In the last post, I shared my family’s actual expenses for Q1 and Q2 of this year. For the current post, I compared some of my basic expenses from my first year of post-doc to my current expenses 8 years later. Within that time, our family grew from 3 people to 5, and we moved from a two-bed/one-bath apartment to a four-bed/two-bath house.
So how did I do at avoiding lifestyle inflation? Here are my numbers as a percent of take-home pay.
|Category*||Post-doc % of net income||Current % of net income|
|Cell phones (2)||4.03%||1.12%|
During post-doc, we were wise to find a place <30% of our take-home pay. Family recommended that we rent a house (and I even made an offer on one place, but the owner wasn’t willing to budge on the price and I honestly couldn’t afford the extra $20/mo she was asking – that should have made the choice obvious.). I am glad we did not get more than we needed.
Now, our mortgage payment (including taxes, insurance, and CDD) is <23% of my take-home pay.
Our water provider changed when we moved, and despite the fact that we have a lawn and two extra people, our water bill is actually lower (in terms of dollars, not just percent).
Despite having more people and more things to power/area to cool (e.g., pool pump, more square footage), we’ve made great strides at lowering our electricity consumption and saving money on electricity.
My husband used to work for a major cell provider. Even after he left and we no longer received the employee discount, we were used to having the newest and coolest phone every two years. But I found that it didn’t make me any happier, and seeing the mark-up in the price we were paying made me angry! We switched to a pre-paid plan with no contract, no hidden fees, lower cost, and comparable service in my area.
We cut the cord on cable. We do still pay for internet. With 5 people, our usage is higher than we could get using our two phones as hot spots.
The dollar amount of this decreased. After our cars were paid off, we dropped collision and comprehensive coverage. When my student loans were paid off and we had more cash available, we increased the deductibles.
Another advantage to driving older model cars: lower car registration. The dollar amount of this decreased as well.
PAID OFF! We bought two brand-new vehicles when I was in grad school. Each cost as much as my yearly stipend (stupid)! The payments for one ended when I was on internship. I paid off the other while I was on post-doc.
I don’t plan to have another car payment again!
PAID OFF! I got angry every time a received a bill and saw how much was going toward interest. I made it a mission to pay off this debt, which was 30% of my post-doc income (as high a percent as my rent!) By avoiding lifestyle inflation, I started aggressively paying them down during my two years of post-doc. They were paid off within four months of me starting a staff position.
Credit card balance
I do use credit cards, but have never charged more than I can pay off at the end of the month, so I do not carry a balance. Some people recommend against using cards at all, because people are more likely to spend 12-18% more than if they pay with cash. Knowing this, I am adamant about sticking to my shopping list and I record every penny I spend.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I ran these numbers, but was pleased to see that the percent of my take-home pay decreased in each of these areas.
Net income (after taxes, insurances, retirement) was used for these examples, as I believe it provides a more accurate reflection of how much money is actually coming in versus going out toward these areas.
In what ways have you been able to avoid lifestyle inflation?