We all know those Joneses. Those people who live three doors down, who have the better house, the flashy car, and the nice clothes. They have a better everything. In fact, they have the life you wish you had. Does that sound familiar? If so, how do they make you feel? I’m guessing not great. And if you’re like the majority of folk, I’ll bet you often do something about it. In order to keep up with them I’ll bet you end up buying a load of stuff on credit to help you to look like them and feel like them; or at least to feel how we think they must feel.
But here's the rub. Most of the time, the life the Joneses have is all for show. When I was a child I was friends with a boy at school who was, together with his family, definitely Joneses. My parents really looked up to them because they had everything: the big house, the big car, the jewellery, the gadgets, even a Betamax video recorder (Yes, I realise that ages me somewhat!). They were the wealthiest and most successful people we knew. Or were they? It’s true, they weren’t hard up, but after a play date there I soon realised it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. I remember going upstairs to play in my friend's room and noticing the ceiling and the walls were covered in water stains. Whilst the downstairs rooms were immaculate, upstairs several of the rooms were really tatty. Noticing my surprise my friend explained that the roof had been leaking for years, but his parents didn’t want spend the money on fixing it because no one would see it! They really were buying things purely for how it looked to other people, often on credit (as I later found out).
That’s the thing about the Joneses. Often they’re not as affluent as they seem and, more often than not, their lives are based entirely on credit so it's bound to crumble at some point. So next time you’re tempted to live like the Joneses, I want you to remember four things:
Looking rich is not the same as being rich – I’ve seen his time and time again and in every single case, whatever you might think right now, buying stuff may give you a temporary rush but it will not make you happy in the long term.
Don’t splash the cash – If you're tempted to buy things to make yourself feel better or keep up with other people, by all means treat yourself but do so in moderation. Don't spend too much, and don't use credit to buy things because the image you're trying to keep up with is false.
Don’t spend tomorrow's money – if you buy things you don’t need on credit, in effect you’ll be selling out your future for a temporary high now. Bear in mind that in most cases, unless those Joneses change their habits, they'll find that when it comes to retirement, they'll end up with very little, whilst you'll be living a nice life.
Do not underestimate the impact of buyer's remorse - That's what you will feel if you buy things that you know you can't afford to keep up with other people and that’s never worth losing a good night’s sleep for.
Remember, how we spend and how we feel are inextricably linked. But you don’t need stuff to make you feel happy so make sure you don’t fall into that trap.
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