What is important in managing your money and personal finances? What is a ‘Lifestyle Fever’? Here are some tips on how to not let ‘Lifestyle Fever’ kill your finances.
I just realized I’m suffering from a mild case of lifestyle fever. The symptoms started on a recent trip back from Denver, heading home from a wonderful conference with some of the top financial planners from across the country. I’d been cooped up for four days in a room full of people 20 years older (and 20 years richer) than I am and had to be on my A-game.
I rarely catch the financial ailments – lifestyle fever, FOMOitis, Keeping up with the Joneses Syndrome, or Debtolysis to name a few – that seem to go around. But this one is a pretty easy bug to catch, particularly for anyone who flies tired. In my case, my flight got canceled and of course, my rebooked flight only has middle seat available in coach. The vision of being squeezed between a pair of large fellow travelers flashed before my eyes. My one option to avoid hours of misery, and maintain my sanity, from the ever-so-generous airline was to upgrade my seat. Salvation would be mine with just the click of a button and a nominal fee of $120.
Now, $120 will by no means will this break my bank, but it was a mental hurdle I’d never crossed before – paying cash money for a first class ticket. I’ve been upgraded a few times over the years for free or used mileage points to book a fancy seat. In fact, I’ve flown my last three flights in first class free. As a perk it’s great, but I’m a bit concerned I may get used to this and first class will become my new normal. Easy as that, expensive habits take hold.
So here’s where my split personality got into a heated dialog. Fancy Me really thought I deserved to be sitting up there in first. Frugal Me, on the other hand, needed a little convincing. I knew I’d have to pay $35 if I stayed in coach ($25 to check my bag, $10 for some food). So this meant my net cost for going first class would be around $85. Totally affordable but did I need to spend the money? Well, during my hours of voracious reading I saw a great metric to help decide when to take an upgrade; if the cost is $1 or less per minute of flight then go for it. This flight was two-and-a-half hours (that is, 150 minutes), so Fancy Me won the day and brought Frugal Me along for the ride.
You may think it’s crazy that a successful 30-something married man is obsessing over upgrading to first class. But from where I sit, every dollar counts. Though I was able to treat myself, it also meant that the $120 was not going be used for kayaking tour, or dinner(s) with friends or paying an important bill.
Lifestyle fever contagion
We all suffer from various degrees of lifestyle inflation somewhere in our lives. The media don’t make it any easier because they’ve somehow convinced us that if we don’t have The Next Big Thing or The Next Better Thing we’re missing out and our lives are just one dull sad slog towards death. It doesn’t take much to turn us all into rapacious five-year-olds before Christmas. But remember, we are not five. We don’t have to be a victim of the siren’s call of more, more, more. We can be the masters of our own destinies and our own pocketbooks.
That said, though is no real cure for Lifestyle Fever there are ways to mitigate the symptoms.
4 foolproof tips to not let lifestyle fever kill your finances:
Stop and think
One manifestation of Lifestyle Fever is acting on impulse. Online shopping and booking don’t make it any easier. It’s spending now, repent in leisure behavior. A friend of mine says that when she’s in the throes of Lifestyle Fever – which in her case is triggered by expensive footwear – she’s convinced that she has to have this particular pair of shoes now, that there will never ever be a pair that can make her as happy. This may feel emotionally true when in fact it is most definitely not true. Trust me on this; there will always be another pair of shoes, another car, another vacation, another everything. When you stop, step back and take your time, logic will tell you that if something is really important to you today, it will still be important in a month or so. Can you afford to wait? Can you afford to not?
Prioritize spending on things that are important to you
If you love a nice bottle of Pinot Noir, go for it. Spend a bit extra on something you will enjoy. On the other hand, if you can’t tell the difference between Two Buck Chuck and a bottle of vintage Chateau Lafite Rothschild, don’t waste the money.
Invest in experiences, not things
It’s easy to let your budget get crowded with a bunch of things you think you need – things that will probably end up in a landfill – but this acquisitive impulse often siphons away money you could better use to pay for experiences. Remember, stuff gets thrown away but memories last forever.
Look for discounts
A friend recommended an amazing hotel to my husband and me but it came with a huge price tag. After a little digging, I found a special offering three nights for the price of two. They were also throwing in a bottle of Veuve Cliquot Champagne at check in. A third off isn’t the biggest discount but it did put us below what we had budgeted for a hotel. Did I get any less enjoyment paying a third less for the room? An emphatic NO and in fact I actually I had more fun since we were able to enjoy a nice dinner with the savings. A votre santé.
Lifestyle Fever doesn’t have to be fatal on a budget. The key is to be diligent and always aware that it can strike when you least expect it. Awareness is the antidote. And that’s advice you can take for free.
DISCLAIMER: This article expresses my own ideas and opinions. Any information I have shared are from sources that I believe to be reliable and accurate. I did not receive any financial compensation in writing this post, nor do I own any shares in any company I’ve mentioned. I encourage any reader to do their own diligent research first before making any investment decisions.
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