Have You Thought about Downgrading Your Lifestyle?

One of the reasons that so many of us end up falling behind with our finances is due to lifestyle inflation. It’s so easy for wants to be seen as needs after a while. Plus, as you make a little more money, or pay down a little more of that debt, it seems as though it’s easy to add a little more spending to your monthly budget.

At first, it seems like you’re just adding $5 a month here, or $10 a month there. Pretty soon, though, it adds up, and you are looking around, wondering why you have spent so much money, and have so little to show for it. If you aren’t sure of how you got to where you are, it might be time to take a hard look at your expenses and consider downgrading your lifestyle.

What Expenses Have Been Creeping Up On You?

I do like to eat out. However, a couple of months ago, I realized that things were going a bit overboard. Somehow, we had got to the point where we were eating three or four meals a week from a restaurant. While it was technically “affordable”, I realized that things were getting a little out of hand. Not only is eating out expensive, but it can also be terribly unhealthy. My husband and I decided that we needed a to get back to the meal planning we used to do, and “downgrade” from eating out so much.

It’s easy to let some expenses creep up on you, from buying a few extra toys each month, to increasing your cable package. Take a look at your spending, and figure out where you might be seeing some expenses creep up — especially in areas that aren’t that important to you. I may not be known for being the most frugal person in the world, but I don’t like spending on things that aren’t important to me.

Match your spending with your priorities. If you find that you are spending on things that don’t matter to you, just because you feel like you “should”, or because you’ve got in the habit, maybe it’s time to downgrade a little bit. Sometimes, spending more money isn’t really a lifestyle upgrade.

Could Downgrading Your Lifestyle Be an Upgrade?

In some cases, downgrading your lifestyle can actually be an upgrade. I don’t like clutter, and I have little use for stuff. “Downgrading” by getting rid of things my family doesn’t use anymore wouldn’t feel like a true downgrade; it would feel like an upgrade. My husband sometimes laments that our modest home is “too small”. But why is it too small? It actually has to do with how much stuff we have, and not actual square footage. Our four-bedroom home is just fine for our three-person family.

Getting rid of a lot of the stuff would free up space, and make the home feel much more open. There are other ways that downgrading your lifestyle can actually be an upgrade. Instead of needing to spend money to be entertained, you could begin using your creativity to make lasting memories with your family. You don’t need a lot of money to play board games with your kids, or go on picnics.

It can be easy to get caught up in appearances, and think that you need to buy certain things, or do certain things as a family in order to be seen as living a lifestyle that others think of as “normal”. This kind of upgrading can get expensive, and lead to keeping up with the Joneses — and their debt. A little simplicity in the form of a lifestyle downgrade can help you free up money for things that you find more important, while possibly improving your quality of life.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t spend any money, of course. I still eat out — just not multiple times a week. I do the things that are most important to me, and let the other things slide. My lifestyle may not seem glamorous, but it’s one I’m mostly happy with, and I’m glad to be back on track after slipping a bit into the practice of spending money on things I don’t really care for.


By , on Aug 16, 2012
Miranda Marquit Miranda is a professional personal finance journalist. She is a contributor for several personal finance web sites. Her work has been mentioned in and linked to from, USA Today, The Huffington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other publications. She also has her own personal finance blog: Planting Money Seeds.


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  1. Minerva:

    I agree that downgrading/trading down can actually be an upgrade. Earlier this year, we moved for a better job. After we sold a 3 bedroom house, we purchased a 2 bedroom condo. It’s still enough space for the 4 of us as I like to live semi-minimalistic. A smaller house also equals fewer expenses like you mentioned. Now we have more money to travel and do the other things we want to do!

  2. Pam:

    I really like how you explained downgrading. I also talk about this very often. Sometimes it gets very easy to forget the difference between needs and wants. I like to make a list of the new things that I feel that I need. Then I give myself a day or two to think about them. Many times in that amount of time I realize that my needs list gets smaller.

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