Featured, Spending

Lifestyle Creep: How to Spend Intentionally Even When You Have More Money

March 15, 2024

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I'm Tori!

After successfully saving $100,000 at age 25, I quit my corporate job in marketing to fight for your financial rights. I’ve helped over three million badass women make more, spend less, and feel financially confident.


“I’ll get them both.”

I was out at dinner with friends and picking between appetizers when I decided to say screw it and get them both. 

While I was totally happy with my decision (I’m a big foodie and dining out is part of my values-based spending), I realized just how much had changed for me.

You see, I come from a strict No Appetizers family. You got your meal and water and didn’t even LOOK at those moz sticks, no ma’am. 

There I was, getting TWO apps like a bonafide queen. Who was I, Serena van der Woodsen???

Not exactly. But I do intentionally spend on food and savor the experience–though I certainly pay more. 

So is this an example of lifestyle creep? And if so, is lifestyle creep always bad? Let’s dive in.

What is Lifestyle Creep?

Lifestyle creep is when you spend more money, presumably for “nicer” things, as your income increases. This can include everything from improving the quality of your groceries to going from trimming your own bangs to balayage haircuts.

With lifestyle creep, the percentage of the cost in your budget doesn’t necessarily change, but the line item does, whether that’s for goods, services, or experiences. 

Lifestyle creep doesn’t include compensating for inflation or other budget increases that maintain the status quo. If your water bill goes up, it’s not lifestyle creep. Just sad. 

A common example is wine. While you may have lived off of two buck chuck as a college kid, you might spend more on a bottle as you reach your 30s and have more disposable income. (I have a friend who practically lived on Franzia during college and made a vow never to buy boxed wine post-college, ironically when boxed wine had its own renaissance.)

When we talk about lifestyle creep, we generally refer to the “extras” in our budget–things like concert tickets, traveling, or clothing. 

So… is Lifestyle Creep Bad?

Only you can answer that!

First off, there’s no shame in upgrading your choices as your income increases (at HFK, we’re never going to shame you for your purchases). 

If you’re hitting other money goals and spending on things you truly value, then I have a hard time saying that it’s fundamentally a problem. 


Lifestyle creep can be a form of unhelpful consumerism. If you’re spending more just to spend more, that’s still unaligned spending. 

For example, your coworker might spend hundreds a month on skincare products, but if you still love your drugstore staples, do you really get anything out of upgrading to more expensive picks?

This brings us to another point: just because something costs more doesn’t mean it’s higher quality. 

You might believe in buying fewer, nicer clothing pieces as you’re better able to afford them. We love that! But if your sweaters pill after a couple wears, it doesn’t matter if you got them from Target or not.

That said, you might find real benefits to paying more for certain things. Convenience, especially as your stage in life changes, matters. I have a lot of friends who rely on grocery delivery services, even though paying for this when they were younger would have seemed scandalous. 

And beware the never-ending cycle: you work more, so you pay more for convenience, which allows you to work more, which forces you to pay more for convenience…

Questions to Ask Yourself to Keep Lifestyle Creep in Check

So far, we have a ‘yes’ to spending more money responsibly, but a ‘no’ to spending without intention. Use these questions to determine for yourself if your increased spending makes sense.

  1. Am I already meeting all of my financial goals, such as saving for retirement and maintaining an emergency fund?
  2. Does the increased cost reflect higher quality? 
  3. Am I getting more joy out of the item or service?
  4. Is there an additional benefit that makes this cost worth it?
  5. Would I be happier spending this money somewhere else?

Final Take on Lifestyle Creep

It’s not bad to pay more for things as you have more money. 

Especially if you started out really struggling to make ends meet, you should be able to buy that Home Goods pillow in peace without shame or guilt. Money is a tool, after all.

But if, after reflection, you find that there are some things you don’t care about as much, use that money elsewhere.

And remember, the most important thing is being intentional about your spending habits, whether you’re happily paying for that wine club membership or enjoying the finest White Zin Franzia has to offer.



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