Lifestyle Inflation

Avoid the new normal

Agnes Martin “Summer” (1964)

Books can make you more aware of your lifestyle. Even bad ones. I just finished the book ‘Goodbye, Things’ by Fumio Sasaki. It’s a book on minimalist living where the author, a Japanese writer, has gone to extremes when it comes to minimalism. Fumio Sasaki lives in a tiny studio in Tokyo with three shirts, fours pairs of trousers, four pairs of socks and not much else.

While the book is part of a proclaimed Pinguin ‘self-help’ category which sounds horrendous as it is, I do definitely see the value of it. Fumio lives in such extreme ways that you can do nothing else then also to look at your own behavior.

And that is the exact value of this book. It’s not about owning less, but it is about becoming aware of what you consume. Trying to ask yourself the simple question: Do I really need this? Having less stuff is definitely not a competition. Since I try to be a bit more conscious of my spendings, I tend to look down on people who are at the other end of the spectrum. The spenders and consumers who get intense joy from buying new things. There isn’t much to compare yourself with others anyway.

The switch we all have to make is understanding that more stuff does not equal happier. Modern research proves that right. They call it the hedonic treadmill. As a person makes more money, expectations, and desires rise in tandem, which results in no permanent gain in happiness.

Most people act in the opposite way. When they move up the career ladder, which equals more salary, their spendings keep going up. You can call this lifestyle inflation. Lifestyle inflation tends to continue each time someone gets a raise. It makes it difficult to get out of debt or save for future dreams. It’s a rat race of paying the bills.

Avoid creating a “new normal” for yourself. It’s a trap. it will follow you throughout your career and is hard to get out of. Because once you are earning that higher salary, slimming down is hard. Remember that more is not always the answer.

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