Hitting the Reset Button on Lifestyle Inflation

There was a time – not too long ago – when our housing expenses tallied somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,000 month. We lived in a tiny 400ish square foot cottage in Los Feliz – built originally in the 1920s. It was more or less a studio. Rent itself was a little over $850. The $1,000/month includes utilities and renter’s insurance. That was a pretty good set up.

And then we moved.

Lifestyle Inflation – 20%

Once we moved to San Diego, we experienced a wee bit of lifestyle inflation. Coming from a spoiled middle-class upbringing, I wanted some luxuries at our next spot; I was pretty insistent on:

  • Air conditioning
  • Dishwasher
  • Washer/dryer

Fortunately, we were able to get all that for roughly $1,000/month – not including utilities. After tallying up other housing expenses, we were paying roughly $1,200/month. It was more than we were paying in Los Angeles – but we had much nicer amenities to show for it. #lifestyleinflation

Unfortunately, that price was a little too good to be true – as we butted heads with the absentee landlord/property manager who dragged their feet on addressing a leak in the unit. But, that leaky washer episode didn’t bother us too much – as most of the problems showed up towards the end of our tenancy. We were leaving the apartment life – and jumping into the adventure (and expense) that is homeownership.

Lifestyle Inflation – 200%

Ah yes, homeownership: the biggest financial mistake I’ve ever made. While we previously enjoyed housing expenses of $1,200/month, our housing costs today are roughly three times that. This tally includes

  • mortgage interest,
  • property taxes,
  • maintenance and upgrades – like installing air conditioning and granite countertops.

The thing that really sucks about homeownership isn’t just the cost. It’s also the work and the worry; you’ve got more space to clean and maintain. And if you don’t clean and maintain it, you’re going to worry about cleaning and maintaining it.

Do we enjoy our house? Of course – or at least the upsides of it – like the washer/dryer, central air, and two of our own parking spots. But alas, it’s simply too much for us. It’s too expensive and it’s more than we truly need. So, it’s time to start over.

Hitting the Reset Button on Lifestyle Inflation

So, we’re selling the house – and everything in it. The few items we don’t sell will either go into storage – or into our new home for the next year: a van. We’re going to #vanlife it up as we drive through Central America. Not only will living in a van be extremely inexpensive, but living in a van in Central America will be even less expensive than doing the same thing stateside.

Once we return from our journey (in roughly a year), we’ll upgrade from living in a van to a studio apartment. And once little junior shows up, we’ll likely opt for a tiny house – or maybe a duplex or triplex. (That’ll allow us to do some house hacking.) The play is to keep our housing costs low.

(And if you’re paying attention, you’ll know that keeping your housing costs low is critical – because housing costs are your biggest expense.)

As we move from van to studio to tiny house, we will experience immense joy and gratitude – because luxury is relative. It’ll be lifestyle inflation all over again; we’ll be upgrading. But with the next few upgrades, we’ll stay focused on keeping our lifestyle inflation – and the cost of it – in check.