Examples of the "Hedonic Treadmill" in your life?

I’m working on an episode about lifestyle inflation/hedonic treadmill and I’d love to hear your examples of ways your lives have experienced such a thing (no judgement here, just curiosities).

Lifestyle inflation from investopedia:

Lifestyle inflation refers to an increase in spending when an individual’s income goes up. Lifestyle inflation tends to become greater every time an individual gets a raise and can make it difficult to get out of debt, save for retirement or meet other big-picture financial goals. Lifestyle inflation is what causes people to get stuck in a cycle of living paycheck to paycheck where they have just enough money to pay the bills every month.

Hedonic Adaptation from wikipedia:

The hedonic treadmill , also known as hedonic adaptation , is the observed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes.[1] According to this theory, as a person makes more money, expectations and desires rise in tandem, which results in no permanent gain in happiness.

Here’s some of my examples:

  • Once I had enough money to take the train over greyhound/long-distance buses, I could never go back to riding the Dirty Dog if a train was available.
  • Once I had an in-unit washer/dryer, I’m not sure I would want to rent an apartment without it again.
  • I now have a dishwasher, and while I can live fine without it, I certainly don’t feel gratitude for it every day, like I initially did.
  • I used to think getting a hotel or hostel was super fancy people stuff, but now I book them without thinking about it, rather than trying to find a friend of a friend or a host on couchsurfing. I prefer the experience of staying with a local when doing tourism, but it’s not longer an economic necessity. Plus, when I am traveling for business, I have normalized it and even prefer it and even have certain expectations about what they will have (COFFEEMAKER IN ROOM, fitness center of some sort).
  • I buy things off amazon all the time now, and have an expectation packages will come within a few days. I used to stress about online purchases for months and certainly wouldn’t buy something off amazon I could get used. now the convenience outweighs the savings to myself and the planet.
  • I used to share a bathroom with 5 adults. I don’t think I would be happy to do that again, although I guess I would if it were economic necessity (as it was in London where I couldn’t afford something with less roomies.)
  • Travel, generally. I barely traveled even within the state, but once I had traveled to more countries than most people will ever go to, I expect and want more.

Do you have any examples? Or tips for how to resist it.


Coffee has been a big one for us. We’ve gone from being happy with a teaspoon of Nescafé Blend 43 instant coffee to NEEDING a single origin Ethiopian bean locally roasted within the last 7 days, made with full cream milk from an independent local dairy.

I don’t blame ourselves for this, the change has mirrored the wider changes in coffee culture in Australia over the last decade. Everything is a cafe now. The florist, the bakery, the nursery.

I don’t have an qualms about appreciating good quality things but I do lament the loss of the ability to be happy with the things you used to be. It seems now that getting a less than perfect coffee can ruin your day or leave you feeling dissatisfied.

Beer has followed a similar trajectory. Started off happy with any beer, then the mass produced swill - XXXX Gold please, to maybe something imported, to craft beer, to now it needs to be an entirely independent micro brewery ideally in a warehouse a few km from where I live made by 3 guys with giant beards.


I buy all the fancy cheeses, and it’s not a special treat anymore. I also go for expensive massages with the therapist I like (I do get a slight discount by buying gift certificates for myself when they have a sale) instead of looking for Groupons or some deal to get a better price.


1.) Definitely having roommates. In college I had up to 7 roommates at a time, whereas now I live with my husband and although we have a two bedroom apartment, I wouldn’t think about renting it out unless our financial situation got dramatically worse. I’ve gotten really spoiled by having only my own dishes to clean, knowing I can use the bathroom and not mess up someone else’s schedule, having private space 24/7, etc.

2.) Cookware. I had stuff from Target that was like $25 for 10 pieces of cookware or whatever, but now I have really high quality stuff and it would be really hard to buy cheap pieces again now that I’ve gotten used to the good stuff. When I go to Airbnbs and they have those flimsy Ikea knives and pots, I suffer! :joy:

3.) Agree with @PDM re: coffee and beer.

4.) Shoes! In my early 20s I’d buy super cheap cute flats, boots, etc., and they usually looked cheap and didn’t last long. Now I spend more on higher quality stuff and would struggle to go back to a $30 boot or whatever. (Though I will buy high quality shoes used on eBay for $30 happily!)


This was probably the best life hack I ever discovered. I had no idea forever that higher quality shoes break down slower (/are less likely to leak in the rainy rainy town I live in). Once I had nice shoes I was like “how do I get these without spending all the dollars?!” Answer: ebay. Also, not hedonically related, but I don’t buy leather new cuz vegan, but ebay lets me buy leather shoes, which tend to suck less, used!

  1. Washer/dryer at home. I could go back to shared laundry facilities in an apartment building, if they were nice. (Lookin’ at you, mold-filled basement laundry room in Queens!) But I can’t do laundromats again. Actually… I might be able to do it if I saved enough on housing that I could do drop-off laundry service.
  2. Dishwasher would be hard to give up. I could do it if I lived by myself, but I save more money comparatively by having roommates.
  3. Living near nature. I have become spoiled by Portland’s parks and trails. I can’t imagine going back to NYC and getting all my walks in around the city.
  4. Electric toothbrush.
  5. Uh, having my own room, with a door. I had a year without a door, and months without my own space while traveling.
  6. A high-quality raincoat that I bought, instead of using whatever leaky cast-offs I could find for free.
  7. A cell phone. I had to go without when my phone broke. I DID NOT LIKE THAT. Surprisingly, I’ve been ok without cell service, but having a cell that can at least download books/podcasts/maps and connect to wifi is a must-have.

I have avoided hedonic adaptation for things like fancy coffee/drinks/food by simply never climbing the ladder. Or only doing so very rarely, and not having the taste buds to appreciate it.


Having a car. For almost a decade of my adult life, I did not own a car. Everything I did was based on walking, biking, public transit, and bumming rides off friends. Now I own a metal behemoth that weighs thousands of pounds and it just carries me places. I want to go see a book event at a city 40 miles away? I can do that, even though public transit stops before the event’s over, because I own a car. I want to go for a hike up in the mountains? Sure, who cares that there’s no bus up there! I want to run three errands tonight, not one? Of course, because I have a car that lets me save a significant quantity of time and so I can go a mile out of the way of the most important place!

I could absolutely go without a car. However, as much as I daydream about it, I also find myself resistant to it. I don’t have endless time and energy and the car absolutely opens things up for me that wouldn’t be open otherwise.


Currently in the early stages of experiencing this with grocery delivery services. My habits and spending haven’t actually changed all that much (so far), but since going car-free I now consider it a legitimate option of food conveyance rather than an absurd luxury, which was my prior mindset.


Home internet. Netflix subscription. eReader.


Ah, the car would be one place where I’ve resisted taking the first step. I guess I climbed back down the ladder, because I had a car in high school. I appreciated the limited freedom it gave me then, but now a car would mean more expense, more hassle, more responsibility. Less freedom overall.

I’ve gone the opposite way on other things, too. I live in smaller homes than I grew up in, eat fewer restaurant meals, get clothes secondhand. Once I focused on the freedom, and sometimes environmental impact, it didn’t seem like a sacrifice. I just needed to get away from family influences and challenge some assumptions. Oh, and stop going into clothing stores and browsing home design websites. If I don’t see the temptation in the first place, it’s a lot easier to ignore.


I have been thinking lately about my hedonic treadmill with living space. I grew up sharing a room with 2 sisters. We had a 2 br townhouse apartment and my parents bedroom doubled as dad’s office and my homework/art project desk was in the living room for several years (my mom didn’t believe in homework on the dining table. Food went on the dining table.)

Now bf and I have 2 bedrooms, one of which is an office/hobby storage. And a living room closet (coats, vacuum cleaner, gift wrap, kitchen overflow from tiny kitchen, yoga mats, camping chairs). And a freaking storage unit in the carport area. How did we get all this and why do we need it? But also I like my stuff. :dragon: :gem:


In university residence I had one shelf of books. When I moved into my first apartment I had a single milk crate. And then I had 1 large bookcase. I currently have 4 full sized bookcases, and the books also overflow on wire shelving, kitchen shelving, and random flat surfaces. And we still don’t have enough space for the books.

I used to download mp3s at a rate of 1 minute per MB and thought that was pretty good. And it would take a lot of work (prior to Limewire and Napster to find the good servers) to find any new songs I was interested in. (Easier than sitting by the radio with my finger on record, or by the vcr ditto)

I used to have a list of books I was looking for second hand, and would visit 5-6 stores in new cities to find the rare out of print backlist from authors I like. Now I can just look it up and have it delivered. The lack of effort required on my part makes them less desirable tbh. Also, see lack of shelf space.

I own 2 weeks worth of socks and underwear. Life changing. Never going back if I can help it.

Oh, a reliable oven. For several years our oven had a broken bit that meant it couldn’t maintain temperature unless a stovetop element was working. And today I used the oven without even considering whether the temperature was going to stay where I had set it.


This makes me want a car! I have 2 friends who recently became car owners and both have told me multiple times things like "HOLY SHIT I can go wherever I want! If Grocery Store 1 is out of something I need I can easily get myself to Grocery Store 2 without being limited to how many bags I can haul on foot and/or onto public transport like a pack mule!

Here are my examples:

  • I will never, ever live somewhere without a dishwasher, ever again. You will pry it from my cold dead hands. would give up a LOT of amenities in exchange for an apartment with a dishwasher.

  • Our Internet service is pretty expensive but it’s hands down the best customer service I’ve ever had and it never goes down, unlike all previous companies we tried.

  • I tend to buy handmade bath/body products from sellers I know rather than cheaper stuff from CVS or Walgreens or whatever.

  • Gym membership with unlimited classes instead of working out for free at home to videos. It feels impossibly decadent to know that I could go there and take a class every single day if I had the time and physical stamina.

  • I still consider my iphone to be part of the hedonic treadmill even though I’m still on my first phone which is a 6. I only got a smartphone about 4 1/2 or 5 years ago, and really only because I was tired of craft fair customers literally laughing in my face when I pulled out the old-school knucklebuster to take their credit cards since I had no device to run Square or similar on. I still marvel at it - and I’m in a tech job and not a luddite at all. It was just one of those things that I always felt was too expensive and too nice for me to justify it.

  • Getting my hair colored professionally after DIYing it for, what, 20 years or so? I do touch it up by myself between visits to delay the big spend. But the last time I did, a few days ago, I found myself hunched over the tub, towel on my head, naked because I’d slopped dye all over my robe’s cuff and it got halfway up my arm before I even noticed, scrubbing hard at the dye stains with harsh bleachy things so that I didn’t end up with purple and red cats - this after dealing with the drain clog which caused several inches of purple water to sit there refusing to go down. And I blurted out, “Fuck this shit! I am paying Stylist to do this every time from now on! This sucks!” I mean, time will tell, but I am really feeling OVER the entire DIY hair thing.


This is a good one! Recently, our landlord was required to let the gas company in for a safety inspection. Turns out that, according to the gas company guy, it’s not normal for it to take 10 minutes before the… ignition? I think? kicks on to even start the oven heating up. And not normal for the oven to take 20-30 minutes after THAT to come up to temperature.

Our landlord was like, “why didn’t you say something, we’d have fixed that.” I replied, truthfully, that our oven at our last apartment was even worse and functioned very poorly, so the fact that this one even turns on and off and the knobs don’t randomly pop off in your hands was already the height of luxury for us.

Now it’s fixed, and I get a huge kick out of the fact that it takes less than a minute or so for the oven to make that exhale sound that means it’s gonna start heating up and I can bake soon.


I’m not sure if I could live without a dishwasher, without my own washer and dryer, or without a bathroom for each person living in my house again. Air conditioning is a wonderful luxury too but maaaybe I could live without it?


I think the key to resistance is going to be very much linked to an individual personality and the point where that personality feels deprivation.

For me, resistance is usually most successful when I take time regularly to assess my true values. “In An Ideal World I Would”. And then edit the influences in my life accordingly:

Social media, for sure. I mute most everyone on rotation except feeds that practice my values.

Friends - I give myself latitude when building new relationships/friendships, but will purposely pull back if the pull to consume consume consume tends to be a pattern with certain people.

Supporting small businesses: I have found that outright donating cash both helps support things in my community and helps keep me from blindly consuming just because Small Business. I don’t need donuts or coffee or handmade bags or gluten free cake regardless of how much I want them to stay open. When I do identify a need I have no problem spending the extra at these businesses I already feel I have a relationship with. Cough bicycles cough.

Pick Less Days Per Week/Month to Go Out: a few years ago I decided to make my work weeks about home and me and my pets. No plans. This makes my week more restful but also cut down drastically on the societal influence to scale up (spending, drinking, clothing, ride share instead of transit etc etc etc).

Have a Kid in College: this helps way more than I expected :laughing: but not just for my financial reasons. He and his peers are masters of being grateful for what they have and spending very carefully. I was once. Why did I stop? Duh, katscratch, you never needed to stop in the first place. Learn from young Padawans. They are the Truth in the world, before fancy paychecks and fancy cheese and cars with air conditioning and backup cameras.


Oh oh forgot my Smartwool (and now also Icebreaker) socks. I will never go back to cheap cotton socks, especially since I have hyperhidrosis and always have wet feet. I wear wool socks year-round.

Funny thing is that I’d probably be fine without a dishwasher. And we’ve been living without in-home laundry since July because of our renovation. We’ve mostly been doing it at a friend’s place but went to the laundromat a few times-- it’s not great but it’s also not the imposition that I’d thought it might be (though Boy Cat did take the no-laundry opportunity to puke on the bed twice, when he had only done it once before in the last ten years).

I’d find it very hard to live without a car, fast internet, and the convenience of living pretty close to most of the events that I go to. I LOVE not having to drive very far for all the fun stuff.


As a student we rented a house that had an oven with a broken ignition. We just accepted that lighting the oven involved leaning right into it with a lit match while turning the gas on.


I had that same oven and stove for 5 years.


we bought a bbq clicker igniter! It is great for when the stovetop element clicker stops working randomly (we were told at least 200 to fix each element by the guy who fixed the oven - he recommended a bbq clicker instead of matches)

So much less annoying than the matches held with tongs in front of a gas source and the matches not wanting to strike.