How to not keep up with the Jones's?

So much about money is mental. I can go 2 weeks and spend very little. I can be strong. But then something emotional happens, and I'm like "forget it". My biggest struggle is comparison. We don't live beyond our means. My husband makes a good salary. Yet so many of our friends seem to be able to do so much more than us. I realize I have no idea what kind of debt, if any, they are carrying. But we own our home, have a $320 car payment, and normal bills. (and we don't have HBO or Showtime.) That's it. But yet one weekend trip to see family can kill my budget.My real life friends have trainers, take fancy vacations, private schools, eat out all the time, and drive 3 new cars. I try to tell myself that they are very much over extending, but I don't know. Yes, I have no doubt that once I'm with YNAB for a few months, I'll be better able to do the things. But I'm wondering if anyone else is feeling this? Do you think they are overspending? I know once retirement hits, we are going to be golden. That's why we have worked so hard to have a great retirement.

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  • I know we live within our means.  We don't have the flashiest cars, we didn't choose to live in the swankiest neighborhood, and I don't wear expensive jewelry.  I know a lot of people value those things so they do.  Choices have consequences.  Our choices mean that our kids won't have to borrow as much for college as a lot of kids and that we'll likely be able to retire in our 60s and not have to work if we don't want to.  I don't keep up with the Joneses.  I don't have the same priorities as others.  I know for a fact the family who prioritizes traveling has at times had a lot of credit card debt.  I value security more than traveling, so we don't travel as much.  It is what it is, and it's been a very long time since I've paid interest on a credit card and it never took more than a month or two to pay off an expensive purchase we put on credit card lo those many years ago.  

    My car is old enough to go to college.  It looks like crap.  It has a persistent water leak in the roof.  We could purchase a new or used car outright but those dollars have jobs like Vet Fund and New Windows.  It's now a bigger priority and we have a plan to divert more of our disposable income to the new car category over the next 12 months, at which time we'll have enough money stashed for a reasonable used car outright or as a down on a more expensive car.  

    Choices have consequences.  I'm comfortable with my choices to live conservatively.  Yes, I'd like to drive a nicer car, but not at the expense of having to pay $700 of car loan notes each month.

    Like 2
      • Khaki Storm
      • YNAB book topics online: https://support.youneedabudget.com/r/q5w48j
      • Khaki_Storm.1
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Technicolor Cheetah We had a van with a leaky roof. I sanded the whole roof, patched any rust spots with blonde, and painted with the RV/camper roof paint, which only comes in white. The van was grey. 

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      • Technicolor Cheetah
      • Not sure when I became a cheetah...but I'll run with it
      • technicolor_cheetah
      • 4 mths ago
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      Khaki Storm 

      I wouldn't care about color but the water is coming in through the sun roof as far as we can tell - there are no obvious rust spots on the roof.  I'm about to take a tube of epoxy or something to the dang thing.  Goop over every seam.  It's not like we're using the sun roof now.  Function over form.  

      Like 1
      • Khaki Storm
      • YNAB book topics online: https://support.youneedabudget.com/r/q5w48j
      • Khaki_Storm.1
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Technicolor Cheetah that's what the rv paint is supposed to do. It's thick and has fibers in it. Maybe coating is better describing it than paint.

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      • Technicolor Cheetah
      • Not sure when I became a cheetah...but I'll run with it
      • technicolor_cheetah
      • 4 mths ago
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      Khaki Storm 

      It's the sunroof seals that we think are leaking so that's why I was thinking caulking up around the seams of the sunroof.  But it might be worth a shot, I'd like to not have to worry about mold in the car or water dripping from the mirror mount.  The car itself isn't bad to drive, if you can drive a manual transmission.  2nd gear is a little dodgy.  It's more fuel efficient than our big family  vehicle so any time I'm by myself or only have 1-2 kids, I want to use it since it gets about twice the mileage our big SUV does outing and abouting.  

      Like 1
      • Khaki Storm
      • YNAB book topics online: https://support.youneedabudget.com/r/q5w48j
      • Khaki_Storm.1
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Technicolor Cheetah I miss my manual transmission. On a car with a back hatch that leaked, I used a tube of roofing tar. That worked very well because it never hardens or shrinks, like caulk does. However, on the slip side, if you rub against it it will leave a stain on the clothes, etc.

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  • Momofboysx3 said:
    I know once retirement hits, we are going to be golden. That's why we have worked so hard to have a great retirement.

     Maybe that's a way to find out if your friends are overextended. Ask what are their plans for retirement. If they are like: "What retirement?", you'll know where they stand.

    Like 1
      • MXMOM
      • MXMOM
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Ceeses a lot of my friends and coworkers that I envy have sweet pension plans that will cover them in retirement. Yes they contribute to it but for most of them it’s always been off their cheque so they don’t notice. Forced savings. And my coworkers. Many have worked there for years so they will have a full pension in the next 5 years while I’m still slaving away. And a lot of them have a spouse that works here too so double pension. Kicking myself that I didn’t apply to work here a decade earlier. 

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  • Technicolor Cheetah said:
    our kids won't have to borrow as much for college as a lot of kids

     And another one. I know from some of your other posts, you have saved to send 3 kids to college without them taking on loans (well, just loans from the Mum and Dad bank). What about your friends? Anyway you can get to know about how their kids fund college. 

    And I would assume your friends have fewer kids. We also have 3 kids and a lot of our friends have 1, max. 2. Recently, some parents with 1 kid had somewhat forgotten we are still paying childcare for 2 of them (yeah still a lot to pay on the kids here :)) and were just "oh, right! That's why".

    Like 1
      • Technicolor Cheetah
      • Not sure when I became a cheetah...but I'll run with it
      • technicolor_cheetah
      • 4 mths ago
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      Ceeses 

      We're still saving, oldest is in  middle school.  We anticipate we won't have quite enough to pay for all of it, but 3-3.5 years paid and the rest loans is better than none, assuming state schools.   If they want to go to private school or out of state, the money won't go far.   This is all assuming the stock market doesn't tank hard between now and then.  

      Some of our friends have 3.  Most have 1 or 2, you're right.  

      Like 1
      • Superbone
      • YNAB convert since 2008
      • Superbone
      • 4 mths ago
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      Technicolor Cheetah I also think some parents are too lenient with their kids as to deciding what college or university they're going to go to. Kids don't know a lot about money and what it takes to support themselves. They also don't understand how crippling large student debt will be once they join the workforce. If  my kids wanted my support, they had to work with me in choosing their schools. They had to go with the ones that offered good scholarships to make them more affordable. If they hadn't gotten that, I would have wanted them to start at a community college the first two years. Luckily, they both went to great universities. I also made the decision that I wasn't going to take out a Parent Plus loan. If you listen to the schools, they make it sound like that is a given.

      Like 1
      • Technicolor Cheetah
      • Not sure when I became a cheetah...but I'll run with it
      • technicolor_cheetah
      • 4 mths ago
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      Superbone 

      My kids are years away from applying so I'm not really 'up' on what school costs.  Our financial advisor said our current plan will get us to about 70-80% of today's public school costs.  Of course, inflation will make that less.  But hopefully next year we can put more in; my husband got a raise this year and 1/4 of it went into college funds.  

      I just know I don't want my kids to graduate with a mortgage-sized debt around their necks.  How is anyone supposed to get ahead in the world if they're paying $1000, $1500, $2000 a month on school debt alone?  Or not paying their debts, with all that goes with it?  I don't want the kids in my basement!   I want them to have the bones of fiscal responsibility!  I want them to understand that choices have consequences.  My daughter wants to be an artist.  I'm like, "honey, art is probably what you do around your paying job.  If you can apply some of your artistic talent, great, but most of the time artists are not well paid."  Beyonce is the exception, not the norm.  

      Like 1
      • Momofboysx3
      • I'm going to master budgeting, even if it kills me!
      • Steel_Blue_Mainframe.11
      • 4 mths ago
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      Technicolor Cheetah I can tell you that my Texas A&M Aggie senior currently owes us almost $68,000. He had about $10,000 of his own money going in. This includes all living expenses as well.(the hubby and I are in negotiations with each other on how much of his living expenses we are going to have him pay back)  His tuition is a little below $7000. a semester. Summer school killed him, but it's still less than staying an extra semester for 2 classes. Our advice to the twins was to pay extra attention and try to avoid summer school. He had a few research assistant jobs, and is currently tutoring, but he hasn't earned much while in college. Might have been a good decision. He will get out in 4 years with a double major in ME and Math, with minor in Physics. I don't think he would have made enough money with steady income to warrant another year or 1.5 years of college. Not to mention, that would have meant another year we would have had 3 in college!

      Superbone makes a really good point. All of ours go to state colleges, but Texas A&M does not need to give money to many, and they don't. Not even many merit scholarships. One of my twins received a $20,000 scholarship at Texas State based just on his ACT score, (which was 3 points lower than his older brothers). He's applying for an RA position next year, and Texas State gives the RA's free room and board--that's roughly $7000. a semester. So with his scholarship, the money he had coming in, and the fact the he's the only one of my kiddos that worked in high school, so he had more money, so far he is on track to owe us very little. His major is nursing.  The other two are Engineering, so we had to take that into factor, according to my ME hubby, A&M is the school to go to for Engineering, and they get the better jobs. 🤷‍♀️

      (I tried really hard to get the second twin to do Engineering at TXST, no go! LOL)

      One thing that we have noticed with our kids, compared to our friends kids, they spend much less money on books and key codes, etc. since they see how much they are going to owe us. I don't think my senior has spent $700 on books total. (I've known students who have spent $300 on one book!) He gets older editions and makes them work, checks them out at the library, prints PDF's, heck, he's even used some of his dad's textbooks! They cook more too. My senior spends about $300 a month on groceries, and usually less than $100 on eating out. The CVS under his apartment does get more of his money that it should..but he's started working on that when it showed up in Mint. He has a Discover card as well, and has done remarkable with it. Set up to pay the balance in auto payment every month, and he's not overspent on it.

      Yeah, I've worked really hard with my sons so that they don't turn out like me. Two of them are more like their dad to begin with, so that helps. But unlike our parents, we are very open with how much we make, put aside, have for retirement, and how much everything costs. How living beneath our means has made it possible for them to not have to take student loans. (my parents declared bankruptcy--so I didn't get much of a lesson) With the one that is like me, next year is going to an eyeopener for him..Right now his way of earning fun money is donating plasma.  (hey, at $75 a pop, I can't say that I blame him)

      Like 4
    • Momofboysx3 Sounds like you are really steering your boys in the right direction! :)

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  • Forget about the Jones! You need to do what is best for you and your family. Just imagine that the Jones are deep in debt. They probably are. You can sleep well at night while they worry about how they're going to dig themselves out of their deepening debt doo doo. Plus, in time as you get reserves built up, you too will be able to do some fun activities and have some nice things.

    After many years of YNAB, I've done some things I never thought I'd do such as buying a business class round trip flight from California to NY (wow, I can lay flat!), paying cash for a new car,  and going on a 3 week Scandinavian vacation. All this while sending 2 kids through college with the first accruing a grand total of $5500 of debt while the other made it through with zero debt.

    You do it your way and let the Jones do it their way. Not all is as it appears on the outside.

    Like 7
  • Superbone said:
    Forget about the Jones!

     Agree 100%.  Never liked them anyway.  I like what Dave Ramsey says, live like no one else today so later in life you can live like no one else.  He also mentioned that the new status symbol is being debt free vs a new BMW in the driveway.  Not exact quotes but you get the picture.  

    The debtor is slave to the lender so strive for freedom. 

    Like 5
  • Thanks everyone, I realized I didn't word it well. I don't care about having new cars every time a friend does. 😀And I know that comparing is the devil. LOL I was wondering if it ever gets you down, and how you cope with that. Most days I can deal by naming all the things we are doing right. (and  yes, we are darn proud that our kids can borrow from us, at 1% interest) I love the comment about the car being old enough to go to college! We have an '03 and '06! LOL Technicolor Cheetah try flex seal spray on that sunroof! It works pretty well. 

    I was having a pity party for myself. I was trying to figure out a quick trip to go see my brother's band play, and moving money around. I kept thinking it shouldn't be this hard. Which is why in the past I just ignored it an then the next month scrambling, I'll get over it. 😎 I know I'm a pest this past week. Trying to keep myself motivated. You are nice people. Thanks!

    Like 5
      • Technicolor Cheetah
      • Not sure when I became a cheetah...but I'll run with it
      • technicolor_cheetah
      • 4 mths ago
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      Momofboysx3 

      That Flex Seal sounds interesting.  Worth a shot!  Like to get another year or two out of the car; we just booted our 25 y.o. grad student car out of the household this spring.

      It doesn't get me down too much (see not living in a fancy neighborhood).  Our county is very expensive, we live in the affordable part, i.e. where a lot of immigrant people live.  I like it.  It also makes feeling well off relatively easy because I know we're not struggling at all compared to a lot of the families of the kids my kids go to school with.  I also know that by the averages, we're doing as well or better than a lot of people in the fancy neighborhoods if you go by how much consumer debt that the average family holds.  A lot of people will worry about tomorrow when tomorrow comes.  They don't think past what they want now.  So college funding, retirement, how to afford the next car, expensive medical treatments/medications, that's tomorrow's problem.  

      As for the trip, can you start out saving $50 or $75 a month for day/road trips?  We have a big vacation fund for our once every 2-3 years back to the other coast extended trip, and a smaller category for road trips of a day to a week.  It won't help with the hard decisions right now but it might help with the scrambling next time.  Or maybe fit yourself in for a pedicure - it's not the same, but self care (be that a cup of tea, a yoga class, a nice hike, a long bath, whatever) helps with our mind set.  PS - if you like baths, making your own bath salts and bath bombs can be relatively inexpensive!

      Like 1
      • Momofboysx3
      • I'm going to master budgeting, even if it kills me!
      • Steel_Blue_Mainframe.11
      • 4 mths ago
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      Technicolor Cheetah funny thing, we do live in a mostly poor area, and you are correct, most of the time it does make it very easy. (I grew up with 2 teacher parents in a very wealthy school district, I hated it! LOL)  My son's certainly have a very healthy respect for what they have, so many of their friends have so much less. Somehow all my friends seem to be on the other side of the spectrum. 🤑 I've been working on getting the house ready, (raised 3 boys, family of 5 in less than 1300 sqft. Another thing I'm proud of) and staying on budget makes for slow progress. Patience is not something I've developed. Another reason I get myself in trouble.

      I like the bath idea. We only have one tub, and it's in the boys bathroom, so cleaning it to my standards to bathe in was always too much work. LOL Now they are all gone! I'm putting some candles (already have them) in there with a blue tooth speaker and my plastic wine cup and treating myself! Thanks!

      Like 1
      • TechieM2
      • IT Professional and General Geek
      • techiem2
      • 4 mths ago
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      Technicolor Cheetah I just started a vacation fund this month!  (and a few others for longer term goals)

      Like 1
  • Yeah, funny thing about that.  Like others have said, it's likely most of the Joneses aren't nearly as well off as they seem - they maybe APPEAR wealthy, but may actually have huge and debt and little to no retirement income waiting for them.

    Don't bother trying to keep up with them. 

    Some may truly be in a great financial situation, and if so good for them.

    Others may be drowning in debt and one day they'll be looking at you wondering how you are coasting along fine when they are struggling to make ends meet (hint - priorities and responsible money management!).

    Don't try to keep up with the Joneses now, and someday the Joneses will be trying to keep up with you!   ;)

    Like 4
  • Momofboysx3  I too sometimes wonder where do these people get their money!!! I wonder have I done that bad at budgeting our money when I see our co-workers going on yearly vacations and driving new vehicles or purchasing a house double what our cost without blinking an eye? Maybe, but  I know that I won't have a mortgage when I'm 70 and I'm not taking out loans for things like windows and a new roof.

    Just today I was looking at a newer used suv. I have a nice suv, but it's just too small. The price tag on a newer suburban is just too big. I want to retire someday. 

    For me when I look at the Joneses I think about a person that my dad once told me about. This person was always dressed to the 9's everything about them was immaculate, but if you stepped into their home it was quite the opposite. Everything was in chaos. I don't want my financial life to be in chaos so I try to focus on the fact that my money has an important job and I choose what those jobs are, not the world around me. And I know how upset I would truly be if I spent that money, not on my extra mortgage payment but on a new car. 

    Like Technicolor Cheetah said a fund for those trips it what I would suggest even though it probably won't solve the immediate concern, but it will help with future trips. 

    Like 1
      • Momofboysx3
      • I'm going to master budgeting, even if it kills me!
      • Steel_Blue_Mainframe.11
      • 4 mths ago
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      Bezona I think that's it!!! It's not that I want what they have, but I question if I'm doing all that I can! What are they doing that I'm not? Sure I can pretend that they are swimming in debt. but are they?  I like your dad's analogy.  And  yeah, already on the funds for the future. Christmas is a biggie right now, trying not to use the CC without having the money to pay it. I should have started this 6 months ago. LOL

      Like 2
      • Technicolor Cheetah
      • Not sure when I became a cheetah...but I'll run with it
      • technicolor_cheetah
      • 4 mths ago
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      Momofboysx3 

      This year might be rough, the next 6 months might be rough if you just started out, but it gets easier the longer you do it if you're actually saving for true expenses like Christmas.  It's not a matter of "will I need to do maintenance on my house/car/body," but a question of "how much will it cost?"  

      if you're just starting out, maybe spend some time googling YNAB categories.  Then there will be fewer gotchas as you go ahead, when you're saving all year for your technical membership that's due in March, or Christmas, or dental, or the veterinarian, or replacing the fridge, or the phone, or or or.  

      And yes, it's incredibly normal to feel incredibly YNAB broke for some time.  It wasn't until after we were buffered one month that I felt less pressured.  I just keep looking at our reports, it says that we've paid off $X on debt and have $Y more in the bank.

      Like 1
  • I choose not to see the Joneses - took Facebook off my phone.

    I know you said most of these people are in real life so I get it- I live in one of the wealthiest U.S. suburbs so I'm surrounded, as well. But like you say, you never know the real story.

    I just keep plugging along, watching my net worth rise by investing and paying off my home and staying out of consumer debt. I never suffered from comparison envy, but in the past few years really discovered that I truly don't care what others have - therefore, I never get "down" about it. Instead, I busy myself in net worth projection spreadsheets and plan my future.  :)

     I have enough (and do have a lot of nice things, to boot!). I AM enough.

    Like 10
      • Superbone
      • YNAB convert since 2008
      • Superbone
      • 4 mths ago
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      Lauren E Mic drop! 👍🙂

      Like 1
  • 3 points:

    1. The grass is greener on the other side.

    2. Once you compare you lose.

    3. As a religious person I believe everything is God's money. Being a steward for God, enriching myself is wasting the blessings God has given me.

    I wish you the best.

    Like 2
    • Voracious Reader
    • YNAB broke is not the absence of money, but rather the judgment that it has something more important to do.
    • Orange_Cheetah.3
    • 3 mths ago
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    Ah, yes, the Joneses. Lovely people. My two closest friends became a pediatrician and a neurologist. The pediatrician then married a dentist and the neurologist married a successful engineer.

    Meanwhile I haven't married and went into insurance, and just about the time I started making "real" money, I changed careers. So I know the Joneses well. My best friend literally has "My husband just came home with a convertible without telling me first" money. (Note to husbands out there: regardless of your income, this will still cause a fight!)

    Knowing that once your retirement hits you'll be golden is an amazing thing that doesn't show on the outside. If the Joneses knew, they might wish they were keeping up with you! But even if they are fully funding their 401(k)s and have college funds in place for the kiddoes, our lives can't be about what other people do if we want to be happy in them. Why not try thinking about what doesn't cost a lot of money but makes you feel rich? For me it's having an indulgent place to sleep/return to at the end of the day. So my queen size bed has 10 pillows on it, two cashmere-soft throws, and a down-alternative comforter. Literally every time I walk into my miniscule bedroom and snuggle up on my bed I feel joyous. The kind of comfort and peace that I can't put a price on. Then I light my vanilla scented candles and positively wallow in MY definition of luxury. And, yes, I spent a few hundred dollars on it at a time when money was tight. But I don't want a convertible. I want an amazing haven in my bedroom, a career I truly love, a debt-free life, and good friends to spend it with. 

    And the best thing about being rich in friends? That's the kind of wealth that serious illnesses or job losses or divorces can't deplete.

    Don't let your admirable focus on retirement prevent you from occasionally treating yourself now. The secret isn't to keep up with the Joneses. It's to know that you don't have to want what they have.

    Like 7
  • Technicolor Cheetah said:
    I know we live within our means.  We don't have the flashiest cars, we didn't choose to live in the swankiest neighborhood, and I don't wear expensive jewelry.  I know a lot of people value those things so they do.  Choices have consequences. 

     I live in a really nice town that has a lot of wealth. Some of it true, some of it probably debt. But I am finding since YNAB & my financial journey, I'm becoming more frugal, more into simple living, more into minimalism (esp after doing the Marie Kondo purge this past year), and less interested in social media. I'm tired of how shallow people have become. I think the debt-free movement is also an Anti-Joneses movement. I'm happy to be a part of it.

    A lot of my married friends in my town (book club from my old neighbourhood) have become boring in my eyes since all they talk about are their kids' hockey schedules, private schools, cottages, renos, & vacations. In turn, I'm becoming closer with my neighbours who all live in townhouses & semi-detached houses, many with 3 or 5 kids, but they are all happy & down to earth. Spring-Fall we are all outside having drinks, potlucks, & street parties and lots of laughs. We all talk constantly, but it's not about indirect monetary status & possessions. While I am divorced and often don't feel a part of either my married friends, or married neighbours, I feel closer with my married neighbours. The men are my friends as are the women. I've made a lot of friends in my ski club, many who are single or divorced, but very few have kids like me. Sometimes I don't know where I belong, but most of the time I feel happy to be independent and a part of both worlds. I count my blessings and it is very encouraging to work towards my goal of being financially independent on my own. I will get rid of my LOC debt & car lease. I will pay off my mortgage. I will have a investments into retirement. And those goals bring me happiness, which shows in my face. Better than any expensive cream my married friends are using. 

    Like 2
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