How we spend money no longer signify how much we earn. But there are individuals who tend to spend more the higher their income fluctuates. The problem with this habit is that it creates this false sense of wealth. We think we “got it,” but honestly we don’t.

According to Investopedia, it all comes down to what “lifestyle” we choose to have. Peter Lazaroff, a CFA and CFPof Plancorp LLC, states that “high earners tend to suffer from lifestyle creep. As they begin earning more money, they slowly justify the cost of a new luxury.”

In the article, it explains that individuals justify their excessive spending by buying cars, houses, boats, and such. However, these luxury items does nothing to add value or inflate your family’s bottom line. Even vacations and nice dinners can creep up on your budget and completely wipe you out.

Lifestyle inflation may not be the only factor at play in those living paycheck-to-paycheck. According to Tim Golas, a partner at Spurstone Executive Wealth Solutions, “take out taxes, mortgage, car payments, maybe student loans, expenses for kids and the other day-to-day expenses and what would widely be considered a nice income can quickly turn into an overextended house.” This is where being mindful of your spending is so important. As Golas further explains, it’s vital to live within your means, regardless of what you earn. (For related reading, see: Affordable Ways to Upgrade Your Home.)

The smart thing to do is SAVE.

The key to breaking this paycheck-to-paycheck cycle is saving. It means having less going out each month than you have coming in. It’s simple, yet many overlook it at all income levels. This cycle begins with building an emergency fund to cover unexpected events.

There is no set rule of how much such earmarked savings should be. “A good rule of thumb is to have at least six months in emergency savings,” said Golas. You may need more, you may need less, but regardless of the amount needed, the key is to start saving today and cut down on expenses.

It’s okay to live off of your paycheck. However, take time to watch what you are spending. Be sure to not change your lifestyle just because you got a promotion or raise.