Scaling Lifestyle Inflation With Income

For a few weeks now, I’ve been ruminating on whether it makes sense to inflate my lifestyle and hire a house cleaner to visit my home once a month. I finally got around to shopping for quotes. Everything was in the $120-140/month range (ouch!), so I decided to go with the company that did the thorough and professional post-renovation clean for my house, which charges $130/month.

Justifying spending money can be difficult for me. On the path to early retirement, every expense, especially luxuries, can seem like the enemy. It is hard not to get caught up in uber-frugal mindset and forget that the path to early retirement is about minimizing stress, not just front-loading it.

And so, I’ve come up with a framework that will both allow me to inflate my lifestyle a bit, but also keep me in check. In this schema, I will allow myself 1 unit of lifestyle inflation (roughly $100/month recurring expense) for each $X I increase my income. Note that the value of X is the same as the value of a single unit in my net worth tracking posts. That is, each time I increase my income by roughly 1/8th the value of my mortgage, I’ll allow myself a little extra spending now in return. Times when I surpass my budget do not figure into this framework (they’ll still happen, regardless of income level). Rather, this is where I feel comfortable defining my baseline monthly expenses.

Here is a chart summarizing what my lifestyle looks like at each income level:

Income Level Description
1X  Frugal mode: Time to cut back. This means I need to get a roommate to live with Fiancé and me, no eating out, and a major spending moratorium on non-essential items
2X  Baseline: The minimum amount I need to spend roughly according to my typical not-so “bare bones budget”, with a few spending exceptions as needed, and still hit reasonable financial goals (e.g. saving at least 20% of income, etc.)
3X  Expensive fitness membership: $95/month
4X  Monthly cleaning: $130/month
5X  ???

Right now, my income level is at roughly 4.5X. So while my monthly cleaning bill is slightly higher than the allocated $100/month for the 4X lifestyle boost, I feel okay with a slight monthly overrun.

I’m not entirely sure what kind of lifestyle increase I would want if I do reach 5X. I expect by then, I may have kids. They’ll certainly be an increase to my monthly budget. In general, I want each boost to be something that simplifies my life or promotes my other personal values– health, relationships, creativity, food. Maybe a family chef? (Haha, no.) In any case, best not to count my chickens before they hatch.

How do you deal with and plan for lifestyle inflation?


8 thoughts on “Scaling Lifestyle Inflation With Income

  1. A few of my friends have a house cleaner and they swear it’s the best money they spend monthly. I have always wanted one, maybe when we move into a bigger place we might get one. Growing up my friends families had house cleaners and I always thought it was such a luxury 🙂


      1. I got my first housekeeper when I was about halfway through medical school, and it totally changed my home life. I went from cleaning once every few months (aside from bare bones superficial cleaning to keep it from being a total pigsty) to having my apartment cleaned every two weeks, and my living space suddenly became so much nicer. When I stared earning a living as a resident, I went up to weekly cleanings, and it was even better. When I look at my budget and ask myself if I could cut the housekeeping to save money, my response is basically Charleston Heston screaming “from my cold dead hands”.

        I find it funny that many people (although admittedly not frugal personal finance bloggers) have no problem spending hundreds of dollars a month on restaurants/takeout because they’re too tired/busy to cook, and yet if I mention that I spend $60 a week to have someone clean my apartment (which saves me hours of work), they accuse me of being spoiled!


        1. Having your home cleaned weekly sounds downright heavenly.

          It is a funny thing how often having a cleaner is considered “being spoiled.” Especially as I find my friends and family that live internationally consider it this matter-of-fact thing, like “of course you live in a two-income professional household, why wouldn’t you have a housecleaner?”


  2. I’m a huge believer in intentional lifestyle inflation! The way you described the -front loading- is exactly how I think of it. I’m not saving money JUST to retire but to have freedom later in life. But is that freedom really going to be worth it if I spend my valuable time NOW doing things I hate doing or that take up a LOT of my time I could be doing something I enjoy more? I do think it’s a bit easier to assess lifestyle inflation when you’re not married or have kids though!


  3. I had a housekeeping service for about 1 year (before we bought a house). It was quite nice, but it was just too much of a luxury for our budget once we had a mortgage. To be honest, we just lowered our standards and do the minimum required cleaning. I like this post:

    That said, allowing some lifestyle inflation makes sense, and it is great to do it in an intentional and well though out manner. I’ve certainly have had some gradual lifestyle inflation, but it is mostly in the food and travel departments. And a pet. We’re pretty good about keeping it in check generally by funneling most excess money into savings – but we don’t stress the small stuff much anymore.


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