Goodbye to the Joneses:
Who Were They, Anyway?
Obituary: It is with our deepest condolences to all that we announce the death of Mr. and Mrs. Jones, everyone’s favourite neighbours and friends, as they passed away at the ripe old age of 105. They will no longer taunt us with their fancy purchases and their beautiful pictures of every vacation we have ever dreamt of. We wish them a peaceful rest, and ask that, in lieu of flowers and donations, your money may remain with yourselves and your time with your friends and family. There will be no service, as we have celebrated life of keeping up with the Joneses for far too long.
Who were the Joneses, anyway?
You hear the term “Keeping up with the Joneses” used liberally in the personal finance space. If you don’t know the term, it describes the efforts that people take to keep up with the neighbours that have everything.
What I didn’t know was that it started with a comic strip called Keeping up with the Joneses created by Arthur R. “Pop” Momand in 1913. The comic strip was popular and ran until 1940 in The New York World and other newspapers.
There are a few other ideas where the Jones’ family came from, but this is the most widely accepted version.
Here we are, more than a hundred years later, still chasing the dream of keeping up with the Joneses!
I had previously shared a post about our history, and how, post-war, we were in the mindset to accumulate anything and everything, as life before was a struggle, and excess anything was but a dream. In the post, I felt we had become addicts of owning stuff.
Despite being an Xennial (for those who do not know, it’s the gap between Gen X and Millennials, roughly 1978 – 1983), I was raised with the Gen X mindset of more is better. To have more, to afford more, to accumulate more meant that you were wealthier, and therefore better off, should something happen in the world that limited our access to “stuff”. Gen X was really the last generation raised by parents who remember rations and war/post-war life. Those were the days when parents made you sit at the table until your dinner was finished, whether you were still hungry or not, and if you liked it or not, because that was what was served. There was no option for a different meal, or not finishing your plate, because that was wasteful.
How many people remember being told there are starving children in the world, so finish your dinner! (Can’t say it made sense to me then, or now. I offered to ship it to them…. that didn’t go over well.)
My parents, for example, have a basement full of stuff. An extra dining table, supplies that were “on sale”, childhood toys, exercise equipment from the 80s, the old Atari game system, an old stove, a massive freezer (for the two people that live there), a couch, the last two artificial Christmas trees, a dresser… the list goes on and on.
Sometimes there were benefits from having parents that saved everything. We all had that time in our lives that we didn’t have anything: college days where life was about hand-me-downs, and making due with small spaces because we didn’t have the money yet to have the life we wanted. Post-college, reality tended to set in, and we started wanting, but for some, a simple lesson (or two) was learned. Fellow blogger, Your Money Geek, shared a post about being broke and learning the value of things during that period of time.
It’s a common perspective that millennials have been raised in a completely different time, leaving them with a different mindset. They have never seen a shortage of anything: there’s been a never-ending supply of food, commodities and technology that moved faster than a speeding bullet.
They can’t reminisce about getting up to change the television station, rewinding a cassette tape with a pencil, or waiting for a sibling to get off the phone so you could call your friends.
(Removing the privilege argument from this to say that not all millennials have been raised to rely on having enough. I acknowledge that many were not as fortunate to have everything handed to them.)
Earlier, I read a post shared by the blogger of FlytoFi.com where he has a guest writer who discusses minimalism and millennials. This post resonated with me, as I agree with the writer who states that minimalism can be traced to millennials, and not needing everything is a concept that is new to everyone. Millennials had enough, or too much, depending on the situation, and now excess has flipped to the extreme: to want nothing.
So, who are today’s Joneses? Are they the neighbour who has a boat, two or three cars, a big house and flashy jewelry? Or, are they the neighbour who lives in a condo, has a compact car, and believes less is more?
Are today's Joneses the mindless consumer or the immaculate minimalist? Do they still exist and why, after 105 years, do we let them control us? Click To Tweet
We struggle with the concept that both are the Joneses. We want access to the big house, the boat and the flashy side effects, but we also crave the simplicity of minimalism. How many times have you gone on vacation with just a suitcase, stayed in a hotel room, and realized that there was very little you actually needed beyond what was there? How many times have you gone home, glad to be home, but overwhelmed with all the clutter and things you own?
And yet, how many of us still get a thrill from going shopping and buying something we think we need, just to bring it home and realize three months later that it was not something we needed, but something that cluttered up our space and gave us a momentary glimpse of what being the Joneses is like.
What a vicious circle we have created for ourselves!
Whether you are on the journey to seek financial independence, saving for your retirement, or just having a healthy savings account, let’s redefine the Joneses.
Ten Reasons Not To Be The Next Joneses:
- Reduce waste in our landfills.
- Less property tax to be paid on smaller properties.
- Less fuel emissions on smaller or hybrid cars. (What’s better than paying for a Ferrari? Having a friend who has a Ferrari!)
- Less stuff to clean and purge or to launder (like clothes).
- Enjoy and appreciate your belongings more.
- No stressing about overextension of credit.
- No awkward moments with the repo man.
- Better credit score from less debt.
- No worries about people trying to steal from you if you are perceived as wealthy.
- More money for the people and things that matter.
Being a conscientious spender is one of the biggest factors in the pursuit of financial freedom.
What do you think about the Joneses? Is it still attractive or has it finally come to an end? While I wish the Joneses of our lives well, I think their reign has finally come to an end.
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