Keeping Up with the Joneses

Screw keeping up with the Joneses. (Much less the Kardashians!)

If you were to ask me why the majority of my clients come to me stressed out about their money, it’s because of mindless spending. They may not think that they’re keeping up with the Joneses, but the truth is we’re all influenced by our environment.

We have a tendency to buy similar cars, clothes, and electronic gadgets as our friends and neighbors. We eat at the same restaurants, go to concerts and events, and send our kids to the same private schools. All without stopping to evaluate what is truly important us and our own families.

When I’m coaching my clients on their spending habits, they’re afraid I’m going to advocate living a spartan lifestyle. (Spoiler alert: I’m not!) This is the reason why most budgets fail, and I strive to avoid even using the term “budget” at all.

It’s more accurate to call it a spending plan, cash flow plan, or my favorite, Prosperity Plan. The key to an effective prosperity plan is to examine our current spending habits with fresh eyes and ask, “Does spending money on this support my long-term happiness?”

Keeping Up with the Joneses

When we unconsciously fall into the trap of keeping up with the Joneses, we may find that, although we make good income, we don’t have much to show for it. One of the first exercises I do with my financial coaching clients is the Dream Session.

I ask them, “If you woke up tomorrow feeling really good about your finances, what has changed?” They usually proceed to tell me things like:

  • “We have money saved for our kids’ college expenses.”
  • “Our credit card debt is gone.”
  • “We’re maxing out our retirement contributions.”
  • “We’re paying cash to take our family on a vacation to Alaska.”

Then we examine how the income is currently being spent. It’s amazing the shifts that happen when I ask,

“Are season tickets more important than college savings?”

“Are four movie channels more important than the family vacation?”

“Is eating out five times a week worth the burden of your credit card debt?”

Only you can answer those questions.

We all mindlessly spend money. Once it becomes a habit, we often don’t see it as changeable, when in reality it is. Most of things we spend money on are a choice we’ve made over and over again. The good news is that we can choose differently. Sometimes we just need a fresh set of eyes to look at our numbers and ask the question, “Is this truly adding value to your life?”

Keeping up the Joneses is exhausting, and can leave you broke and in debt. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve mindlessly fallen into this trap or are choosing to keep up appearances. At the end of the day, you control how your money is being spent, so make sure you’re directing your cash flow to the things are important to you and your family.

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