How Not to Keep Up with the Joneses

comparing competition keeping up peer pressure Jan 17, 2023

Keeping up with the Joneses can mean having the biggest and best of everything. For example, if your neighbor had a new car, you needed to buy one too. If your friend got a new house, you also needed to renovate your home. However, we must realize that we don't need to keep up with the Joneses to be happy. Trying to do so can have negative consequences. So how can we break this cycle and learn not to keep up with the Joneses?

Spend money according to what you value

Keeping up with the Joneses is an idiom that means keeping up with your friends, neighbors, or peers regarding their spending habits and what they buy and using their possessions and achievements to measure your success. It is a practice of competing with everyone you deem better than you regarding material possessions and what they do with their lives.

The idiom traces its roots to a comic strip using the same title as the idiom, and in it, there is a social climbing family that struggles to keep up with their neighbors. The Joneses in the comics refer to the neighbors with whom the family tries to keep up. From here, the comic strip's title became a well-known idiom and continues to have the meaning of keeping up with others.

The idiom applies to our society as some people like to keep up with their peers and try to outdo one another regarding their possessions and achievements to see who is more successful. And with how society conditions us to pursue material goods and compete for success, it's no wonder some people buy into the idea and make it a point to keep up with each other. It's even more prevalent nowadays with how easy it is to see what someone is up to, thanks to social media and the Internet. But, unfortunately, keeping up with the Joneses may bring negative consequences, such as getting into more debt, ruining personal finances, and compromising your values to get what others have. However, you don't necessarily need to go with this idea, and you can do some things to break free from the cycle of endless competition or not participate in it at all.

1. Identify what matters to you

The main problem with trying to keep up with others is that you may buy things you don't need, but you may not realize it for wanting to keep up. This habit can lead to financial ruin due to mindless spending on unnecessary things. So, to combat this behavior, identify the things that truly matter to you, such as your goals, interests, and values. When you know the things that matter to you, you can use them as a gauge to determine whether you need to buy something. The next time you see your friend or neighbor purchase something, and before you start getting jealous, ask yourself: do I need what they have bought? If you know what matters to you and what others have bought or did doesn't align with what you want, you have a reason not to buy the same thing. Instead, purchase only those things that will help you meet your goals, those you enjoy, those needed for some practical purpose, or contribute to whatever you value. If you mimic what others buy mindlessly, you are subscribing to what they love, not what you value.

2. Stop comparing and competing with others

Competition is a good source of motivation and inspiration if done moderately. Too much of it can start affecting your life, including blowing your budget for wanting to one-up your peers. You may want to buy a fancy new car because your friend just bought one, and you may always want to keep up with the latest release of whatever fancies you. You may do all these things to be better than your peers. It can be a futile practice because there will always be someone better than you, so the endless buying and achieving continue.

And then, there's the habit of some of us peeking into our neighbors and seeing what they are up to and have. You don't need to go near your neighbors' houses to see what they have and do. Nowadays, social media platforms and the Internet allow you to see what your friends and peers are up to—seeing what others post can create the illusion that they are leading a perfect life with all the wondrous moments and possessions they have. There's a danger in having such a mindset because it can lead to haphazard financial decisions that can make you spend more money than you should, all for the sake of also possessing what you saw from others.

With that said, we should control ourselves from comparing our situation with that of others and also competing with them. You may never know the whole life situation of somebody entirely, and what you are seeing may only highlight some positive moments that don't paint the complete picture of their lives.

3. Be more mindful of your financial situation

Before splurging money, you must become aware of your finances if you want to stop keeping up with the Joneses. It is easy to think that you can buy something from what you have now and think you can earn money later that will let you buy expensive things like a bigger house or a car. However, you never know what can happen long-term, and unforeseen circumstances can dent your budget. So, unless you have lots of savings and earning potential, you can indulge and buy things if you want to keep up with others. But if you are living paycheck to paycheck and still need to settle payments like credit card debt and other loans, you better check yourself first and control spending before you ruin your good life. Identify how much you earn monthly, create a budget, and know how much you should spend for necessities and savings. If there's extra remaining money after calculating everything needed to pay for necessities, maybe you can buy some leisurely stuff; if not, it's better to hold yourself from doing it. Trying to keep up with the Joneses while not having a healthy financial status can jeopardize your wealth.

4. Avoid or control triggers for keeping up with others

Various things can serve as triggers to make you want to spend and keep up with others. Social media, yet again, plays a significant role in triggering the fear of missing out by making it look like you are out of the loop if you don't do or buy the same thing as others. There are also places where they entice you to buy the latest, shiny things, like malls and even online e-commerce websites that act like online versions of shopping malls. You may see sales and discounts on the latest gadgets, and some of your peers have these things. If you keep letting such things influence your mind, you may give in and want to keep up with others out of peer pressure and simply the desire to be like them. So if you like to control yourself from wanting to keep up with the Joneses, you can try avoiding triggers that can make you spend money mindlessly for wanting to impress people and have better social status than others.

Your values and interests matter in controlling your spending.

It can be challenging to control yourself from spending money when you see everyone around you doing it and buying more stuff they may never need but want because they see others do it. So the next time you feel the urge to buy a new cell phone, gadget, a big house, or whatever thing catches your attention, maybe because you saw others bought them, always ask yourself if you need it and if it is something you will value and matter to you. If you keep buying material things and imitating what others do, it's like you are only copying their interests and values, which may not be what can give you fulfillment and happiness. It may work for a while, but afterward, you may start feeling you need something again, so you look at what others buy and do, and the cycle goes on. You can save yourself a lot of trouble and keep your bank account healthy if you know what you should buy and what you need or want because you know you do, not because you saw others do it.

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