The Art of Keeping Up

“Keeping Up With the Jones'” is a well known phrase for keeping up with your neighbours/family/colleagues/friends. It is usually meant in terms of outwards appearances of wealth, like houses, cars, clothes and holidays.

Your friends might live in a palace. Do not try to keep up.

Your friends might live in a palace. Do not try to keep up.

Keeping up with anyone spells doom if you have early retirement goals. Let’s face it, wanting to retire at 50, 40 or even 30 makes us all a little bit different to the norm.

While my and Poopsie’s friends are focussing on upgrading their houses, buying new cars, going on expensive trips and eating out at restaurants at least a couple of times a week, we are oddly focussed on retiring early and pursuing a life of travel.

One day, Poopsie and I will be in Paris together.

One day, Poopsie and I will be in Paris together.

This means that when my friend tells me about the latest thing she purchased, I can’t relate or talk to her about mine. Telling her that I just moved $5000 into Vanguard does not have the same ring to it.

Now don’t get me wrong, when my friends are telling me these stories, I can definitely get jealous and feel like I am missing out. In fact, just recently Poopsie accused me of being a bit too materialistic. I can definitely get focussed on the “thing” rather than the future.

So how do you avoid trying to keep up with the Jones’, whoever they may be in your life?

  1. Have a goal. I never really knew how important this was. Poopsie and I used to just want to retire early. I guess you could call that a goal, but it was very loose and didn’t see us retiring to anything. But after reading some excellent Frugalwoods articles about the importance of goal setting, we gave this some more thought and came up with our goal of retiring early to pursue a lifetime of travel. Since we set this goal, wanting to buy things or experiences has definitely lessened. I don’t compare myself to what my friends have because I know that in less than ten years, I’ll be off travelling while they are still working. And that’s a pretty good feeling.
  2. Never assume. One of the biggest things that the early retirement community, particularly through the MMM Forums, has taught me is that just because the Jones’ appear to be doing well, doesn’t mean they are. I used to see what my friends and family were buying and wonder how they were doing so much better than me. I couldn’t afford those kinds of things. Many were funding these things with credit and none of them had as high a savings rate as I did. Don’t assume that just because people spend a lot of money that they can afford to do so.

    Snowmen never assume.

    Snowmen never assume.

  3. Be happy with yourself and the journey you’ve chosen. This is perhaps the most important one. If you are pursuing something you love (in our case ER to travel), it is far less likely you are going to compare yourself to others. Part of your journey may be working a job you don’t love, but outside of that, if you’re making what may appear sacrifices for a greater goal, they will be worth it to you. You’ll know that the plan you have come up with is one in line with your values and desires and nothing will sway you from that. You might have some slip ups along the way but after each one, you will refocus your drive and continue to doggedly pursue what you want most.

While it is easier said than done, the further you progress down the early retirement road, the less you will want to keep up with anyone else. Having said that, I do sometimes find myself trying to keep up with the ER crowd (why is my savings rate not as high as the Frugalwoods? I must get it higher!) This is certainly less harmful than keeping up with your shopaholic friends and family, but it still is not beneficial.


Our circumstances may be different to yours. Don’t compare.

We all have individual circumstances that dictate how much we can save, how much we spend and how quickly we will reach early retirement. Get to know your own circumstances as much as possible and do what you can to make them as efficient as possible.

Oh, and try to enjoy the journey.

How do you avoid keeping up with the Jones’?

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2 Responses to The Art of Keeping Up

  1. Lots of excellent points here! Having a goal is a huge help; since establishing the fact that I want to retire early, too, it’s been much easier to not care what the Joneses are up to. I also find myself gravitating toward friends who are of the same mindset — maybe not retiring early, but not buying all the latest and greatest things. That helps quite a bit as well.

    Nice blog! I’m glad I finally came over here to check it out!

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