Keeping Up with the Joneses

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When I was a kid, it seemed like my friends always had what was bigger and better than anything my sisters or I had. Ours was a big family, and my parents were frugal. We didn’t get a ton of extras.

Or so it seemed.

When my friends got stereo systems for Christmas, I got underwear. When they got new cars on their 16th birthdays, I was lucky to drive something like this. When their parents bought them lots of new clothes, I bought my own.

I really wanted to “keep up with the Jones.” I wanted to be cool and hip. I wanted to be rich!

Sometimes, I would go out of my way to buy the more expensive item because I figured cool, hip, rich people thought it was “beneath them” to buy something on sale!

Woe is me!

In reality, how blessed I was to have presents on Christmas Day, to have a car on occasion and the physical capabililities to drive it, and to be able to work, earn money, and buy my own clothes. I never in my life skipped a meal, lacked clothing, or had to go without some basic necessity.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have eyes to see how full my cup really was. I lamented the fact that I didn’t have more, when by global standards I was a very rich girl, indeed.

And, frankly, I should have absolutely rejoiced that there was just plain underwear in my stocking and nothing with Strawberry Shortcake or Wonder Woman on it! That would have knocked cool and hip right out of the running!

What about today?

It’s easy to look back on our childhoods and see our foolishness. But, it probably doesn’t take very long to examine ourselves today and find at least a few small instances when we are trying to keep up with some external measure of financial success instead of being satisfied with what we have. It’s still hard to battle that desire to be cool, hip, and rich.

But, the stress and anxiety that comes with debt or living beyond one’s means or trying to be someone you’re not, is just not worth it. Been there, done that.

Instead, this is my hope and prayer for me and my children:

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” — Hebrews 13:5

That’s way better than a new stereo.

 How do YOU save money?

Share a money saving tip in the comments or in the linky. Please do not link up giveaway posts.

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  1. Thanks for the reminder. I went to bed quoting that verse but must have needed to hear it again as soon as I got up this morning. Thanks!! Contentment lies in Him ALONE.

  2. My husband and I have started the envelope system which is a big way we save money and keep our finances in check.

    Second I am big on freezer cooking. I try to cook in bulk as much as possible. I have found this helps us save money not to mention it has been a main strategy in helping me lose 40 lbs.

  3. Thank you for your post. Such good reminders. Sometimes it is easy as a parent to feel like I am not giving my kids the best by not giving them all of the things other kids have. Teaching my boys to be content and not love money, but be thankful for God’s many blessings is a much bigger gift that will hopefully carry them into adulthood.

  4. What a beautiful post to read this morning. I love the part about being content. That really is the key in a lot of things isn’t it? Money, food, relationships, time etc.

  5. Great post – I would also recommend that everyone look inward to see if they are the Joneses. A few years ago we were talking with some friends about finances and I made the comment that I didn’t feel the need to “keep up with the Joneses”, their response was to laugh and say “of course not, you ARE the Joneses”. I was appalled to find that some of our friends felt they needed to keep up with us! I’m not saying that you shouldn’t spend money or ‘hide’ what you are buying, but if you have friends or family who are struggling just be conscientious about their situation and how you might inadvertently make them feel.

    By the way, what’s wrong with Wonder Woman underwear? I put mine on every day, or at least try to 🙂

    1. Well put. How often I have had people say to me, “But it’s ONLY. . . (_$).” They don’t understand our sitution (even when they know) and the “But it’s only” so much money comments from tons of people have really been getting to me lately. I never expected to have so many adults pressure me to buy things! I feel like I’m a child in school with all of the peer pressure! I wish people would listen harder when you say you really don’t have the income to purchase things–including food–and would stop trying to push me to buy things I don’t need.

  6. How I needed this post today! We’re wrestling with some huge medical debts and the end seems so far away, but we have everything we need for today and tomorrow, which is enough. This is a lesson I’m trying so hard to teach my children.

  7. Great post! My family has recently relocated to a very small town for a job opportunity for my husband. I was very worried how we were going to make it on just 1 income while I look for a job, but our money has gone pretty far due to to one major factor- we have only been out to eat once in the last two months. I never realized how much money we spent on restaurants before! Of course, this is not all due to diligence on my part- there are very few restaurants in my town and they aren’t that great 🙂 But, not only do I save money I have rediscovered how much I love to cook!

  8. That is an awesome post! When I was a kid Christmas was the same way for us….underware and practical gifts. But now that I am older I am happy that my mom was always home with me and that was the best gift of all.

  9. Thank you for the reminder! With 5 kids, it’s hard to stay focused on frugality at times when I look at what other families are doing. I do so much better when I keep my eyes on my own work and family.

  10. I really, really appreciate this reminder today. My daughter came to me a couple of days ago with an elaborate birthday idea that would have cost a lot of money. She’s been invited to a couple of big birthday parties lately, and she read of a fun-sounding idea in a book that she wanted to do. I hated having to tell her, but her friends are in completely different financial sitauations than we are. (We can’t really afford to buy food and her friend’s dad drives a Porcshe.) We also have family birthday parties.

    But, neither of her friends has the backyard that we have to play in. My daughter is also learning to sew, and one of her friends has said how much she wishes that her mom could sew (that girl has been coming over to our house for lessons on my daughter’s sewing machine–and yes, my daughter has her own machine that her great-grandmother gave to her). I hope I can help my daughter see all that she has. It’s not the same things, but she is immensely blessed as well.

    I’ve had my own struggles this morning with a desire to buy things. I miss the days when my husband made a bigger income and I could go to the grocery store and buy things on sale. I miss buying lots of cheese and milk. And yet, I have grapes in my garden and I have been canning grape juice this week. Truly, we have SO much. We are not going hungry or naked.

    I needed the scriptural reminder this morning. Thank you Jessica.

  11. This is a great post, and a great reminder as to what’s important. We have made sacrifices for me to be able to stay home with my kids, and sometimes I wonder if they are worth it. My son (2) doens’t need much, but sometimes I feel like he deserves the a DS that other kid at church play with, a bunch of cool talking shirts, because he always sees his cousin with them. I want to take him to every fun theme park there is, on a whim, rather than slowly saving, as we are now. Then I remember small bits and pieces of events growing up. I never remember being disappointed for one single birthday, or christmas. I never compared what I had to others. And looking back now, I realize, we were poor. But my mom did her best, and we didn’t miss out on a thing. Or at least we didn’t feel like we did. I hope my kids can look back on their childhood and say they had a good one. One filled with more love than toys, more special memories than momentos from vacations. Right now, I kinda miss the money we used to have, but I am adjusting :0)

  12. Oh, and my frugal friday…I have started making my own face wash. I did a baking soda mixture for about a month, then switched to the OCM about 2 weeks ago. I was a buy what ever the magazines advertised kinda person when it came to facial wash and moisturizers. I had about 10 different face washes, and 7 moisturizers. No more store bought stuff for me to waste :0)

  13. We were fairly poor growing up, depending on what job my dad had at the time. My mom was a genius at making due. I know there were times when she had to borrow milk to feed my sister, though truthfully I don’t remember.
    I never knew we were poor, my NEEDS were always met rather my wants were or not. My mom was so inventive, that while we didn’t have all the latest toys, cloths and such; ours was the house all the kids wanted to hang out out.
    My thrifty tip is one I got from my mom. Be creative, think of ways to get or make it cheaper. When patch work peasant shirts came out while I was in jr. high, my mom had three girls all wanting them. So she made them herself. We never went anywhere that someone didn’t ask where she bought them because they were more colorful than the ones you could buy.
    I try to make my own whenever I can be it baking mix or menu boards. Search the net there are instructions for most everything you can think of. Then just learn to make it work for you.

  14. Godliness with contentment is great gain. I learned so much growing up that happiness is what you make it.
    I grew up where we missed out on things….like some nutritious foods because we could not afford them, socks without holes because we could not afford to replace them and we did not have many new clothes or even used clothes at times….but we learned how to make do. We learned how to be content with simple food that sometimes does not taste gourmet. We learned how to work hard to get what we needed and we learned how to be happy when we did not have what everyone else did.
    I am really happy I grew up without things. It made me more content!

    For me, now when I save money, it depends on how tight things are. I have lived without anything….where we did go without food (in the USA) and I have been where we have plenty. I found when we get behind on things, I save on the little things. Everyone can wear their clothing twice….if they are careful. It saves on water, soap and energy. I can bake snacks instead of buying them. It is not quite as healthy as a piece of fruit, but homemade whole wheat zucchini bread spread with PB is pretty good!
    I can look at those clothes that don’t fit, are not up to my standards and see if I can create something out of them that does work and is unique. I can hire a friend to sew me a bridesmaid dress that fits me, for half the cost of buying a dress.

    I think outside the box and find it is more fun!

  15. Well said. We went through Financial Peace University (Dave Ramsey) and he talks alot about keeping up with the Joneses. “Don’t try to keep up with the Joneses, because they are broke!” Love the Bible quote, too. I have it on the top of my blog as a reminder (to me more than anyone).

  16. I hate going to the mall or nice department stores because I feel inferior about my wardrobe and tempted to buy things I cannot afford. I love shopping at thrift stores because I feel like all the shoppers are united in supporting one another and finding great deals.