Per Wikipedia, “Lifestyle creep, also known as lifestyle inflation, is a phenomenon that occurs when as more resources are spent towards a standard of living, former luxuries become perceived necessities.”
When my cousin was visiting recently, we spent a lot of time talking about lifestyle creep. His stance was that I’m the perfect candidate for it, which I half-heartedly refuted. I always claimed that I’d be a good rich person because, for the most part, I don’t have extravagant tastes. I imagine rich me wouldn’t need a mansion or spend exorbitant amounts of money on my wardrobe. I pointed out that when my lease expired this year, I re-signed, despite there being myriad more expensive, more centrally located apartment complexes available in Asheville. I pointed out that I never gave a shit about my car and how I currently drove one missing a chunk off its lower right bumper due to an incident with a deer a year prior–the damage was just aesthetic and the car drove fine. I wasn’t losing any sleep over the fact that someone might perceive me to be a peasant because of it.
I then said that if I had the money, all I’d do was go on better vacations, want a fancy Airstream Trailer, a pickup truck, a boat, and a small mountain cabin. My cousin said that this proved his point, and I have to admit he wasn’t wrong. If I legitimately compare my spending today with where it was ten years ago, I spend more the better I do. I used to save money by hardly eating out. Now, I think eating out is one of my top hobbies. My vacations have become more far-flung, and I’ve recently started dipping into monthly massages. The counterargument is that I still buy most of my clothes on sale, I still buy all my cleaning supplies at Dollar General, and I refuse to spend more than $8.00 for eggs, toast, and your choice of breakfast meat.
Recently, I did partake in something I associate with lifestyle creep: exclusively using Ubers and Lyfts to get around. I try to moderate how often I use rideshares. I know more and more people who’ll take an Uber or Lyft just because it’s a bit cold or something is a half-mile away, but why spend the money if you could walk, right? I had no choice this time, though. That car with the aesthetic damage that still drove ok? It doesn’t anymore. The engine went suddenly, and since my apartment isn’t within walking distance from anything, I was at the mercy of the Asheville ridesharing community for five days. Here’s what I learned:
-I don’t look like the kind of guy who deals well with cigarette smoke. That’s a direct quote. One driver asked me if I’d mind if he smoked. I said I’d rather he didn’t. He countered with, “Well, you don’t look like the kind of guy who deals well with cigarettes.” Blame the pastel polo.
-On the subject of smoking: the vast majority of drivers who picked me up didn’t smoke while I was in the car, but 100% smoked in their vehicles between rides. At the risk of sounding like a snob, wouldn’t it maybe be nice if Uber or Lyft gave you the option to request a non-smoking vehicle? Also, am I the only one who’d rather marinate in pure, unadulterated cigarette stench than cigarette stench masked with cheap perfume? I’m looking at you, Beverley in the Chrysler Caravan!
-I’ve always known that people like to talk about themselves more than they ever want to learn about you, but man, did this experience underscore this. I learned about blooming relationships, broken relationships, divorces, cheating spouses, and even some slight tax evasion, all while simply smiling, nodding, and saying the occasional “yeah.”
-An upsetting amount of couples will order an Uber and then start going to town in the backseat as if the driver is a piece of furniture and not a very uncomfortable person trying to make a living during a pandemic. As the driver who conveyed this info said to me, “and it’s not like you’re in the back of a limo…you’re in a Camry, and I’m RIGHT HERE.”
In the end, my cousin was right. We always like to think the best of ourselves. We’re biased in that way. As much as I claim I’d be a good rich person, I fear the reality is that I’d be an absolute monster. And I probably am somewhat the poster boy for lifestyle creep. Case in point? I’m not longer taking Ubers or Lyfts because I got a new car. I upgraded to an SUV. My gas bill and monthly car payments have gone up because I told myself with the amount of hiking and camping I do, I deserve a bigger vehicle. Plus, I can afford it.