How to Stop Trying to Keep Up with “the Joneses”
Who even are the Joneses? Why do we care about them? “Keeping up with the Joneses” is an old idiom that refers to comparing yourself to those around you in order to determine your social status. Funny enough, this phrase originated from a comic strip of the same name, which ran from 1913 to 1940.
Now how does this idiom impact us? It puts unseen pressure on us to be as good, as successful, as wealthy, as impressive as those around us seem to be. This pressure leads us to do things we don’t truly want to do and spend more money than we have or want to spend. It’s also probably the reason that most Americans who earn over $120,000 a year are living paycheck to paycheck.
Social media makes this pressure even stronger. We see people Instagram-ing pictures of their latest “treat yourself” item, going out to brunch every weekend, or going on amazing international vacations. It makes us wonder if we’re doing life wrong. And of course there’s nothing wrong with living your best life. I want you to be happy! But we shouldn’t be sacrificing our financial security just to keep up with other people’s highlight reels.
So how can you be true to yourself instead of trying to keep up with the Joneses?
1. Get clear on your own values
It’s important that your money habits line up with your personal values. It turns out, one of the key ways to find fulfillment is to make choices that align with our values. Values are beliefs and principles that make what we do in life worthwhile and meaningful to us. Do you value the things you see your friends spending money on? If not, then you don’t need to spend money on the same things. Getting clear on what differentiates you from others will make it easier for you to make financial decisions based on what you want, rather than what you think you should be doing.
2. Plan for the things that make you happy
I don’t believe that sticking to a budget means you aren’t allowed to do anything that makes you happy. What’s the point of having money if you can’t do the things you enjoy? Of course, there’s a limit to what you can do while still living within your means. But that’s why it’s important to create a budget that works for your lifestyle. If you love traveling, you don’t have to break the bank to make it happen. Set money aside every month (if you can) to make sure you have money to spend on trips when they come up. If it’s important to you to go out to brunch, get your hair done, or anything else like that, build the costs into your monthly budget. Even if you have to set the money aside in a separate account, plan for it so that you know it’s there. That way, you’ll be able to have fun without feeling guilty or stressed.
3. Get better friends
If you feel pressured by your friends, neighbors, or loved ones to live outside of your means, maybe it’s time for them to go. That might sound harsh! But it’s important to remember that not everyone is meant to stay in our lives. Just because you were friends with someone in middle school doesn’t mean you need to be friends with them now. Surround yourself with people who make you feel good and who lift you up. Life is short, and we should feel inspired and supported by our friends.
You should make it clear to your loved ones that you have specific financial goals (paying down debt, building savings, sticking to a budget, etc.), and see how supportive they are. If they don’t respect the fact that you need to cut back on spending, perhaps you should spend less time with them. In the meantime, at least unfollow the people on social media who make you feel bad about yourself.
When have you tried to keep up with the spending of others? How has it made you feel? Share in the comments!
This post was originally posted on MaggieGermano.com and shared with permission.
Maggie is a Certified Financial Education Instructor and financial coach for women. Her life’s mission is to give women the support and the tools that they need to take control of their money, break the taboo of discussing debt and income, and achieve their goals and dreams. She does this through one-on-one financial coaching, monthly Money Circle gatherings, and speaking engagements. Passionate about many issues affecting women, Maggie also serves on the board of Collective Action for Safe Spaces, is a member of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington’s Developing Leaders Program, and was trained as a salary negotiation facilitator by AAUW.