“Keeping up with the Joneses” is a trap that we all tend to fall into from time to time.
The idea that what we have defines who we are — and that our ability to procure wealth is the core determinant of our status and standing in society — has a way of making life exhausting.
Not only is it impossible to keep up with the mythical Jones family, but the standard always seems to change based on what we see or who we spend our time with. Because the reality is that no matter how much we have, there’s always going to be someone who has more, or something different.
Even a different version of what we already have (a phone, sectional sofa or TV) can make us feel inferior about our own version of that possession.
Thus financial jealousy becomes a problem, causing us to spend when we don’t have to and in some cases placing us in a massive amount of debt trying to maintain an unattainable standard.
So what’s the answer? How do we avoid this dilemma?
The answers are more practical than you may think.
1. Know that the allure of “new” wears off quickly
Why has Apple been able to sell us the same phone for nearly a decade now? Not only that, but people stand in line for hours waiting for a new version of something they already have.
It happens because the novelty of something and the mystery of a new item is intoxicating. It makes us feel good about ourselves in a weird way. It gives us confidence and a little spring in our step.
But was there ever anything wrong with our iPhone 4S?
No there wasn’t, but that novelty factor wears off pretty quickly, and marketers at Apple understand that. Just as soon as our phones become second nature to us and we don’t really mind as much when we drop them or get a little scratch on the edge, a new phone comes out.
Understanding this cycle and knowing that the appeal of a new item is temporary can help us avoid the allure of these new purchases.
No matter how much money you make, budgeting is always an important part of avoiding the Jones mentality.
Sit down every week, either by yourself or with your spouse, and write down your income and your necessary expenses. Then take the difference and divvy it among things that you need, but that can fluctuate — for certain items like food, petrol, savings, etc.
Once you’ve done that, use what’s left over for other things you might want, like more savings, a night out, or an item you’ve been saving for.
If that new item fits in the budget, then you can feel good about buying it.
You won’t go into debt and you won’t be breaking cash flow to obtain it.
3. Spending on your own life
If you look at the roots of financial jealousy, those who give into it are spending money on someone else’s lifestyle.
They’re looking at the way someone else lives and spending money according to that life, often with disregard or even at the expense of their own livelihood.
To break from this type of jealousy and subsequent spending pattern, make a commitment to spend money on your own life. Think about the things in your life that you actually need to pay for. Take care of those things first (just like we mentioned in the budgeting section).
Then, after those things are paid for, use money to invest in aspects of your life without regard to what anyone else has accomplished.
Maybe you want to upgrade your fishing gear or save for a new deck on your home. Try to target things that you enjoy and that don’t have roots in any kind of jealousy.
4. Developing your own interests
Constantly trying to keep up with someone else’s standards has a way of distracting you and robbing you from things that you’re interested in. Think about your goals and what you need to do financially to accomplish them.
Those thoughts should be autonomous and not based on other people.
As you develop your own interests, you’ll naturally want to spend some of your money on them.
5. Learning to recognise financial insecurity when making a purchase
When you go to buy something, ask yourself the following questions:
- Why am I buying this?
- Is this item something I really need or that benefits me in a practical way?
- What made me want to make this purchase?
- Is this purchase about a personal need or want that doesn’t have jealous roots?
Use these questions as a way to examine your motives for making a purchase. Based on the answers you should be able to tell whether you’re buying something because of jealousy or out of a reasonable and practical need or desire.
If the idea was birthed and inspired by something you wanted to accomplish, then it’s not a jealous purchase.
If you believe the motive came from an ad or by what somebody else owns, then you may want to reevaluate the purchase.
6. Giving more to charitable causes
A good way to break the grip of financial envy is to simply use your finances to benefit someone who truly needs it. Make a commitment to use extra money in your budget to benefit a charity of your choosing.
It will get your mind out of “keep-up mode” and give you some perspective on what really matters.
You can’t keep up
Know that no matter how hard you try, it’s impossible to keep up with someone else’s lifestyle. Even if you are a successful emulator, financial jealousy doesn’t end there.
The easier path will always be to deal with the root, which is jealousy itself.
Focus on what you want to do with your life and develop a standard of living that suits your own goals. It’s a far more relaxing, enjoyable and peaceful way to live.
The information in this article is provided for education and informational purposes only, without any express or implied warranty of any kind, including warranties of accuracy, completeness or fitness for any particular purpose. The information in this article is not intended to be and does not constitute financial or any other advice. The information in this article is general in nature and is not specific to you the user or anyone else.