Like so many things in life, even lifestyle inflation is relative. A year ago, when I first started this blog full of the cumulative fires of binge-reading several financial independence blogs, we were in the middle of a two month long complete spending freeze as a paperwork error had smacked us with a tax bill from hell.
We had just moved into our flat in Trondheim with the amazing pantry – but said pantry was nowhere near full yet. We had run the numbers and knew that if we only walked/biked everywhere and bought nothing but rice, beans and frozen veg, we would still be able to pay our rent, electricity, phones and that massive tax bill.
There had been some tight months in London as well, and we were both used to the student experience of being low on funds. We knew we could do this – and we did – not least because it had a short and definable timeframe. But it was not particularly fun, an we would not want to live like that for a decade, even if it meant being financially independent sooner.
What I am getting at is that, 12 months ago, Mr. Frugasaurus and myself were living on the bare bones of our budget out of necessity, and we survived. Everything from there is technically considered “lifestyle inflation” is it not?
Compare that to where we are now. We are still renting the same lovely apartments with one of the best views in Trondheim. Our emergency fund is significantly chubbier and well-suited to weather us through a similar tax-paperwork-error storm again (Mr. Frugasaurus did get his money back after he filed his taxes again without the error, but you do not argue with Mr. Government). Our savings accounts are growing fast, and we have also inflated our lifestyle quite a bit. Right now, I am slurping an iced oat milk coffee Mr. Frugasaurus just brought me while we are working, my thermos is full of tea and we should probably scale back a little on our weekend snack consumption.
I bought an electric bike, for science’s sake! And we became gecko parents. Both of which are expenses we would not even have entertained a year ago.
The thing is, that all this talking down on lifestyle creep is fair and all – but some people come from backgrounds where the creep was much less possible. And I refuse to feel bad about having reached a place where we can go to the grocery shop and fill the cart without running a sum-of-all calculator in my head so I won’t get my card declined at the till.
I was recently talking to a lovely lady who wanted to know more about our frugal ways after reading about it on our blog – and she was stunned to hear that we run a grocery budget of about $250 per head, per month! Even with Norwegian prices, that is a budget with flexibility in it, but still below the national recommendations for someone in our age and lifestyle bracket.
Could we slash that? Of course we could. But the thing is, we don’t want to. We both feel like we have had our eye on the grocery budget for years, and now we finally get to kick back and relax a little.
Does that mean we toss anything and everything in the shopping cart?
No, we still shop by value, and our habit is frugal, so we scour the reduces aisle and make quality food with simple ingredients.
What allows us to relax about our grocery shopping is obviously that we’re so frugal in other areas of our life. We have a cheap flat for the area, quality and square footage that we enjoy. We have the cheapest phone plans, use electricity conservatively, and don’t own a car. I don’t but lunch at work, and our friends prefer hiking and hosting to happy hour and expensive trips.
We have designed our lives so cheaply that we can elect to let our lifestyle inflate a little in the areas that we know will bring us higher quality of life.
When you start from zero, anything from there will be inflation, and it would be wrong to shame people for that. The new e-bike still feels like the most luxurious, indulgent purchase I have ever allowed myself, with the kitchen machine a close second.
Sometimes, allowing a little bit of conscious lifestyle creep can be a good thing. If you’ve been walking on a financial tightrope for years, relaxing the reins can be great for mental health and general well-being.
I’m obviously not saying go full on spendy-splurge mode – but not being 120 % optimized for fastest route to financial independence is not always such a terrible thing. We also have to consider quality of life, mental health, and the fact that there is a life to be lived on the journey to FI. The latter being something I often get accused of failing at – I’m working on it!
So I’m curious. Which are the areas in which you know you could easily save even more money, but choose not to because you think it would just not be worth it?
Which purchases just add so much value to your life that you refuse to let them go? We would love to hear all about it!