Keeping Up With The Joneses: Are You Living Above Your Means?

February 17, 2012  |  
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The hit reality show, ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’ certainly took its name from the infamous phrase ‘keeping up with the Joneses’.  As a large number of women, and some men, aspire to look and act like the three reality stars, it seems as if more people are attempting to ‘belong’ by buying their way into a social class, even if they can’t afford it.

The phrase, which originated in the early 1900’s from a comic strip in newspapers, used the name ‘the Joneses’ as a generic term for neighbors. The phrase simply meant to strive to keep up with your neighbors in both spending and in social standing. And while this phrase was coined years ago, it’s probably more relevant now than ever with the obsession of celebrities and reality stars’ lives; but  possessing a ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ mentality isn’t limited to your obsession with your favorite Basketball wife. It could be the woman at your job (who clearly earns more money than you), but you somehow feel compelled to outshine her.

This mentality usually leads to living above your means in efforts to buy your way into not just approval but to gain some sort of admiration. While most of us won’t admit that this behavior is a result of the need of approval, it surely isn’t an attitude of the most confident, content person.

So how do you tell if you’re trying to keep up with the Joneses?  Here are seven signs that you’re living a life that is way above your means.


You Charge Those New Shoes With Plans To Only Pay The Credit Card Minimum

My aunt, who I declare is the most financially savvy woman that I know, has a rule: if you buy something on your credit card, you must have the money to pay the balance when the monthly bill comes. This eliminates interest charges, and all of the other hidden fees associated with high balances. Of course, when there is an emergency this may be unavoidable, but if you think buying a pair of Christian Louboutin pumps is an emergency just because they’re on sale (and yes I know they’re hot), you may need to re-evaluate your spending habits.

You Impulse Buy After Watching Your Favorite Reality Show…Or Seeing Someone ‘Outshine’ You

Immediately after watching your favorite reality show or after eyeing your frenemy at an event, you feel you have to go shopping. Impulse buying leads to unwanted purchases and extreme debt. You should buy something after careful consideration of your finance, not after seeing someone look better than you at an event. Impulse buying is usually a result of trying to make up for something that you’re lacking.

You Save Less Than 5% of Your Income…But You  Always Look Fly!

Savings account? What savings account? Savings, although you know it’s important, usually takes a backseat. However your shoe fetish gets all of your attention.  While clothes can definitely make you look like a million bucks, it’s pointless  if you don’t have the savings to back it up. Those new shoes and dresses won’t save you on a rainy day. Save later!


You Make Large Purchases (car, condo) That require Monthly Payments  Equivalent To Your Monthly Income

Say you earn $2,000 in monthly income. Ironically, your car note and rent takes up 90 percent of that. Who are you really trying to impress? If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it. Your monthly bills should reflect your monthly salary. If you’re making used car money, you should be driving around in a used car, not in a 2012 joint.

You Have No Idea What Your Credit Score Is, But You Know When Most Of The Designers New Spring/Summer Lines Debut

You know the exact date Gucci will launch its new spring collection. You also know that H&M has a new featured designer set to hit stores soon; but you have no idea what your credit score is or even if you’re in debt.  When we’re attempting to keep up with the Joneses, many times the things that matter the most and can affect us the most go unnoticed.


Your Beauty Maintenance Comes Before Your Bills

Women, especially black women, love to keep their hair done. Hair and nails are those little splurges that have somehow become monthly bills. Still, these monthly commitments shouldn’t come before your real monthly commitments. Remember, no one will kick you out of your apartment if your hair isn’t done.  The rent on the other hand…


You Get Paid And Go To Extravagant Dinners With Your Girls…Before You Pay Bills

Peer pressure exists, even in adults. It can be difficult when your friends are more financially stable than you. They can afford the things you can’t afford and want to do a whole bunch of things you know you can’t really afford to do. Although you know this to be true, your ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ mentality drags you along anyway. You end up stressed out about the debt you’ve acquired instead of taking a rain check until you get your finances in order. If your friends aren’t willing to help you pay your bills, I’m sure they’ll understand your need to sit the next upscale dinner out.

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