That Lifestyle Inflation Trap

We became Mr. and Mrs. in 2011. After the big day and our 3 week honeymoon, we re-entered the land of normality midway through the year. Phew, we’d done it! We’d knuckled down and saved hard to pull all that off. Time to celebrate – we could spend money again!

Or not.

We incurred £1,000 of unexpected overspend after our wedding and honeymoon. £800 of that was actually because our car broke a few weeks before the wedding and needed to be fixed. We put the cost on our credit card, knowing the statement would hit after we got back from honeymoon and our paychecks would cover the overspend.  

So, what do you do when on the conveyor belt of life when you’ve

  1. Got your undergraduate degrees
  2. Post-graduate qualifications in the bag
  3. Jobs, car and first home acquired
  4. Made it official and got hitched?

You carry on surfing the wave that is lifestyle inflation and start saving for the deposit on your next house, of course.

Upgrade Yo’Self

We began looking in earnest in August 2012 at some new developments that were being built in the neighbouring county to us. We had A LOT of fun nosing around some show homes, let me tell you.

We were looking at purchasing a £400k house. Which was an absolute, complete stretch for our 27 year old selves. However, the scary thing is, we could’ve borrowed that amount of money to buy the house; combined income and a 10% deposit made the possibility of a bank lending us that much money pretty certain. But what I think is scarier was our attitude. We genuinely believed this was the logical next step; we were both professionals, we earned good salaries, we wanted to move away from the area we’d grown up in – an expensive house, in a lovely area was the answer, no?

We were starting at a place of £0 with nothing to show in terms of assets. Our net worth was actually negative as we still had my student loan to pay back. Our first home was shared ownership which we bought at the 2007 peak just before the 2008 crash, so were in negative equity in 2012. We were desperately trying to save £100,000 to have enough for a general emergency fund, house deposit, legal fees and the new furniture and miscellaneous items that of course you need for your new house.

But for what? To have our cash savings crash way back down and be saddled with exorbitantly high mortgage payments? And to take on the worry of how precarious our situation could have been. Would we have been able to afford the mortgage had interest rates risen? What if one of us was made redundant – how would we afford our household bills? Just because you can borrow up to a certain limit with very little investment on your part, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to.

Yes, I felt trapped in our first home as I hated the area we lived in but I can say with some certainty, if we’d have moved into that £400k house, I’d have felt trapped by the high mortgage payments and the worry of not being as financially secure as I’d have liked. Mr. LLC’s job thankfully helped us dodge that housing/lifestyle inflation bullet, for which I’ll be forever grateful for! In April 2013, the wheels were set in motion to relocate to America, which we did later that year.

Live For Yourself

I think it can be hard when you see people around you, people you went to school with or people you work with getting a new car or new house or the latest gadget or continuous luxury holidays. You feel the need to keep up. And I think society makes us feel like we need to keep up.

It’s like you’re in the ocean after your boat capsized, treading water, desperately trying to keep your head above the water. But for what? If you’re not happy with it, then you’re living for others. Or for society’s expectations of how you should be living life. Which is stupid. Because really, why should you care about what Barry from Accounting thinks about the square footage of your house or where you took your last holiday?

It’s a vicious cycle of interdependence. You feel the pressure to upgrade, so you do. Which makes your friends envious and think they need to keep up, so they do. But that makes you feel the need to impress people with a Facebook album of snaps from your tropical getaway. And on, and on it goes.

If you want to travel and see the world, then make it happen. But make it happen if it’s truly a life goal and not because you think it’ll make for some pretty amazing Facebook gloating.

It took me a while to figure this all out and to just truly live for myself. I’m glad of the clarity moving to America has given me for what I want in life. And we might even end up buying a pretty expensive house when we move back to the UK (mostly because we’ll be living in the South East). But, we’ll be buying it as an investment, with a much larger deposit and a very healthy amount in other assets to ensure that if something did go wrong, we could handle it.

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