Financial Goals

Personal Finance – Keeping up with the Joneses

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The grass is always greener on the other side.

We came across this blog post by David at MyTwoDollars right about the time we were launching our new SpendSpace feature last month. SpendSpace allows you to compare your spending, in any category, to city, state and national averages. Check it out (it’s located at the bottom of your Spending Trends page)… but be forewarned that it’s highly addictive.

As we were designing this feature, we gave a lot of thought to whether or not we should all be apsiring to “keep up with the Joneses”. David’s take on this was insightful, and we wanted to share it with you.

Everyone has heard the expression “Keeping up with the Joneses”. In fact, I have used it on MyTwoDollars quite a few times. But I started giving it some thought and I started to realize that most of us, on purpose or on accident, try to keep up with the Joneses we see on television and in magazines, and not the real Joneses that are living next door to us.

The reason I think that is because if we truly had an inside look into our neighbors affairs, we would see that they are probably just like us… they probably own the same kind of cars, the same kind of appliances, they have done the same kind of remodeling that we would do. After all, they live in our neighborhood, so they are probably very similar to us. So when we feel like we don’t have as much as our neighbors or we need newer stuff to feel more accepted by society, I think we are judging our lives by the fake ones we see on our favorite television shows and not by the reality surrounding us.

Look around your block or neighborhood; is everyone else driving a BMW while you are driving a Toyota Yaris? Does everyone else have a much nicer house than you do? Do they get to take more vacations than you? Chances are, they aren’t and they don’t. They are making things work just like you are, and some of them might have a few more things than you do, and some of them might not. But really, they are probably very similar.

I think this is important to keep in mind as we are inundated with advertising proclaiming to deliver the good life if only we bought that new Mercedes, took this new drug, bought that new house in the hills. The people on TV look and act different than we do because they are different than we are…they are actors, on a television show or in an ad, trying to either entertain you and/or sell you something. Truthfully we don’t need a new washer and dryer if our existing one still works fine. But I guarantee they can make you think you need a new one because of how white their shirts are! The Joneses you might be trying to keep up with are not real Joneses, because those real Joneses are just like you.

Just something to give some thought to before you feel like people have better stuff than you, more stuff than you, are more successful than you. Take a minute to check out your true surroundings, and not the fake ones created on television. I think you will find that most everyone around is just like you, and there is no one you need to be keeping up with. It’s never a good idea to try to keep up with people anyway; it’s much more important to carve your own way, make up your own mind as to what is important in life and not let others dictate what you should or should not be doing. But it’s especially important to not let advertising or television fool you into a false sense of what you aren’t or what you should be.

You can see more of David’s writing on personal finance topics on his blog at MyTwoDollars.com.