Keeping up With The Joneses

We’ve all seen it: one neighbor gets a new car, so the other neighbor goes out and gets a new car. One neighbor strings up lots of Christmas lights and the other neighbor has to string up more Christmas lights.

It’s the sense of competition. We all want to be the best. And while that may be healthy when it comes to sports, it’s not really healthy when it comes to your wallet – especially if it’s an empty wallet.

For some of us, there is a sense that if we don’t have what “everyone else” has, we have “lost” in some way.

Even though you know you can’t afford it, you might start to tell yourself, “but I deserve it just as much as they do.”

You rationalize, “I work hard, I pay my bills, etc.” And before you know it, you’re at the store financing the same 60″ flat screen TV you recently watched the big game on at your cousin’s house.

While I was in debt and later, paying off my debt, there were plenty of friends and coworkers going on vacations, shopping, dining, and celebrating birthdays, and I was continuously declining the invitations.

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Did it bother me? Of course.

Because I love to travel, the vacations were a bit more difficult – especially when my one friend took trips to Europe annually.

Here are some things I used to tell myself to keep my spirits up:

  1. I will be able to do it or get it – eventually. Patience is a virtue! Does it really matter that much if I have to wait for something? So what if I had to wait a couple of years to do things in order to pay off my debt. I created it – not my friends. And for all I knew, those friends could be in debt themselves.
  2. Have I truly earned it? Most of us can rationalize just about anything – whether it’s food, money, or fitness. While it may seem a bit negative, I had to tell myself that I hadn’t even earned the debt I was trying to pay off – so no rationalization could or should be acceptable.
  3. Focus on yourself. While paying off my debt, I really didn’t have time to focus on what other people were doing anyway. The most important thing for me was to focus on getting out of debt and getting back on track. You owe it to yourself and your family to forget about what “everyone else” has, and to get your family in a healthy financial position.
  4. Ignore the noise. Instant gratification bombards us from every angle. The minute you buy a smart phone, the newer, better, and faster one comes out just a few months later. Remember, there is always a “new” and “improved” product – always. You should also note that really new products will come down in price within a year or two. Do you remember how much flat screen TVs cost when they first came out?
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When an athlete loses a game or competition, the first thing they’ll say is, it’s all part of the game. Sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. They may even say the other team played better or the other competitor deserved to win because they performed better.

I believe the same holds true for finances. When someone can afford something we can’t, they’re not lucky – they’ve earned it.

As for me, I know I am much more at peace with a purchase when I’ve saved up for it and I’ve earned it.

What do you do to keep your spirits up to stay on track?

Cheryl Bigos graduated from a CareOne Debt Relief Services Debt Management Plan (DMP) in 2008. She is now blogging about life as a DMP graduate in the My Journey out of Debt blog. She works as a Purchasing Manager in Los Angeles, teaches Pilates, and lives with her boyfriend of four years. Cheryl is looking forward to sharing what she has learned from her experience in the DMP and after! Look for great tips about life ‘after’ debt! Compensated Blogger for CareOne Debt Relief Services.