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by on August 14, 2014 10:49 AM

We all know the Joneses: that family with the perfect home and cars, the perfect kids and marriage. And tons of money. Admit it. You’ve been trying to keep up with them, haven’t you? You want to be like them because they have it all, without any of the stress or pressure that the rest of us have to put up with.

There’s a Jones family on every block, in every neighborhood, church and community. Your “Joneses” might be a neighbor, friend or relative. While some may find it easy to shrug their shoulders and say they don’t care, the truth is that many people feel compelled to not only keep up with their Joneses, but to outdo them.

What we’re dealing with here is called envy. It’s the age-old monster that motivated Cain to murder his brother Abel, and the wicked Queen to poison her stepdaughter, Snow White. Envy wraps its ugly green tentacles around our hearts whenever we allow what others have to stir up a painful awareness of our own lack. The monster can show up in almost any situation, and before we know it, we’re overspending and going into debt trying to keep up and “one up.”

If you recognize that you have a problem with envy and letting others around you determine how you’ll spend your income, you’re already on the right track. You’ve just nailed the first step, which is realizing you have a problem. Now take a few more steps and soon you’ll be off that one-up train.

QUESTION YOURSELF: Envy is an emotion that can be exhausting because it has to be hidden. Ask yourself, what is trying to keep up with the Joneses doing to you on the inside? Is it producing anything positive, or is it just eating you up? Be brutally honest.

OTHERS’ FEELINGS: How do you think it feels for your spouse, kids, loved ones and friends if you are always unsatisfied with what you have? You can’t be that much fun to live with. And if you are so unhappy with what you have, could they be thinking that you’re unsatisfied with them, too?

CHANGE YOUR THOUGHTS: You thought your way into this; you can think your way out of it. You choose your thoughts, and that is how you get these feelings of envy. Stop paying attention to the Joneses. Just stop it.

THEIR DREAMS OR YOURS: The Joneses (whoever they are) don’t care what kind of SUV you drive. They won’t care if you get your kids into the prestigious school. They’re not paying attention to the brand of handbag you carry or the clothes you wear. They honestly don’t care. If you’re living your life to measure up to what others have, you’re playing a loser’s game. You’re living their dreams and not your own.

BE GRATEFUL: Instead of being envious of what you perceive that others have and striving to match it, every day for one full week, write down 10 things you are grateful for — blessings in your life. Do not repeat one blessing.

UNFRIEND THE JONESES: This is not a competition. It’s your life, your future. It will be a lot easier if you can convince yourself that they’re buried in debt trying to impress you.

Truth be told, they probably are.

Mary invites questions at, or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a personal finance member website and the author of “Debt-Proof Living,” released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at
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