Saturday, March 22, 2008

Downgrading your lifestyle?

How do you downgrade your lifestyle? I think it's much harder to downgrade a lifestyle than to upgrade it.

Hence why I think I'm finding it so difficult to go back living like a student. This is why I enjoy spending $75-100/week on food. Whereas previously we could survive on $25/week and there were few complaints. Granted food was a lot cheaper 6-7 years ago, but still $25/week didn't buy much.

We never bought meat, except ground beef for a special treat. We didn't eat a lot of fresh fruit and veggies, again special occasions or great sales. We ate a lot of cheaper, unhealthy foods. We ate a lot of processed foods like hamburger helper, mac and cheese, pasta, etc. So now the thought going back to that lifestyle feels like nails on a chalkboard.

What else? Well cable, we never had tivo, extra channels, or even an extra cable box. We had minimum cable or no cable channels. We always had cable interet or DSL, which made sense for downloading papers, work, etc.

Another upgrade was having cell phones. For a long time DH didn't have a cell phone and I had a cheap plan to just call home. We cetainly didn't have a family plan until a few years ago. Now it's part of the lifestyle.

All these upgrades in lifestyle, it's funny how it's so easy to enjoy a better life, but difficult to let go of it. I wonder if this is what causes perhaps credit card debt? People having an expectation of a "lifestyle" then losing a job or having a financial issue. Then being unable to maintain their current lifestyle they turn to credit cards to supplement their finances.

Could you downgrade your lifestyle? Personally I think it would be really hard for us, but if absolutely necessary I could start doing it.


Mom said...

When I had my daughter I had a huge downgrade in living standards. It was really hard. I don't think I could go back to eating pancakes for breakfast lunch and dinner again.

minimum wage said...

Downgrading is much easier when it is very gradual.

For example, my wages have remained fairly level for many years. This means I have been losing purchasing power due to inflation at the rate of perhaps 0-3 percent per year (it varies from year to year, I might get a small raise one year and a rent increase the next year).

So there is a slow decline in living standards but never a sudden shock.

MEG said...

In college all my part time income was discretionary, since my housing and food was paid in advance. I had $600 a month that I could use purely for shopping, eating out, drinking, travel. My dad warned me repeatedly not to get used to an inflated lifestyle and that I may never again have so much "blow" money every month. I knew he was right. It was really tough getting used to a real budget when I graduated. My income went way up, but so did my bills/obligations.

I'm at the point now where I'm pretty much living like I did in college again, eating out regularly, shopping occasionally, and enjoying unnecessary luxuries such as TiVo and trips to the gourmet grocery. It would be pretty hard to downgrade. It's amazing how luxuries quickly become necessities.

Also, I think it's much harder to downgrade from bigger things like cars and houses. I could lose the little luxuries pretty easily, but I'd have a really hard time trading my nice newish car for an old beater or moving to a much less desirable neighborhood. Those sorts of major downgrades - as well as taking a less prestigious job or pulling your kids out of private school - say more about who you are in the world and can illicit feelings of failure and an identity crisis (as materialistic as that might be).

frugal zeitgeist said...

Having a goal in mind helps, I think. If the downgrading is in response to external constraints (like inflation) without a goal to work towards, I find it much harder.

Living Almost Large said...

Definitely downgrading due to the economy is occurring.