Ignore the Joneses and Live Well

by Derek

Do you know who your Joneses are? I’m sure you do. They’re the couple with the top of the line everything! For all of you ladies, you notice the expensive jewelry, the clothes, the handbags, and of course, those gorgeous shoes that you wish were on your feet.  And, for you men, you see your friend haul out his top-of-the-line lawnmower, then the weed whacker, then the edger, and finally, the blower to finish things up (not to mention the boat, the car, and that amazing house)!

For some reason, these friends of ours seem to have everything, and without even realizing it, you’re trying to keep up with them! Your yard is so small, you can probably cut down the grass with a 9-iron, but instead, you have a need for $2,000 lawn tractor that could take care of your city block in 20 minutes! It’s because of those stinking Joneses that you can’t seem to ignore!

I have a buddy that I would consider my Jones friend. Out of high school, he already had some savings in the bank; then, rather than go to school, he continued to work for the family business. A few years later, he bought a house and my jealousy began to creep in (I was basically still living with my parents). Next came the lawn mower, the quad, the big screen TV, the PS3 (two of them actually), the new grill, and a beautiful new black truck. It was so hard for me to ignore these purchases because I wanted them all so badly (especially the big screen TV, since ours is only 17″)!

After years of ignoring my friend and his sweet stuff, the tables are finally turning. If I would have tried to keep up with him back then, I would have a mountain of debt, and a bunch of depreciating assets that would be worth next to nothing in a few years. Instead, I stayed my course, paid down my debts, and am now in a financial position to buy a house, a second car, and have enough left over for yearly vacations. In fact, at this very moment, I am in Las Vegas, overlooking the city from the 52nd floor of Trump Towers.

And where is my friend? He’s still looking for that lawn mower that basically has the function of a pickup truck to service his tiny suburb yard…. Learn to ignore the Joneses and pretty soon, you’ll become them! You will be buying everything with cash and everyone will wonder how you did it!

This story is not a “hey, look at me” story. Rather, it’s just a real-life example of what’s possible for you! Ignoring those Joneses is tough, but if you ignore them long enough, you’ll soon be loving life and won’t have a care in the world! Good luck!

Do you have a couple that always seems to buy what you want? What have they purchased, and how well have you done to ignore them?

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Elisabeth July 20, 2011 at 6:29 am

Thank you for this article! It is a good reminder for me because even though I feel like I don’t have to keep up with the Joneses, it’s hard to remember sometimes. I’m only 22 so a lot of my friends are similar to your friend. Sometimes I get a little jealous…. but then I look at my savings and feel better! 🙂

Derek July 20, 2011 at 7:32 am

Yep! Your friends will continue to get bigger and better things, but by the time you’re in your late 20’s, they will be contricted by debt, and you will be free to do whatever you want! Keep up the great work with your beefed up savings! 🙂

Money Beagle July 20, 2011 at 7:59 am

The best thing you can do is focus on yourselves. We have a lot of friends who are living more the high life, but they also have both people working, where we chose to sacrifice my wife’s income for the sake of having her raise our children. It sucks many times when we have to pass over things we want, but we stay focused by saving to meet goals along the way and to keep our eyes on the bigger picture.

Derek July 20, 2011 at 9:03 am

That must be tough to live on one income. My wife and I will most likely do that when we have children, but we’re hoping to replace her income with her freelance photography and my web income. Then we can have those kids and go on great vacations too! 🙂

Marie at FamilyMoneyValues July 20, 2011 at 10:38 am

I hate to admit it, but I’m pretty angry at all of those high rollers who lived well on credit for so many years. They had the big houses, the new cars, the expensive new furniture, the boats and etc. I plugged along paying my bills and saving/investing my money, making do with my tiny house filled with old stuff.

Now I am financially independent with a lot of cash to spare, but because of the economy (which I blame squarely on the high rollers), I get diddly squat interest on my cash.

Unfortunately, we savers are being punished for the fun that others had in the past – but that won’t stop me from continuing to be a saver!

Derek July 20, 2011 at 11:22 am

But, think about your high-roller friends that might have a load of debt to pay. If they lose their job (which is entirely possible), they might be out on the street! At least you still have your house and a comfortable lifestyle! 🙂

Maggie@SquarePennies July 20, 2011 at 12:57 pm

We’ve seen it all too. While raising our 4 kids on 1 income we had to watch our pennies. We didn’t go into debt with all of the “must-haves” we saw. As you say, now the tables are turned. We are finanically pretty secure & able to take trips and do pretty much as we please in retirement. The “high rollers” are now worried about being able to pay their bills & scurrying to find extra jobs. It didn’t dawn on us to use debt as a way to live a higher standard of living. We just didn’t understand how they could do it. Now we know.

Derek July 20, 2011 at 4:28 pm

I bet you’re glad that you never went into debt like your friends! Now you are free to do as you please and your friends will probably be working forever, and leaving their kids with nothing.

Jackie July 20, 2011 at 4:44 pm

I guess I’ve been lucky because I just don’t like a lot of “stuff”, so I don’t feel compelled to accumulate even when people around me are doing so. I do have a friend though who takes frequent trips to places I want to go (which uh is basically anywhere) and I’d love to be able to do the same as often as she does. Time-wise it’s just not working for us yet though.

Derek July 20, 2011 at 6:03 pm

Don’t worry Jackie! If you keep saving and investing (like I know you are), and you’ll be taking those trips in no-time! Great job being smart with your finances.

101 Centavos July 20, 2011 at 6:23 pm

I have a Joneses friend who regularly sends me pictures of their varied (and expensive) family vacations. Big house w/ a big mortgage, new truck, new four-wheeler, all the latest activities for the kids. I say, bully for you, friend. Glad you’re enjoying life.

Derek July 21, 2011 at 3:54 am

If, in 10 years, you see them having major financial issues, will you feel sorry for them? Sometimes, I have a hard time being compassionate when I know they just brought trouble on themselves all those years.

101 Centavos July 21, 2011 at 4:46 am

Not so very much… made your bed, lie in it, hope you like it.

Derek July 21, 2011 at 5:39 am

Haha! Well, I’m glad I’m not the only one!

Travis @DebtChronicles July 20, 2011 at 9:51 pm

I’m in a little different of a situation, but the post applies the same. We have some neighbors that are constantly buying the latest stuff, doing remodeling projects in their house that is barely 6 years old, and expanding their materialistic possessions.

By some things they’ve said recently, I have a feeling much of it is financed, and put on credit cards. Their debt is going up, and sooner or later, they will reach a breaking point.

We’ve already hit our breaking point…about two years ago. We’re on a debt management plan and have to live within a tight budget for 3 more years until our credit card debt is paid off.

I worry that my friends are headed down the same path we’ve already traveled – but when I try to talk to them about it the response I get indicates that either I’m completely misjudging the situation, they are in denial, or they simply don’t care that they are going further into debt.

Derek July 21, 2011 at 3:57 am

Money is always a tricky topic of conversation – I think it rates a little above politics in that regard actually. If you’ve tried to warn them once and they’ve completely disregarded your advice, then there’s little chance that you’re going to get through to them any time soon. If you wish to help, just be transparent about your progress and the stress that’s melting away as you pay off your debt. They will no doubt become curious about your story.

jana July 21, 2011 at 5:27 am

To me, Facebook is like one big Joneses monster. I constantly see pictures of people’s vacations and houses and boats and general material awesomeness and it wears on me after a while. I just have to keep reminding myself that while I may not have all of that, I have what I’m happy with and I’m almost out of nonmortgage debt. I also keep reminding myself that most of these people are probably financed to the hilt; it’s the rare person who can pay for all of this in cash.

Derek July 21, 2011 at 5:42 am

You know, I never thought of it like that, but you are right! If someone has something that they are really proud of (like their 35 foot boat…), they’ll probably display it on Facebook!

Maybe I’ll post a picture of a blank space and title it, “my debt load”. 🙂 Or…maybe I shouldn’t fight fire with fire. They’ll know the score 20 years from now.

Kristia {Family Balance Sheet} July 21, 2011 at 5:27 am

My husband and I are both in our 40’s and I think with age the envy goes away. You really see what kind of a trap those Jones’ got themselves into. It can be really hard, but like Money Beagle said, you have to just focus on yourselves, your goals and what’s right for you and your family.

Derek July 21, 2011 at 5:44 am

My wife and I are embarking on a new stage of our lives – home ownership! We are both super excited, but like many others, we’ll need a loan to get started. We have a different plan than most though. We’re going to set up a budget and get that house paid off in less than 4 years (if it was up to me, it would be 2.5, but perhaps that’s not overly practical). We’ll be completely debt-free, with a paid for house by the time we’re 30. At that point, life will be even more awesome than it is today! I can’t imagine carrying $200,000 in debt around with me every day. It must be terrible.

Harri @ TotallyMoney July 21, 2011 at 9:28 am

I don’t really suffer from Jones-based jealousy. I think that the recession did challenge and change some perceptions about uber consumerism and materialism. Maybe I’m weird but flashy cars and super deluxe jewellery really doesn’t impress me.

Derek July 21, 2011 at 1:04 pm

I have to say, I really used to enjoy keeping up with the Joneses, but as I grew up, I realized that many of the Joneses were actually broke. Actually, they were worse than broke! They were deep in debt with little hope of getting out!

I am now like you. When I see an incredibly expensive car, I think, “I wonder if he’s just a huge idiot with debt beyond his understanding?” Maybe some of them are legitimately rich, but most aren’t, and it no longer impresses me.

Little House July 21, 2011 at 3:32 pm

I’d add learn to ignore the Joneses and be your own self! Who wants to be deep in debt with lots of useless toys? I’d much rather be debt free and have the ability to do what I want, when I want rather than owning a bunch of crap that’s a burden. I also like to say that it’s cheaper to rent fun (like rent a boat for a day) than buy it and barely ever use it!

Derek July 21, 2011 at 4:37 pm

I like your idea of renting fun rather than owning a bunch of depreciating assets. If you only go boating once or twice a year, why not just rent a boat or borrow your friends? It way better than owning something that will eventually be worthless and cost you a bundle to store every year.

My wife and I know that we enjoy living debt-free and are thankfully on the same page. Accumulating a bunch of crap doesn’t entice us anymore either.

Mrs. C July 21, 2011 at 9:21 pm

Love the article! My problem is not so much with me or my husband keeping up but I find myself “wanting” to keep my kids up with the Joneses! We have been able to stay true to ourselves but every once in a while my mommy guilt of wanting to buy my kids the world sets in. Like back to school shopping. Our friends buy their kids a complete new wardrobe and shoes to match. I get a bit envious for a brief moment and then snap back to reality and am satisfying knowing my daughter will be the owner of such wardrobe in a years time thanks to being the proud recipient of her hand me downs! In the meantime teaching my kids the value of a true need and a want and how to earn and save for both is far more valuable than any materialistic thing we could by them.

rachel July 22, 2011 at 12:21 pm

What I find challenging is when the “Joneses” are in the family! So not only can you not ignore them, you also have to deal with them looking down on you because you don’t have brand new everything and a modest home. We are very practical with our money and have had some debt in the past that we’ve dug ourselves out of, so we don’t get too wrapped up in keeping up, but it is still hard to have people in your family look at you as the “poor relatives.”

Derek July 22, 2011 at 12:24 pm

I never thought about the comparison of Joneses when it comes to children, but you’ve got a great point! Kids know all the stuff that their friends have, if they don’t have the same clothes or toys, they’ll definitely let you know about it! Stay strong and you’ll have some great kids when they grow up! 🙂

Jessica July 30, 2011 at 12:55 am

Even the Jonses want to keep up with someone, and comparisons are so easy to make.

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