What is Lifestyle Creep?

Also known as lifestyle inflation, means as we earn more, our lifestyle tastes and expectations go up too. Let’s talk about how to prevent and recover from lifestyle creep with the help of a financial coach and financial coaching services!

Approximate read time: Five minutes

“I work hard and have nothing to show for it.”

“It doesn’t matter how much I earn, I still can’t seem to save any money.”

“How can we be making THIS MUCH money and still be behind on bills?” 

These are all good indicators that lifestyle creep (also called lifestyle inflation) has snuck up on you.

Beyond just being sneaky, lifestyle creep often opens the door for shame and judgment. The result of which are emotional reactions to try to fix or resolve it. These emotional reactions can look like restriction, hoarding money, and/ or on occasion just kind of giving up and giving in to it. (“Why bother?”) 

Lifestyle creep is a trap… it means we’re always trying to out-earn our financial stress. There is a top limit to how much we can work, but there seems to be no limit to how high lifestyle creep can go. 

Why Does Lifestyle Creep Happen?

Lifestyle creep (also called hedonic adaptation) gets a foot in the door when we are generally unaware of our spending and financial decisions.  Over time the things we once thought were luxurious, rewarding, or brought us joy are now just common, ordinary, or even boring. We may find we are craving the pleasure of variety, newness, or even just purchasing to feel rewarded.  

The cycle may even look like seeking out a new thing or new experience, getting it, adapting to it, and then craving that novelty, rush, or control again.

This cycle affects our decision-making in ways we may not have a full understanding of. Lifestyle creep is a reactive way to make decisions. That reactivity means we are making decisions very quickly.

This isn’t a personality defect, by the way. Our lives (and brains) are busy, which means some things will get lost.  Being even a little more aware of our spending (without judgment, shame, or punishment) is a great way to prevent reactive decision-making and be aware of it when it does crop up.

Fortunately, the skills and mindsets needed to prevent lifestyle creep are the very same skills and mindsets needed to recover from it!

Tips From a Financial Coach on How to Prevent and Recover From Lifestyle Creep

One way that will NOT work to prevent or recover from lifestyle creep is restricting yourself, or focusing on needs not wants. These traditional strategies are played out, as overly simplistic, and deeply emotional. Any time we feel restricted we will (eventually) rebel. Here are the best ways I’ve seen to prevent and recover from lifestyle creep:

Plan for it

By changing lifestyle creep from something that surprises us to something we plan for and expect, we reduce emotional reactions like restriction, while increasing awareness.  What would you like your next lifestyle change to look like? Ready to upsize or downsize your house? Want nicer towels? What does planning for those things look like? Even just thinking about planning counts as planning!

Planning for your lifestyle changes also makes them expected, not something that you have to restrict yourself from. Expected spending choices are always more thoughtful and intentional.

Slow down your decision-making

The easiest way to do this is to look for other options. If you want to change up your shoe game can you find five different kinds of shoes that would meet all your requirements? Even if you don’t find any other options, the process of just LOOKING for them slows our brains down.

Understand the purpose of your spending

Try this game for a day or two… Every time you spend money, you’re spending it, ask yourself “What is the purpose of spending this money?”

Rather than trying to cut back on your spending (restriction= rebellion after all) or change your spending behavior without a plan, by focusing on the purpose of your spending, you reinforce to your brain the job that money is doing for you. This will further help to slow down your decision-making. And no, we’re not interested if the spending is “good” or “bad”, only in what the purpose of that spending is.  

Combine naming the purpose of your spending with looking for options

As you’re making a spending choice and you ask yourself “What is the purpose of spending this money?” or even “What will this spending provide to me?”, you might fold in the question “What are some other ways I could achieve this?”

We are not looking for better ways, only OTHER ways.

Which of these prevention and/or recovery tools do you think you might try? What do you think you might notice as you try this tool out?

  • Plan for lifestyle creep
  • Slow down decision-making by looking for other options
  • Understand and name the purpose of your spending

Next recommended article: The Final Death of Wants vs Needs

Last updated: September 2023

Ready to Begin Financial Coaching Services in California, New York, Texas, or anywhere else in the United States?

Ready to take control of your finances and rein in lifestyle creep? At Pacific Stoa, let’s work together to build a resilient financial plan tailored to your goals. Say goodbye to unnecessary spending and hello to sustainable wealth growth—take the first step towards financial freedom with the help of financial coaching services! Follow these three simple steps to get started:

1. Reach out to me to schedule an appointment

2. Begin meeting with me, Hanna Morrell, a skilled financial coach

3. Rein in lifestyle creep and control your finances!

Other Services Offered at Pacific Stoa

At Pacific Stoa, I want to make sure you have everything you need when it comes to managing your finances. So in addition to helping individuals take control of their finances and overcome lifestyle creep, I also provide Financial Coaching for CouplesFinancial Coaching for Divorce and Separation, and Financial Coaching for Families. I also offer Financial Consulting for Nonprofits and Businesses to help create a customized strategy built specifically for you, your organization, and those you serve. Check out my FAQ to learn more about Financial Coaching and my Blog!