Keeping up with the Joneses


(“Excuse me – Is this where the Joneses live?”)

Who the hell are these Joneses and why are we trying to keep up with them? I think that maybe someone needs to find these people and have a word. Are they even aware of the damage that they are doing? I think they might be the most dangerous family in the world, and it’s possible that they don’t even have a clue.

“Keeping up with the Joneses” is the idea that you need/want to spend your money on lifestyle items and luxuries in order to try and match the lifestyle that you think your neighbour/friend/colleague has. Regardless of whether or not you can afford it.

It’s such a damaging idea. And yet so easy to fall prey to.

Once upon a time, in a past life, I worked at an investment bank. Don’t get excited – I was an admin assistant, not the recipient of any million dollar bonuses.

The woman I worked next to (also an admin assistant) was dating one of the bankers and had access to far more money (his) than I did (don’t get me started on the feminist issues this raises). For example – for Valentine’s Day he took her to Jimmy Choo to choose some shoes. But she couldn’t decide which pair she liked so he bought her three! The next year it was a brand new customised car…

  • Working at that bank was really my first experience of high end lifestyles. I was straight out of university and a designer handbag had never even crossed my mind, let alone been something I thought I’d ever own. But this woman, along with many others, was coming into the office every day in her Jimmy Choos and chucking her Chloe handbag under the desk like it was No. Big. Deal.
  • Being in that environment, where everyone spent so much money, got inside my head way quicker than I ever thought possible. Suddenly, standard ‘anything’ wasn’t enough. There was apparently a gold-plated ‘better’ standard that I was previously unaware of and I wasn’t meeting it.

    This applied to everything. For example, hand cream. Yeah, I know. Where can you go wrong with hand cream? Well, let me tell you. That ordinary hand cream you buy from Boots that costs £3.99 is nothing, I tell you NOTHING, compared to a Shea-butter handcream in an embellished metal tube that costs £25 from L’Occitane. That shit is goooooood.

    Before I knew it, I was scrutinising every element of my life to see if it needed to be upgraded, in order for me to feel like I was ‘keeping up’ and fitting in.

  • The crystallising moment for me came when I was wandering through a department store on my lunch break and I picked up a pair of plain black Louboutin heels. When I clocked the price tag of £400, instead of falling over in shock like a normal person would, my instant reaction was, “Hey, that’s pretty reasonable.”
  • I mean, wtf?! To be fair, even I recognised that this was not a normal reaction and that something had gone a bit wrong in my brain on this one.
  • Fortunately for my personal sanity, the bank I was working at then went spectacularly bust in the financial crash and we all got made redundant (moral lesson: hire people who have lost sight of the value of money and this is what happens). I was back to having no money and far more perspective on everything. Much safer.
  • I don’t want to turn this into a lecture, but actually if people didn’t have this constant need to upgrade their lifestyles to match everyone around them, then the financial crash wouldn’t have happened in the first place. It happened because people borrowed more than they could pay back, to buy houses they couldn’t afford. Don’t get me wrong – the bankers and brokers were the scum who should never have lent them that money and profited off that desire, but nevertheless it just couldn’t have happened if the desire for more more more had not existed. If so many people weren’t trying to keep up with the Joneses.
  • So sod the Joneses, I say. The Joneses are probably trying to keep up with the Smiths anyway. It’s all just a dangerous circle which only leads to unhappiness.
  • Yes, a bigger, shinier car maybe feels good and makes you happy to drive. But the monthly payment for the car finance makes you feel bad, coz that’s money you could have spent on shoes. So then you buy the shoes on a credit card. But then you can’t afford the exotic holiday your friends are taking this year because of the repayments – so you get out a loan. Just a small one… etc., etc.
  • So how about you don’t buy the shiny car? Your old one will still get you there. And forget the designer shoes. They’re no comfier to wear than normal shoes and you’ll cry less when the dog chews them. And then maybe you could afford an amazing holiday, if that’s what you want, but now you can take it guilt free because it’s affordable.
  • Surely that’s worth more anyway?
  • As I said – sod the Joneses.
  • Fallen off the wagon

    (Some days you’re the passenger – some days you’re the donkey.)

    The title of this post is true in so many ways.

    Recently I’ve fallen off the wagon about limiting my spending; I’ve fallen off the wagon by way of keeping track of my spending and I’ve fallen way off the wagon in terms of writing this blog.

    This happens to me sometimes. I get so overwhelmed with trying to keep everything pushing forward towards our goals that I seem to burn out and have a mini rebellion against myself. It’s like I’m a two year old and my inner voice just says, “I don’t wanna” to everything. (Feeling a bit raw about 2 years olds this morning. Had to try and get a toddler dressed and ready on time when she didn’t want to, and I feel I’ve aged 100yrs in the process. It’s not even 8am yet…)

    So, yeah. I just sorta…stopped. Everything. We went on holiday for a few days which was lovely but seems to have derailed me because by the time we came back I couldn’t get back into the swing of things.

    Maybe I’m just trying to push forward on too many fronts. I read somewhere that it’s a tested fact that people have a limit for willpower. Like you have a tank and once it’s empty, there’s nothing. So it doesn’t matter how good your intentions are to meet a goal, if you’re also spending the willpower elsewhere – you’re gonna fail if you rely on willpower alone. There’s not enough to go round.

    This rings true for me. Often I’ll decide that I need to have a ‘life overhaul’ and rather than focus on one thing to change, I try and change EVERYTHING. Which obviously doesn’t work and when one thing fails, I just give up on it all and things go back to the way they were.

    So trying to focus on tracking my spending, limiting non-essential spending, paying down our debt, finishing our house renovation, focusing on a career goal at work, blogging in my free time and addressing various personal issues outside of my financial goals… Plus juggling a demanding full time job, with trying to see my kiddo and partner enough…. Yeah, I’m starting to see where it went wrong. All of that’s doable as long as I’m in a high energy mood but the moment I’m feeling a bit tired or low – it all feels too much and I drop everything but the essentials.

    So I’m trying to slowly pull myself out of my funk and identify those areas where I think I can focus some energy, while leaving some to spare. I’ve started tracking my spending again and gone back and updated my tracker spreadsheet. I’m still probably spending too much, but keeping track of where it’s going is the first step for addressing that. Plus I was starting to feel like I was constantly depriving myself and that always leads to a spending splurge for me, so I need to ‘treat’ myself a little from time to time. (I’m talking, buying some new makeup or a chocolate bar here and there just coz I want to – not splashing on a Cartier watch or anything!)

    And I’m going to start writing stuff here again if I can.

    Mostly I think I need to focus on getting our house renovation done to a point where we can actually move in. Because we haven’t had our own home since Dec 2016 and it’s starting to get to me. Enough is enough!