Keeping Up With The Joneses Is So Last Year (So Why Are We Still Trying?)

Keeping Up with the Joneses

Why We Do It, And How We Can Stop.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Keeping up with the Joneses”? It’s not an uncommon phrase, so I’m sure you have. I remember hearing it when I was younger, and not having any idea what it meant.

As I got older, “keeping up with the Joneses” went from just an obscure phrase being thrown around by old people, to a very prevalent part of life.

Do you know people who seem to always have to one-up others? The ones who rush out and grab the newest gadget (even though they can’t afford it) just because a coworker has it? The people who remortgage their house to take a trip around the world because Suzy did it last year?

I’m not knocking enjoying the good things in life, by any means. I have a nice (to me) car, and I was blessed to take my dream vacation to Ireland in 2018, so I get it. I’m not judging if that’s what you enjoy. You work hard for your money and deserve to treat yourself!

Keeping up with the Joneses

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What I’m talking about is doing it because you have to prove you’re as good as, or better than, someone else.

That’s Keeping up with the Joneses.

As an adult, I noticed people around me trying to compete at life, and it wasn’t long before I realized I was starting to do the same thing; acting as if there is actually a winner at the end.

But there isn’t one winner. We can all be winners at life.

Does that sound cheesy? It does. I know. But it’s true!

Are you measuring your success in life by whether you have a nicer car than your friends, or if you had a bigger wedding than your sworn enemy? Is that what really matters to you?

I know that when I die, not one person is going to say, “Boy, she sure did have a pretty house and fancy clothes!” Instead, my goal is for them to remember me as a caring, compassionate person who went out of her way to make others’ lives better.

That would be winning for me.

Related: “Are You Poor?” My First Life Lesson

Who are the Joneses, anyway?

So, apparently back in the early 20th century (1913 to be exact), there was a cartoon called “Keeping up with the Joneses”. It highlighted the fact that we try so hard to impress other people. That is believed to be where the phrase originated.

I found a video of this cartoon, and it’s pretty funny. It’s funny because it’s true.

“Keeping up with the Joneses is so overrated. “


The Joneses could be your boss, your neighbor, or even your own family. Is there someone in your life that you feel compelled to impress, or compete with? Those are the Joneses.

But here’s a secret: they don’t always have it all together, even if it looks like they do. It’s an image. I promise. Some of them are trying VERY HARD to keep that image up.

Why are we trying to keep up with them?

There are several reasons we try to keep up with the Joneses. Some are intentional, some not so much. Here are just a few of them:

  • We want people to like us.
  • We want people to envy us.
  • We feel special when someone notices us.
  • We are trying to make up for what we didn’t have growing up.
  • We want to show the world that we’re successful.
  • We feel like we’re missing out if someone has more than us.
  • We feel a sense of security in material items.
  • We’re trying to fill an emotional void.
  • We can’t handle someone being better than us.
Keeping up with the Joneses
Image by Christo Anestev from Pixabay

Why we need to stop

For each reason we’re trying to keep up with the Joneses, there is a reason not to.

  • If people like us just for what we have, they’re not “our people”.
  • Envy isn’t good. Envy is bad. Nothing good comes from it.
  • We should feel special just for being us. God made us unique for a reason.
  • You can’t change the past. Let it go and focus on now.
  • Success isn’t about riches, it’s about joy.
  • What is good for one person, isn’t good for everyone.
  • NO amount of material objects can keep bad things from happening.
  • Material satisfaction is temporary. Without getting to the root of the problem, the void will still be there when the new wears off.
  • “More” doesn’t mean “Better”. Stop comparing.
Keeping up with the joneses
Photo Credit: Matt Lamers- Unsplash

How we can stop trying to keep up with the Joneses

How do we get ourselves out of the mindset that life is a competition? Can we really change overnight and be happy with what we have, instead of always wanting more?

It may not happen in an instant, but we can change. There are a few changes that I have implemented in my life to help me feel satisfied and stop comparing myself to others. Here are some of my recommendations:

  • Think about why you feel the need to impress or compete, and focus on that.
  • If it’s a deep-rooted issue, I would recommend therapy. (It really does work wonders.)
  • Volunteer to help the less fortunate. (I recommend this for children, especially. Maybe we can curb their need to keep up with the Joneses early.) Compassion International is a great project to get involved in.
  • Keep a gratitude journal. This helps us intentionally focus on what we have and not what we want.
  • Set goals that are realistic with your budget, not that make you look good to others. Read how to start a budget here.
  • Focus on the things that make you happy, that don’t cost a dime, and do them!
  • Realize you may be the Joneses to someone else. Set a good example for others to live up to. (compassion, joy, willingness to do without, etc.)
  • Focus on quality, not quantity. Remember something doesn’t have to cost a lot of money to make it valuable.
  • Remember that everyone has problems, some people are just better at hiding it than others. (I used to be one of those people.)
  • Read “Love Your Life, Not Theirs” by Rachel Cruze. (She’s Dave Ramsey’s daughter. I’m sure she gets sick of being referred to as that, but her dad is a genius, so…)

No more keeping up with the Joneses. You’re better than that.

Please respect yourself more than putting your self worth into someone else’s hands. You were not put on this earth to compete with anyone else. Like my mom used to always say, “If Betty jumped off of a bridge, would you?” Let that sink in.

Stop Trying to Keep Up with the Joneses

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