Have you been quick to dismiss frugality? If you’ve found yourself trying to keep up with the Joneses, it’s easy to think frugality restricts us. We’re conditioned to spend our money on the newest things to hit the market in order to appear “cool.”
(Apple Watch, we’re looking at you.)
We don’t think twice about how it affects our financial future because we’re so focused on the present.
Unfortunately, that often ends in a story of debt, living paycheck to paycheck, or not having enough saved up for retirement. That’s where forgetting about keeping up with the Joneses and embracing frugality instead comes into play.
Put the Focus Back on You
Chances are, your friends are so absorbed in their own lives, they’re not taking the time out of their day to think about how your bank account is doing. They’re not checking in with you to see if you’re maxing out your 401(k). After all, do you?
You’ve probably heard it before, but no one will care about your money — meaning, money in the bank, in your retirement accounts, and what you have invested for your future — as much as you do. In most cases, trying to keep up with your family, friends, and colleagues isn’t going to lead you in the right direction when it comes to being financially responsible.
The first step in fighting the need to keep up with anyone else’s spending is to simply put the focus back on you and your financial situation. Stop caring about what others are doing, and create a list of priorities and goals for yourself.
Your Financial Future Does Matter, Even Now
It’s easy to live in the moment and give into impulse purchases, or to think, “oh well, I get paid next week.” But that’s the wrong way of thinking about things.
You need to start considering how your larger purchases fit into your financial plan. (And if you don’t have a financial plan, now is the time to make one!) This is where that list of priorities and goals factors in. Will buying a $3,000 TV cost you down the road? Does that eventually translate into working for an extra year and delaying retirement?
Start thinking about how your purchases affect your finances, both in the present and the future.
Frugality Probably Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Does
Frugality is a mindset, and it simply means being financially responsible. It’s not about cutting back all the time, or going crazy clipping coupons (unless, of course, that makes you truly happy and fulfilled). It’s about focusing on what’s important to you and spending intentionally on those things. In that way, frugality allows you to live the life you want to live.
Notice there’s nothing in there that says to deprive yourself. Being a tightwad isn’t the same thing as being miserly. You can absolutely spend your money, but the key is doing it in a way that makes you happy.
Think about where the majority of your money goes. Do you spend on things that make you happy? Or are you spending on things because that’s what’s “socially acceptable?”
For example, do you have a cable subscription so you can keep up with the shows everyone in the office loves to talk about, but don’t actually enjoy watching them? Do you get your hair and nails done every other week to look a certain way, even though you’re perfectly happy doing without? Did you lease a $300 per month vehicle because that’s what everyone in your family does?
Start thinking for yourself and stop following the herd.
Are You Being Wasteful?
Sadly, sometimes keeping up with the Joneses results in a lot of waste. Look around your house. Are there any items you bought just because everyone else did that are now collecting dust?
The fact is, fads change, and they change quite often. Buying into them only creates waste, especially when you’re buying things for extrinsic reasons. If things don’t actually matter to you, or they aren’t valuable in your eyes, then don’t buy them.
Purchasing new things constantly pulls you into a cycle of waste (and sometimes, debt). There will never not be a time where nothing new is being promoted in the media. You need to pull yourself away from the allure and go back to that list of priorities and goals.
Ask yourself if the item you’re considering buying will actually be useful to you. If you don’t think you’ll use it more than once, or will lose interest after a month, hold off on the purchase. There’s no point in bringing more stuff into your house that will just become clutter in a matter of months. That’s the definition of throwing money down the drain.
It’s time to embrace frugality and forget about keeping up with the Joneses — or anyone else, for that matter. It’s time to make a choice: a secure financial future, or a future where your financial freedom is uncertain?
There are far too many individuals stuck in the second situation, being forced to work a few extra years (or never being able to retire), simply because they weren’t financially responsible years ago. Don’t let that be you.
It comes down to this: embracing frugality and intentional and meaningful spending will give you wealth, and keeping up with the Joneses won’t. It’s an easy choice, but a difficult battle. One worth fighting to win.