Evaluating Your Lifestyle

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This article originally appeared in our monthly newsletter, Fiscal Therapy.
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WHAT I’M THINKING ABOUT: Your Lifestyle

When was the last time you stopped and evaluated your lifestyle? Upgrades to our lifestyle can creep in subtly and, before we know it, that gym membership we coveted for so long feels like a must-have. These lifestyle enhancements translate to ongoing fixed expenses, which become difficult to reduce as we become accustomed to the cushier lifestyle.  These fixed expenses can lock us into dependence on a higher income while preventing us from pursuing true priorities (like buying a house, starting a business, or paying off student debt).  To counteract this dynamic, periodically check in with yourself to make sure last year’s expenditures are still appropriate today.

Here are some guidelines for reviewing your lifestyle:

  • Evaluate annually, at least.

  • Do this as a family.

  • First review your goals and take stock of your family’s health, holistically.

  • Put everything on the table: no sacred cows.

  • Often your fixed expenses are what keep you stuck in a particular lifestyle, so give your fixed costs particular scrutiny. As a personal example, I realized this fall I no longer needed a gym membership. Life circumstances had changed a great deal since I first enrolled four years ago. I still really enjoyed my gym, but the value started to diminish over the last year. If not for a thoughtful exercise of reviewing our family’s fixed expenses, I would have gone on paying the monthly fee. Sure, it’s annoying and time consuming to cancel a fixed expense and set new routines, but for me it was worth it. There are now bigger priorities that I want to devote that money to. Health and exercise are still just as important, I just don’t need the same outlet I once did.



WHAT I’M READING
Here are two interesting articles I read this month:

 

Dare to Let the Children Plan Your Vacation
By Sue Shellenbarger, The Wall Street Journal

"Taking part in family decision-making teaches children valuable skills. They learn to advocate for what they want, listen to others’ wishes and make compromises. But parents who have ceded some decision-making to their children warn there are right and wrong ways to do it."
 

How to Get the Wealthy to Donate
By Ashley V. Whillans, Elizabeth W. Dunn and Eugene M. Caruso, The New York Times

A recent study explores the connection between giving and net worth, finding that the wealthier you are, the smaller percentage of annual income you give. Young kids behaved the same way, which is not surprising given how strongly our family dynamic plays into our personal relationship and habits around money.