Financial Freedom is Important. Keeping Up with the Joneses is Not.

This is a guest post from Jana at Daily Money Shot. Much like me, Jana is working her way out of debt, except she only has about two years left to be debt free! Visit her site and check out more of her awesome posts.

Bucksome Boomer recently wrote a terrific post on keeping up with Joneses. The general gist of the post, ignore the Joneses and do your own thing, really resonated with me because that’s how I’ve chosen to live my life for the last 4 years. Why only 4 years? Because that’s when my husband and I decided that we no longer wanted to be in debt.

Getting out of debt and not keeping up with the Joneses is hard when you’re related to the Joneses. My family, and to an extent my husband’s family, prides itself on gadgets bought, vacations taken, home upgrades made, meals eaten in expensive restaurants, and other trappings of the perception of financial success. As such, they assumed that we were on the spending bandwagon, too. They believed that material possessions, vacations and expensive food were as important to us as they were (and, sadly, still are) to them. In all fairness, it was a pretty good assumption since we had been doing it for as long as they remembered. I really can’t fault them for the pressure they continued to place on us to keep up with their spending—that’s how they live. In a perpetual cycle of one-upsmanship. We dug deep, though, and realized we had to just say no.

Saying “we can’t afford it” became so commonplace that people stopped asking us for plans. We stopped receiving invitations to parties. We stopped getting invited out to dinner. People even stopped coming to our house because it was not the nicest house on the block. We did lose some friends during this time and, amongst our families and friends, we started being perceived as (and treated like) the poor ones. That was a hard pill to swallow, especially knowing that we were sacrificing in order to be able to afford a future for us and our daughter. It was also hard because by no stretch of the imagination were we ever poor. It makes me a little sad that I live amongst people who judge proximity to poverty based on where you vacation, which generation iPod you own or what gaming system you have.

Facebook was the hardest for me to deal with. For as confident and secure as I was (and still am) in our decision to stop keeping up with the Joneses, seeing pictures of friends’ and families’ gigantic houses, shiny new cars and boats, fancy vacations and general financial excess did spurn feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, anger and resentment. I got around it by telling myself that most of them were financed to the hilt (whether it was true or not, I don’t know, but telling myself it was true really worked). It was still difficult; Facebook, for me, exacerbates I-want-it-now-itis. Sometimes I talked myself down from the Cliffs of Insanity (read: the mall, bookstores, Vera Bradley’s website) by telling myself that what I have is fine and acceptable and perfect for my needs. Other times, I would busy myself with baking or playing with my daughter or watching a movie with my husband. Usually, I would shut my laptop with a harsh snap, sulk for a few minutes and eat a cookie. But I never wavered in my resolve to put our debt behind us.

By sacrificing for the last few years, our financial picture has brightened to the point where we can now, if we choose, participate in activities or buy new items or go on long weekend vacations. But it’s not about competing with or keeping up with those I used to envy. Now, it’s about spending my money wisely on items that will make me happy and have practical, every day use. I refuse to fill my house with unnecessary junk just because everyone’s doing it. I’ve never been one of the cool kids. I’m certainly not going to start now.

This entry was posted in blogging, debt, goals, guest post, spending. Bookmark the permalink.
  • Fabulouslyfrugirl

    Thank you for sharing this article. I come from a large family as well, and some of those family members are the Joneses. Right now I pretend that I am still in debt and paying off student loans if they ask me why I am not splirging on designer jeans and clothes.

    I know it’s not honest, but it’s less confrontational than telling them that I dint need those things and what I have works for me.

  • Dee

    “I got around it by telling myself that most of them were financed to the hilt (whether it was true or not, I don’t know, but telling myself it was true really worked).”

    Not to be snippy, but that doesn’t sound like you’re secure in your decision not to keep up. When we have to put others down to feel better, it says more about us than them….The truth is, some people just have more money than we do, or different priorities.

  • Kevin Brunelle

    I dealt with this for a little while with my family. I have always been frugal (cheap in their eyes).

    For some of them, their overspending has left them in bad shape these days. Keep to the path you’re on… it is the best one.

  • Jana

    You’ll notice that I said “got around it”, not “get around it”. I think when you’re in the beginning stages of stopping keeping up with the Joneses, you’ll tell yourself anything to make it more bearable regardless of how it may make you look. Over time, as you become more comfortable with your decision, you stop being judgemental.

    At least that’s how it worked for me.

  • Jana

    Hey, you do whatever works for you. Family is the hardest to be confrontational with because they are almost impossible to escape. So is family gossip. Sometimes it’s easier to be slightly dishonest than become fodder for the family gossip page. Eventually, though, you’ll stop caring about what they think and become honest. If they love you, they should accept your decisions.

  • Jana

    Thanks, Kevin. Some of my family is in pretty bad shape as well. I feel for them but there’s no talking to them. So, I’ve just learned to let it be and do my own thing.

  • MommaStar

    This article hit soo close to home for me. Thank you so much for sharing. Hubby’s family is the extravagant type and my family is the judge and point at people who don’t buy on a whim type. We have also lost a lot of friends because we turn them down so much and yes we do get treated like the poor folks but it’s ok I’m happy knowing in the end who your true friends are anyways. As for family the unfortunate part is that it’s really true you can’t pick your families as you do your friends so I just steer clear of their sly remarks and continue to do me. :)

    Thank you again for reminding me that THE JONESES SUCK! LOL

  • Marie at FamilyMoneyValues

    ‘The Jone’s’ are headed for a long worklife - you’ll be enjoying retirement while they are still groping to turn the alarm clock off every day.

  • 101 Centavos

    The Joneses can have their shiny pretty toys. More power to them, and more savings for you…