Beware: Lifestyle Inflation Ahead! Things You Get And Can’t Go Back

Even though we’re still trying to avoid “lifestyle inflation”, we find that there are certain things that once you achieve, they are very, very hard to give up. Here’s just a few:

Living in a house, as opposed to an apartment
We started renting a single-family house two years ago, as opposed to a duplex or apartment complex. No more worrying about loud parties, television speakers, stomping feet, or people stealing my mail. No longer do I curse the invention of 5.1 surround sound and cheap speaker systems with subwoofers. I really don’t want to live in a condo again, but maybe I just need to live in nicer buildings than I used to…

Now I have to worry about not getting used to having too much square footage. I don’t think that’ll be a problem where we’re living, though.

Having your own washer and dryer
After having our own washer and dryer in the house, I don’t think I have ever go back to lugging 30 pounds of dirty laundry to the laundromat every few weeks. But somehow I did it for 7 years with no real ill effect. Of course, I did have to buy 30 pairs of boxers for those busy times when I couldn’t find time to make the trip.

Cellular phones
A few months ago I was actually trying to cancel my wireless service completely and have one less monthly bill, but I couldn’t pull the trigger. It’s actually pathetic how I use cell phones as a crutch for everything. Instead of actually making solid plans with people, everyone just wings it – “I’ll call you.” Instead of getting an address and using a map, you just call your friend once you get somewhere in the vicinity. I called a free 411 service about ten times this month alone when trying to find restaurant hours or locations. Good thing I found the Sprint SERO plan!

TiVo or other Digital VCR
I could probably live without cable TV, but if I have cable TV, I would need TiVo. I can’t really explain it. Just the idea of planning around commercial breaks or remembering to tape something every week seems completely alien to me now.

Is there an appliance, service, or other seemingly small thing that you now can’t live without?

Comments

  1. It’s a slippery slope. Pretty soon you’re going to want the five bedroom house, butler, personal chef and trainer!

    ps– my indulgence is my US weekly subscription.

  2. can’t live without xm satellite radio.

    i would say having the internet at home but honestly i’d probably be a better, more productive person if i didn’t have it.

  3. I started using Lala.com last year as an inexpensive way to remake my CD collection. It’s worked much better than I could have ever imagined. I’m addicted to it now. Getting new (or just new-to-me) music for only $1.75 per CD seems almost criminal.

    As far as electronics go, I’m with you on the DVR. I have no problem living without cable television. However, if I have cable, I must have a DVR. With two pre-school children, there’s no way I can schedule my life around catching a couple of show I watch regularly. And even if I did manage to find myself in front of the television at 9pm Friday, there’s no way I could expect to have an uninterrupted hour to watch an entire show. DVRs make tv viewing so much easier.

  4. Gregory says:

    Living in a house: I have mixed feelings about that. We (me and my wife) live in a really nice large apartment (1,100 sqft). We used to have a house in the burbs and we couldn’t stand it anymore after 2 years and sold it, for profit actually. All my spare time was spend on mowing the lawn or fixing something around the house. I didn’t like the generic neighborhood. Now 2 years later I sorta miss having a reason to go to Home Depot all the time.

    Washer + Dryer: I am with you. The first 3 years of our marriage we brought our laundry to my in-laws! I know it’s not the same as a laundromat, but still leaves you with no laundry when you need it sometimes.

    Cell Phones: We made the decision to cancel our landline and use cell phones only (until we have kids). We have a family plan with 3 lines (wife, me, sister). Comes down to $30 a person. We kind of need it too, I am a freelancer + entrepreneur always running around town, my wife is a full time nanny always running around town. And my sister can’t afford her own plan…. :)

    TV / Cable: Same here, we would be fine without Cable. But watcha gonna do? We bought this 30 inch LCD TV on sale last christmas at Amazon. Then we added Digital TV to get the HD picture, and while at it we added DVR and HBO. Argh… it sucks the live out of me. This damn DVR. I think I never watched so much TV in my life just because I can…

    Peace,
    Greg

  5. Nice cars: Once you are used to driving a nice car, switching to lesser one is really hard. You really don’t like the drive.

  6. Cinnamon J. Scudworth says:

    Yeah, I get a little irritated when I read people admonishing “lifestyle inflation.” As someone living in an expensive area, working an entry level job, my lifestyle inflation over the next few years will hopefully be being able to afford to live on my own, instead of sharing a place with three roommates. That’s lifestyle inflation I can live with.

  7. Wireless internet at home. I’d love to have a TiVo, but given the choice I’d take my WiFi any day. And it’s cheaper too, with no monthly subscription charge (assuming you’ve got broadband anyway).

  8. drop the cable, dude! my wife and i did two years ago, and after a couple months of withdrawal we realized that we were reading more, talking to each other more, and doing other productive stuff. we still pay $12 / month for ‘reception only’ cable — i.e., pbs and the major networks which gives us plenty of options when we really need to vedge.

  9. I am still in college, living in an apartment, but when I moved into my current one with my girlfriend, she was able to get an old washer and dryer from her mom and we love it – now we never have to go hike up or downhill with our laundry to the apartment.

    Everyone talking about doing the Tivo thing: Give the Media Center or MythTV thing a look, they are one-time expenses (no subscriptions!)

  10. Omniver says:

    i can’t live without my GPS

    never get lost,
    never ask for directions,
    always have phone numbers of places,
    go to a completely foreign town and know my way around 100%,
    never need to check google maps, (beforehand or while driving),
    freedom to travel with total assurance and anxiety-free comfort
    save time and money by always going the shortest route,
    convenience through knowledge of stores, food, services nearby

    i had no idea it would be so valuable to me until i owed one, one of the best money-value purchases ive ever made

  11. I can just hear the Homer in my head saying, mmm, apartments. I loved living in apartments, of course ones that had W/D in them.
    We’ve been buying a home for about 6 years now and I’ve learned my husband isn’t handy, sigh.
    I use a push reel mower, a manual leaf blower (rake) and manual edger. They don’t use electricity or gas. I don’t want Al Gore haunting my dreams.
    Also, our home has a pool (live in Fresno), I cancelled pool service last year at $70 a month and do it myself. I’m not crazy about it, but it’s now $80 a month (yeah I had a weak moment and asked) and it’s really only worth it in the summer. When it’s cold, the pool is very low maintenance. We also installed a variable speed pool pump to save energy and is it ever!
    Also, use the delay timer on the dishwasher to run after 1 a.m., saves on energy costs too. I do laundry late at night or early morning and not all at once, cause I don’t stay up that late or get up that early which means about one load a day, it varies.
    We have what my husband calls Ghetto Cable…it’s basic comcast and was $24 a month, we HAVE to have it just to get local channels. Just got a bill for $31, they upped the price to $8 each box (we have 2) without warning to get HD. Nice. Thing is, you get the channels in regular tv and then also listed is the same thing in HD….hubby says he WANTS/HAS to HAVE the HD. I’m cancelling it in the bedroom.
    We have basic land line service, no caller ID, no call waiting, and that’s $17 a month. Have to have cell phones because 1. one of them is my business line and 2. we drive a lot to no-man’s land for my oldest to visit with her dad and there’s NOTHING out there, no phones, no streetlights, no stores, just miles and miles of dark agriculture all around. And yep, I’ve gotten a flat out there at night once, so glad to have a cell phone. My teen doesn’t have a cell, all her friends do tho and they let her use theirs for pick up calls, etc.
    My ex mother in law turned me on to Primus long distance…got a great rate for that and so now my long distance bill is anywhere from $18 to 40 a month down from double that. Plus, if you get the bill via email, they take off the cost of paper and postage.

    I would LOVE a smaller, less energy-sucking fridge, but with 5 people in our home, it’ll have to wait. I won’t allow an extra in the garage for drinks or whatever….sheesh.

    My mom takes in CRV from water and soda bottles my brothers house goes through, (think depression era raised) and she’s saved over a thousand dollars doing that.

    as for the computer, there are three of us in the house that use it all the time for a emails, ichats, (we moved here and all family and friends still live in the Bay Area) so that saves on LD phone bills. It gets used for school work research by the teenager, and the 6 year old uses it for games on PBS, and Cartoon Network, hubby has a fantasy sports thing going and I have a business. We pay about $24 a month for faster than dial up service. I say it’s worth it. Lastly, we pay $19.50 a month for 3 mail in movies at a time, from blockbuter, but with the new take in the mailers to the store and get free store rentals it’s great, plus we get 2 coupons a month for free store movies. Great with a large family and it’s what $10 a ticket at the theatre? ouch.
    I would love the satelite radio, but for now it’s my own cd’s and financial advice books on cd.
    I love this website, so much to learn, thanks for taking the time to put it up. Jessica

  12. Maybe it’s an age thing. I’m 50 and have no desire to have a cell phone or cable TV. I prefer getting movies from Netflix (which is way cheaper than cable and you can see anything worth watching if you wait a while.

    As for a washer/dryer, it’s convenient, but I probably wouldn’t replace them when they go. I just don’t use them enough.

    But I got to agree with you on the house. I hate having neighbors too close. Just be picky where you rent or buy; many houses don’t require a lot of regular maintenance. Then again, for what you pay in condo fees could pay for someone to do those chores for you.

  13. TallWes says:

    KIDS!!! Do kids count? I have a two month old. I think I was in denial about how much it would actually cost. This is one contract that can’t be canceled! Although, even if I could, I wouldn’t give her back.

    -Wes

  14. I got satellite radio (XM) for my home & vehicles 2 years ago & use it all the time, it is usually playing in the background when I sleep. I like to drive long distances for my vacations, and the huge variety of commercial-free music has made that a pleasure. I have never had cable TV or any kind of subscription TV, but I do get more than a dozen stations over-the-air. I enjoy reading much more than TV watching & live a mile from my local library. The main reason I continue my land-line phone is that it comes with DSL for my internet use. I have a prepaid cell phone that I use only when on the road, its net annual cost is $110. I have a washer I got for free from an ad I found at a local thrift store, I just had to load it into my van & take it home. My gas dryer stopped working a couple of years ago, but I own my home & so either hang the clothes in the basement or on an outdoor line in the summer to dry.
    My major non-necessary expense, however, are the 2 old trucks I own. I’m retired, own my own home, and live in an area where theoretically, I could walk, bike or ride a bus to do most everything. When I bought my home in 1980, one of the criteria was it be located where driving a car was not absolutely necessary. When the weather is nice, the trucks may sit for several days without being used at all. But I really love to drive, probably would give up all the other stuff before I’d give up driving.

  15. This is exactly why I have never gotten Tivo or a DVR. I already know I won’t be able to live without it if I tried it. As for the cable, I’ll go back to the basic $8 local channels only plan as soon as the promotion I’m on from moving ends (actually, it ended, I called to cancel, and they gave me another deal within my own idea of reasonable which is not anything more than $35 – and I still think it’s not really worth that).

    My cell phone is my home phone, and I can’t imagine it any other way.

    Washer and dryer are an absolute must. I have no interest in lugging my clothes to the car to drive to the laundromat and feel trapped there having to make sure people don’t steal my clothes. College was the last of those days.

    House vs. apartment, I actually kind of prefer an apartment (with washer and dryer) because I don’t have to do the lawn like some house renters, I just call if something breaks so that it can be magically fixed pretty quickly at no cost to me (they seem to have a stash of appliances somewhere), and I actually feel more secure living on something other than the first floor so that access is much more limited (basically just the front door).

    Always love reading your blog.

  16. 3.5 years with no cable! Took about six months of withdrawal, however I’ve exchanged most of the time spent viewing tv with reading blogs, email, the newspaper, books, and working on the house. Now, I don’t see how I ever had the time to waste in front of the TV, as I don’t want to give up time in any of my current non-work activities.

  17. SoontobeKSgrad says:

    I’m gonna have to agree on the cellphone, granted I work for a wireless carrier so not only is it a job necessity but rather cheap. DVR is a good point however, my internet savvyness has introduced me to torrents so the DVR thing could be lived without as long as I can get locals in HD. High speed cable/DSL however is one thing that can’t ever go away EVER! Good post though.

  18. I find that lifestyle inflation for me has come with age and income. I’m in my 40s and I still am a pretty good saver, but I spend much more than I did when I was in my 20s. I spend more at restaurants and go out more often. I would have never bought that wonderful iced, venti, vanilla latte if it had been available 20 years ago. Currently, I buy a gym membership, while in my 20s I spent $2.00 to swim and only spent the money when I actually went swimming. When I bought a new 27 speed bike a few years ago and sellected a higher end model than when I bought my first 12 speed in 1982. I get my hair cut and colored (am I supposed to admit that?), as opposed to the $10 buzz that I used to get. Recently I’ve considered getting lawn service and alarm systems for my house. I buy organic and locally grown more often which costs more than buying the multinational imported mass produced food. I could go back to my previous spending habits, but I don’t feel the need to scrimp as hard as I did 20 years ago, and even with these items I still save.

  19. Gregory says:

    Another thing that came to my mind: Groceries. Now that I finally make a decent paycheck in my late 20s, I indulge on good groceries. On my way from work to home there is a huge Whole Foods (HQ in Austin) and I stop there usually twice a week to buy good organic groceries (meats, veggies, fruits) or just have lunch or dinner.
    We do go to Costco to stock up on items like shampoo, toothbrushes and toilet paper and other necessities.

  20. Hazygrey says:

    Elevator and doorman. I live in Manhattan and a house is not an option anyway. And why do I live in Manhattan? Because I can’t sacrifice locatione either – the quick commute, number of restaurants, bookshops and movie theatres within walking distance. I pay very high rent and could probably never afford to buy anything in Manhattan though.

  21. Can’t live without:
    1) TiVo (even though I cut my cable way and only get networks + comedy central + discovery channel) I can’t stand commercials.

    2) Paytrust. (a bill paying service) My bills go to paytrust and get scanned it. Then I get an email notifying me and I can arrange payment or have payment filters– this was great while I was traveling for a long period of time. You can have complex filters too– like auto pay the phone bill if it’s less that $50, if it’s more notify me (to stop from accidental auto-payment of a $400 phone bill error or something of that sort.) Added benefit over many bank bill pay services– you schedule when the check gets sent out. Many banks withdraw the money as soon as you schedule it, then they earn interest on that money.

    3) High speed internet. Although I agree with previous posters– I’d probably be much more productive without it.

    I guess I’m stuck with:
    1) Cell phone. I don’t like it but you break down once on the highway and you realize how you REALLY need a cell phone.

    I’d love to have:
    1) Dishwasher. Oh, my kingdom for a dishwasher! Just once I’d love to finish a meal and not dread the cleanup.

  22. saladdin says:

    First off, what anyone does with their money is fine by me, save it, smoke it, spend it or eat it. But what I find interesting is how different people’s definition of lifestyle or “needs” are.

    I have never owned a cell phone, I do not even have a house line anymore. I live in west Tennessee where there are very few apartments. I do not know anyone that lives in one, or has ever lived in an apartment. So you can guess that washer/dryers are standard. I do not have dvr/tivo/hd or any of that stuff either. After baseball season I will lower my cable package. I have never owned a new car. I have a 96 S10 and a 95 F150 now.

    I am simple by nature. It is my temperment so I do not feel as if I am missing anything. I am 32, used my GI Bill to get through undergrad and a MBA (from local private college, nothing fancy) all to make sure I do not end up in a factory as all of my friends and family are doing.

  23. saladdin says:

    After I reread my post, it sounded a little “holier than thou.” Not my intention. So I thought about my inflation, about what I DO have. Here’s a go..
    I spend 150 a year on membership dues for private organizations such as Moose Lodge/Elk Lodge. In the county I live, liquor is illegal to sell (and no beer sells on Sunday) so these private clubs skirt around that.
    I am a member of AAA, another 50 a year.
    I get 2 magazines (history), cost about 50 bucks. Goes against the “go to the library” mantra.
    MLB baseball package runs another 120ish a year.
    You want to see me spend on a “want”? Put me in at a book sale.

  24. High-speed Internet … there’s no going back from that. And I’d second the commenter on the car front — try going back to a Corolla from a Lexus.

  25. I agree with you on all of the items you listed. I would add high-speed Internet to the list.

  26. I never had a TV or cable (I’m 30) and held out until a little free TV came my way and Netflix appeared. Love it.

    For me, besides the cell phone and W&D, the big lifestyle inflation is buying ANYTHING I want at the grocery store. Sure, I still look at prices, but if I want it, I buy it. I figure it is good for me, so why not ;-)

  27. Joanne and Paul says:

    Indoor plumbing and electricity.
    But more seriously, things we wouldn’t care to do without:
    1. Coffee we make ourselves from freshly ground beans. Starbucks can go away.
    2. Good beer-either micro brewed or our own brew
    3. DSL and wireless internet on a laptop computer at home. We cancelled newspaper subscriptions and seldom watch TV news anymore because we read a greater variety of stuff on the internet. This way we have many more choices for sources of news and opinion.
    4. Public television and National Public Radio (NPR). Don’t watch much network TV and don’t have cable. Like Bruce Springstein says, “57 channels and nothin’ on.”
    5. Traveling by public transportation to work.
    6. A garden of perennial flowers and plants all around our home. We enjoy taking care of it, get exercise, entertain within it, and are homebodies anyway. It doesn’t take much to keep us happy.
    Great blog. Thank you.

  28. I went back from high speed internet to “low speed” 256k, which I barely notice the difference on, except in my bill.

    I also ditched digital cable and most of the non-network channels.

    I’ve lived with a washer/dryer, and now I don’t. I do miss it, but it isn’t the end of the world.

    I still rent (apartment) and I am just not ready for anything more, but I would not be interested in having roommates again

    So there is some going back!

    But I upped other things, mostly going out to eat (I am hooked on sushi) and better beer/alcohol. Not that I drink a lot, but I think the difference is worth it.

  29. Since I started getting serious about managing my finances, I’ve been amazed at the things I CAN live without. Gave up: personal cell phone (still have one thru work that I try not to use outside work), cable TV, eating out a lot, going to expensive entertainment events. Now I get resourceful if I need to reach somebody in a jiffy, and I don’t waste time checking to see if someone called me; I no longer waste hours flipping thru the channels – I use Netflix and watch films/shows I wanted to see anyway, or I read one of the many books, magazines or newpapers we get, or we play a board game or chess, go for a walk, make dinner – you get it, we spend quality time together; we rarely anymore charge up hundreds of dollars to go see concerts/sporting events/ski vacations/big-city girl getaways (we say no to a lot of things and save our $ for the really special ones); we cook at home and invite friends over rather than eating out.
    But okay, there are a FEW things I really wouldn’t want to live without: my Ipod, which I use to catch up on free music and PF radio shows during my commute to and from work; the aforementioned Netflix; DSL (I put up with pain-in-the-butt dial-up service for way too long). Also, I probably will never be able to go back to paying $20 for a haircut (I’m a girl). Yes, I’m almost embarassed to say I pay roughly $80 every six weeks to have my hair well styled and colored by my favorite stylist. Yikes (but it’s worth every penny ; ).

  30. Hey Jonathan, you side-stepped the biggest lifestyle inflation for anyone not living rurally: TRANSPORTATION. Of course, in the same vein, rural living is kind of a lifestyle inflation.

    My fianc? and I are both bussers by nature. We live in an apartment, but specifically chose a location less than a block from the grocery store, pharmacy, post office (etc), and of course, right across the street from a major bus stop.

    We still use cars and sometimes take cabs, but it’s definitely saving us a lot of money. Two bus passes cost 120-160 / month, right now and I my average rental / cab fare is less than 120/month. All together, that’s way less than pretty much anything having to do with a car.

    I also definitely have to support the “cable TV is evil” camp. I cut myself off a few years back and all that I miss are sports. Of course, big events like UFC are best shared with others (or at the bar) and big sporting events can be watched at the local sports bar for the price of a few beers and a plate of nachos.

    All in all Netflix or TV on DVD has panned out much better for me :)

  31. What about location? I can’t see myself ever living in the college slums I once did.

    I also have a BOAT (Break Out Another Thousand). I justify it because it’s a small sailboat that doesn’t require engine maintenance or gas or anything like that… but boat materials still cost a small fortune.

  32. Drdomore says:

    I have gottten hooked to my Blackberry…Google has some cool apps under Google mobile and it makes the internet come alive on the handheld…I don’t know how I was living without it (I know how I was but IHYKWIM)

  33. Location! That’s a good one Scott. During college, my boyfriend and I lived next door to a crack den that perpetually smelled like urine. We loved it because it was cheap, but we were always afraid to go out alone late at night. We live in suburbia now, and I can’t imagine going back.

  34. 1. Broadband internet and WiFi. I do a lot of work on the net so these add to my productivity.

    2. Lexus. Like another poster noted, it would be hard to scale back to a Corolla.

    3. I’m panning on giving up satellite TV. Just had a baby and my time is limited. I’ll see how difficult giving up sat TV and a DVR turns out to be. (I figure I’ll try Netflix)

    4. Home ownership is important to me. I don’t like the noise inherent in most apartments.

    5. I stopped using my cell phone 5 years ago and never looked back (reception in my area is horrible).

  35. Heated leather seats.

    After THIRTEEN vehicles–not one of which cost more than $500–a car accident involving three generations of my family members (FUV driver on a cell phone blew a red light), I pegged the meter on safety concerns. The vehicle that met my needs did not come WITHOUT any options. While early on I was embarrassed to have them, I now cannot imagine life without heated leather seats. Oi.

    If it makes you feel better: I am now on year seven of this vehicle, with miles to go on the warranty. Car looks/drives like new, and I plan to squeeze every last mile out of it…

  36. I can only think of two major things that I could live without but can’t live without ;) :

    (1) Transportation: Two months ago I bought a scooter, which has replaced taking the bus every day. Now that I own the scooter and gear, the recurring costs are actually very low ($5/week gas, $63/year insurance(!), $80/quarter parking pass, etc.). Now I only take the bus when the weather is bad or if I plan on going out/drinking. I live in Seattle, though, so that may force me into lifestyle deflation come Fall/Winter.

    (2) Apartment: My girlfriend and I switched from a one bedroom to a two bedroom apartment about 2 years ago, so that we could have an office/guest room. We had told our manager we were moving out (not for more space, but for a more convenient location), and he offered to lower the rent on our one bedroom (renter’s market). We then asked about an available two bedroom, and he offered that at only $30 more than we had been paying for the one bedroom. So, we took it. Now, our rent is going up significantly (new managers and landlord market), and we have been looking at other apartments. But neither of us can stand the thought of having our computer desks in the living room again. We also considered renting a larger place with roommates, but only for about 2 seconds.

  37. Laptop, and broadband at home.

    Addiction for sure, but I wouldn’t give them up.

  38. Wireless High Speed internet at home
    Dual-monitor workspace
    Renting a house instead of an apartment
    Being self-employed vs. an employee

  39. Oh gosh, what would I do without Tivo??
    I have seven shows that I absolutely love to watch, and with Tivo, I don’t have to worry about missing them EVER, I don’t have to remember what days/times they’re playing, or when the new seasons start back up, I don’t have to watch the commercials, and recording/accessing the shows are as easy as a few button presses. If I want to check something new out, it can easily be added to my To Do List. Best part is, I’m never without anything to watch when I’m at home!

  40. I have managed to go two years without CABLE! I hate the concept of watching stuff at the network’s schedule or remembering to DVR.

    I now watch ALL my favourite shows online on my PC – through ABC.com, NBC.com, Fox.com, Hulu.com and Netflix watch now for FREE. The video quality is pretty good (same as cable) and I can catch up on espisodes from two years ago.

    I bought a $30 component to VGA adapter and can now connect my laptop to my TV – so I’m not stuck with just the small screen.

    You can also get HD and you have a lot less ads than on cable (none on netflix and only about 4 thrity second ads on the other sites).

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