Money Management

Are You Trying to Keep Up with the Joneses?

By  Danielle Miura

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You’ve probably seen them before. They are the people on social media throwing the most lavish parties, driving the luxurious cars, and traveling to the most beautiful vacation spots. But the real question is who are these people and how can they afford it?

Who Are the Joneses?

The phrase “Keeping up with the Joneses” originated from a comic strip in the 1900s. The comic touched upon how people compare themselves to their neighbors and peers as a way to determine what lifestyle they should have. Even though the comic was created in the early 1900s, it is still relevant to many people today. 

Why Do People Try to Keep Up with the Joneses?

It is human nature to want to follow in others’ footsteps and be liked by others. We think that we will feel happier and are more accepted if we follow the herd. The pressure from social media platforms makes it easier for others to show off and brag about their accomplishments. Plus, with all the social media and internet advertising these days, shopping online is just a simple click away. There is nothing wrong with spending money on yourself, but when you start to live beyond your means or have trouble saving money this can cause a spiral effect.  

Here are some reasons why we try to keep up with the Joneses:

  • Desire to display our success
  • Want what other people have
  • We favor instant gratification over hard work

The Dangers of Keeping Up with the Joneses

It is easy to think that the grass is always greener on the other side. However, there’s nothing green about spending thousands of dollars a year on designer clothes and ending up broke and bankrupt. Here are some dangers to be aware of when following in someone else footsteps: 

Spending More Than What You Have

Influencers, celebrities, and the uber-wealthy are quick to display their wealth when you watch them on TV and social media. It may start to seem like you are the only one who can’t afford expensive things. In actuality, those who can afford lavish cars, private planes, and exotic homes only consist of 1% of the population. Therefore, if you are trying to compete with the wealthy, it is likely that you will be spending much more money than you can afford. Unfortunately, some people think that the only way to keep up with the Joneses is by living beyond your means and increasing their credit card debt. This may feel harmless at first, however, it can quickly add up and be hard to deal with. 

Accruing Loans

Credit card debt is not the only thing that might accrue on your path to being part of the Joneses family. Once you start keeping up with their lifestyle, it can be difficult to break the cycle. To keep up with the facade, you may find that you are taking out loans for things you cannot afford. Like other forms of debt, loan payments can become a burden to get rid of. 

Empty Savings Accounts

You may also find that living above your means can be detrimental to your ability to gain and maintain a savings account. Trying to keep up with the Joneses can be addictive, therefore you may find yourself digging into your savings account to buy even more. If you are constantly spending, you will not be able to have any extra money to put towards your savings, emergency fund, or retirement fund. If you do not emergency savings account, you will not have an adequate amount of savings to help you fall back on if you lose your job or have a medical incident. Building an emergency fund can be the difference between getting out of a bad situation unharmed and going into more debt.  

How to Stop Keeping Up with the Jones?

Be Thankful for What You’ve Got

Keeping up with the Joneses can make you lose track of the things that you have right in front of you. Before you compare yourself to others around you, be grateful for what you have right now. If you have a roof over your head and food in your refrigerator, you have a lot to be thankful for. 

Actions you can take: Make a gratitude list every day to remind yourself of everything that you are grateful for.

Focus on What Is Important to You

When you are clear about what you value, you are less likely to compare yourself to others and make choices that are in line with your goals. If you are so focused on keeping up the Joneses, you will have less time to do the things you enjoy. 

Actions you can take: Write a list of your financial goals. When making financial decisions refer back to your list of goals. 

Don’t Forget to Forgive Yourself

Even though comparing yourself with others is not always best for your well-being, it is important to understand that it is completely normal. 

Actions you can take: Accept yourself for who you are. Instead of focusing on what others are doing around you, think about your financial picture. What are some of your accomplishments and how are you unique?

Unfollow Materialistic Influencers

Wealthy influencers are ones that can persuade their viewers to use their hard-earned money to buy their promotional goods. Unfollowing their accounts or cutting back on your social media use will go a long way in preserving your wealth.

Actions you can take: Look through the list of those who you follow on social media and evaluate which one’s make you more likely to spend money or bring you negative energy. 

Benefits of Not Following the Joneses

Gain More Self-Control

Once have a clear understanding of your current financial situation and your financial goals, you can create a plan to get there. When you know exactly what you want you will be able to follow your plan with fewer distractions. 

Confidence Booster

When you stop focusing on the Joneses, you will care less about what other people think and focus more on what makes you unique. Life is about chasing your goals and doing things that are meaningful to you. Not about the home you live in or the car you drive. 

Becoming More Goal-Driven

Once you are able to achieve the goals that you have made and set for yourself, the process of completing goals will become much easier. Smart goals are ones that are measurable and realistic to your needs. The first step to accomplishing your goals is to write them on paper. 

Giving More Generously

Once you stop following in the Joneses’ footsteps, you will soon realize that you have money available to give to the people who mean the most to you and live a life that you are passionate about. 

Bottom Line

Keeping up with the Joneses is a never-ending cycle that will only hurt you. If you let others control what you spend your money on, you will never get reach your financial goals. Instead of worrying about what other people are doing, create and follow the vision of your own life. As you build your own financial path, you may find that the Joneses are keeping up with you.  

This article reflects the insights and opinions of its author and is not a recommendation or endorsement of their views or services.

Danielle Miura

About the Author

Danielle Miura, CFP®

Danielle Miura, CFP® is the founder and owner of Spark Financials, a fee-only firm located in Ripon, CA. As a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, she specializes in comprehensive financial plan development, financial education, and financial research.

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Disclaimer: In order to make Wealthtender free for our readers, we earn money from advertisers including financial professionals and firms that pay to be featured on our platform. This creates a natural conflict of interest when we favor promotion of our clients over other professionals and firms not featured on Wealthtender. Learn how we operate with integrity to earn your trust.

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