Last year, I got a new job. And with the new job came a 25% bump in my salary. My frugal self said that this was the time to save up like crazy and accelerate my journey towards financial independence. My other self however…
Well, instead, I did what many people do when they get a bump in pay, a bonus or a sudden infusion of money: I upgraded my lifestyle.
Back then, I reasoned that I deserved it. I told myself that after years and years of struggle and side hustlin’ to aggressively pay down my debt and working hard to make a career change possible, it was time to relax. What’s the point of money if I don’t even get to enjoy it?
Also, I feel that since I was embarking on a new phase of my career, I needed to make things easier on myself by moving to a swanky RM2,000-a-month loft. Besides, house sharing was wearing me down - the constant intrusion on my privacy was driving me crazy. I longed for my own place.
Also, I reasoned, the money would be great “investment”. I’d be able to have the “me time” to study and destress as I grapple with massive life & career changes.
So I moved to my swanky loft. It was great, though I wrung my hands each month I pay my rent. (My thoughts when I press the “pay” button: Holy Batman’s slippers, that $ could have swelled my savings by X%!!)
So, do I regret allowing “lifestyle creep” to happen?
Yes & No.
No, because it gave me the space to destress
Career change of any kind is not easy. Inside, I was grieving the loss of my 15-year journalism career, even if I did pull the plug myself. The loft - the privacy and its recreation amenities - was a great place for me to just be safe, relax and wallow a little.
Also, I had to grapple with a new work culture, a new industry and learn up a whole bunch of stuff. The beautiful space gave me the space to process it all without interruption.
By moving to a place near work, I got rid of a bunch of stress. House sharing, despite its many financial benefits, is stressful. I didn’t want the added stress of dealing with roommates etc. And because my loft was literally walking distance to my workplace, it reduced the stress of the commute as well.
Yes, because I could’ve rented cheaper digs
Because, hey, there were RM1,200-RM1,500 apartments a few train stops away from my workplace. I reasoned, however, that I saved money by not using public transport. And back when my workplace was literally less than a km from my home, it was worth it. But then I had to shift offices - and those savings did not pan out anymore. Also, with the RM100 monthly LRT transport pass, you can literally live anywhere without worrying about paying too much for transportation. Which is why….
Yes, because I moved too soon
I realise a few months in that perhaps I should’ve waited to settle in with my new job and the change in my life without making an equally drastic change of moving and taking on a massive one-year lease. Basically, it’s just best not to move unless you are 100% okay/settled/confirmed with the changes that has happened in your life. You just don’t know if anything is permanent. On hindsight, if I had known about the Skypark Link’s existence back then, I would not have moved. (The Skypark link is a non-stop train from Subang-Kl Sentral.) I would’ve used that time to settle in and thought up cheaper options.
No, because I gave myself a time limit & boundaries
One year. I made a promise to myself that I will only live in the swanky loft for one year. (And to only extend the stay if I feel financially comfortable to do so. I also told myself that the only extravagance I will allow myself was renting this plush abode. Once upon a time, I used to check myself into a swanky hotel or an Airbnb for a few days once or twice a month. Those things were struck off my budget.
No, because I still maintained good financial habits
I paid off my credit cards in full and stuck to my habit of not buying stuff I didn’t need. I didn’t taken on additional debts. In fact, I started overpaying my car loan. I tried not to eat out too much. (Okay, that department still needs a lot of work!) I also ensured that I continued pushing money into my savings account. While I couldn’t save as much as I did before, my net worth still went up instead of down.
And No, because money shouldn’t be hoarded at the expense of your well-being
In my last personal finance post, I wrote about how my desire to achieve financial independence has caused me to sacrifice my well-being for the sake of accumulating as much money as quickly as possible. I have since realised that this is the wrong way to live. Yes, I’ve achieved so much by being gritty, frugal and smart about money, but the habit of putting myself last has cost me a lot - my health and sanity are not things to play around with.
Money can buy us space and give us options.
Why not use it?
This whole life creep experience also made me realise that life isn’t black and white. Sometimes a lifestyle upgrade is necessary for our well-being. We can’t eat rice and beans forever, can we?
As long as you exercise wisdom and not dig yourself another debt hole, I believe some lifestyle creep is allowed.
And don’t be so hard on yourself if you think you could’ve saved more. Life isn’t all about saving money, is it? ;)
How about you - have you upgraded your lifestyle? Did you feel it’s warranted or did you regret it?