the joneses are broke melissa blevins

The Joneses are Broke! {Stop Keeping up Appearances & Do This Instead}

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The Joneses are broke as a joke! We’ve all heard the phrase “keeping up with the Joneses”. It means you’re trying to keep up appearances. Your friends Suzie and Mike just bought a BRAND NEW CAR (said in my Bob Barker voice). What you probably don’t know (and what Mike and Suzie aren’t going to come out and say) is that they are up to their eyeballs in debt. There are some creative lenders out there, and just about anyone can buy an RV or a boat or some other stupid expensive “toy” on credit.

The Cost of Keeping up with the Joneses

For several years, my husband and I played the comparison game and gave in to our “wants” by trading multiple cars year after year. What’s worse is we would just finance the negative equity into the new car loan (which many people do). A few years ago we bought a brand new minivan and when we finally woke up and realized our main problem was car purchasing behavior, we ended up selling for a massive loss because we were tired of giving in to the comparison game. Our car payment was $711 per month, and we realized the first house I ever bought was only $550 per month. Talk about a reality check! We were so upside down on the loan that I had to sell a few houses to save up the money to cover the negative equity. We will never go through that again!

Related: Goodbye to the Joneses 

It’s easy to see the fun “toys” your friends have and wish it were yours. The truth is, you can have anything you want (within reason). You just have to work hard and the smart choice is to pay cash so that you can enjoy it without it feeling like a heavy burden! Imagine what life would feel like if you were able to buy a nice, used camper (big enough for the whole family) with cash so that you can afford to actually take it awesome places! Ask yourself these 3 questions before you decide to try to play the comparison game with the Joneses.

Related: How to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck

the joneses are broke
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1. Set SMART Financial Goals

SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. Are you setting goals that are reasonable and attainable with regards to your finances?

Some examples of specific financial goals would be:

Your goal is to pay off all debt except for the house. You owe $40,000 total on credit card debt and car loans, and your income is $60,000 per year (take home after taxes). You need to create a personal budget specific to your expenses and debt payments and start using the debt snowball or debt avalanche method for paying off your debt. The Joneses are broke because they aren’t living on a written budget every single month. They live for the next purchase, the next vacation, the next flashy object.

To help with your goal setting, I created a SMART goals worksheet printable just for this purpose.  I’ll also send you the password to my Personal Finance Resource Library with other goodies, like my debt snowball spreadsheet. It is super simple and within minutes you can find out exactly how long it will take you to pay off your debt!

Related: Debt Snowball vs Debt Avalanche {What’s the Difference?}

2. Align your Values with Spending

Take a look at your recent bank transactions (or, dare I say, credit card transactions). What do you see? Are your spending habits aligned with your values?

  • Do you spend more on take-out than you do on tithing or giving?
  • Are you frequently shopping at Target, TJ Maxx, or some other store that gets you into trouble? Guess who does this? And the Joneses are broke.
  • Are splurges and bad habits killing your budget? Craft beer, cigarettes, brunch, and gambling can add up quick. Before you know it, $500/month turns into $6,000 per year and $30k in 5 years.

Now that you’ve had a reality check, it’s time to start making some changes. More on that in a minute.


3. What is Important to YOU?

What stage of life are you in? Are the kids still in diapers? Or do you have no college savings in your 40’s? Are you and your husband recently retired, now empty nesters, and looking to start traveling more? You need to identify what’s important to YOU and align your goals, spending, and financial plan around your own dreams. Keep in mind: the Joneses aren’t paying your bills! You never know…they might not even be paying their OWN bills!

The first step to financial freedom is saving money. Whether that’s saving money on groceries or starting an emergency fund and putting a little bit away each paycheck until you’ve got some security, you’ve got to be prepared for extra, unexpected expenses. CIT Bank offers a high yield savings account that pays more interest than any local bank in my city. They also offer money market accounts as well as CD’s, and all of these three accounts are free to open with no monthly maintenance fees. They only require a minimum deposit of $100 to start. You can see what all they have to offer by clicking the link below.

The Joneses are Broke…But You Don’t Have to Be

So what steps can you take to ensure that you aren’t chasing the Joneses dreams? I want you to be successful in your pursuit of what makes YOU happy!  It all starts with a budget. After all, you won’t know how much money you truly have (or don’t have) until you write it all out.  I’m on a mission to help you pay off more debt, save more money, and feel a sense of peace and security you probably haven’t felt in all of your adult years!

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Melissa

I've done all the things! Girl, I've washed my face. I've trashed everything that doesn't spark joy. I've walked the baby steps. I've cried. I've prayed, but my perfectionism has really held me back.

Perfection Hangover can be crippling. Stop comparing yourself to others and start living your best life! That's why PH exists! I want to encourage you to take control of your money, your blog, and your business.
Melissa
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Comments

  1. Elizabeth O

    This article was really eye-opening. I can definitely cut back in places where I splurge. You provided so much great advice here.

  2. Emily

    This is so true and helpful! I’d much rather purchase these things in cash than to continue to finance them.

  3. This is all seriously fantastic advice ! We are quite awful at making and keeping a budget ! ????

    1. Natalie! It’s easier than you’d think. You’ve just got to take the time to sit down and write it all out (OR you can download the spreadsheet!) Either way, I’m glad you’ve found my site and I hope you find it helpful!

  4. Remaining authentic to my lifestyle is important to me regardless of what goes on around me.. but love your last line where you said the pursuit of what makes you happy starts with a budget. It truly does. Whether that’d be quitting your day job in pursuit of your passion, you really need to have a backup budget..

    1. Absolutely! By having a budget, you’re able to pursue that which makes you happy and fulfills you!

  5. Great advice! I really like the question about if your purchases are aligning with your values. To be truly happy, we need to not waste money on things that we don’t think are important to us.

    1. Exactly! Before you know it, a person may have spent $50 per month on specialty coffee, but doesn’t want to give $5 in the offering plate or to offer to feed a homeless veteran.

  6. Daisy

    Thanks for this fabulous advice…. I’m definitely keeping some of these tips in mind. 🙂

  7. This is so important! My mum is a mortgage broker and often tells me of families who are super in debt and have all their house decor/furniture on layaway, yet are in debt with a fancy car and house way bigger than they’ll ever need.

    1. YES, Emily! They worry so much about what other people think of them that they have no money to actually enjoy the things THEY care about!

  8. These are all great tips! It can be so easy to compare ourselves to other people, which can get us in a lot of trouble!

    1. So true, Holly! The comparison game is like a monkey on your back. It’s just going to irritate you!

  9. This is such good advice. We gave ourself an allowance – $50 each every month. This is the money we use when we eat out or go to a Happy Hour. (We do allow ourselves 1 meal out per week.) We opened an online checking account and it’s so impactful to see how much eating lunch out every day impacts your spending.

    1. Isn’t it crazy how much money can be blown on eating out if you’re not careful and mindful of it, Nicole?! Once a week dinner/lunch out is a great budget! We need to take more time to have dates, whether that’s a night out, a day lunch, or just a drive to the grocery store :p

  10. This is something as a blogger I struggle with – I always want to appear like I have $$ and everything together. I have been budgeting a lot lately and that really helps.

    1. It’s easy for anyone to get caught up in comparing their life to others. When we do that, though, it sets us up for disappointment. My blogging mentor, Ruth Soukup from Elite Blog Academy always shares this quote “Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle”. And it’s so true! Everyone is at a different stage in her blogging journey. Just keep swimming!

  11. This hits so many points I try to make to those around me! Keeping up with appearances makes you lose site of what you actually value in life.
    Choose FI has podcast titled “The Jones’ are bankrupt”. You should check it out. It has an ironic story of how the home the term “keeping up with the Jones'” was based on actually was foreclosed on.
    Lessons learned to just keep up with you and your family and create the best life for you and no one else! Great post

    1. Thanks, Jenny! I’ll definitely check it out! Appreciate you taking the time to leave a thoughtful comment! <3

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