How to Stop Keeping up With The Joneses
We live in a materialistic culture, where more and more people become inclined to define themselves by how much they possess. Such behaviour is called “conspicuous consumption” and is defined as spending money on luxury goods and services to publicly display our economic power, or, in other words, spending extravagantly to increase our standard of living in relation to our peers – friends, neighbours, family members or even strangers.
Many of us overspend a little occasionally, but when “keeping up with the Joneses” becomes an overwhelming obsession, it can and will cause big financial issues in the long run, so it’s important to understand what causes such behaviour and what can be done to prevent it from becoming a problem.
Back in the day, people either had money or they didn’t. These days, easily available credit makes it relatively possible for many people at any income level to spend more money than they earn – and feel like they can afford buying things they normally wouldn’t. We are also constantly bombarded with wealth signals from a number of media platforms – with the worst one of them, perhaps, being the social media (my Facebook friends are constantly bragging about their new cars and overseas trips!).
These things, as well as a number of underlying psychological factors – such as lower self-esteem or personal life frustrations, are some of the reasons why some of us feel more compelled to keep up with our peers.
The truth is, it doesn’t matter how much you earn, how big your house is or what car you drive – there will always be someone who earns more, lives in a much bigger house and has a fancier car. What we may not necessarily realise, is that some people get themselves in thousands of dollars’ worth of debt just to be able to look wealthier than they really are – and we’ve got to make sure we don’t end up being them.
First of all, try to figure out what causes you to react to your peers’ seeming affluence and social status. Is it low self-esteem, career frustrations, personal life issues, or perhaps, tough childhood?
Analyse the aspects of other people’s lives you are trying to catch up with: in most cases, it’s their financial situation, but it may also be their apparently happy family life, successful career or “perfect” kids. Try to understand that often things are not as good as they seem: behind closed doors, their life may not be as perfect as they make it look in public, and it’s highly possible that they are living beyond their means just to be able to publicly display their “economic power”.
Try to stop comparing yourself to others: everyone has their own battles to fight, and since you don’t really know what your peers’ financial picture REALLY looks like, it’s important not to see other people’s apparent success as your personal failure.
Understand that not keeping up with the Joneses is better for your wallet, as well as well-being: material things rarely make us truly happy, and chasing the next object of desire may well end up making you feel empty inside when it fails to provide any kind of lasting happiness.
Be grateful for what you already have, reflect on your personal achievements to date, and commit to living within your means. Acting successful can often trick your brain into thinking you are, which may ultimately make you successful – as well as genuinely growing your net wealth instead of splurging on unnecessary luxury items.
There will always be the Joneses to compete against, so as long as you focus on your own financial goals and growing your net wealth, you will be better off in the long run.
Sources: Getrichslowly, HowTo.