Keeping up with The Joneses: Not worth the Price

 

American companies bombard us with messages compelling us to buy a new car, a bigger home, sparkling jewelry and fashionable clothes. Even sit-coms of “typical” families show people with incredible homes wearing designer clothing.

Capitalism has become synonymous with commercialism. So much for freedom; life in this “buy more to be better” world becomes a competition. Rather than choosing to save for a vacation or give to charity, this mental terrorism pushes us to spend and overspend.

In her blog, Karen Schelhaas noted: “The initial buzz of a new shirt or a sparkly pair of shoes is indeed that – a buzz. Like a good cocktail, it makes us feel warm and fuzzy and noticeable. But in the end, it loses its thrill and needs refilling, which can get expensive for the soul as well as the pocketbook.”

Did you notice how buying is like a drug? We get a temporary sense of fulfillment but then we see our neighbor drive up in a 2014 Lexus 400h (my dream car, insert yours to make it more meaningful) and the buzz is gone.

Image courtesy of Edmunds.com

Can we truly blame the media for our compulsion to spend money on things we don’t really need?

I try not to play the blame game. Sure, we can point our fingers at advertisements and materialistic celebrities, but the truth lies in the other direction. Self.

We must take responsibility for our own priorities in life. If money is all-important, we need to ask ourselves why. If public opinion matters more than private contentment, time for self-evaluation is long overdue.

Why do we want a new car when our friends buy one? Why does that million dollar home seem more appealing than the one we live in now? (Ever stop to think what the property tax bill would be on that home? How long would it take to clean such a monster?)

Our focus gets jaded by the constant sensory input from the world around us. We hear the wealthy man is unhappy but we’re sure if we had all that money, we would finally arrive at happiness.

The grass is always greener on the other side of the street. Of course, green grass needs to be mowed more frequently. What’s under the surface? It could be a septic drain field.

Contentment is the key to ignoring the race of one-upmanship defining so much of society. The American Dream defined by having every material possession you can imagine and plenty of money in the bank to assure the same tomorrow translates into a nightmare.

There is never enough stuff. We must seek our peace of mind and definition of success in another venue. I say look inside the house instead of at the driveway and landscaped yard.

Do we have supportive relationships in our home? Open communication and freedom to be who we are with our spouse offers more happiness than any new car we could drive.

Look to our children. Are we nurturing them or driving them to seek contentment in materialism? They see us. They hear our conversations. If renting movies and baking pizza at home on Friday night builds a tradition of togetherness, they will understand family isn’t about how much money we spend.

Life is about relationships. Money will never buy a happy, lasting relationship. What sort of family life resides in that million dollar home? We don’t need to know. What we need to do is find contentment where we live now.

If we can relish life in a cramped two-bedroom apartment with cardboard boxes for chairs while sleeping on a mattress on the floor, we can make it anywhere.

Have contentment. Will travel.

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