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Caution: Lifestyle Inflation Ahead

My wife and I are building a new house, which should be completed in the next two months.  The building process can be very nerve-racking as we go through every painstaking detail in hopes that the final product lives up to our high expectations.  All of the time and stress should be worth it in the end when we finally get settled in and can relax in our new home.

Lifestyle Inflation Ahead

Unfortunately, moving into a brand new home can come with some lofty expectations in the form of lifestyle inflation. Whether we admit it or not, lifestyle inflation starts to creep into most of our lives as we get older and our salaries increase.
We upgraded our house for a few different reasons, most importantly to support our growing family.  But the fact remains that our new house is bigger and more expensive than what we are used to, and we need to be cautious of how this will influence our lifestyle.
Suddenly our old furniture and appliances won’t really “go” with our new decor.  Now that we have all of these additional rooms and extra space we may feel the urge to fill it with new stuff.  Parking my 12 year-old beater of a car in the driveway next to all the brand new cars and SUV’s might lower my self esteem.  It could be painful watching our neighbours roll out their beautiful new sod while we throw down seeds just hoping something takes root.

Prioritize Your Upgrades

We have planned for this move for close to two years now so we definitely know what we’re getting ourselves into.  We’ve listed and prioritized the things we will need to buy right away once we move in, and the rest of the home upgrades can be phased in over time.
High Priority (Immediate Need):

  • Air Conditioning is a must have since my wife suffers from MS and is greatly affected by the heat.  We are moving into our new house in the middle of summer, so having A/C installed will be one of our top priorities.  We can actually claim it as a medical expense and can receive a tax credit for $1,000.
  • Window coverings will need to be purchased right away, again to help control the heat in the summer and so we aren’t known as the weird house with tinfoil on our windows.  In the past I’ve purchased window coverings at Blinds.Ca and saved nearly half the retail cost on quality name brands.
  • Central Vac is roughed-in and, since we had that in our old place as well, we will need to purchase another central vacuum system for our new house.  We purchased our last central vacuum at Costco for around $600, but this time around we will look into a group buying site to see if there are any deals to be found online.

Medium Priority (6-12 Months):

  • Landscaping the front and backyard will most likely be left until next Spring.  Waiting to landscape on a new lot is often recommended anyway to give the ground time to settle.  We might get the front yard done right away if we have the time and have money left over in our “move-in” budget.
  • Building our fence can wait until next Spring as well.  It looks like our house will be completed before either of our neighbours’, but since we share the fence it makes sense to wait until both neighbours are ready so we can split the costs (and labour) and agree upon the type of wood used.
  • New furniture will be needed for the 2nd living room (“great room”) but we will initially try and get by with an old futon and chair in that space and use it as a playroom for our daughter.  Most of our time will be spent in the main living room, and we already have decent furniture that’s only a few years old.  We’re on the lookout for a new couch and chair (or sectional), but not in a major hurry to buy just yet.

Low Priority (2-4 Years):

  • Finishing the basement is at the bottom of our priority list, mainly due to the cost but also the fact that we will already have more than enough living space to suit our current needs as a family.  The cost to have the basement professionally done would be around $15,000 – $20,000.  We could try the do-it-yourself route to save a bit of money, but that is typically very time consuming and the quality is never perfect.  Our plan is to phase in a guestroom and bathroom after a couple of years and then complete the remainder of the basement when time and money permit.

I have been very cautious to avoid lifestyle inflation.  We lived in a two bedroom, one bathroom starter home for the past 8 years and have completely adjusted to single income living now for nearly two years.  I know that we have a good handle on our finances but at the same time it’s a bit scary to jump into a new situation.
With some careful planning we can enter this new phase in our lives in much the same way that we have lived in previous years.  I hope that the only increase in our recurring monthly expenditures is from a larger mortgage payment and not from trying to keep up with the Jones’.
When your salary increases or when you move into a new house does your lifestyle increase too?

Comments

  1. krantcents

    I went through this some time ago. There is a desire to fill rooms and make everything look good. My plan was cash only, no debt! There were compromises to maintain the plan. Some rooms were empty or partially furnished temporarily. It is up to you to set priorities and stick to a plan.

  2. BeatingTheIndex

    Congrats on the new house!
    People often underestimate the costs involved when transitioning into a bigger house, let alone when you’re building one.

  3. Echo

    @krantcents
    That’s our plan too, whatever we purchase will be paid for in cash unless I can find a nice “don’t pay for a year” deal. Need to be careful with those, as retailers sometimes try to ding you with upfront processing fees.

    @BTI
    Thanks! We have tried our best to keep a tight budget, but it is difficult when building a new house.

    When selecting interior designs they always have an upsell for only a few hundred dollars more, which seems like peanuts when you’re taking on a few hundred thousand dollar mortgage. It all adds up quickly though.

  4. Virata Gamany

    Its just always too tempting to just get it all done at one go..

    I admit I’m a sucker for good deals even though I know it’s generally a sales gimmick.

    Virata Gamany

  5. Brad Mol

    Good article Echo. I recently ‘up-sized’ as well. Prioritizing upgrades and purchases with my wife, and sticking to using cash kept us on track and helped keep lifestyle inflation to a minimum. Without planning it’s easy to fall into the “keeping up with the Jones’s” mentality. My clients find this budget template helpful when cash flow planning.

    http://tridelta.ca/resources.php

  6. Kelly

    Great ideas, Robb! For future reference, http://www.budgetblinds.ca also has excellent prices on window coverings.

  7. Kelly

    By the way, don’t put tinfoil on your windows! Put on some nice vertical blinds.

  8. Matt

    I can’t even fathom building a new home; there must be so damn much to think about! Thanks for sharing your expierience.

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