Ignoring the Joneses
Photo by: iharfilipau
The following is a guest post by That One Caveman from One Caveman’s Financial Journey, where he writes about his life, his family’s financial struggles and successes, and the various tools and tricks he employs to eliminate his debt. If you like what you read, make sure you head over and subscribe to his blog!
Our whole world is filled with marketing designed to make us long for something else that we don’t yet have. In order to win our money, they have to convince us that they’ve created something that we want more than anything else – to desire something so strongly that we set aside all other desires. In every television commercial break we’re entertained by attractive individuals showing us how much better their life is than ours just because they have the latest thing or are drinking the latest overpriced beverage designed to aid you in ignoring your other earthly troubles.
In general, we’re able to tune it out. After all, those convenient breaks in the show are useful for running to the bathroom or grabbing another heavily-marketed drink from the fridge. There is a bit we pick up, of course; how else would we know that the Toyota Tundra can pull a 5-ton trailer on a seesaw or that Bud Light gives you x-ray vision? Yes, some of the commercials are memorable or funny, but we really don’t focus too much on their content or message.
That is, until that fateful Thursday morning where you happen to pull out of your driveway before the trash trucks arrive. There, staring at you from your neighbor’s driveway across the street is a very distinctly-shaped and sized box for a beautiful new wall-mounted, flat screen, lifelike color, picture-perfect, high definition plasma TV. Suddenly, all those 30-second segments you’ve ever seen hawking these gorgeous displays come flooding back into your mind – the sports shows exploding out of the screen; the excited viewers huddling together during a horror movie; the picture so clean and crisp it’s like you’re there.
Just three minutes ago as you were preparing to leave for work, watching TV was the furthest thing from your mind and now it’s all you can think about. You’re mentally laying out your living room to accommodate the best viewing experience from the newest object of your affection; you’re calculating the largest screen size that will fit in its new home; you’re deciding what accessories and equipment you’re going to need to get the most entertainment out this display. You must have it and you need it today!
Or, at least that’s what the marketing message has led you to believe. You’re happy to live your life the way you want, but these commercials pick at you and slowly rob you of your ability to say “No.” You believe you’re comfortable and have everything you need, but they tell you that the Joneses are really the happy ones and you’re just getting by. They want you to believe you’ll never be content because the grass is always greener on the other side no matter how much of your own green you throw at your manufactured desires. In essence, effective marketing materials encourage us to covet our neighbors and the beautiful people on the screen.
They’re designed to tickle that little seed of jealousy and greed deep in our hearts and tell us we’re only better than everyone else when we have all the best stuff. That’s what it all boils down to – jealousy and greed. We should be happy with everything we have; after all, we are among the richest and most technologically-spoiled countries on Earth. But these companies only survive when our dollars keep flowing, specifically flowing directly into their pockets. So they’ll continue attacking our known weakness until there’s not another dollar out there to collect.
It’s a continual assault that will not ease, so we must be prepared to defend ourselves. There will always be things we don’t have and the marketers will delight in reminding us of that fact until our greed or the jealousy of a neighbor incites us to buckle to their will. In order to save us from ourselves, we must be willing to free ourselves from our desires and be content with what we’ve already been given. If we’re constantly chasing that carrot, we’ll never have a chance to enjoy our lives; if we’re too busy running the rat race, we’ll always be pursued by debt. Our freedom will come from ignoring the Joneses.
Yes, they may get that brilliant TV, but that doesn’t mean you need one, too. They may show off their shiny new car, but what they don’t mention is their huge new car payment. Until you admit that you have enough and are content with what you have, you’ll always be looking to them for your new baseline for happiness. Let the marketers say what they want but make yourself immune to their siren song by putting away the credit cards, shredding those cash advance checks, paying off your debt and living within your means while getting the most out of what you already own. Let the Joneses fall for their tricks and set box after empty box on the curb; but you and me, let’s spend our lives living and enjoying freedom from the desire to accumulate worthless stuff.