Are We Still Keeping Up with the Joneses?
As my husband and I get ready to turn thirty-five this year, we’re finally at the point in our lives where we’re not living paycheck to paycheck. We don’t have a whole lot left over after we’ve paid our bills, private school tuition, aftercare, the veterinarian, and mortgage. However, we’re past the point of pinching each and every penny like we did when we were first married.
A lot of our friends have moved up to much larger homes in recent years or traded in their cars for the luxury versions. While a lot of Americans are struggling with their homes foreclosing or being unemployed, our area seems to be a little bit more insulated from the economic downturn than most. Don’t get me wrong...I have friends who have lost their jobs and are struggling to find one. A few friends who had decided to stay home with their kids are now contemplating returning to work just to have the added financial security.
Recently, we were seriously considering selling our home and upgrading to a larger home. With three of us and a dog, our home is definitely large enough. Three bedrooms, a garage, and a finished basement round out about 2,000 square feet...we’re grateful for it. But the center hall colonials with the master suite, the his and her walk-in closets, and the multiple fireplaces? Technically, we can finally afford one of those. And after several open houses, we had to ask ourselves: Just because we can afford a bigger house, does it necessarily mean we should buy one?
I have to confess, I do compare my home to my friends’ homes.
I said it.
And so I can only assume that they are doing the same.
But why do we do that?
When I ask myself why I compare, I think it goes back to when we were in junior high school. While my mom bought me the Gap jeans and the Keds shoes I insisted on, she did not buy me the Guess? jeans and the LeSportsac purses I pined for. And while I passed notes and had sleepovers with the girls who did, I was always envious and secretly wished I could have those clothes I coveted.
I don’t know that having those clothes would have made me happier. I think that if I was rockin’ the Guess?, I probably would have wished for an earlier birthday so I could get my driver’s license sooner or would have been bummed out if my locker wasn’t closer to the lunchroom. Not because there was really any inherent value in any of these things, but because once something becomes a hot commodity in a group’s eyes, it becomes what everyone wants.
If only keeping up with the Joneses meant that having the most quality time to spend with your family was what impressed our friends or whoever could remember all of their friends’ birthdays without the help of Facebook was who we all admired. I know I’d like to have a little more (ok, a lot more) of both of those traits.
With all that said, my husband and I ultimately decided not to sell our modest home for a larger one. We’re going to do some improvements on the one we have and make it feel a little bit more like “new”. We like our lifestyle as it stands. When I want a new gadget or want to have a night out with friends, I can indulge within reason. Same goes for my husband. If he wants a new fork or wheels for his mountain bike, we don’t have to save for months to get those.
What we spend (or don’t spend) our money on to keep us happy and healthy may not be what the Joneses may spend their money on. But you know what? That’s ok.
Because we’re not the Joneses and perhaps the only thing we do have in common is our extremely common last names.