The lifestyle trap is pretty akin to being a hamster on a play ring which endlessly goes round in an aimless fashion. Many people can live their whole life that way simply by not prioritising their aims or even by realizing that things don’t have to be that way. Even those who apparently have the material trappings which indicate they have it all, may in fact have very little when one considers the size of the mortgage which may still need paying even in retirement, and all the consumer goods which are still being paid off on credit cards. Keeping up with the Jones’s can seem important.
Having the latest cars and designer clothes, and being seen in all the right places, are pretty meaningless at the end of the day, but if ones lifestyle is such that all of ones friends live in the same way there is a sense of peer pressure to keep up which may influence some. Then the day the well paid job is lost and unemployment looms, or illness eats into expenses, or any other negative change in circumstances is on the horizon, and the reality of the overextended situation can hit home. For some it is a shame to be hidden in the effort to keep up appearances which can no longer be afforded. For some it can mean the descent into debt and the fear of losing the material trappings.
Some people actually question the point of living in what they perceive to be such a shallow way and need the security of knowing that a financial layer is in place to protect them if things take a turn for the worst. Paying interest on loans and credit cards makes no sense, and some even understand that over the term of a mortgage the house itself is costing way more than the contract price. Living within ones means with no credit card or loan debt can easily be done if the lure of materialism isn’t a motivator in ones life.
Some find it far more satisfying to free themselves of any form of debt, including an accepted mortgage. Taking a home mortgage for the shortest affordable period and paying off extra when it can be managed can cut ones personal debt burden hugely, and with determination some can pay off their mortgage years early and thus free themselves of their biggest debt burden. Sitting pretty with a home that is mortgage free gives new opportunities to those who can achieve it, as the total equity in the property is theirs. To achieve this kind of freedom from debt there probably isn’t the latest model of car in the driveway, but no doubt there is a car which is free from the nuisance of an auto loan.
Being in debt is not just about struggling to meet the next credit card bill; any form of loan equates to debt until it is paid off. However it is possible to live a life free of any debt at all by concentrating on paying it off aggressively and not being sidetracked into unnecessary purchases.
To really avoid the lifestyle trap one must think way outside the standard box and consider what ones personal priorities really are. If you drive home from a stressful career which you are trapped in, but need to continue with to pay the mortgage, the auto payments, the vacation loans and the credit card debts, then maybe its time to take stock and consider getting off the hamster wheel.