Excessive spending doesn’t always start all at once.
The late George Carlin once joked that coveting your neighbor’s goods is the foundation of our economic system. Someone you know gets some fancy new thing, it doesn’t matter what it is, you start wanting that thing too, especially if they keep talking it up to you. This isn’t untrue, and once in a while, it’s perfectly fine to get some new thing if it enriches your life in a tangible, long-lasting way. It’s when “once in a while” becomes “every other week” that you officially have a problem. Specifically, a problem known as lifestyle creep.
Lifestyle creep is a newer version of a fairly old concept. If you’ve ever heard the idiom “keeping up with the Jonses,” it’s a similar thing: a feeling of inferiority for not matching the socioeconomic status and privilege of those around you. The specific difference between keeping up with the Jonses and lifestyle creep is that with lifestyle creep, you start getting used to spending more money on things you don’t really need. It stops being a competition with others and starts being a matter of habit.
Let’s say, for example, you get a big bonus at work. It’s time to go treat yourself! You go buy a whole new wardrobe of pricy clothes you normally couldn’t afford. But when you put your new clothes next to the old clothes, you feel a disconnect. Your closet needs to be consistent, right? So you buy more new clothes. But your dresser is so plain, it needs to match all the fancy clothes going into it! But a fancy dresser wouldn’t look good in your plain old room, so- well, you get the idea.
Like I said, a little splurge once in a while is fine. But you need to remember to prioritize saving money for when you really need it, or else you may find yourself with a bunch of really nice things and no house to put them in.