Finance

Conquering The Keeping Up with Joneses Mindset

Conquering the Keeping Up with the Joneses Mindset | www.TheHeavyPurse.comThe dangers of Keeping Up with Joneses mindset is well documented in the personal finance community and elsewhere. We know we shouldn’t compare our lives to others, but sometimes it seems impossible not to do so. To an extent, it’s human nature, and there are times when it serves as a positive wake-up call for us too. It doesn’t always lead to us trying to keep up or outdo our neighbors, co-workers, friends and family members. There have been times in my life where taking a hard look at how others are doing has motivated me to make needed changes and believe that I can do it too.

The trick, of course, is to know the difference between friendly competition or a new awareness from the little green monster who makes you believe that keeping up with someone else is more important than focusing on what you truly want. Unfortunately, it is the latter that happens most frequently and causes the most problems.

Here is some food for thought: When you focus on keeping up with whomever, you choose and value their life over yours. I don’t know about you, but I want to put my energy and money into living the life I want for myself and my family, rather than living their life.

2 Steps to Help You Create Your Best Life

Always feeling as though you need to keep up with the Joneses is an unhappy way to live, so let’s break the habit, once and for all.

1. Don’t Believe the Hype. What Makes Your Heart Happy?

We are bombarded with advertisements telling the things we “must” have right now, and our Facebook feeds are filled with brag updates designed to make us envious. We face constant temptation to “keep up” and we can feel like a failure if we cannot. Don’t believe the hype. You are not a failure because you can’t buy the latest gadget or spend two weeks in the Maldives. The life you need to focus on is your own and that means clearly knowing what you want.

I’ve shared this with you before, but your goals are your #1 defense against unnecessary spending, whether you’re spending to keep up with the Joneses or as a coping mechanism. If you have something you truly want to achieve to compare against another item you find, it makes it easier for you to say “no” without feeling deprived. Make sure you set authentic goals that you truly want and not goals to impress others or goals that others want for you.

2. Don’t Let What Others Have Diminish Your Happiness

When we talk about the dangers of Keeping Up with the Joneses, most of us immediately think of the dangers of living beyond our means, but we don’t spend much time thinking about why we even feel compelled to keep up in the first place, which may be the more important piece of the puzzle. We diminish our own successes and accomplishments when we play keep up. Their success (or the things they have) seems so much better than our own. We give away our happiness.

This is why I taught my girls to set goals that make their hearts happy and spend a great deal of time working with them to have an abundance mindset, so they feel happy when others have success or have something new. Most importantly, they are learning to not let other people’s success take away from their own achievements or happiness.

To help them build that abundance mindset, I taught them to:

Let Go of Judgement

We are quick to judge whether someone deserves something they have or whether they might be living beyond their means. The best thing you can do is not judge. We expend too much energy coveting things others have or feeling superior or ridiculing them for their extravagant purchases because we assume they are living beyond means while we do not. Neither promote an abundance mindset. What we need to do is focus on the things we want to accomplish instead.

Understand the “Why” Behind Your Envy

Let’s not kid ourselves, we try to keep up with others because we are envious and/or don’t want to feel like a failure. I don’t recommend suppressing those emotions because they will eventually manifest in some shape or form. The more productive thing to do is understand “why” you feel jealous. This may be uncomfortable for some, but it is a necessary exercise. Most likely there is some area of your life where you’re unhappy and need to address.

Genuine Happiness Frees You From Your Keep Up Urges

By having authentic goals and an abundance mindset, you’ll find that you no longer care what those mythical Joneses are doing. When you see someone living it up, whether they should or should not be, you choose to simply be happy for them and focus on achieving the things you truly want for yourself.

How do you conquer your Keeping Up with the Joneses urges?

Shannon

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March 24, 2014  •  63 Comments  •  Finance

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  1. Monday, March 24th, 2014
    I am usually quick to remind myself that other people have different financial priorities than I do and that if I wanted to have X (huge mortgage debt on a big house, big car loan on an expensive car, etc), then I could have Y too. But since I have different priorities I don't have those things. That usually makes me feel better and brings me back to my goals, which I/we are working super hard to achieve!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, March 24th, 2014
      Yes, it's definitely important to recognize that other's have different priorities and goals. Sometimes we get caught up in judging their choices or comparing ours to theirs. Neither help us achieve our goals, which is we need to stay focused on. Everything else is a distraction!
  2. Monday, March 24th, 2014
    I think I definitely struggle with 'keeping up with the Joneses,' especially because I just started my career and it's easy to compare yourself to others in a similar spot. None of us have had a whole lot of time to differentiate ourselves from each other career-wise, so when someone has no student loans and $30k in investments it's hard not to compare yourself to them. With that being said, I definitely have my own individual goals in life and I don't want them to be influenced or dictated by how others spend and manage their money.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, March 24th, 2014
      Oh yes, I remember those days very clearly, DC. You start noticing when others get married, buy homes, start having kids and there can be a lot of pressure to keep up. It's great that you are working towards your personal goals without letting others influence you on what should be a priority. It's a common mistake and I'm glad you didn't fall prey to it!
  3. Monday, March 24th, 2014
    I actually broke my tendency to "keep up with the Joneses" by going to the gym. I would see people that were more built and more physically fit than I and envy them - much like I used to envy people who had more "stuff" than I. Through hard work I have gotten into great shape. There are still people at the gym more physically fit than I, and no matter how hard I try I may NEVER reach that level. I came to conclusion that all that matters is improving myself, and seeing progress. Now I don't even notice other people at the gym anymore.....from that point it became an easy transition to take that same attitude to my finances. Much happier all around with life after that happened - much happier!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, March 24th, 2014
      "I came to conclusion that all that matters is improving myself, and seeing progress." Love this, Travis! We do get so caught up in comparing ourselves when what we need to focus on is improving ourself and celebrating our progress and growth. It's very true that once we stop paying attention to what everyone else is doing - we become much happier. Congratulations on getting into great shape physically and financially!
  4. Monday, March 24th, 2014
    "When you focus on keeping up with whomever, you choose and value their life over yours." This is an excellent point Shannon and one that too often gets forgotten. We have broken our desire of keeping up with the Joneses by seeing that they have different priorities than we do. Our priorities are to raise our kids financially smart and living it out in front of them. It's easier said than done at times, but just because something is making someone else happy has no bearing on whether or not it'll make you happy.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, March 24th, 2014
      Good for you, John! It's not always an easy habit to break but once you have your own priorities to focus your attention on, it becomes much easier. I love your priority and it something my husband and I are trying to do as well. And one that I hope more and more parents will make a priority as it would cause a huge shift in how we collectively handle our money.
  5. Monday, March 24th, 2014
    Love these tips, Shannon. I mostly stick with just being happy for people when they're happy, whether it be possessions or accomplishments. Some of the things that they're happy about might not exactly be aligned with what makes me happy, but it's their life and that's the great part of all of us being so different. :)
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, March 24th, 2014
      Thanks, Anna and welcome back! :) I'm the same way. I try my best to be happy for others even if I don't value the same things as they do. Being unique and celebrating ourselves IS what makes life fun and interesting.
  6. Monday, March 24th, 2014
    Thank you for sharing. This post is an excellent reminder that keeping up with the Jonses will ultimately be a failing effort, leaving us unhappy. Although hard to do, remembering that keeping up with the Jonses is impossible, is hugely important. Reading this post helps me keep in mind that no amount of money will truly make me happy, and keeping up with everyone around me is part of the comparison trap of life!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, March 24th, 2014
      I'm glad I could help, Natalie! There seems to be even more pressure these days to keep up wight eh Joneses. It is an unhappy way to leave because you can never truly "catch up". There is always something new. The best thing you can do is figure out what makes you happy and work towards achieving those things, regardless of whether the Joneses would approve. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!
  7. Monday, March 24th, 2014
    I've never been much of a "Keeping up with the Joneses" type of person unless it is about traveling. You have to remember that not everyone has the same financial situation!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, March 24th, 2014
      Me either, although in LA, it's quite prevalent so I have to be extra mindful. :) And you are absolutely right, everyone has a different financial situation and we need to respect that.
  8. Monday, March 24th, 2014
    It is hard to beat this mindset, but the tips you gave are great! I am still working to defeat this one myself. Great post!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, March 24th, 2014
      Thanks! I have no doubt you can beat it. The fact that you realize it's something you do and need to defeat it - is a great start! Having your own set of goals to work towards will definitely help make it easier for you too.
  9. Monday, March 24th, 2014
    Great post Shannon! If I am unaware of the circumstances surrounding a person's purchases or haven't been asked to share my opinion, I should not step out to judge the decisions of others. I don't know why they are making those decisions or if they have the money to do so. It's completely their choice; whether or not I agree with it is another matter. My values are my own and I shouldn't voluntarily project them onto someone else.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, March 24th, 2014
      You got it, Brian! I see a lot of people make judgement on how others spend their money. Part of it is, of course, human nature but we need to remember everybody have different values. Our focus should be on creating our best life, not worrying about whether or not they should have bought whatever.
  10. Monday, March 24th, 2014
    Prior to starting my PF blog I had never even heard the phrase "keeping up with the joneses". And I do not feel I have ever lived my life that way.

    I guess that may be the way that some people end up in debt. They want to live a life that they truly cannot afford, as was documented on the weekend potentially about Mick Jagger’s Late Girlfriend L’Wren Scott. Apparently she was $6 million in debt. If I want to compare, it makes my debt look like peanuts, right. lol

    For us it wasn't so much about wanting a life we couldn't afford, it was about trying to better our lives by attempting to run a business on our own, which unfortunately cost us more money than we anticipated. So in that respect do I envy people who are able to make their business a success while we were not. Of course. But then I remind myself of all the successful people that didn't get to where they are today without incurring a number of failures or obstacles first. And I tell myself, if they can do it, I can too, I just have to keep at it.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, March 24th, 2014
      That's great that you've never fallen into the keeping up with the Joneses mindset. Sadly, there are lots of people who do believe they need to keep up and live beyond their means to do so. Starting a business is always tough. But you have the right attitude (and this is when comparing yourself to others can be motivating). I have to remind myself of the same thing too. Success can never come fast enough, but overnight success is rarity. Most overnight successes worked very hard (and experienced many failures) before they finally succeeded. I have faith you can do it, my friend!
  11. Monday, March 24th, 2014
    I really enjoyed this post! "When you focus on keeping up with whomever, you choose and value their life over yours." That is a great way to think of it. I generally conquer my urges to keep up with the Joneses by thinking that many of the Joneses are in debt, and just living the high life with their credit cards. I also focus on my own goals and am grateful for all the wonder things in my life. Sometimes the grass seems greener on the other side, but it might not be. I have a friend who makes a lot of money and has a lot of fancy/luxurious material things, but he's stressed and has very little free time.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, March 24th, 2014
      Thanks, Andrew! Focusing on your own goals and being grateful for all the good things in your life is exactly the right way to stave off those Keeping Up with the Joneses urges. The grass does often seem greener at first blush, but often times when we see it close up, we realize it's not as perfect as we thought.
  12. Monday, March 24th, 2014
    Like you said, it's much more important to focus on your own journey that focusing your energy on someone else's. I think we are all guilty or seeing other people's things, travel, or time off and thinking they must be spending too much or saving too little. I try to just be happy for them and continue to work towards what makes us happy.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, March 24th, 2014
      Me too, Kim. It's not always easy to judge, but I try to keep my response positive and stay focused on what makes me happy. I don't want to diminish the things I have worked hard to achieve by playing keep up.
  13. Monday, March 24th, 2014
    I've never really felt a big keeping up with the joneses feeling. At least not from a "stuff" standpoint. I do envy my friend's ability to travel more, but then I also envy people who are in happy relationships. It's just something I want to achieve myself. But that doesn't mean I do anything dumb to make at least the first one happen, like going into cc debt so I can travel more. At least I feel I have that going for me!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, March 24th, 2014
      Oh yes, I've definitely felt the same way and I think it's pretty normal. And thankfully, you know better then to indulge those urges and instead plan for them. Traveling is a lot of fun but it loses a lot of its appeal when comes with credit card debt.
  14. Monday, March 24th, 2014
    I love this comment Shannon "your goals are your #1 defense against unnecessary spending." I always remind my clients about what they want when they are getting "off path." When they focus on their own needs and wants it helps bring clarity to the financial choices they are making.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, March 24th, 2014
      Thanks, Shannon! Goals definitely give me clarity and keep me on track. Otherwise it is really easy to get caught up in the moment and spend mindlessly. It's why I advocate so strongly for everyone setting goals. Plus, it really helps eliminate those feelings of deprivation, which tends to make us want to spend.
  15. Girl Meets Debt
    Monday, March 24th, 2014
    My past credit card debt had more to do with the SATC "Carrie Bradshaw" debt rather than "keeping up with the Jones." It's taken me too long but I've finally realized that I have to learn to be happy with what I have. Stuff is nice but it's not as sexy as financial independence. ;)
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, March 24th, 2014
      I remember the episode where Carrie had no savings but like $80,000 worth of shoes. :) And you're right - financial independence is sexy!
  16. Monday, March 24th, 2014
    I definitely suffer from envy, but I try my best to remember that my goals and my journey are my own, and action steps (not purchases) are what are going to get me where I want to be.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Tuesday, March 25th, 2014
      We will always come across people who have things we want but staying focused on our journey is exactly the right attitude to have.
  17. Monday, March 24th, 2014
    I always focus on my accounts. I think it's cool to be in my landlord clothes, (old and paint spots) and everyone think I am a bum.... In reality, a multi-millionaire. At least no one tries to rob me.

    Let everyone else buy the jet skis and fancy cars, and I will focus on jumping out of the rat race early.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Tuesday, March 25th, 2014
      LOL! That's right - we need to focus on the things that matter to us, and not be distracted by what others are doing.
  18. Monday, March 24th, 2014
    Hi Shannon, I'll admit... I sometimes struggle with this. Especially with my best friend, when I see her family take multiple vacations a year and we're saving up to return to Disneyland next year. Only her significant other really works, and they have a mortgage and a car payment, so I suspect (though I'll never ask) that they do charge things. I remind myself that we live differently, if we can't pay for it, we don't buy it. I'm content to be debt free.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Tuesday, March 25th, 2014
      Don't worry, Corinne. This is something almost all of us struggled with on occasion. It is hard when we see others doing things or have things we would love too. Like you, we chose to only buy or do the things we can afford. Sometimes it's hard but the peace of mind is priceless.
  19. Tuesday, March 25th, 2014
    When I was a kid I used to care more about this. I had to have the Gap sweater etc etc as I got older I realized my friends don't care what I have and it's silly to try and impress people who don't add value to your life.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Tuesday, March 25th, 2014
      Great point, Catherine! I do agree that the younger we are the easier it is to fall into this trap. We think we need to have those things for our friends to like us. As we grow older, we realize that's not the case with our real friends.
  20. Tuesday, March 25th, 2014
    " When you focus on keeping up with whomever, you choose and value their life over yours." LOVE that, Shannon. Since we moved to the country, and are not face to face with materialism every day, we have completely lost our urge to keep up with the Joneses. It's like we are now on the outside looking in and we can see what a waste it is. Whew!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Tuesday, March 25th, 2014
      Once you get to that place where you are on the outside looking in, you do realize how much of a waste that keeping up mindset is. There is nothing better than understanding what is you want for your life and working towards making it a reality.
  21. Tuesday, March 25th, 2014
    The Joneses are broke and in debt! I've realized that over the past few years. Most people who are actually wealthy don't feel the need to put it on display.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Tuesday, March 25th, 2014
      Yes, that is the dirty secret of the Joneses, isn't it? Somehow we've built them to mythical proportions and don't see the truth.
  22. Tuesday, March 25th, 2014
    Anytime I'm "jonesing" to get some new item, I realize that most of the people that have it are up to their eyeballs in debt, and it really doesn't change anything about their life, except for where the HAVE to spend their money. I'm much happier realizing that my money will work for me, instead of me being the reason someone else gets rich.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Tuesday, March 25th, 2014
      It's true so many people feel compelled to spend their money and have the latest in everything. The sad part is it often means they don't have the money to do the things they truly want. And yes, having your money work for you is far more rewarding, than spending on things that don't matter!
  23. Wednesday, March 26th, 2014
    Hi Shannon.

    Great post. You know, I was never really concerned with what other people had. I just think about the debt they have.

    I have a friend who told me she alone had over 10,000 in credit card debt alone. She's sporting some nice handbags and shoes but she worries about how she's going to pay down that debt.

    I'm like...better you than me girlfriend...just let me borrow the shoes :).

    Happy Wednesday hun!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Wednesday, March 26th, 2014
      That's right! Borrow her shoes and not her debt! So many people sort of slip into debt. They promise to pay their bill off next month, then it's next month and so on. $10k is certainly a big number, but it's absolutely possible to eliminate it too. She just has to be committed to doing so and take action. Thinking about the debt others may have is certainly one way to prevent you from wanting to "keep up"!
  24. Thursday, March 27th, 2014
    Ahhh…two weeks in the Maldives…sorry, where was I? Ha! I think you're right in that by having authentic goals you set for yourself and your family, you can focus better on the things you truly want for yourself. I think reminding myself of what I'm working towards tends to push all that other stuff aside. And sometimes that's hard to do. The Joneses may different goals, different priorities, and different incomes or they may be putting stuff on credit to keep up with the Smiths. So it's important to be grateful for what you have.
    More stuff won't make you happier. Well, at least long-term.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, March 27th, 2014
      Wouldn't it be lovely to have two weeks in Maldives. Someday … :) Yes, I'm the same way. When I can focus on what I want to achieve for myself and my family, it helps me stay grounded and not tempted by what the Joneses have. It is incredibly important to be grateful for what you have and I find by doing so - I am again less influenced by those Joneses.
    • Blaze
      Friday, March 28th, 2014
      Funny how we're all so different in what makes our hearts sing. I had to google Maldives to see if it was what I assumed. It is - beautiful weather, beaches and ocean. Some people just want to unplug from their lives and do as little as possible and indulge in whatever is on offer (sun, sand, food and drink). It's not the kind of travelling I like to do, but I totally get that it appeals to loads of people and if that's your ultimate get away then it has to be a priority and something else has to go to make it happen. The folks who drive me nuts are the ones who spend on every shiny thing that catches their eye and then complain that they can't afford X. Well actually you could, but you didn't make that your priority. It seems logical, but apparently many people think they are entitled to have everything and are resentful when the money runs out.
      We decided several years ago that retiring early while taking an annual European trip in the meantime are our only priorities. To make that happen we've cut out virtually everything most people thing is completely normal. Our lifestyle choices wouldn't suit lots of people, but that's the beauty of choice. When you've clearly identified what is important, it's surprising to see how little we missed all the stuff we'd been doing just because everyone else was. Now we thoroughly enjoy our trips and the count down to retirement. As for everything else I see people enjoying, I try to believe they've consciously chosen that item/activity as a priority. In the back of my mind I can't help but wonder or even worry that they don't realize there are other options. If driving that car or living in that house is you personal priority and you've given up other things to have them, then I'm truly happy for you. If on the other hand you actually have no idea of the opportunity cost of those choices then I feel sorry for you sitting in your luxury car or pulling up to your McMansion.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Sunday, March 30th, 2014
      I agree it is important to know what your priorities are and focus on achieving them. Too many people don't take the time to figure out how they truly want to use their money and just buy things. Certainly things that appeal to them but without consideration as to how they fit into the big picture. Knowing the life I want to create for my family helps me be less influenced by what others are doing.
  25. Thursday, March 27th, 2014
    this was a big struggle for me at one time.. i would see my neighbors with their luxury cars and their new macbook pros, and yeah-- i was jealous.

    but i have thankfully started to accept that having these things will really not make me any happier. true happiness comes from spending time with my loved ones and being grateful for what i already have.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, March 27th, 2014
      It is so easy to get caught up with playing "keep up". We are surrounded by people who have nice things and it's very easy to want those things too. The good news is you got to that place where you know what truly makes you happy and isn't lots of stuff.
  26. Thursday, March 27th, 2014
    I tried keeping up with them and it failed for me. After some time I realized that why do I need to keep up with someone living with a false sense of entitlement? I keep up with myself now.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, March 27th, 2014
      It's impossible to keep up because once you think you finally have, somebody has something new or went someplace exotic. You can only live for yourself and I'm glad that's what you are doing now. :) It feels a lot better too!
  27. Thursday, March 27th, 2014
    Avoiding keeping up with the joneses is tough, especially since they're right next to use every time we step out the door! Best thing we can do is compare ourselves to ourselves and try ti constantly improve on what we think is important. The guy down the street could have a nice new BMW, but could also be losing sleep at night because of the monthly payments. Focus on yourself is the best advice.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, March 27th, 2014
      You got it, Syed! We spend too much time worrying about what others think or how they are spending their money when the only person we should want to make happy is ourselves. Staying focused on my goals, definitely reduces the influence the Joneses have me. Because like you said, they are around 24/7 so we have to have some sort of defense. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!
  28. Friday, March 28th, 2014
    Great tips for "getting over" the Jones. I just wish more people would listen. Every now and then I run into people playing the "Keeping up with Jones" game. Just not fun! I'm happy you bought that brand new Lexus, but I'm perfectly fine driving my ten year old SUV, thank you. I have no car payment! :)

    That's my biggest "get over it" moment ... if I have to borrow money or take money out of savings to make a purchase, I need to really really really need it. Not want it, need it. Like a roof over my head or something.

    Have a great weekend!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Sunday, March 30th, 2014
      Sadly so many people feel compelled to "keep up" instead of focusing on what it they truly want. It's great that you figured how to keep yourself from needing to "keep up" and a system from mindless spending.
Shannon Ryan SHANNON RYAN, CFP®
  • Meet Shannon

    "As a Certified Financial Planner, it is my passion to help individuals and families build a healthy relationship with money. I look forward to helping you raise financially confident kids.” - Shannon Ryan
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