Why keeping up with the Joneses can steal our joy

Have you noticed the growing pressure to spend more and own nice things? More and more I feel like we are expected to have a high standard of living.

I think that some of us want the first house we buy to be the one our parents saved up their whole lives for, and the ones our grandparents and great grandparents would have only dreamt of. There’s a lot to be said for being content and grateful for what we have and not needing to have everything all at once.

I am not trying to bag young people or say it was easier in my day. I’m still semi young (😅) and I know not all young people have this attitude.

I know house prices have gone crazy recently and times are hard and we are not all out getting avocado on toast. Some cities are becoming almost unaffordable for even the most basic of houses.

However. I do think that there is unreasonable pressure to have all the expensive things straight away. It is expected, in many circles, that once you are working you’ll buy the nice car, big house, new furniture and fancy tv.

It’s fine if you save up for these things but more times that not, this is paid for on credit or left with huge debts. I hear people all the time complaining about how busy they are. About how they ‘have’ to work full time. About how they ‘have’ to go back to work after having a baby or both ‘have’ to work to afford kids.

For some people, this is reality. They have no choice.

But at the risk of being hated, I’m going to say it anyway. Most of us have choices.

We can buy the amazing new car and have a loan, or we can drive an older one and save to upgrade it.

We can over-extend ourselves and buy a massive house and work lots to pay for it (and will be in trouble if they lose their job or interest rates go up) or we can borrow less than the banks let us and buy something that we can actually afford (even on one wage, allowing for unforeseen circumstances).

We can buy new flashy furniture and accessorise our houses and upgrade to new electronics or we can make do with second hand, saving up for new pieces when we can afford it. We don’t need to buy in to the new technology just because it’s new. We can reduce the amount sent to landfill and environmental impact.

My husband and I often feel envious after visiting beautiful homes. We can’t help but stare at modern, open plan kitchens (ours is old and wooden), gorgeous bathrooms (we have a purple bath and penguin tiles) and outside entertaining areas (we have a tiny deck and no undercover area). We have to remind ourselves that maybe one day we can have this, but it’s not our time yet.

We are choosing to live within our means. We avoid lifestyle creep by setting our own agenda about where our money goes. We decide what is most important for our family and stage of life.

We want to be around more for our children, spending time not money on them. We have less disposable income but are happy to go without some of our wants.

It all depends on who you are comparing yourself with. Are you comparing yourself to the professional couple on a double wage, with a six digit income? What about the single parent living on welfare, struggling to make ends meet? Someone homeless after a relationship breakdown or job loss? A family in desperate need of food, suffering in a time of drought and living in a single room hut with dirt floors? A refugee who has escaped a war torn country, living in a camp?

If we are only associating ourselves with those who are wealthy, or seeing influencers on social media show off their life, our world view is skewed a certain way. I am privileged and have much to be thankful for. I don’t have everything but have everything I need.

Do you feel that there is pressure to keep up with the Joneses?

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