Daily Habits to Reduce Your Reliance on Luxury Goods
Lifestyle inflation is one of the major themes of our western culture in the 21st century—it refers to the tendency of people to spend more money the more money they make. In our modern society, the cost of our lifestyles can also increase based on technological and cultural influences even if our income hasn’t even increased. As we get older, we may tire of certain chores or become addicted to luxury goods, like daily lattes or adding dessert to every meal at a restaurant, after we have tried them a few times.
This article describes 5 daily habits that you can form to reduce your reliance on some of the luxury goods inherent in lifestyle inflation (or to resist some forms of lifestyle inflation before they happen to you!).
- Track Your Spending
It can be very easy to lose track of how much money you are spending daily on luxury goods. In fact, a lot of companies hope that you will forget how much you’re spending as well! The nature of luxury goods is that they are inherently unnecessary; they are meant to bring joy or comfort to your life but in order to know whether or not they are worth it, you need to know how much they are costing compared to how much joy they bring you.
The first step to reducing your reliance on luxury goods is to know how much money you’re spending on them. Personal finance budgets don’t have to be only for when you are strapped for cash or you’re saving for a specific goal. There are tools you can use to do this (Mint for example), but I still like to keep a spreadsheet by hand. It lets me categorize my spending into different types that are important to me, and I feel the weight of each purchase as I type it into the spreadsheet.
Try to base all of your spending decisions on answering the question, “Is this purchase worth the amount of money I’m spending on it?” If that question is a hard one to tackle at first, try starting with, “Is there something else that would bring me just as much joy as this purchase for less cost?”
- Buy Luxury Goods Once You “Need” Them
The nature of luxury goods is that companies will try to your purchase decisions for them as impulsive as possible, with tactics like flash sales and limited time only products. Pumpkin Spice Lattes are only at Starbucks for a few months of the year, so you better enjoy one every morning while you can. Do you need a salad spinner? Well they are on sale for Black Friday only, and you did say you wanted to start eating healthier… These types of time-limited offers and rotating menus force you to make your purchase well in advance of needing the luxury good.
Try to experience the bad state before you buy the luxury good. Go without the product for several weeks so that you can more accurately determine how much value it would bring to your life. For the Starbucks example, try going a few weeks into the PSL season before you buy your first one. Do you feel like you were missing out as much as you thought you would? Skip the sale on the salad spinner this time and use the time between now and the next time it is on sale to start making more salads without one. How much would it speed up your cooking time? This way, you will have a better idea of how much utility you’ll get from your purchases without the artificial urgency that product marketing can place on you.
- “Splurge” on Alternatives
No one is saying to live a life without luxury! This section is about exploring alternatives to substitute for some of your purchases rather than cutting them out completely. There is an alternative option for almost every purchase. Is a $100 meal as satisfying to you as having a $20 meal five times as often? Answering yes or no is equally viable—it just depends on your personal preference.
Reflect on what alternatives may exist for a luxury good that you’ve been buying regularly. You may find yourself going out to eat regularly because you don’t feel like cooking, but those aren’t your only two options. Would buying fresh, pre-made meals from your local grocery store’s kitchen section cause you to save some of the money you spend on dining out? Would you find yourself more eager to meal prep in advance if you had better Tupperware containers or if you spent more money at the grocery store on better ingredients? Try to evaluate the reasons behind why your spending habits are the way they are and shift them to cheaper alternatives that keep your level of satisfaction constant.
- Prepare Now for Your Impulses Later
Another reason why people buy money on luxury goods is that they need instant gratification in the moment. When you’re stressed at the office, you may have the habit of driving to the nearest fast food chain to buy your favorite junk food. The intent behind the purchase is that you need a way to relieve your stress. Could you calm down by taking a walk outside while you eat a candy bar instead? You may find that you’re not even hungry and a carefully curated Spotify playlist on your phone could sooth your anxiety just as well or even better than the endorphins from a junk food binge.
Think about what emotions or stress responses tend to cause you to spend money. Prepare an action plan to have for similar moments in the future. Don’t worry if you sometimes still drive to the fast food place. The preparation step is to lower the odds that you’ll fall back on your more expensive self-soothing habits not to eliminate them completely.
- Treat Yo’ Self
The purpose of all of these exercises is to be more mindful of your spending and try to reduce the times when your spending is unnecessary to maintain your current level of happiness. When buying luxury goods becomes part of your daily routine, the purchases often become dull and expected instead of new and refreshing. Once you have reduced the frequency with which you buy some of the luxury goods in your life, truly enjoy and savor the moments in which you do still buy them. You put in the work to determine that each purchase is meaningful for you, so enjoy it!
Whenever you buy a luxury good, don’t feel guilty or ruminate on how much money you spent. Reflect on how much money you have been saving by tracking your spending, waiting to buy products until you really need them, switching to cheaper alternatives, and preparing in advance of your impulses. It isn’t easy to determine and shift the reasons behind why you spend money. Our society preys on the fact that humans are habit-forming creatures. Just starting to implement some of techniques is already making a huge step in the right direction to reducing your reliance on luxury goods!