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?

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Lifestyle Inflation? Yes, Please.

Guys, I want to hire a maid.

Someone who can vacuum the stray hairs and rice grains out of the rug in the living room. Someone to wipe down our shower and mop our kitchen floors. Bonus points if they can rub out the thin but impossible to remove film of grease that coats the outside of our stove, protecting it from the other kitchen elements.

The expense would be relatively minimal, I think, though I haven’t gotten quotes. Once a month, maybe $100 a visit? And in exchange, a clean home that smells vaguely like lemon-scented Lysol and wood floors that get dusted not just when I do the cha-cha slide in my footie socks.

Why not get hire a cleaner, then? Well, I’m afraid that I’m inflating my lifestyle too quickly. I’ve spent more on renovations for my condo than I did for three years’ rent in our dilapidated former apartment. That plus my recent upgrades in terms of food and fitness makes me worried I’m getting too big for my britches.

On the other hand, we can certainly afford the expense. Our retirement and college funds are in a good place. I’m earning good money and my savings rate is over 50%. There is certainly a little room for more fun money. And fewer chores.

Do you want to inflate your lifestyle? Do you think hiring a cleaner is worth it?