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14 Cultural Norms That Leave Americans Drowning in Debt

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The average American household carries over $103,000 in debt, including mortgages, credit cards, and car loans. This can cause a lot of stress as individuals or families try to figure out how to get out of crushing debt. It can leave people feeling hopeless without a sustainable way out.

We may not realize how much our cultural values influence our money behaviors, with an underlying push to always want and buy more.

While various factors contribute to this staggering number, certain culturally acceptable habits have also contributed to America’s drowning in debt.

1. Equating Splurges with Happiness

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Many Americans develop the mindset that they deserve “nice things” and to be happy. While this may be true, it shouldn’t be to the detriment of their savings accounts. Most of us can have nice things without splurging unnecessarily on high-ticket items we know we can’t afford. Plus, no item or price tag will truly lead to happiness.

2. Wasting Money Regularly

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Somehow, many people get stuck in wasteful spending habits. Whether it’s having too many subscriptions (for TV shows, meals, entertainment, etc.) or buying more than needed for weekly groceries (think impulse buys on snacks, junk food, fruit, etc.) can quickly balloon into spending well beyond our means.

3. Debt is Worth it for a Dream Home

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Unfortunately, many people will always try to take out the maximum amount of mortgage that they are approved for, often stretching themselves thin in order to buy their “dream home.” This mindset is deeply rooted in the American dream of homeownership, but it also contributes heavily to debt because people tend to underestimate the full cost of owning a home (including taxes, insurance, and maintenance).

Additionally, many individuals don’t consider the potential risks of being tied down to a mortgage, such as an inability to move for better job opportunities or being forced to sell at a loss due to market fluctuations.

4. Must Have a New Car

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The idea of constantly needing to have the newest and best possessions has been ingrained in our culture for decades. Nowhere is this more evident than in the car industry. Every year, new car models are released with updated features and designs, enticing consumers to upgrade their vehicles.

With the average car payment at over $700 per month, it’s clear that many Americans have fallen prey to this cultural norm. While a car may be a necessary expense for some, constantly upgrading to the newest model or taking out high-interest loans in order to afford an expensive car (rather than buying something affordable in cash) can quickly lead to overwhelming debt.

5. Getting a Degree without a Career Plan

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Getting a degree without a clear career plan is another culturally acceptable habit that is contributing to America’s debt crisis. The pressure to attend college and obtain a degree has been ingrained in our society, leading many individuals to take on student loans without fully considering the potential cost and return on investment.

As a result, many graduates are left with hefty student loan debt and struggle to find employment in their field of study. All for the sake of getting a degree from a prestigious school or fulfilling societal expectations.

6. Living Beyond Means with Credit Cards

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Credit cards are often seen as a convenient way to make purchases, but it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of using them for everyday expenses without considering the long-term consequences. The average American carries over $6,000 in credit card debt, and with high-interest rates, this can quickly become a financial burden.

Living beyond one’s means and relying on credit cards to cover expenses is a culturally acceptable habit that has contributed significantly to the debt crisis in America.

7. Consumerism and “Retail Therapy”

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In today’s society, there is immense pressure to keep up with the latest trends constantly and have the latest gadgets, leading to a culture of consumerism. Many people turn to shopping as a form of stress relief or “retail therapy”, often without considering how these purchases will affect their finances in the long run.

This constant need for material possessions can quickly lead to overspending and accumulating unnecessary debt. Furthermore, easy access to credit cards and online shopping has made it easier than ever to make impulsive purchases without fully considering the financial ramifications.

8. Brand Obsession and Social Status

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America’s obsession with brands and status symbols has also played a role in debt accumulation. Many individuals feel pressure to have the latest designer clothing or luxury items in order to fit in with a certain social group or present a certain image.

This desire for expensive brands often leads people to overspend and rack up credit card debt as they strive to maintain a certain status or image.

9. Lack of Financial Education

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One of the underlying issues contributing to America’s debt crisis is the lack of financial education in our society. Many individuals are not taught how to manage their finances, budget effectively, or understand the long-term consequences of their financial decisions.

Without this knowledge, it’s easy for people to fall into the traps of consumerism, overspending, and living beyond their means. It’s crucial that we promote financial education at all levels of society to help individuals make more informed and responsible decisions about their finances.

10. Failing to Save for Emergencies

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Another culturally acceptable habit is a failure to save for emergencies. Many Americans live paycheck to paycheck and don’t have enough savings to cover unexpected expenses such as medical bills or car repairs.

This leads them to turn to credit cards or loans in order to cover these expenses, further adding to their debt load. By not having a financial safety net, individuals are putting themselves at risk for more debt and financial instability.

11. No Budgeting in Place

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The lack of a budget for financial goals contributes to unnecessary debt. Without a budget in place, it’s easy for individuals to overspend and not have a clear understanding of where their money is going.

Setting financial goals and creating a budget helps people prioritize their spending and focus on paying off debt instead of accumulating more. It’s essential that individuals take control of their finances by setting budgets and sticking to them.

12. Failure to Prioritize Debt Repayment

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Many individuals fail to prioritize debt repayment in their financial goals. With so many cultural pressures and expectations, it’s easy for paying off debt to fall by the wayside.

However, not prioritizing debt repayment only prolongs the cycle of debt and makes it harder to achieve financial stability.

13. Not Adjusting Spending Habits After Divorce

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With divorce rates continually high, it’s important to address the impact it can have on an individual’s finances. Many individuals may not adjust their spending habits after a divorce, leading to financial struggles and debt.

Divorce often means managing expenses on one income instead of two, which requires a change in lifestyle and budgeting. Failing to do so can lead to overspending and accumulating unnecessary debt. Plus, the divorce itself can eat up a significant amount of assets, further contributing to the debt crisis.

14. Gambling and Addiction

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Addiction, whether it be gambling, drugs, or alcohol, can also contribute to debt. These behaviors often come with financial consequences, such as spending large amounts of money on drugs or compulsive gambling.

Addiction can quickly spiral out of control and lead individuals into overwhelming debt. It’s crucial that we address addiction and provide support and resources for those struggling with it to help prevent financial struggles.

Ultimately, the debt crisis in America is not solely caused by one factor but rather by a combination of societal pressures and personal habits

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Some interactions are intellectually and psychologically stimulating. Other times, you interact with someone, and you’re left wondering, “Did this person even go to school?” It’s not about big words and knowledge of every word in the Constitution; it’s how one carries oneself and their reason that gives this away.

12 Giveaways That Someone Lacks Education

19 Common Money Rules That Are Ruining Your Financial Stability

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Money rules guide how to earn, save, and spend, but some old ones have been passed down to us from generations that don’t work for us anymore. Since we are setting an example for the next generations, we must reevaluate these outdated money rules that should not be passed down to our children and replace them with new ones that align with modern financial realities.

19 Common Money Rules That Are Ruining Your Financial Stability

18 Ways to Life Luxuriously on a Small Budget

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Do you dream of living a life of luxury? Do you think it’s only possible for the rich and famous? Think again! You don’t need to be a millionaire to live like one. With a little creativity and smart planning, you can enjoy a luxurious lifestyle without breaking the bank.

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