Forget Keeping Up with the Joneses, I Became One

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The Jones' HouseThe following is a post from Kim at Eyes on the Dollar. KIM ROCKS!!!! So check out her site after reading her awesome post for iHB! Now…back to shuffling W-2’s…

We’re all familiar with the expression “Keeping up with the Joneses.” It is so common that it has its own Wikipedia page.

Keeping up with the Joneses” is an idiom in many parts of the English-speaking world referring to the comparison to one’s neighbor as a benchmark for social caste or the accumulation of material goods. To fail to “keep up with the Joneses” is perceived as demonstrating socio-economic or cultural inferiority.

That’s right. If we can’t keep up with our neighbors in the accumulation of material goods, we are perceived as inferior. Spending money and obtaining things with credit has become so accepted that is seems weird not to do it.

We tried so hard to keep up with the Joneses, that we surpassed them. I believe we actually turned into Joneses. People wanted to keep up with us. Who wouldn’t? Let’s look at what we had.

  • A Brand New House-New homes aren’t necessarily a bad thing. You have to live somewhere. If you have a down payment and interest rates are low, it might be a smart move. However, with our new house, we went a bit overboard. We also felt that we had to have lots of other things.
  • New furniture. Our new house was much bigger than our old one, so we had to have new furniture.
  • New TV’s. You can’t use an old TV in a new house!
  • A New High End Grill. Because clearly our old one that worked perfectly fine was just too small for our new deck.
  • Kitchen Gadgets. Now that we had lots of cabinet space, we had to buy new things like a milkshake maker, electric knife, and Fry Daddy. Didn’t matter that we never used them. We had to fill our cabinets.
  • Premium Television Programming. We had to have something to watch on our new TV’s.
  • New Mountain and Road Bikes. Because we had storage space for them, and one bike per person is never enough.
  • New Skis. Can’t make it in Colorado without them.
  • New Tools. We had a Home Depot credit card. Why not?
  • New Clothes. If you have a big closet, you have to fill it up as well.
  • New Cars-We were pre-approved. The flyer in the mail said so, and we had a big garage to put them in.
  • Trips-Didn’t matter that we had no cash. Everyone takes plastic.

You get the point. To be a Jones, you have to keep buying. It doesn’t matter if you already have something. You need the newer, fancier, more expensive version. Your job is to keep ahead of the everyday spenders and make yourself stand out.

You know what else you get to have if you’re a Jones? It’s probably the most important part.


If you aren’t swimming in debt up to your eyeballs, you aren’t really seizing the American dream. Joneses really wouldn’t keep much in savings either. Things, not security, matter to a true Jones. We ended up working our butts off to make payments on all the stuff we thought we needed. It can be really exhausting. After we saw some family members (also Joneses, obviously) lose everything because they couldn’t keep up with the game, we started to rethink what it meant to be a Jones.

Maybe being a Jones isn’t all it’s cracked up to be? After much soul searching and time spent figuring out what really holds value and what doesn’t, I’m proud to say we gave up our Jones identity. Although it was scary at first,  I am happier without it. Joneses don’t really have time to enjoy life. They are too busy running to stay ahead of AMEX, Discover, Visa and Mastercard.

The next time you aspire to become a Jones or even keep up with one, decide to be a Smith, a Carlisle, or even a Bernatowicz. You might find yourself leading the pack in the right direction instead of into the vortex of “Keeping Up with the Joneses.”

Kim is an optometrist and reformed spender who blogs about her journey toward achieving 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar. No harm was intended if your given surname is actually Jones.

Jacob Wade

Jacob Wade

Jacob Wade has been a nationally-recognized personal finance expert for the past decade. He has written professionally for The Balance, The Spruce, LendingTree, Investing Answers, and other widely-followed sites. 
He’s also been a featured expert on CBS News, MSN Money, Forbes, Nasdaq, Yahoo! Finance, Go Banking Rates, and AOL Finance.

In 2018, Jacob quit his job and his family decided to sell everything (including their home) to take off on an adventure. They traveled the country in an RV for nearly 3 years, visiting over 38 states, 20+ national parks and eventually settling in the sunshine state!

35 thoughts on “Forget Keeping Up with the Joneses, I Became One”

  1. I’m fairly anti joneses also. We try our best not to compare ourselves with anyone else and to be happy with what we have.

    It works for us and we are happier for it.

  2. My mom is a “Jones”. She makes 3x more than I do, but she has infinitely more credit card debt, and infinitely less savings than I do.

    But, she has a ballin’ ass house. She has brand new cars, and she goes on vacation ALL the time.

    I’m become happy with less, and I have Joneses of my own now. All I can think about when they start a new project is “I wonder how they’re gonna pay for that”.

    • Credit card debt is a killer. I hope she has some savings or you might end up taking care of her at some point. My inlaws were like that and when they both lost jobs, they ended up going into foreclosure. Now they live in a tiny rental on social security. I think it certainly could have been worse, but it’s a far cry from their “glory days.”

  3. We used to be the Jones’s too!

    I just don’t have the energy to keep up with it anymore. I would rather keep my money and just live a simple life. It’s not worth it. And at this point, I would rather people think I’m poor anyway. That way they don’t ask me for anything =)

  4. We make a very solid amount of money and I don’t know how people afford to be the Jones! We do have a fairly large amount of stuff and whatnot, but there’s still a million things we don’t have and trips we don’t take and whatnot. Debt must be the answer, because otherwise how do people do that!!

  5. I don’t think we’ve ever really been Joneses, but on the bright side of your former shopping binges, you now have gear to last you forever if you take care of it! Those bikes and skis and grill can bring decades of enjoyment now that you’ve stopped shopping for new stuff long enough to use them =)

    • That is true. My husband is fanatical about taking care of gear, especially bikes. He used to work in a bike factory and can do any repair and has built bikes from parts. It makes him literally cringe if someone leaves a bike outdoors or doesn’t clean it up after a ride. I’m not sure why we had to keep buying new ones. We just got caught in the cycle. The stuff we have now should last forever.

  6. I am far from a Jones and more of a black sheep. I live in CO and haven’t gone skiing in years. I live in a used mobile home which helps me afford school directly out of my pocket. I have cars that were made in 1995, and I now have no debt what-so-ever. Sometimes I want something newer or better, but I always remember my main goals and the feeling passes. If I still want something I save the money, and look for used first. I don’t really care about keeping up with anyone, but instead would rather keep up with my goals and dreams instead. 🙂

  7. Kim, I live in Colorado and go snowboarding-but, I go to Eldora and get a limited pass. I paid $89 for three visits. Did you also know that Colorado has a very high rate of credit card debt when compared to the rest of the U.S.? I really enjoyed your post.

    • Thanks so much. I also live in Colorado and we go to Hesperus. Our daughter got six ski lessons for $180 and we got two free and two half price lift tickets. I sounds like they are similarly priced. I love to ski, but it is dang expensive. It’s great when you can find the off the beaten path ski areas. I also enjoy cross country skiing, and it’s free except gas to get to the trailhead!

  8. When the ‘Jones’ financial house falls apart, and they end up losing everything, it is us regular people who end up paying for the higher interest rates on credit cards.
    In the meantime, they have taken all these vacations and and all the restaurant meals , which cannot be returned.Chances are they will look back on these days and say “well, I certainly had fun while it lasted”.
    I am not materialistic, and get more satisfaction from living within my means, and being more self sufficient.
    If people knew there was never a way to escape debt (via bankruptcy or forecloseure) I wonder how many would still choose to live so recklessly. Their wages, tax returns, aged pensions would be garnisheed for life.

    • I am a strong believer in paying off your debts, and I would certainly avoid bankruptcy and foreclosure at all costs. However, after watching my inlaws go through a foreclosure, I can say that, in their case, it was lack of planning. They never thought that they would just rack up bills and walk away. They thought they would always have a paycheck. Then they didn’t. I don’t think they felt it was fun while it lasted, but feel an overwhelming sense of regret now. They live very simply as a result. I’m not sure about people who file for bankruptcy only to run the debt back up. I don’t think you should be allowed to do it repeatedly. That does seem like working the system if you never change your ways.

  9. Great post Kim. We are so not the Jones and never will be. We have no desire to be those people although we see it happen all around us. I’d rather worry about our finances and save cash to pay for what we want. I do think it’s more important as a neighbour to make sure that our home is being maintained properly so the neighbourhood doesn’t look like a dump rather than worrying if we need a new boat or $50,000 car. Cheers

  10. So you are the mythical Joneses!! It sounds like you used to live a good life, but now you’re living a better life. 🙂 Keeping up with the Joneses (or the Kardashians, hey I live in LA) gets so many people into trouble, but it’s easy to get sucked into the mentality. We all like stuff. We all LOVE new stuff. I’m not different. But every time I’m about to add something Jonesesy like to my real or electronic cart – I can hear my Dad and he’s not happy with me. So I put it back.

  11. I’m not a Jones. Never had the opportunity. My in-laws even though they don’t admit it are a bit of the Jones, they have to delay retirement, not quite sure when they are going to retire. I don’t like it when they complain about money, and then go buy big screen tvs, and a home theater system. To me they live in so much abundance, but they think they are poor compared to the people around them…
    Sigh…if they only knew what poor was.

    • It must be hard when you are doing your best to be financially responsible and you see others spend foolishly and complain about it. I hope your inlaws don’t experience a job loss or illness that prevents them from working.

  12. Thank you for sharing. I often see the people with the big houses/nice cars going on fancy vacations and whatnot and wonder where we “missed out” on having all that money. Then I realize that “those” people are probably in a ton of debt. It really is sad, actually.

  13. I believe it is not bud to keep up with the Joneses if it is for the necessities like having a good home or a good investment. But we have to know our limitations and should not let our fear inferiority rule over how we should be living our own life.


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