His thought is it only a fraction of their networth so go for it. It was like their networth was $200k and buying a Maserati.

    1. Yeah good point. I hadn’t heard that from Dave but I’ve begun to think similarly (although not to the extent of a new car). $100 here or there doesn’t matter quite as much though.

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. We are farther away from FI but have had similar thoughts lately. Will we be able to buck our ultra frugal habits when we are comfortable and no longer need to? If we have a 3.5 safe withdrawal rate will we push for 3 unnecessarily?

    We have been talking about a Roomba for awhile, with the dog it is making more and more sense

    1. Great questions to keep asking yourself. I do the same thing!

      Yes, with a dog it makes all the more sense. Being able to automatically set and run it while you aren’t home is great.

  3. I’m a huge fan of targeted lifestyle inflation or mini-luxuries that make life exponentially easier/more enjoyable. It will look different for everyone, but there are certainly things I am willing to spend more on. One of these things for me is the grocery delivery. I hate shopping. I really hate it. So, my life sans-80% of my shopping trips has been incredibly freeing! I breeze through weekends with my family without the required grocery store battle, which is important to me as a full time working mom!

    I’ll forgo other luxuries, maintain a frugal lifestyle and work to cut costs in other areas… but I savor every joyful moment I am not in a grocery store!

    ~Mrs. Adventure Rich

    1. Cheers to that! You make a great point that you are sacrificing in some areas to afford luxuries in others. That’s what frugality offers and the flexibility is great!

  4. Congratulations on reaching this transition point! It’s not unusual at all. We tend to focus on cutting costs so much on our journey to FI, that it actually becomes difficult to spend some money, even on things that are valuable (like saving time), and even if we have more than enough money. Frugal habits die hard. As long as you’re being introspective (and you seem to be in good shape there) so that you only spend money you have on things that make you happy, there are no rules.

    I’m a few years ahead of you (FI but still working for now). We’ve had a maid service for years now and while I fought it initially, it’s been great (full disclosure: I will drop this when I have more time after retiring but for now the time savings is worth it). We do our own yard care but my goal is to eventually move to a place with less maintenance, especially less grass to take care of. Do I really want a big yard if I hate taking care of it? Seems a bit silly even if I could afford to pay someone to take care of it.

    Overall, despite being able to afford to “outsource” more, I continue to try and optimize our lifestyle to minimize the maintenance in the first place. I don’t want to retire and just spend my time on chores but I also don’t want to outsource too many things regardless of how much money I have. If you’re outsourcing a lot, it’s a good prompt to ask whether you are living in-line with your values. As an example, our biggest outsourcing expense, by a large margin, is childcare to free up time to work! This is now how I want it to be and it’s driving me to consider early retirement.

    1. You make some awesome points! Yes, frugal habits do die hard! But I like the “no rules” so long as we’re being introspective. I think that’s fair and should only lead to a more joyful lifestyle.

      Great point too about optimizing your lifestyle so you can rely less on outsourcing. Yes daycare does suck, but we consider it a necessity and try not to think about it too much. We’re happy with our provider and it’s a good price.

      But with other things to outsource, eventually some of that will go to the kiddos when they’re of age. After they’re out of the house though then we’d likely consider downsizing to cut back on some of those chores.

      Thanks for the great comment!

  5. I’ve thought about this quite a bit actually. For me it seems counterintuitive to be more frugal now than I will be in retirement. We don’t regret our $1000 grocery bill because we get a lot of utility out of spending more on healthy organic produce instead of healthcare costs in the future. We also don’t want to budget for an extremely frugal retirement and then realize we’re unhappy with our spending levels in the future. In reality this probably makes the difference between a 78% and 75% savings rate so it doesn’t affect our future plans that much.

    I’ve already had quite a bit of targeted lifestyle deflation since starting my career so I pick and choose the things I splurge on. I think we all need balance in life and I applaud your choice to start adding in more conveniences. It seems like a normal change as you approach retirement because you’ve begun to value your TIME more than money. Not to be morbid but that’s probably because one is more scarce than it used to be and the other is more abundant 😉

    1. Yes right on! As long as you can afford your retirement lifestyle now then that may make sense. To me it’s always been a sacrifice of consumption now in order to invest and consume even more in the future. Frugality had been my means to an end.

      The most important thing that so few people do though is being intentional with spending. Sounds like you’ve got that down though and have found a nice balance.

      Thanks for the comment!

  6. Nah, everyone has “extras” they spend on, it’s just a matter of what you value. Jon’s an inveterate DIY guy and I love grocery shopping, so those choices wouldn’t be for us. But we pay for hair cuts and having deep clean maid service a couple of times a year is something we keep talking about setting up. FI is about making choices, not always choosing “No.”

  7. Interesting! My thoughts are, if you’re debt-free and building a positive portfolio, why not spend your money on things that save you time? You can always make more money, but you can never make more time. I’m also saving to buy a Roomba. We live in a tiled house and I am SICK of having to sweep several times a day just to walk barefoot. The money would make up in lost sanity.

    1. Great perspective, Ms Picky Pincher! It’s always reassuring to hear the thoughts of others.

      The technology of the roomba has continued to improve over the years and I think now is a great time to pick one up! I love ours!

      Thanks for the comment!

  8. Is that theoretical two more weeks of work including paying for those things indefinitely, or just paying for them while still working?

    We’ve done some similar calculations. 😃 A lot of the time it has to do with whether we spend a ton of time searching for the absolute best deal. Could we save $100 on our new computer if we spent hours more researching and weeks of searching? Probably. But I’d be much more willing to just work an extra week total than spend my life chasing deals.

    1. The theoretical two weeks was just for the cost while working. I think once in retirement it will be easier to resume some of these chores myself.

      I think that is a good point about researching for the cheapest options. I think that to an extent that is good, but definitely not worth going over board with.

      Thanks for sharing!

  9. You have a big list of reduced or eliminated expenses. Those cost reductions are great for freeing up money to save and invest. My wife and I talk about cutting cable. I would love to cut it, but her argument is that we save more than 50% of our salaries and can afford it. I bring up all of the different streaming options, but she said she is not giving up something she watches and enjoys.

    1. Hmm you both make valid points. The streaming options have gotten way better and cheaper over the years so those may be good substitutes or compromises. We get by great with Netflix and Amazon Prime staffing and the free over the air channels.

  10. $1,000 a year isn’t going to make or break your plans. One way to look at it is you’ll need to save an extra $25,000 to $30,000 to fully fund those changes indefinitely.

    Of course, once you have a lot more time on your hands, you may go back to more DIY on those chores. In that case, you only need to earn the extra $5,000 to $6,000 over the next five years to cover those things when you’re working.

    I’m at the point where our retirement lifestyle is fully funded, but I like to maintain my earning power for toys and projects. We just purchased acreage on a lake, and I’ve got all kinds of ideas for that, all of which require $$$.

    Cheers!
    -PoF

    1. Great perspective, PoF. Having the flexibility once they’re fully funded would be ideal.

      That’s an awesome point that you’ve reached, can’t wait until I get there. Having the option to continue working solely for the purpose of buying toys and a happier retirement is great.

      I’m sure you’re having a blast with the acreage and planning for what’s to come!

      Thanks for sharing!

  11. No you’re not going off the deep end at all. But hopefully you’ve added wearing deodorant on the weekends back to the new list. 🙂 Haha.

    We’re still working the plan, but will definitely add similar items when we get there.

    1. Haha thanks Kelsey! Great hearing from you again! And gees you have a good memory with that deodorant comment! 🙂 I’m only wearing selectively still thought, ha.

  12. I’m with you, JW. We actually TOOK OUT A MORTGAGE (“Gasp!!”) when we moved “From Good To Great” last month. Yeah, it’ll cost us a bit more in interest vs. being Debt Free (which we were), but it gives us the flexibility to do some retirement transition planning for cash flow (e.g., delay the start date of our pension 1-2 years after our retirement date, at ~6% p.a. growth rate).

    Enjoyment of life is the goal. Money is the means. Frugality is the short term methodology.

    1. And, by the way, I just bought a DRONE. Yep. Pure toy. Pure waste of $$. I can’t wait to play.

    2. Awesome arbitrage by you folks in delaying the pension! Great plan.

      Love that quote at the end too, that’s basically how I’m trying to live life!

      Thanks for sharing, Fritz!

  13. For me intentional lifestyle inflation has always been ok. Maybe because I don’t have a serious enough FIRE goal that’s at least not too far from regular retirement age, I think the best thing I can do for myself is not allow my finances run my life.

    I’m still young and I can still rough it (which I do) for many things, but at some point, time is money, and just because I’m not retired doesn’t mean my time should be any less valuable. I think it would defeat the point of financial freedom if I were to trade my time now because at the end of the day, time is finite the same way money is.

  14. Hi JW,

    I have to say if I were in your shoes I would be doing exactly the same! For me it’s about the balance of money versus your time. Whilst you work the weekends are almost sacred, so why not pay a little extra to free up that time, if it is only going to add on a couple of weeks at the end?

    I would keep an eye on it and make sure that you are sticking within reasonable as always, but what you say above makes complete sense to me!
    Cheers,
    FiL

  15. I’m a big fan of identifying what feels meaningful and important in your life (rather than having our priorities externally defined) and then making intentional decisions. It sounds like you have already done this with your “targeted and intentional lifestyle inflation”!

    However, I do have some thoughts regarding your lawn care. I’m a big fan of alternative lawns that are low or no maintenance. I personally find it crazy that we pamper and pay a lot of money for a monoculture turf grass that produces very little in return (except for more work when it grows after we input water and possibly fertilizers and/or chemicals).

    In our yard we have been slowly converting about half of our former lawn to vegetable gardens, native plant gardens, a rain garden, and/or no mow areas. We have done this in a way that still provides us with usable lawn that just has a much smaller footprint and provides us with food and enjoyment because it attracts birds and other pollinators.

    So there may be another option than just defaulting to a lawn care service!

    1. That is a fantastic point and I’m totally onboard. Environmentally and regarding the time and effort involved in yard maintenance I can see the attractiveness to this option. That has always been on my list to eventually look into more so thanks for the add motivation!

  16. Fundamentally I see nothing wrong with it so long as you value it and it doesn’t derail something else you value…. But.. we had a cleaning service which we cancelled…why? Kids.. they leave toys everywhere and we ended up cleaning more then the cleaners due to embarrassment… A roombah won’t work here until my 2 yr old masters putting away toys.

    1. I hear ya there! With little youngsters also I’ve run into the same things. But our three year old loves the roomba and starting it up so much that he is excited to put his toys up so that it can run. No joke, he immediately starts frantically picking up and putting away all his toys, it’s great!

  17. I say do what you think is right for you. I mean you have worked hard for the past x number of years don’t you have the right to enjoy it a bit. And part of this is about paying for time. You have earned the fact to put your time and effort to other places. I mean you aren’t advocating buying the hope diamond and giving it to a bimbo. In the grand scheme of things this will cost you maybe 100-200 bucks a month, not necessarily breaking the bank.

    1. Thanks Jason! I agree, what I’ve managed to do controlling my finances for the last ten years makes this a much easier decision to flex on.

  18. You need to do what makes you happy, even when it costs money. frugal is spending money in line with your values.

    We are frugal. Like you, my wife has been cutting my hair since 2005, company cell phones, bike to train station, brownbag lunch.

    We keep a house cleaning service, 7 hours per week. Not having one would mean an extra 7 hours of work for me and my wife. Life is busy enough. For now, we keep a second car, to cover for these emergencies when a second one is needed. IT gives us comfort. And we pushed up our travel budget, altough we travel frugal.

    1. That’s good to hear, ATL. I think our values are moving in line with you and it’s nice to hear another example. It makes total sense to take those 7 hours of house cleaning off your plate especially knowing how well you folks have done on your journey toward FI. A lot of similarities in our stories!

      Sounds like you’re living the good life!

Leave a Reply