Got a Raise? Here’s How to Avoid Lifestyle Creep

lifestyle creep

We work with a lot of young professionals and because of that, we get the pleasure of seeing many of our clients progress up the ladder in their career. With this often comes more responsibility but also more money. A raise is something you should be proud of as it represents the payoff from the sacrifices you have made and the hard work you put in. This calls for a celebration, as it should!

At the same time, it is crucial to make sure you don’t fall victim to the dreaded lifestyle creep, famously coined by financial planner Michael Kitces. The basic concept of lifestyle creep is that as your discretionary income goes up (you get a raise), your standard of living goes up with it. For example, before you stuck to a dining budget where you only ate out on weekends, but now you are doing so two times a week.

We recently wrote about how a former NBA star filed for bankruptcy after earning more than $100 million on the court. Read below on some tips to help you avoid some of these mistakes.

Why Lifestyle Creep Is a Problem

Living above your means is a recipe for financial trouble. We constantly preach that it’s not about how much you make, but how much you save. By earning more money, you have the opportunity to save more. Take advantage of these opportunities by really thinking about what is a necessity vs. what is a luxury.

Read below on some tips to help you avoid some of these mistakes.

  • Write down and revisit your goals
  • Maybe your goals have changed, maybe they haven’t. By revisiting them, remind yourself what is important to you and you can then make sure that is what you are spending your money on.
  • One additional suggestion is to not make any purchases with the money you are receiving from your raise for the first month after receiving it. This gives you time to digest the news and will give you the ability to make more rational purchase decisions. If you still want to buy it after a month, then go for it.
  • Create and update your budget
  • If you don’t already have a budget, now is the perfect time to create one. If your boss gives you a $10,000 raise, that comes out to about $830 per month before taxes. With your goals in mind from tip No. 1, lay out all of your expenses and determine where the money should go each month. By having a set schedule, you reduce the urge to make impulse purchases because you see a large number in your checking account. (For related reading, see: The Conflicts of Interest Around 401(k)s.)
  • Set up automatic saving account deductions
  • Now that you have a defined list of goals and a budget to help you achieve them, it is time to put the plan into action. There are numerous banks that we recommend to our clients that give you the ability to create multiple savings accounts to bucket your savings based on your goals. Create accounts for each of your goals and set up automatic transfers to these accounts from each paycheck you receive.
  • In addition to your emergency fund account and other savings goals, make sure to give yourself a fun account that can be used to spend on celebrations such as getting a raise!
  • Increase or max out your retirement contribution
  • As part of your budget, look at how much you are contributing to your retirement account each month. If you have the opportunity to increase your contribution, that is a great option to consider. If you have an employer-sponsored retirement plan such as a 401(k), not only are you saving more for retirement, but you are also lowering your taxable income that just increased because of your raise. You may even qualify for an employer match, which makes these savings even greater!

After working so hard to get to where you are now, you should give yourself a chance to enjoy that success and celebrate. The important part is keeping an eye on the big picture and not letting your short-term emotions get in the way of achieving your true financial goals. By creating a plan that is realistic and one that you feel you can stick to, you dramatically increase your chances of success. (For related reading, see: How to Cut Back on Spending Like a Billionaire.)
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