Examples of the "Hedonic Treadmill" in your life?

I kind of miss that element of danger. Will I lose my eye brows tonight? Let’s find out.


Oh yes, this is the best and most reliable way to avoid climbing up that ladder, and the honestly the easiest way to back down off of it. For me, I think not having cable TV, and therefore not really being inundated with TV ads, combined with not listening to a lot of commercial radio (with their ads) and only extremely rarely buying magazines (with their ads) now, have broken that cycle. Advertising is effective, they wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t.


I’d say garbage disposal even though I’ve bounced back and forth between rentals with and without, and I don’t have a lot of room in the rental market to actually procure it besides by chance. But I’ve also had w/ and w/o a dishwasher, and either way the dishwasher is a non-issue. A disposal is super important, especially if still living with roommates who enjoy throwing food straight in the sink regardless. I will overspend on cleaning products to have stuff that smells better or seems less harsh, or just scrubs harder (like, dollar store dish soap doesn’t work, dollar store laundry detergent doesn’t work). Still very much in a place where I feel like i definitely will go back to cheap $1 laundry detergent if I’m feeling stress/scarcity/wake up with $5 in my checking account – has happened before and doesn’t seem far away from happening again. I think the best example, that is pretty recent, is that yes I need to go to a real yoga studio with $17 per 1 hour classes, instead of a cheap gym with unlimited classes of “yoga” for $30/month. (I know how to find free yoga classes too, but I also am learning where to find yoga that is actually yoga, that can teach you the proper form as you go without injuring yourself)

I think even if you have a tight budget, hedonic treadmill still applies, because w/ certain things I get to a point where I am always longing for them, even if in the literal moment I can’t afford it right now. Learning how to budget my life and cutting things out, there are some things I truly don’t miss (yet). There are other things that I constantly think “can’t wait until I can afford that consistently” Like — if I have to buy the $1 laundry detergent to make things work out and sufficiently remove odors from my clothes but only to 80%, I will still be fantasizing about the “fancy” “clean” really good smelling laundry detergent that I “need”. Maybe I am smellier than the average person LOL…


My big one is with athletic products. After a certain point you can’t really inflate with good running shoes in terms of quality… but you can in terms of quantity! I used to wear one pair of shoes until it was dead and then replace it. When I moved to the east coast 10 years ago I think I owned three pairs of running shorts, only one with a teeny tiny pocket (and one of the pairs was an old pair of soccer shorts), and owned only two non cotton athletic shirts. My socks were not good. I had a drug store wristwatch and mapped out runs on the internet, then just timed how long it took me to run that distance.

The inflation in this area came from increasing my running dramatically and from participating in more races, and from it playing a larger and larger role in my social life. Things increased more when I started working at a running store and having a)products in my face all the time and b) access to a large discount. I’m currently working through a backlog of shoes the way some people work on eating down the pantry. I also have a ton of athletic clothes. I justify high quality apparel because I run my commute, often in bad weather, and when I race it’s often for very long distances. I justify a high quality running backpack both to carry hydration and nutrition in long races and to carry my lunch and extra clothes on my daily commute. I justify one of the best GPS watches on the market because the long battery life is appreciated when running long races. But I don’t always buy things carefully. I have several running backpacks that I didn’t test properly and don’t really work and are just sitting around. I have a large quantity of impulse buy apparel I don’t use often enough to justify the purchase of. I don’t regret a single pair of high quality socks I’ve ever purchased.

I know that it’s possible to run 100 miles in sandals made of old tires, consuming water with chia seeds, wearing cotton t-shirts. I know there’s also a middle ground, and that I will need to find a way to get there, especially as I won’t have access to a huge discount on shoes and apparel and accessories forever. Budgeting deliberately has helped with impulse buys, especially with apparel, and I recently tried my hand at mending my favorite running backpack, which seems to have given it a good amount of new life.

But yeah, running is a place where my lifestyle quietly inflated beyond what I could sustain if I didn’t have this part time job and discount, and I am currently working to contain and reverse that!


Some of mine are related to age and adaptation.
The big one: health insurance. I lived a decade as an adult without it, and now I’ll adjust savings goals and retirement dates as needed to be sure that never happens again.

Heat: this house is the first in many years (maybe ever) where it’s actually possible to maintain a stable temperature. Could I live in a house at 65 F? I’d have been thrilled to achieve that in the old farmhouse we rented or the single-wide we moved to after that. Now, if it drops much below 68, I fire up the propane. Some of this is age, because of arthritis pain, but some is sheer hedonic treadmill.

Heated seats in vehicle. I happen to have built in heated leather seats in my current vehicle because it had them when I bought it used. If my next vehicle lacks them, though, I’ll be buying a heated seat cover that plugs in to the cigarette lighter. The reduction in lower back pain from operating the pedals is not something I’m willing to do without anymore.


I hadn’t even thought of running shoes! I bought my first really good pair and it’s a game-changer for running. As long as I’m running I don’t think I’ll go back to $30 Payless shoes once every three years! But is it lifestyle inflation if it’s cheaper than my previous Y membership?

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Since running is a high impact repetitive stress activity I’d argue that quality shoes are actually a good health investment too (unless you’re capable of safely transitioning to minimalist/barefoot running — cheap athletic shoes are WAY worse than no shoes, imo!). In your case, it’s probably not inflation. My pile of good shoes though definitely is, haha.


This should be fun. Let’s go on a tour of my wildly extravagant life and how I got this way.

2006: I flee the midwest, having only ever traveled by airplane or car. In a bus. With people on it. Treadmill reset in 3…2…1.

2007: I move into an apartment with running water, a stove, a bathroom, and ceilings tall enough to stand up straight in. My day to day enjoyment of life is dramatically improved. I almost immediately move to amsterdam, where I learn to get by without a car, but do miss it for certain things. But, I get used to being just a few blocks from everything i want.

2008: I’m back in the US, still love my apartment. I realize that with my new job, I can afford enough food to not be constantly hungry. I may have overdone that part a little. I am now fully adapted to having a desk job in a climate controlled office instead of working loading trucks in the elements or doing construction and landscaping. I don’t ever want to go back. I buy a vehicle, haven’t thought about not owning one since (but I do keep moving to places with garbage public transit options)

2009: Start buying healthier food, but it costs a lot more. My food spend remains high to this day, but my bloodwork and health are still pretty great.

2011: Move back to the midwest. I now have air conditioning and heating in my apartment. I have no upstairs or downstairs neighbors. I’m never willingly going without these again.

2013: Grad school! My apartment has sooo much space. Vaulted ceilings. A wood burning fire place! I haven’t been able to talk myself out of the ceilings again. The fireplace is … well, I really want one again.

2015: Move from 950 sq ft apartment to 3800 sq foot mcmansion. It was the only thing I could find within reasonable distance to my job in ABQ that didn’t have regular reports of dead people in the parking lot. It’s also cheap because the guy who owns it used to work at the Labs and trusts that I won’t trash it. I set up my home gym (no more waiting for people to get off their phone in the squat rack!). I buy a concept 2 rower. I buy 2 more chairs for my dining room table. 60% of the house remains empty.

2016: Kansas City. I have a yard! With trees! It’s quiet! The house is only 1800 sq ft, but soo much happier with it than that monstrosity in ABQ. Only real complaint is it leaks wasps like a sieve. They’re everywhere, but so it goes. Air conditioning breaks during the summer when temps are over 105 degrees F daily. Sad. I miss it so much that I pay for a new one because my landlord can’t afford it. We work out a repayment plan for her. I transition to working from home 9 days out of 10.

2018: PA. Back in a place with shared walls, but generally it’s fine. No fire place. The kitchen sucks. There’s a lot of space in it, but not much is actually usable. The neighborhood is crowded and loud. I distaste for humanity grows. (Anyone making noise outside after 10 pm is clearly a monster.)

But, I’ve still got air conditioning, a washer and dryer, running water, a functional kitchen, my home gym, tons of space, and I can stand up in my house. What the eff am I complaining about again?!?!

Editing to clarify the treadmill aspect.

Running and functional kitchen: genuine happiness increase, Air conditioning.
Home gym, washer and dryer in the house, a ridiculous amount of space: no increase in base level. But I’m paying more because of them.


I think a lot of people are now describing “things I value and love and appreciate getting quality versions of and budget to do so” rather than “thing I was at an equal level of happiness before I had , but Once my income increased, I now expect it and am at an equal level of happiness as before for a higher price item”


Gotcha, I have a frivolous one: perfume.

I used to be perfectly happy with cheap drug store perfumes and body sprays from mall stores. A few years ago I started buying designer perfume and I love it. I now feel like cheap body sprays smell bad and I’d have a hard time going back, but it’s not like the expensive perfume adds something deep or meaningful to my life…I’m just used to having it all the time and I like it. But, I used to feel the same way about the cheap stuff…


I have another one! Haha, I’m probably one of the more materialistic people here so that’s why I have a lot :wink: lol: matching dishes.

I used to be thrilled with my free but mismatched plates and bowls and cups. They were great because before I had nothing, so I loved them! I loved having anything that wasn’t paper plates. Now I have a set of dishes that all match, and I love how it looks to set the table and everything goes together. It doesn’t literally change my life at all, the utility is identical, it doesn’t improve the taste of the food, I have just as much fun as I used to throwing dinner parties…but I do somewhat expect to be able to always have a matching set of dishes now. It would be tough to go back to just whatever is at a garage sale or left over from old roommates. I get a surge of happiness when I see my matching dishes, but I also got that same surge of happiness when I had my first mismatched dish set! Definitely hedonic treadmill.


I have one for my husband too! He used to literally have one pair of shoes, and he couldn’t understand how anyone could ever need more than that. He now has 5 pairs of shoes and just the other day said something about wanting a “semi-casual” pair of brown shoes because he didn’t feel like he had the right thing to wear to work on casual Fridays. I don’t think he gets any more daily joy or fulfillment from more shoes, but our life has changed a lot and he now “needs” more types of shoes.

Also we don’t have to do the old thrift store swap out for shoes anymore :wink: haha, anyone else used to do that trick?


This confused me for a minute :joy:


I think it’s possible for one thing to be treadmill/inflation and something you value. Like socks: if $1 cotton socks are all that one knows, they probably don’t cause unhappiness. But if you try the $20 socks and see a big improvement, they become a thing you value and budget for, but also lifestyle inflation (unless they also last so much longer you are actually spending less on socks, but I think that 20 years is a lot to expect from fibers.)

I think some forms of inflation are natural with life stages. Having a baby in shared housing is a whole other level of badassity than living with roomies in your early 20s. An office job with business casual dress code takes more to look presentable for than a rotation of jeans and hoodies for college class. Time is much more precious when you have people at home to take care of and spend it with, so a car starts to be a good cost/benefit tradeoff where before transit was fine.


Also though, isn’t this idea ^ part of what spurs us on the hedonic treadmill? Like I could easily say I just get more joy out of designer perfume, because it’s higher quality, the bottle is more beautiful, and it lasts longer, you use less of it each time. But that would just be me rationalizing spending $100 where I used to spend $10. I mean, it’s sort of true…but a lot of things that are way more expensive are higher quality than things that are super cheap. But if I went back in time to 20 year old rdaneel0, I’m pretty sure I’d see her happy with cheap perfume.

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So does upgrading things that weren’t all that great, but completely liveable not count then? Because I was not perfectly happy living with roommates. I was not perfectly happy shoveling my car out of a snow bank on the street. I was not perfectly happy without a garbage disposal or dishwasher. I was not perfectly happy with neighbors clomping around above me. I actively disliked all those things.

So could I live with out a garage and a dishwasher and all that stuff again? Yes. But I’m not going to because I am significantly happier with my living situation. So does that count as the treadmill or not?


All of this is why I struggle to answer this. I feel like I have several things but they’re all a combination. Maybe part of that is that the reason we’re all here, a unifying trait of what draws us all to PF content/forums, is that we do try to align our values with our spending and upgrades in life?

Every personal example I think of is something where I can see how I once was happy with the less expensive version/going without, but then the decision to upgrade and spend more was also aligned with my budget and something I saved for or made a priority


Since a young age I have tried not to get used to anything because I don’t want to get tied in to earning a certain amount. That said mine are having a washing machine at home and central heating. My partner is from New Zealand where central heating isn’t a thing and loves it and couldn’t easily go back to no central heating Although we are trying to cut back on having it on for environmental reasons.


I think that going into where you think that difference is would be great om the podcast. I like how rdaneel put it with the perfume… opening cheap perfume is/was a luxury and pleasure. But opening my le cedrat…perfection.

Not having internet/Netflix (these were two different levels for me)…I was completely happy then. It was normal to go out for internet. I lived differently. I wouldn’t drop it again. I do value it. I also justify it for business and practicality. But I don’t need it.

Or maybe we aren’t wanton hedonists?


I think it’s a hard distinction to make. I might try something that costs more than my previous version once, but if I don’t genuinely get more value from it, I’m not going to continue buying the more expensive version, I’m going to go back to what I had already.

So, I don’t know what would qualify? Luxuries I guess? I mean, I was pretty happy to drink Boones Farm when I was underage and thought I was the coolest thing if I got my hands on some alcohol. I definitely wouldn’t do that anymore, but I do drink box wine when I drink. But Boones Farm objectively tastes like butt in a bottle.**

** and even teenaged me wouldn’t touch Night Train. Well, not a second time anyway. Even as a teenager, I knew it was better not to drink then drink that.