Why You Should Stop Keeping Up With the Joneses — and Help Your Kids Do The Same


April 2, 2018

Keeping up with the Joneses comes with a price—and it might be higher than you think. Overspending—on the newest iPhone, trendy clothes, or an Instagram-worthy vacation—adds up, but the real cost won’t be to your wallet, but instead, your wellbeing.This kind of mentality can hit kids hard too. While they’re young, you want to set an example that will not only save them loads down the line (and in the moment), but also give them the highest quality of life—which starts from the inside out. Spending like the “Joneses” may appear to have perks, here are four reasons why being more money-conscious is actually the better call.

You’re a role model for your kids.

Kids mimic their parents financial habits—that’s just a fact. If they see you spending money on things you can’t afford, and the only reason is because you want to come across a certain way to your community, they’ll likely pick up that habit when they start earning an income and making financial choices of their own in years to come. Is impressing your neighbors really worth the massive future cost to your kids?

Tip: Each time you opt out of a just-to-fit-in purchase, add it to a list of similar purchases you decided against. At the end of a week or month, add these up and decide on a treat everybody gets with some of that saved cash—something they really want, not whatever they might have mindlessly spent on.

Gratitude will get you and your kids farther than entitlement.

When we always get what we want, we never really appreciate what it is we have. Plus, when we get what we want—no matter how long it takes—we get used to it very quickly, meaning we quickly want more. Getting comfortable with constantly getting what we want builds an unhealthy sense of entitlement—the last thing you want when raising kids. Gratitude, on the other hand, permeates every aspect of our lives, and instilling this habit in your kids will have benefits across the board, not just financially.

Tip: Keeping up may be more about finding your place amongst peers, friends, and neighbors. What else can you build to create a positive reputation in your community? What practices can you add to your day-to-day life that emphasize gratitude over entitlement? (Hint: they don’t necessarily have to be about money or spending.)

Making independent choices builds self-esteem.

Yes, fitting in can feel good—but if we believe our worth is linked to our ability to fit in with the pack, and that differences that make us stand out are bad, that is actually detrimental to our self-esteem. Instead of building confidence because we’ve made a purchase to fit in, we end up more insecure than ever, and constantly concerned about what breaking away from the pack will do to our social standing or appearance. Confidence comes from making our own choices and standing by them, regardless of what other people think—and that kind of confidence is exactly what we need to teach our kids so they can grow up able to think for themselves and stand up for what they believe in.

Tip: This isn’t something you have to prove alone. Think through which friends or family members regularly make choices that aren’t necessarily popular, especially with how they spend money. Got a friend who takes the bus to work instead of drives? Who lives in a smaller house even though most of their friends live in big houses across town? These could be great role models to discuss with your kids!

Happiness comes from conscientious spending, not immediate gratification.

When we buy things, we expect that they will make us happy—but the rush of happiness from buying something doesn’t increase long-term joy, just your credit card bill. Working hard for what we want and the internal growth that it requires is a more sustainable form of happiness than the cycle of immediate gratification and letdown of spending on things we don’t really need. Teaching your kids about value and worth will not only set them up for a lifetime of financially sound choices, but also increase their happiness overall.

Tip: Talk through decisions with your kids as you make them. When they ask why your family isn’t getting a new car even though their friend’s parents just got one, turn the question around and ask them why they want one? Just to fit in with their friends? Turn it into a conversation.

Keeping up with Joneses is expensive in lots of ways—but proactively nottrying to keep up has lots of upsides, too. By modeling and highlighting alternative approaches to spending, you’ll teach your kids about gratitude, self-esteem, long-term happiness, and more.

How do you encourage conscientious spending in your family?

Article by Katie Simon

Katie Simon Katie Simon is a writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Business Insider, The Washington Post, BuzzFeed, and elsewhere. She earned a BA in creative writing and marketing at New York University and an MA in nonfiction writing at University of East Anglia in England. She is from Boston, MA.

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