Social pressure to conform isn't in your imagination. Sheryl Garrett, founder of the Garrett Planning Network of fee-only financial advisors, has worked with plenty of couples who try to support lifestyles they can't afford because, they say, that's how people in their professions live. "They think they're doing what they're supposed to be doing," she said.
And they're afraid not to. She knows of one neighborhood in an affluent county of Kansas that's filled with lots of lovely homes that have no furniture in them because the homeowners are too strapped.
"They show that they have money. But it's all smoke and mirrors," she said.
Everyone wants immediate gratification. But Garrett points out that when it comes to your financial security - which your friends at the country club will never pay for - "you need indefinite gratification."
Try this: One way to lighten your load financially and emotionally is to "step back from the immediate and ask what you really want in life," Garrett said. Maybe it's an early exit from a high-paying career that leaves you cold, or a retirement that is as comfortable as your current lifestyle.
Whatever your goals, figure out where you can ratchet back your spending or boost your income or savings. If you're in a couple where only one of you works, it might involve the other person forfeiting the stay-at-home life for a return to the workforce. (Of course, make sure that second income really pays. Here are factors to consider .)