The Joneses I know shop at the high end stores and are always dressed in the latest name brand clothing. Though they may not live in a mansion, they appear to live an effortless, comfortable upper-middle class lifestyle.
If you were to put my family next to their family and had to choose which family is wealthier, you would choose theirs. But I know them fairly well, well enough that I know their basic income and expenses. For the life of me, I cannot figure out how they can afford to live like they do.
The Joneses seem to be living this luxurious life, free from worry, buying the latest and greatest cars, clothes and homes, leaving many of us with a pang of jealousy and desire to have what they have.
To envy the Joneses is human. Not one of us can escape having that feeling at one time or another in our lives. Envy is, by nature, a survival mechanism. We constantly assess those around us, competing with them to ensure we get our own needs met.
We envy money, status, relationships, careers, weight and attractiveness. Other people appear to have a perfect, fulfilled life and all of their success points to our inadequacies.
A little bit of envy sprinkled here and there is normal and can be healthy, but having constant feelings of jealousy can lead us astray from financial security and what is truly important in life.
Why do we try to keep up with the Joneses?
Advertising and marketing. Even when we are unaware, we are constantly besieged by some sort of marketing. It’s entrenched in our culture to the extent that we invariably feel that we are constantly lacking something, leaving us searching for ways to fix our perceived flaws.
Easily accessible credit. Immediate gratification is deeply ingrained in society today – we want what we want and we want it right now. Availability of credit cards and consumer loans enables us to satisfy our hunger and fix our shortcomings post haste.
Social media. This is where we only see people at their finest. No one shares status updates about doing nothing on a Friday night, thousands of dollars in credit card debt, the F on their kid’s report card, or pictures of what they look like after a sleepless night.
We want to BE the Joneses! Having all the fanciness is an attempt to appear well-off and successful in hopes that we will be well liked…and envied ourselves. Friends attained in this manner are unlikely to be true friends.
When we stop trying to keep up with the Joneses we become more personally fulfilled and financially secure.
6 ways to stop trying to keep up with the Joneses
Realize things are not always as they seem.
In reality the Joneses may be knee deep in debt and living paycheck to paycheck. Many families have no savings and are spending even more than they earn.
Use your envy as motivation to get your financial ducks in a row and start to live a life in line with your own dreams and values.
Researchers have found that envy takes two forms. The harmful form is malicious envy when one party does everything in it’s power to bring down the coveted rival. Benign envy, on the other hand, “leads to a moving-up motivation aimed at improving one’s own position”. In this case, envy isn’t a negative force, but a source of inspiration for improvement in one’s own life.
Ignore advertising when possible, while remembering you are constantly trying to be sold something.
Marketing is pervasive – learn to recognize it.
Know you can live like the Joneses if you want to, but choose a different path, one that leads to personal happiness and financial security.
Sure, you could take an expensive vacation too, but you would have to put it on your credit card to pay for it. Have the conviction that you choose a different path, one that puts you closer to your life dreams and goals.
Be grateful for what you have.
Whenever I catch myself thinking “Life would be different (better) if…”, I stop myself. I have everything I could ever want to make me happy. Notice the simple joys in your life every day.
Learn that buying “things” will not add to your overall level of happiness.
You may get that little high when you first make a purchase, but that feeling fades quickly, leaving you wanting more and more of the things that will never bring true fulfillment.