How to Avoid Keeping Up With the Joneses

How to Avoid Keeping Up With the Joneses

“Keeping up with the Joneses” can lead to extravagant and wanton spending, ultimately causing financial strain and stress. In today’s consumer-driven society, it is easy to fall into the trap of comparing our lifestyles with those of others and feeling the need to match or exceed them.

In this blog, we will discuss the importance of breaking free from the cycle of one-upping others and embracing a more humble lifestyle. Additionally, we will provide practical tips for scaling back on unnecessary spending and achieving better financial management.

Keeping Up With the Joneses

The term “keeping up with the Joneses” has its origins in a comic strip of the same name that ran from 1913 to 1940, detailing the life of a family constantly envious of their neighbours – the Joneses, who have all the most avant-garde things money can buy.

Australia’s position as a major economic power and its high standard of living, though, may have amped up that notion to a new level. A June 2022 study by RBA lead analyst/economist Kim Nguyen revealed that based on the latest HILDA survey, Australian households often took on more debt to at least match their lifestyle with others – even when there’s much income inequality in their general region. The loans taken were found to have been invested in “non-residential assets” such as new vehicles or stocks.

To underline that problem of wanton spending, the Australia Institute’s Wasteful Consumption in Australia study noted that Aussies spend as much as $10.5 billion every year on goods or services with little or no beneficial value, but may tend to regret it later.

The ABS‘ Australian National Accounts: Finance and Wealth study from September 2023 identified Aussie households as having amassed $75.5 billion in financial assets but still have $18.4 billion in liabilities, $14 billion of which were through loans. It is possible that some of the money from the loans were used for extravagant purchases.

The Downside of Keeping Up With the Joneses

Some people may find spending on one-upmanship stimulating, but it only benefits the sellers making money off you.

In terms of financial strain, one-upping others in terms of possessions, vacations, or experiences can lead to excessive spending beyond one’s means. This reckless behaviour can quickly result in credit card debt, loans, and financial instability. They will also generate a big deal of stress and anxiety, in terms of pressure to match or exceed others’ lifestyles.

The pressure to maintain appearances and live up to societal expectations can be emotionally draining, you may have seen it in other people who have been known to appear in classy parties when onlookers have discovered behind the scenes they have financial problems.

Focusing on material possessions and external appearances can erode the quality of personal relationships. Genuine connections with others should be based on shared values and interests rather than material possessions.

The pursuit of always having more can lead to a lack of contentment with one’s own life. Emphasising material gains over personal growth and happiness can leave individuals feeling unfulfilled.

How to Avoid Keeping Up With the Joneses

Scaling Back on Spending

First, a well-structured budget is essential for effective financial management. List your income and expenses, including discretionary spending, and allocate specific amounts for different categories.

Analyse your expenses to identify areas where you can cut back. Focus on non-essential items and services that don’t align with your values or contribute significantly to your well-being.

Some bits of financial advice may include a so-called “One-In, One-Out” rule – for every new item you wish to purchase, get rid of another existing item you have. Whether you have to donate that item or sell it, this approach can help prevent unnecessary accumulation and lead to a more mindful lifestyle. 

You can consider adopting a minimalist lifestyle, focusing on quality over quantity. Owning fewer possessions can lead to greater appreciation for the things you do have and a more clutter-free living space.

Delayed gratification is also a chance to at least hold off on spending. Give yourself a set period, such as 30 days, to reconsider the purchase. Often, the initial desire fades, leading to wiser spending decisions.

Financial Literacy

With the need to gradually scale back from one-upping, you can face what to do next.

Start by investing time learning about personal finance and money management. Understand how to save, invest, and make informed financial decisions that align with your goals. If you feel overwhelmed by your financial situation, consider seeking advice from a financial advisor. They can provide personalised guidance and help you develop a realistic plan. 

If your family is just as burdened as you are with extravagance, they must be included in any serious financial discussions and decisions. Creating a collective understanding of financial goals and responsible spending habits can foster a more supportive environment.

Embracing a Humble Lifestyle

Take some time to reflect on your personal values and priorities. Understanding what truly matters to you can help shift the focus away from material possessions and societal pressures. You can also start expressing gratitude for what you already have, and accept that others may have been more fortunate to afford what they got . 

A humble lifestyle is usually centred on drafting yourself some clear and achievable financial goals, with the end goal of supporting yourself, not on comparing yourself to others. Part of achieving those goals may include avoiding impulse purchases.  

If part of your one-upmanship includes social media showcases, consider reducing your exposure to social media platforms that trigger feelings of inadequacy or envy. The social media comparisons are even true of certain people who openly show off what they have and the praise comments range from “you deserve it” to “how to be you?”


Breaking free from the cycle of one-upping and extravagant spending is crucial for achieving financial stability and personal contentment. Embracing a humble lifestyle based on personal values and priorities can lead to healthier relationships, reduced stress, and a greater sense of fulfilment. It’s about creating a life aligned with your values and true happiness, not matching someone else’s lifestyle.

DISCLAIMER:  This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute official financial advice. Please consult a financial advisor for more tailored solutions.

Scroll to Top