Author: Mr DDU.
One of the most common phrases out there in personal finance is the bad habit called ‘keeping up with the Joneses’. It simply means spending more than you should so that you can look more impressive than your neighbours, friends or family – whoever your ‘Joneses’ are. Or perhaps it can just simply be jealousy of what someone has, and you want it too.
This phenomenon can strike us at any time in more ways than you think:
Someone just got a brand new iPhone? – Maybe you’ll think you want one too.
Someone just renovated their house? – Maybe you want to do that too.
Someone that’s doing tons of travelling – you want that too.
It’s hard to avoid these thoughts sometimes; the grass always seems greener on the other side.
But often we don’t think about the full picture. The people who are travelling might work really hard at spending less than they earn and put their money towards experiences rather than material goods. The person who just renovated their home may have just remortgaged, taking 10 steps backwards financially for a shiny new kitchen. The people with fancy cars and houses may have tons of debt and not much invested for retirement.
In any case, this mindset is very unhealthy. Wanting what other people have is not necessarily what you want, or what would make you happy. Would people still buy Porsches or Audis if they weren’t trying to keep up with their Joneses? Would people really have an excessive amount of bedrooms in their house if they weren’t trying to show off? I don’t think most would. Showing off how much you don’t need your money is a very expensive habit.
‘Don’t covet thy neighbour’ has been one of the Ten Commandments for thousands of years – covet means to yearn or want something you don’t have. It’s been a problem for people for a very long time. The first step to overcoming a mental ‘problem’ such as jealousy is to acknowledge that it exists.
So that’s what the phrase ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’ means. But where did the phrase come from? Why have we decided that it’s the Joneses we want to keep up with, not the Robinsons?
Who were the original Joneses?
‘The Joneses’ phrase started its journey to stardom on the 31st March 1913 in the New York Globe. A guy called Arthur ‘Pop’ Momand created a comic about a fictional family called McGinis.
The McGinis family (Aloysius, Clorice, Julie and their maid Bella Donna) are always trying to match their neighbours, the Joneses, in a different way with each comic strip.
Throughout the comic’s 25 year history, we don’t actually see the Joneses. Perhaps that’s the point – it doesn’t actually matter what the neighbours are doing, but nonetheless the Joneses really alters our desires and goals. Even if it’s not actually what will make the McGinis family happy.
If you’d like to read through some of the comics, just Google ‘Keeping up with the Joneses comic strip’, tons of them come up. For the sake of potential copyright we’re not going to reproduce them on our blog.
Although the comic strip was short-lived, the concept is firmly in place. We always want more than we have. The entire premise of Keeping up with the Kardashians (catchy title right?) is to make us want their life and lifestyle (and all the products they sell).
The easiest way for us to avoid the keeping up with the Joneses syndrome is to understand that it’s okay to have the occasional jealousy. But also know that having what someone else has isn’t necessarily going to make us feel any better. As clichéd as this phrase is, ultimate happiness will always come from within, your mindset and how grateful you are for the current things you have in your life already. Exercising your willpower will always make it stronger.
Readers, did you know that’s where the phrase came from? Have you been caught up wanting the Joneses’ lifestyle or items recently?
Thanks for reading this article about our financial journey Down Under.
Onwards and upwards!