This is a guest post from Jana at Daily Money Shot. Much like me, Jana is working her way out of debt, except she only has about two years left to be debt free! Visit her site and check out more of her awesome posts.
Bucksome Boomer recently wrote a terrific post on keeping up with Joneses. The general gist of the post, ignore the Joneses and do your own thing, really resonated with me because that’s how I’ve chosen to live my life for the last 4 years. Why only 4 years? Because that’s when my husband and I decided that we no longer wanted to be in debt.
Getting out of debt and not keeping up with the Joneses is hard when you’re related to the Joneses. My family, and to an extent my husband’s family, prides itself on gadgets bought, vacations taken, home upgrades made, meals eaten in expensive restaurants, and other trappings of the perception of financial success. As such, they assumed that we were on the spending bandwagon, too. They believed that material possessions, vacations and expensive food were as important to us as they were (and, sadly, still are) to them. In all fairness, it was a pretty good assumption since we had been doing it for as long as they remembered. I really can’t fault them for the pressure they continued to place on us to keep up with their spending—that’s how they live. In a perpetual cycle of one-upsmanship. We dug deep, though, and realized we had to just say no.
Saying “we can’t afford it” became so commonplace that people stopped asking us for plans. We stopped receiving invitations to parties. We stopped getting invited out to dinner. People even stopped coming to our house because it was not the nicest house on the block. We did lose some friends during this time and, amongst our families and friends, we started being perceived as (and treated like) the poor ones. That was a hard pill to swallow, especially knowing that we were sacrificing in order to be able to afford a future for us and our daughter. It was also hard because by no stretch of the imagination were we ever poor. It makes me a little sad that I live amongst people who judge proximity to poverty based on where you vacation, which generation iPod you own or what gaming system you have.
Facebook was the hardest for me to deal with. For as confident and secure as I was (and still am) in our decision to stop keeping up with the Joneses, seeing pictures of friends’ and families’ gigantic houses, shiny new cars and boats, fancy vacations and general financial excess did spurn feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, anger and resentment. I got around it by telling myself that most of them were financed to the hilt (whether it was true or not, I don’t know, but telling myself it was true really worked). It was still difficult; Facebook, for me, exacerbates I-want-it-now-itis. Sometimes I talked myself down from the Cliffs of Insanity (read: the mall, bookstores, Vera Bradley’s website) by telling myself that what I have is fine and acceptable and perfect for my needs. Other times, I would busy myself with baking or playing with my daughter or watching a movie with my husband. Usually, I would shut my laptop with a harsh snap, sulk for a few minutes and eat a cookie. But I never wavered in my resolve to put our debt behind us.
By sacrificing for the last few years, our financial picture has brightened to the point where we can now, if we choose, participate in activities or buy new items or go on long weekend vacations. But it’s not about competing with or keeping up with those I used to envy. Now, it’s about spending my money wisely on items that will make me happy and have practical, every day use. I refuse to fill my house with unnecessary junk just because everyone’s doing it. I’ve never been one of the cool kids. I’m certainly not going to start now.