We’ve all heard the cliché from parents, teachers, and other leaders: Don’t keep up with the Joneses. And I think we all get the concept of avoiding envy, but things change as we get older. We’re not looking at another kid’s bike and turning green with jealousy, we’re looking at another person’s standard of living and saying, “Why shouldn’t I have that?”

Well, here are five perfectly good reasons to be a grown-up who doesn’t keep up with the Joneses.

The Joneses Are Probably in Debt Up to Their Ears
The average person in the US has around $4,000 worth of credit card debt. And that’s just credit card debt; that’s not counting mortgages, student loans, car payments, or other financed items like furniture, TVs, and appliances. So when you look at all the cool stuff the Joneses have, also remember the debt they have probably taken on to get it all. Do you want all that stress?

You Can’t Live Beyond Your Means
Ok, you can live beyond your means for a while; but eventually that lifestyle will stop working. There will come a time when an emergency crops up, like a health problem, a car accident, or the loss of a job, and you’ll have to find a way to deal with it. If all your money is tied up in debt repayment, pricey phone contracts, and a house you can’t afford to sell, you’re in trouble. But if you’ve lived reasonably, limited your debt, and put away an emergency fund, you’re set up for success.

Do the Joneses Share Your Priorities?
If you’re looking at another person or family that should have a similar income as yours but they have new cars, a yacht, and no debt, ask yourself how that’s possible. It isn’t because Mr. Jones has a magical wallet that multiplies money; it’s probably because the Joneses don’t share your goals.

If you’re putting all your extra money into things like an emergency fund, retirement fund, or college fund, of course you don’t have a boat! In this case, Mr. Jones is choosing to have a boat and you’re choosing to retire on time. Or perhaps Mr. Jones saves by skipping health insurance altogether and putting his family at risk, while you just compare health insurance for the best rate you can afford. When disaster strikes, you’ll be happy you’re not Mr. Jones.

Learn Satisfaction, Not Competition
Does your TV still work? Can you still see the picture clearly? Then there’s no reason to get a new one when your friend picks up the latest and greatest. If your phone is functioning adequately, don’t grab a new one just because people at work are starting to upgrade. If what you have is already working, be satisfied with that and happy that you don’t have to shell out your hard-earned money!

Things Don’t Give You Happiness
Do you really think the Joneses are happier than you? If they are, do you really think it is because of things or money? I doubt it. The Joneses could be sleeping on a bed of money and still not experiencing real, lasting happiness because, as the saying goes, money can’t buy happiness.

Money is not evil in itself and it isn’t automatically wonderful either. Money is really just a means to an end: it lets us meets our basic needs. Not having my basic needs met sure makes me unhappy, so in that sense money can “buy” happiness. But having a yacht, or the latest phone, or a hundred shoes? I’ll take financial security any day of the week. Let’s see the Joneses keep up with me.

5 Reasons Not to Keep Up With the Joneses is a Guest Post by Sabrina at Frugal Living

11 Comments

  1. Well Heeled Blog Reply

    Here’s another one… don’t try to keep up with the Jonses because you WILL NEVER WIN. Your idea of the Jonses changes as your financial situation changes, and so even if you made a $100 million a year, and you want to compare yourself, the $200-million earners are going to seem like they pop up every where. It’s a recipe for disaster.

    • @Well Heeled Blog – That’s true; enough is never enough if you’re constantly comparing yourselves to others. I think the illusion that the “Joneses” have money is just that; an illusion.

  2. So true. It’s hard to remember to live for ourselves, not live somebody else’s goals and dreams. We all have a bit of a competitive streak in us, I guess.

  3. I think that learning satisfaction versus competition is one of the more difficult aspects to conguer. The grass is always greener!

    • @Christa – You’re so right. You can be satisfied without all the “stuff” you think you need. Some of my best memories are the simplest ones – like sitting around a campfire telling stories, rafting down a river, or just hanging out with friends and family. Experiences outweigh things, and many experiences are free or low-cost.

  4. I find myself in envy of the Joneses more often than I like to admit… unless you’re my fiance in which case I admit it too frequently!

    Thanks for the reminders. It’s always better to live within our means, and in the end, I always find out that I have more than I think. 🙂

    • @GB – I just remind myself that experiences make me happier than things do. I’d much rather experience a fun event than buy something I won’t use very often. Of course, I guess one could argue that the “Joneses” seem to travel more. 😉

  5. It’s so true about the Joneses being in debt up to their eyeballs! A close relative worked at a bank in a small town & saw that all the time. Those who had all the latest and greatest had huge debts.

    Some people who used to flash their latest are now in financial trouble & having to downsize their living large lifestyle. It’s a lot harder to come down than go up!

  6. The Joneses are also most likely stressed out beyond all belief and have an extremely low quality of life! I’m in your camp–financial security = piece of mind = a well-balanced, great life!

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