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Who are the Joneses? And why are people trying to keep up with them?

Who are the Joneses? And why are people trying to keep up with them?

| August 10, 2016

The phrase, “Keeping up with the Joneses” originates with the comic strip Keeping up with the Joneses, created by Arthur R. “Pop” Momand in 1913. The strip depicts the social climbing McGinis family, who struggle to “keep up” with their neighbors, the Joneses. The strip ran until 1940 but the impact of the phrase is even more relevant today.

Psychology points to conspicuous consumption resulting from people caring about their standard of living in relation to their peers. Back in 1899 when the conspicuous consumption concept was first introduced, you either had money or you didn’t. But today, credit cards, home equity loans and loose lending arrangements make it relatively easy for consumers at any income level to spend money they don’t have. As a result more easily creating a Joneses persona, without really having it “all”.

The biggest problem with keeping up with the Joneses is that people who live beyond their means almost always make up the difference by incurring debt or failing to save.

Ironically, those who try to live the high life at the expense of savings or by incurring debt actually decrease their chances of ever attaining that lifestyle!

It’s hard to escape the influence of those around us who live seemingly wealthy, free-and-easy lifestyles. And it’s really, really hard to escape the noise of all the advertisers who desperately want us to keep up with those people who are forking over money for more stuff.

The next time you face a decision to “keep up with the Joneses” consider your financial priorities and whether the purchase is going to align with those priorities.