Do you spend your time wondering how your friends were able to afford their stunning home on the hill that has that sparkling blue swimming pool and an entertainment area that is truly to die for? Do you spend much of your time wishing that you had the means available to send your children to the very best private schools?
That you were able to buy them clothing for top designer kiddie’s boutiques and spend thousands of Rands filling their toy-rooms with endless games and toys? If you answered yes to these questions then you’re trying to keep up with the Joneses and you are probably finding that trying to reach the standard of living enjoyed by the Joneses is almost impossible to achieve.
The question is why are we trying so hard and why are we trying desperately to fit into a world where success is measured by the car you drive, the style of your house and the suburb in which you live in?
The reality of the situation is that keeping up with the Joneses is rather common and is born out of a desire to fit in and to be accepted. The term -Keeping up with the Joneses literally refers to comparing yourself to your neighbours, friends or family members and the Joneses are held as a successful family whose success can be seen by the material possession that surround them and their lifestyle. In the world of the Joneses, those who are unable to maintain or reach the same standard of living as the Joneses are perceived as failures!
The problems that arise when we compare ourselves to others
One of the problems that occur when we spend our lives comparing ourselves to others is that we lose sight of what is important to us. We may be quite happy with our practical and trustworthy old car but because it’s not the latest model and doesn’t have all the creature comforts of the luxury models – we trade it in and get ourselves into debt. We might be content to live in a modest, yet comfortable home but because it’s not in the right neighbourhood and because it lacks a breathtaking view – we swap it for something more up-market and a lot more costly. When we live life always measuring our worth by where we live, what motorcar we drive and what schools our children attend, we quickly find that keeping up is an uphill battle and worse still, the goal posts are always moving.
More than just feeling like a hamster on a wheel, the biggest problem caused by trying to stay on par with the fabled Jones’ family is that we spend money we don’t have. This means that we get into debt and because when we’re living the so-called high life, we want to flaunt the fact, we buy expensive gifts (usually on credit), we buy state-of-the-art TVs and expensive toys for our kids. The thing is when we start living beyond our means, we don’t have much chance to enjoy the spoils of the good life because much of our time is spent fretting about how we’re going to pay it back, or worse what will happen when the bubble bursts and the true -person’ beneath all the spoils is revealed. Will your friends still accept you?
Shift of focus
There is certainly nothing wrong with wanting more or desiring to live a comfortable life, however before you set out to acquire more, the question to ask yourself is – are you doing it because you want all the frills that goes with living the good life, or are you simply doing to keep up appearances? If you do not have the latest model luxury motorcar parked in your garage and if your children are not attending the finest private school, do you consider yourself as a failure? Worse – do you think that your friends and colleagues will see you as a failure?
Your focus should be on living a life that you dream of and above all living a lifestyle that you can afford. The moment you are honest with yourself and the moment that you give up on chasing unattainable dreams is the moment that you start living your life according to your own set of rules.
A lot of South African families are guilty of trying to keep up with the Joneses and the stark reality is that many SA families are living far beyond their means. Eventually the bottom falls out and they are left in a lot of debt. When families are struggling to pay back their debt they are not saving, and this is when the cold reality of trying to keep up with -rich’ friends and neighbours really hits home. What’s more is that most of the people who we are trying to keep up with (the Joneses) are themselves in the same position, battling to live according to their earnings and simply buying more on credit, in order to keep the outside world impressed.
The good news is that we all have the power to stop trying to keep up with the Joneses and we have the power to turn our lives around. We all need to make the decision that from here on out, we will follow our own dreams and we’ll stop trying to impress the world with our cars, our homes and our abundance of material possessions.
A debt counsellor will be able to assist over-indebted families to find a feasible solution on how they can get out of debt – and stay out of debt. When we stop trying so hard to keep up with the fabled Joneses, we realise that there is a lot more to life and we start to appreciate that life without debt is far sweeter.