Keeping up with the Jones' - Learn to live within your means...
Here, we are discussing
the relationship between extravagant lifestyles and consumer
Spending Habits are Learned Early
Unfortunately, in our society, a growing
number of people are living far beyond their means in an effort to
be something they are not, or to “keep up with the Jones’” so-to-speak.
We are flooded with images of beautiful models and movie stars living
extravagant lifestyles, wearing expensive designer clothing, and driving
elaborate cars that cost more than many middle-class homes do. These images affect our young and leave a lasting impression in their
vulnerable minds about what they should be. As they grow, it often seems as though they are actual celebrities starring in their own movie.
Striving to impress their peers with expensive clothing, jewelry,
and cars, teenagers spend more and more money each year;
at the high school level, they are often spending their parent’s
money. In fact, statistics from the United States Department of Labor show that
only about 42% of teenagers aged 16 to 19 years found paid employment
in 2005, yet teenagers
spent over $150 billion on everything from clothing to televisions. The average 17
year-old spends around $100 a week. Unless the teenagers are helping to support the family financially, it is likely that they are spending this
money on frivolous
So, with fewer than 50% even
working for their money, it seems that parents may be footing the bill for the material possessions that their children need in order to participate in the
proverbial high school “popularity contest”.
long as the children have a roof over their heads, every thing
is fine and dandy. But, when they become too old to be their parent’s
responsibility, they often move off into “real world” continuing
to live the glamorous life. As Suze Orman puts it, they are "spoiled
credit card debt for 25 to 34 year olds exceeding $5000 in 2004,
it is clear many young adults are living well above their means, making
purchases they simply can't afford.
The Truth about A-Listers – Keeping up with the Jones’
Living on credit to have what the wealthy have. They attempt to attain status through fashion, phony glamour, or material possessions, while lacking the means. That's the impetus behind the whole "keeping up with the Jones' " mind set. The
desire to see how the other half lives is not a new one. The
phrase “keeping up with the Jones’” dates back
to 1913 and began as the title of a cartoon
strip in the New York
Globe and other newspapers; it ran for many years after it
was coined. Because it was one of the most common surnames,
‘Jones’ was chosen by the artist, Arthur Momand, to indicate
the common nature of social rivalry.
to Momand’s own accounts, he and his wife resided in Cedarhurst,
New York, one of Long Island's Five Towns, where the average
income is still among America's highest. Living “far beyond
our means in our endeavor to keep up with the well-to-do
class,” the Momands came to realize that they needed a change
and so they move to Manhattan where they rented a cheap.
Arthur Momand used his Cedarhurst experience to create his
'Keeping Up with the Jones' comic strip, launched in 1913.
Momand first thought of calling the strip 'Keeping Up with
the Smiths,' but 'finally decided on 'Keeping Up with the
Jones' as being more euphonious.' His creation became very
popular and ran in American newspapers for over 28 years,
appeared in book, a movie, and in musical-comedy form. The
expression 'keeping up with the Jones' became a phrase
known worldwide and is still used widely today1.
Reference: 1. "The Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert
Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997).
The Momands were able to realize that they were living
above their means and were digging themselves deeper and
deeper into debt by doing so. For many of today’s youth,
this realization is often too late coming. It is not uncommon
to walk through a mall, and see a 22 year-old holding three
or four bags stuffed with expensive name-brand clothing
from stores such as Abercrombie and Fitch, Armani Exchange,
and Guess, to name a few. They will take this clothing
home, wear it a few times to “impress” their friends,
then start all over. Perhaps they drive an expensive car with payments that consumer over 50% of their monthy income. While no one is really impressed, somehow it makes them feel better about themselves. It's sad, but it's the unfortunate truth..
The question many ask is,
who is paying for those shopping sprees? The parents? Even
at the college level, parents continue to"support" their kid's
elaborate lifestyles, though many young adults simply start charging.
Is daddy paying for their 22 year old child to wear $120 designer
blue jeans? Or, is that 22 year old living on his/her own credit
card, charging those expensive items, with no means to pay the
debt back, just to impress
their friends? It would seem that this behavior is driven by
an enormous lack of self esteem, but that is a topic for a psychology
website. Rather, the more important issue at hand is the debt
that those purchases and that way of life is causing. The 22
year old living beyond his means is not mature enough to realize
the trouble they will find themselves in 10 years down the road;
they just live for the moment, the upcoming party or social event,
and who they will “impress” next.
The problem of
excessive consumer debt and spending is not limited to young
adults and college students. Many older Americans are also
guilty of charging, charging, charging, to buy that
new living room suit, to add that extra room to the
house, to buy nice business suits, or to by that new car.
Much of their purchases are designed to impress, and
to “fit in” with a sociological image of success
that has evolved through the generations.
everyone who lives like this pays the consequences.
Yes, you make look like a million bucks in those new designer
clothes you just charged on your high-interest credit card, and
you just might impress a few people. But, the joke is on you.
You are the one who will be paying 12% to 18% interest (maybe
higher depending on your credit) on the credit card to which
you made those charges. When you're unable to keep up, you will end up with an empty bank account and very bad credit, if you don't already have it. Simply put, if you can't pay cash for
it, you can't afford it.
Oprah Winfery has dedicated entire shows to helping people manage
their debt. If you haven't already, you should check out Oprah's
Debt Diet. Also dubbed "America's Debt Diet", Oprah Winfrey
discusses many issues surrounding the cost of debt, how to grow
your income, pay down your high interest debt, and changing your
bottom line is that we need to overcome the temptation
to buy things we can’t afford. We need to overcome
the desire to impress others, and more importantly,
we need to realize that no one really cares, despite
best our efforts to impress and get noticed. At the
end of the day, the very people we hope have noticed
our new Armani shirt have gone about their lives giving
your shirt or your apparent wherewithal a second thought.
Here are a few tips to help you control your spending.
should avoid using the credit cards for purchases
that you could pay with cash.
you are in credit card debt, contact your bank
to negotiate a lower interest rate.
you want to pay off your debt, tackle your
high-interest rate debt first.
- Let student
loans drag out as long as possible because
their rates are normally very very low.
the credit cards paid first.
you are a parent with a child in college,
monitor his/her purchases very closely.
- Do not give children a free-reign credit card.
They are simply not mature enough to handle
- Learn to budget and bargain hunt. If you can't afford it, don't buy it.
- Consider 10 possible
reasons why you
are not rich
See Also: Establishing Credit Early | Using Credit Cards Properly
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