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Stop Keeping Up with the Joneses – It’s Not Worth It

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Today, we live in a spending society.  Everywhere you look, a friend or family member is buying new clothes, going on some fancy vacation, buying a new car, or making another big purchase.  At least that’s all I see on my Facebook feed!  Often, seeing this activity from people close to us can cause us to feel like we’re not keeping up.  I’ve had that feeling before.

I’ll think to myself, “Oh, wow, Joe just bought a new BMW for his wife” or “Jake is going on ANOTHER vacation…geez!  “Where do these people get the money??”

Have you ever had that feeling before?  It makes you feel like you’re failing because you haven’t taken a vacation recently or you’re still driving a car you’ve had for 8 years.

I’ve been guilty of this feeling in the past, but not anymore.

I’ve flipped this feeling on it’s head.  I realized that I shouldn’t be feeling like I’m failing.  I should feel good because I’m seeing this activity from friends and family and making the conscious decision to NOT let it influence me and my decision-making.  I’m not going to let the “peer” pressure that comes when I compare myself to others force me into a bad financial situation. How did I change my mindset? Whenever I see something like this pop up on my newsfeed or come up in conversation, I remember the following things:

1. Most of the time, you’re not getting the full picture anyway.  People that spend a lot of money typically don’t HAVE a lot of money.  For instance, the new car was bought with a loan and monthly payments have to be made. Or, the trip to Cancun or Hawaii was put on a credit card with ungodly interest rates. So seeing the new car or the vacation doesn’t actually give an accurate picture of that person’s wealth or financial stability.

2. “The Joneses” allocate their money differently. Every time you make a choice such as: (1) deciding to make a meal at home instead of going out to a fancy dinner, (2) keeping your car for another year instead of buying a new one one, or(3) creating a “stay-cation” close to home instead of going on an expensive vacation, you’re putting money in your savings account and improving your financial situation. So while Mr. Jones has his money in a new Audi or Lexus, yours is sitting in your 401(k) or your savings account.

Do you see why I’ve flipped the feeling of failing on it’s head?  I’m actually succeeding by saving that money instead of spending it.  Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with saving hard for a new purchase or a vacation, but you shouldn’t do those things just because you feel like you’re “failing” if you’re not doing those things. And you certainly shouldn’t be buying a new car just because your friend/family member/neighbor just got a new one.

Everyone has their own financial goals, their own savings plans (short term and long) and their own spending habits.  The point is that your spending habits and financial goals should depend on what makes you feel comfortable and secure for the future, not what is sitting in your neighbor’s driveway. In fact, most people have poor spending habits, so when you see activity that looks like “success”, more times than not, it’s really putting those people in a more dangerous financial situation.

Don’t feel pressured to keep up with the Joneses.  It can get you into trouble financially.

Just remember: when you make the decision to save money, you’re winning.  Don’t ever feel bad about that!

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