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September 30, 2021 / F&M Trust
Why keeping up with the Joneses is never a good idea

Why keeping up with the Joneses is never a good idea

Your neighbor just bought a new 21-foot bass-fishing boat (and a new truck to tow it). Your sister just posted more pictures of her luxurious vacation to Barbados (for the fourth time this week). And your best friend just upgraded his man cave with not one, but FIVE vintage arcade games (including Donkey Kong).

If you’re feeling a little jealous — and maybe even feeling the urge to run out and upgrade your own possessions to maintain the same social status — don’t worry, that’s normal.

It’s especially true for home improvement projects. More than a third (34%) of all home improvements or renovations are done to keep up with or impress somebody else, according to one study. As for bass-fishing boats and vintage arcade games, there’s no study about those purchases, but we’re willing to bet that at least some are envy-driven as well.

Now for the good news: Don’t worry about the Joneses. Let them spend their money however they like, because keeping up with the Joneses might feel good in the short term, but it’s rarely good for your long-term financial well-being. Here’s one reason why, followed by two ways to break the habit of trying to outspend your peers:Graph showing decreasing assets

1.) YOU DON’T KNOW THE JONESES TRUE STORY — Maybe the Joneses make a lot more money than you do, which is how they can afford those toys. Or, perhaps more likely, the Joneses have five maxed-out credit cards and are struggling financially, like so many others. You don’t want to keep up with that.

2.) EMBRACE YOUR FINANCIAL THRIFTINESS — Be proud that you’re financially savvy and that you don’t feel the need to spend frivolously on things you don’t really need. That doesn’t mean you should judge people who do spend; it just means you can unlock a lot of happiness if you can learn to love your economical and sensible self. Which pairs nicely with our this next tip.

3.) BE HAPPY WITH WHAT YOU’VE GOT — “Stuff” only creates temporary happiness. You may not have a bass-fishing boat or an awesome collection of vintage arcade games, but you’ve got a lot of things your neighbor or friends don’t — and maybe a few things for which they envy YOU. In other words, count your blessings, and remember: Someone else is happy with a lot less than what you have.
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