We are hardwired for lifestyle inflation. I’m no scientist but I believe it’s in our DNA. For centuries it helped us survive. It’s easy to blame marketing, comparison and peer pressure, which are factors. But it’s something more. No marketing needed. No Jones’es comparison needed. With almost no prior marketing, peer pressure or deep knowledge of a subject, we can spot which one is better when two things are side by side.

Which apple looks better?

If you had to live in one of these sheds, which looks safer?


This is naturally wired into us. We can spot which things look healthier, better built, and so on. We need no apple marketing, no deep knowledge of agriculture. For the sheds, we don’t need ads to persuade us or marketing to lie to us. We don’t need a background in building or construction. We just know. We can see it. My 5 year old knows.

But here in lies the problem. If you know which one is better…..

Why would you pick the lesser option?

That has almost never been a smart way to think. Healthy cow or sick cow? Pick the healthy one. Sturdy wagon or busted down one? Pick the sturdy one. You’re not going to make it on the Oregon Trail otherwise. Fresh bread from the market or moldy bread? Pick the fresh bread!

This ingrained instinct has served us very well, for a long time. And it’s still important in a lot of our choices.

But something has changed.

100 years ago in Montana, you went into the local mercantile to buy a new pair of paints and there were three options at rather close price points. You picked the best option for you and no harm done.

How many options do we have now for pants? How many price points are there?


From my Montana home, I can go online and find a pair of pants for $10, $100 or $1000 and have it delivered by next week. My brain can still see there is a difference between the $10 pair and $100 pair. (The $1000 might be subjective). I’m not a fashion insider, but I can easily spot how the $100 pair is nicer than the $10 pair. I don’t even need to see them in person.

Why would you pick the lesser option?

Picking the lesser option up until this point in our collective history has NEVER been a good idea. Buy the fresh bread, sturdy house and healthy cow!

So why would you pick the lesser option?

If you don’t learn to override this natural and historically helpful discernment, you will ALWAYS inflate your lifestyle.

No matter how much money we earn, we can inflate and inflate and inflate our lifestyle. There are more than three pairs of pants at the Mercantile! There are almost endless options in thousands of areas of our life. Endless ways to upgrade.

Why ride a horse across the country, when you can drive? Why drive a beater when you can drive a comfortable car? Why drive for 40 hours when you can fly in 8? Why fly in a cramped seat when you can fly first class and stretch your legs? Why fly commercial when you can rent a private jet? Or a nicer jet? Or own your own jet and hire your own personal pilot?

There is always a better and more expensive option available to us now.


So when you show up at the car dealership and you have $20,000 cash in your pocket, why will you buy the ugly, high miles, uncomfortable $5000 car? It’s not as nice. It’s not as comfortable. You don’t need marketing, peer pressure or a salesman to explain that to you. Your own eyes can see it plain as day.

So why buy the ugly, uncomfortable, high miles car?


That’s the key friends. You better make damn sure you know your “why”!

If your “why” isn’t crystal clear, compelling, and deeply grounded: you’ll upgrade. Every time. Why drive a crappy car when you can drive a nice car? You better have a good reason.

And “afford” has become a slippery word in the last 50 years. This is another enormous change in our culture. Afford could be qualifying for a car loan. Afford is making the payments on a 30-year mortgage. Afford might be the limit on your credit cards. Afford is how much the government will loan you to go to college.

It’s great that we have those options available to us. But it makes those upgrades SO much easier. With a 30 year mortgage, the difference between a $250k house and a $265k house hardly feels like $15,000. And we can easily see with our very own eyes that the $265k house IS, in fact, a little nicer. Why choose the uglier house? To save 20 bucks a month? (Because we think of it in monthly payments, not actual dollars.)

I shared how we paid off $50,000 in debt then saved that first $100k. I shared why saving that first $100k was so freaking hard. But this is part 3. And this is for all of us. For our entire life.

We have to learn when and how to override our default setting of choosing the nicer option. Because there is always a nicer option out there. When I shared my personal highlight reel, I said: “I won’t trade the things MOST important to me for a slightly upgraded life.”

So I bought the ugly house, and drive the beater car, and had roommates, and travel in a pop-up camper. Because my most important is crystal clear. And if the lesser option isn’t my most important, I’ll look at the nicer thing, with pockets fulls of cash and say, “Actually, I’ll take that ugly one over there.”

The more clarity you have, the better. Go through my mentoring questions. Print off my “Let’s Chat” sheets and take them along on a walk with someone you care about.

You’re going to face 1000’s of purchasing decisions. You better know when to choose the lesser option. The more clear your “why” is, the better shot you have at creating more financial freedom