Name one topic so important, so life-affecting, that both TLC and Radiohead felt compelled to write songs about it.
Give up? It’s the creep.
Okay I’ll admit, I’m not 100% sure what the hell those two were actually talking about. But let’s assume for the sake of this post they were sharing their own take on the same deadly (personal finance) sin: lifestyle creep. Simply put, lifestyle creep describes the movement of one’s lifestyle to accommodate one’s steady increase in income.
You’ve probably noticed lifestyle creep in your own life. You get that raise or make rank, but somehow it doesn’t feel like you have any more cash at the end of the month. Where the hell did it go? Check your expenses my friend, you’ve just been robbed by the LC.
How the LC Got Away With It
When that special weekend treat becomes a daily necessity, that’s lifestyle creep. When your friend talks you into a gym membership you don’t even use (ain’t nobody got time for that), that’s lifestyle creep. Check your cell phone, cable, or Internet bill. See all that shit you don’t need? lifestyle creep got you again.
Another common lifestyle creep is when those occasional luxuries get comfortable and transmorph into recurring expenses. At first that Cockstar Energy Drink might have been your Friday kickoff to the weekend. But after a while the novelty wears off and becomes just another part of your daily routine. At this point the added expense has stealthily crept into your life. Life is full of Cockstars. Watch out for them.
Why It Sucks Ass
Lifestyle creep is to savings what Roseanne Barr’s voice is to my libido. It completely destroys it. Whether it’s building your emergency fund, saving for a much-needed vacation, or investing for retirement, every extra dollar made is another opportunity to save and plan for your future.
On top of that, as you pile on those expenses you put yourself in a position to fall that much farther when life happens (ie. you lose your job to robots, your wife leaves you for your secretary, etc.). Regardless of what your income may become, it’s your expenses (and emergency savings) that ultimately affect how a sudden financial crisis is mitigated.
How to File a Restraining Order on the LC
For starters, a simple budget is probably the best defense one can have in the life-long battle with lifestyle creep. I personally use a basic spreadsheet for my own budget. It’s completely free via Google Drive or OpenOffice and I can experiment with various templates and scenarios to fit my life. Others have had success with software like Mint (free) and You Need a Budget (not free, but awesome! Poor Kids get $6.00 off using this link).
Another suggestion would be to just take a moment and perform some periodic budget cleaning. Think of it as like maintaining your car. Every now and then you have to check your fluids,, re-inflate your tires, and find where that weird smell is coming from. This prevents excess wear and tear on your vehicle. Lifestyle creep prevents excess wear and tear on your financial future.
As you identify and eliminate those places where LC reared its ugly head you may find yourself with a few extra dollars at the end of the month. Take that money and do something amazing with it. Buy a boat.
FACT: by the time you finish reading this, $47,000 has already been nabbed by the creep. What are you going to do about it?