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Which Jones Family Are You Trying To Keep Up With?

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Everyone has heard the expression “Keeping up with the Joneses”. In fact, I have used it on this site quite a few times. But I started giving it some thought and I started to realize that most of us, on purpose or on accident, try to keep up with the Joneses we see on television and in magazines, and not the real Joneses that are living next door to us.

The reason I think that is because if we truly had an inside look into our neighbors affairs, we would see that they are probably just like us…they probably own the same kind of cars, the same kind of appliances, they have done the same kind of remodeling that we would do. After all, they live in our neighborhood, so they are probably very similar to us. So when we feel like we don’t have as much as our neighbors or we need newer stuff to feel more accepted by society, I think we are judging our lives by the fake ones we see on our favorite television shows and not by the reality surrounding us.

Look around your block or neighborhood; is everyone else driving a BMW while you are driving a Toyota Yaris? Does everyone else have a much nicer house than you do? Do they get to take more vacations than you? Chances are, they aren’t and they don’t. They are making things work just like you are, and some of them might have a few more things than you do, and some of them might not. But really, they are probably very similar.

I think this is important to keep in mind as we are inundated with advertising proclaiming to deliver the good life if only we bought that new Mercedes, took this new drug, bought that new house in the hills. The people on TV look and act different than we do because they are different than we are…they are actors, on a television show or in an ad, trying to either entertain you and/or sell you something. Truthfully we don’t need a new washer and dryer if our existing one still works fine. But I guarantee they can make you think you need a new one because of how white their shirts are! The Joneses you might be trying to keep up with are not real Joneses, because those real Joneses are just like you.

Just something to give some thought to before you feel like people have better stuff than you, more stuff than you, are more successful than you. Take a minute to check out your true surroundings, and not the fake ones created on television. I think you will find that most everyone around is just like you, and there is no one you need to be keeping up with. It’s never a good idea to try to keep up with people anyway; it’s much more important to carve your own way, make up your own mind as to what is important in life and not let others dictate what you should or should not be doing. But it’s especially important to not let advertising or television fool you into a false sense of what you aren’t or what you should be.

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Comments (29)

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  1. I’m glad to be a rogue soul and never worried about how others view me status. Such a mindset has lead me to a more enjoyable life in terms of finance and mental well-being :-)

  2. david says:

    Lucky indeed!

  3. dong says:

    I really do TV these days paints such a unrealistic notion of the world. Everyone on TV is not fabulously rich. What happened to the middle class or the working class?

  4. Joe says:

    They might all have similar affairs, but they might not… let’s not forget the ‘millionaire next door’ types, as well as those near the edge.

    I know a couple who live in a typical house in a middle-class neighborhood. The husband is retired, the wife is still working a desk job. They drive a 10 year old Toyota. They own several commercial properties and a huge stock portfolio. Their net worth is close to $10 million, but I doubt if any of their neighbors know.

    If you’ve never actually worked with people’s finances, you might be surprised what lurks beneath the surface. Often the amount of wealth people *have* is inversely related to the amount of wealth they *show*.

  5. [...] just read a really interesting post by David at My Two Dollars. His post, “Which Jones family are you trying to keep up with?” struck a chord with me. I’ve been thinking and reading about consumption and [...]

  6. Pinyo says:

    “But it’s especially important to not let advertising or television fool you into a false sense of what you aren’t or what you should be.”

    Great point. This is scary; especially for younger children who are easily influenced.

  7. david says:

    Especially kids!

  8. devil says:

    I always figured “The Joneses” were our peers and friends, not literally our neighbors. Most of my neighbors are hillbillies anyway – who’d want to keep up with that?

    We haven’t had TV reception in our house for over four years. I don’t know what’s “hip” anymore and can’t get myself to care.

  9. david says:

    Devil – Joneses are anyone that you compare yourself too, and it’s great that you don’t! That is one reason we are moving away from Los Angeles, because we find ourselves falling into that trap without even realizing it!

  10. [...] Which Jones Family Are You Trying To Keep Up With? | My Two Dollars Great article about how keeping up with the Jones is lame. [...]

  11. Great article! My eyes were opened this summer when I had a conversation with one of my “Jones” friends. On the outside it seems like they have a lot more than we do, but the reality is they’re stretched even more than we are, financially speaking.

    Appearances can be deceiving.

  12. [...] Which Jones Family Are You Trying To Keep Up With? by David @ My Two Dollars. Take a minute to check out your true surroundings, and not the fake ones created on television. [...]

  13. [...] I enjoyed My Two Dollars commentary on which Jones family are we keeping up with, and then Advanced Personal Finance’s response in “Climbing the Consumption Ladder [...]

  14. [...] Which Joneses Family Are You Trying to Keep up With at My Two Dollars — Very good article by David. A bit off topic but I know a couple from church named Jones, and they’re the most down to earth and humble people I have ever met. So every time I hear the expression “keeping up with Joneses” I chuckle a bit because if everyone lived like the Joneses I know the world would be an awesome place. [...]

  15. Great advice. Media and marketers today are constantly trying to tell us what we need and why we need it. I get so sick of it.

  16. mary says:

    have to agree w/ what Joe says above about the millionaire next door types. While I am not a millionaire (yet!) no one knows that our net worth is anywhere near what it is. We have small house, 2 old cars, and are in our mid 30s. The librarian at the library gave my son a free video rental the other day because (I think) she thinks we are poor! I tried not to smile. I make a 6 figure salary, but you certainly can’t tell by looking at me.

  17. david says:

    That’s great mary, that’s the best way to be!

  18. [...] Which Jones Family Are You Trying To Keep Up With? from My Two Dollars [...]

  19. [...] I really loved My Two Dollars’ post called “Which Jones Family Are You Trying to Keep Up With“. Take a look at it [...]

  20. [...] of Personal Finance #118 was hosted over at Money, Matter and More Musings and included was my post “Which Jones Family Are You Trying To Keep Up With?” which was chosen as an Editors Choice. If you have a minute, you should also check [...]

  21. [...] Which Jones Family Are You Trying To Keep Up With? by David @ My Two Dollars. Read this and try answering the question in light of the above discussion: is it the advertising “pressure”? [...]

  22. My strategy for combating the urge to keep up with the Joneses…

    There’s a really simple strategy I like to employ for fighting the urge to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ we all feel sometimes. When presented with an in-your-face expression of conspicuous consumption, I ask one simple question. Here&…

  23. [...] Which Jones Family Are You Trying To Keep Up With? – My Two Dollars [...]

  24. [...] 2005. Combine our “need” for the latest and greatest (even when we cannot afford it), keeping up with the Joneses, and the recession we are sitting in right now, and it doesn’t paint a pretty picture. We are [...]

  25. [...] Another great way that we have found to avoid the daily assault of Buy This is to only watch TV we have recorded on our DVR. If I sit in front of the TV because I am bored, I cannot fast forward or skip over the commercials…but if I plan my viewing in advance and record all the shows I like, I can watch them commercial free. That way, I don’t even see the stuff that I somehow “need” to buy – even though I didn’t “need” it a few minutes ago. Now, of course I watch TV unscheduled sometimes – that’s just the way it is if you have a TV in your house. But I do try to limit when that happens and I always hope that there is a show or two recorded so I can watch it on my time, not theirs. We have found that this greatly reduces our need to try to keep up with The Joneses! [...]

  26. [...] do believe that there are the obvious causes of this behavior, such as the “Keep up with the Joneses” routine or the “I will buy my way to happiness” route, but there has to be more [...]

  27. [...] a few pages on what I consider one of the biggest downfalls that people suffer from – the “Keeping Up With The Joneses” issue. This kind of thinking leads so many people down the wrong path that I am glad to see [...]

  28. [...] made. I think most credit card debt comes from two things….the first one being the “keeping up with the Joneses” routine that is fed into by television, celebrities, movies, music or those glossy magazines [...]

  29. [...] household term, and some stores are even going back in time to offer layaway programs. The idea of Keeping Up With The Joneses has lost some of its appeal, now that people are having trouble just making ends meet – never mind [...]

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