Keeping Up with the Joneses

Most people have spending problems, not financial problems.  That is, they have “sufficient” income to meet their basic needs and many of their wants.  However, it’s their unplanned and uncontrolled spending that gets them into money troubles.   

We are bombarded daily with hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of advertising messages, messages that encourage us to purchase goods and services that we often can’t afford and/or don’t need.  Much of the advertising messages are very direct and apparent. Some of the messages, though, are so subtle that we might not even realize that we are being “sold.”  For example, the clothes that television and movie personalities wear in their professional roles are advertising messages.  Marketers want us to interpret these messages as:  “If we wear the same clothes as they do, we will also be beautiful, popular, and financially successful.”  And, as evidenced by spending behaviors, many of us are doing just that.

The trouble with trying to “keep up with the Joneses” is that the Joneses are trying to “keep up with the Gateses.”  In other words, it is a no-win proposition because marketers make sure the standards are constantly changing; next year’s products will be “new and improved” and “more desirable” than what we’ve just purchased.

How can individuals and families get off this endless spending-treadmill?  First they must make a conscious decision to implement spending behaviors that will counteract the thousands of advertising messages each family member receives each year.  This can be accomplished by having all family members participate in setting family spending goals based on available resources and family values instead of advertisements.

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