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Living Like the Joneses By Janice Parker

Janice ParkerThere’s this increasing sense that living up to someone else’s standards isn’t going to cut it.  Maybe it’s the result of living through rough financial times during the recession. Maybe it’s from watching our parents struggle to buy the next big thing. Whatever it is, we’re pretty burnt out on the whole idea of keeping up with the Joneses and that’s a good thing!

The American expression “Keeping up with the Joneses” began in 1913 with a comic strip by Arthur R “Pop” Momand. The Joneses influence was exerted in all the storylines. Today we use the phrase to refer to people who focus on appearances – especially when it comes to appearing well-off.

Maybe it’s the family on your block who takes vacations on a regular and passports are always required. Or maybe it’s the couple who drives the luxury cars and lives in the “nice” subdivision and posts all of their exciting adventures on social media. Or perhaps it’s the single girlfriend who’s always on point from head to toe, frequents the salons weekly, lives and drives nicely and of course the children are always dressed in the latest fashions. Or just maybe it’s the guy who drives the flashy car you could never afford and has lots of toys in the garage, even though you’re sure he’s in the same salary range as you!

It’s hard to escape the influence of those around us who live seemingly wealthy with care-free lifestyles. And it’s even harder to escape the constant advertisers who desperately want us to keep up with those who are “making it rain” on the latest fads and gadgets. Yet whoever we say is trying to “keep up with the Joneses,” we never turn that phrase to ourselves.

Don’t fool yourself and say you’re not trying to keep up with the Joneses because in your mind the Joneses are those who can afford private jets and lavish diamonds and all the finer things in life, but the Joneses you actually know and are comparing yourself to are your nearest neighbors – probably the ones who look a little bit wealthier than you do. However, if you could get a glimpse of the Joneses home and bank accounts, you might be surprised!

The bottom line is that many people live above their means. Today’s consumers are in a lot of debt (active and/or collection) and you can guess that most of this debt comes from living above our means. Many of the Joneses are considered liquid-asset poor, a term used for those who make a decent income yet have little to no savings or emergency fund. This is likely because they are trying to impress you. Of course this isn’t you…you would never live to impress others, right? You live the lifestyle that you can afford and that makes you happy, right?

If your real goal is happiness, keeping up with the Joneses is not the way to get there. One common trap that keeps people from achieving true happiness is trying to build it on someone else’s foundation. You must build a happy life on your own foundation. If you build your life on what other people think or what you ought to do, you’re never going to be happy. The takeaway from most of the relevant research on money and happiness is that day-to-day contentment IS impacted by financial security. But it’s NOT affected by how much stuff you have. In fact the best way to spend money to be happier is to splurge on experiences like vacations or dining out, or to buy things for OTHER people. So this means that having a luxury car, dream home, latest name brand fashions or handbag, or even the latest electronic gadget probably wont’ make you happier…at least not in the long term. Besides, overspending on material items can and will drag down your financial stability, which in turn will make you more stressed and unhappy in the long run. Take drastic steps to avoid being like the paycheck to paycheck Joneses, by living a financially stable, socially conscious, environmentally friendly existence.

The next time you’re about to make a big purchase – especially one that will put you further into debt, take some time to examine your motives. Are you purchasing because you really need it? Because it will make your life inherently better? Or because you’re worried about what friends, kids, best friends, neighbors and family will think of you? Better yet, if you lived on an island without the influence of your family and friends, would your purchase matter just the same?

If the answer is that you want to look more successful, run away from the purchase. Spend some time with the people you love most for a happiness recharge…after all they are likely the ones whom you’ll never have to validate your success to anyway.

By the way, have you heard….the Joneses filed for bankruptcy? You still want to live like them?

Too many people buy things they don’t need with money they don’t have to impress people they don’t know.” – Robert Kiyosaki