Keeping up with the Jones – Do You Really Need all that Stuff?

I don’t know about you but I work hard for my money. The harder we work, it seems the more “stuff” we accumulate and the more we get the more we seem to need. It is not uncommon for people to get locked into a material battle as they work harder and longer just to keep up with the Jones’. In our world of excess, maybe it’s time we all just settle back for a moment and discover what is really important.

Nice things are nice. Nice cars, nice homes, and nice furnishings make us feel like we have arrived. Those little rewards we get when we have worked really hard to obtain a goal are so worth the effort. However, once we have financed ourselves up to our ears and are working to pay the interest payments on all of our nice stuff, we have locked ourselves into a lifestyle of working excessively hard to squeeze in our playtime.

A good work ethic is a beautiful thing, and there are plenty of people in our society without the necessary work ethic. Yet the most successful people in the world actually live below their means, all the time, no matter what the bank account says. Living below our means gives us more options. Thinking about taking a job on the other side of the country, or even perhaps the world? With a little extra cash in the bank, these things are possible.

With a little extra money in the bank, medical issues do not threaten everything, and kids with sudden special needs do not need to feel guilty because now Dad had to sell one of his toys. With a little extra money in the bank, life’s surprises don’t throw us so far off course. We all know this, but more and more of us are financing our lives away and not really being able to enjoy all that “stuff” we are working so hard for.

So how does one remove themselves from the race against the Jones’ and become a little more relaxed and enjoy things a little more? Believe it or not it’s actually simpler than most people believe. Scale down.

Scaling down lets us kick back and enjoy life a little better. Scaling down removes us from the race against the material, and for the most part, our friends will still like us just the same. If they don’t, are they really friends we want anyway? Scaling down teaches our children that there are more important things in life than getting the next newer and better and best just because it’s the newer and better and best. It teaches our kids there are valuable things in this world that can’t be purchased.

This doesn’t mean that there isn’t a value in having toys. If you want a boat, can afford a boat, then get the boat. But if your budget allows for a $35,000 boat and you pinch it so that you can own the $50,000 version, then how much time are you going to have to enjoy the boat? If you get something you can readily afford you are going to relax more about the financial situation and not feel the pressure of owning it every time you set foot on it.

Where does this desire to have the “better than them” of everything come from? Most experts say that it comes from the notion that money solves problems and that people who appear to have a lot of money also have a lot of respect. Money doesn’t solve problems, people do. While it is very stressful to have to deal with not having enough money, the problems we face can not be purchased, paid off, or dealt with on a financial level. People who go about their business understanding that they are responsible for their life and they are in control of their life are much happier and contented with the world at large than those who feel the next new toy will lead to happiness.

Respect is not purchased. It comes from hard work, doing the basic right and good things in life, stopping to help someone during the hustle and bustle of your daily life. It is a function of knowing who you are and where you are going and the way you treat people along the way. Keeping up with the Jones’ is not a viable method of earning respect.

The happiest and most successful people in the world will tell you that their secret is a well rounded approach to everything, and that living below your means reduces stress and pressure, and that happiness most of all comes from within.

As a society in general we place too much emphasis on what other people think about our lives. Since they are not the ones paying the bills for us, it is reasonable to learn to worry less about their opinion and worry more about the opinion we have of ourselves. Once you begin the game of keeping up with the Jones’ it is very difficult to pull out and declare the battle a draw.



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