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It’s Time to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

It’s Time to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

“Oh my goodness did you see the new Mercedes Kate just posted on Facebook? She is so lucky. My car is 6 years old and needs a new transmission.”

“No, but did you see the Instagram photos of Jessica’s family ski vacation in the Alps? It makes our weekend at Six Flags seem pitiful.”

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The current culture of prevalent social media has made it too easy for everyone to compare their lives to others, especially when it comes to material items and vacations. We can see the lives of friends, family, and others on social media and it becomes easy to want everything they have. We may even feel we deserve what they have. We can literally make ourselves miserable and unhappy by wanting what others have.

Materialism does not make us happy. Contentment comes from within. A mindset of gratitude for what you already have is more likely to make you happy than to endlessly pursue what everyone else may have in terms of possessions. There are ways to understand “The Joneses” that can help you stop wanting what others have and thus trying to keep up with them. Appearance can be deceptive. Just because someone appears to have lots of “stuff” doesn’t mean their life is better, or happier. In fact, trying to be a Jones can get you in lots of trouble and make your life quite miserable. Here are some thoughts to ponder about “The Joneses”.

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Debt so Deep They Actually Own Nothing

There are many families living in so much debt that they don’t actually own anything. They have debt on all of their vehicles with the bank owning more of their vehicles than they do. They have a mortgage on their home and put very little down when buying it. They buy their furniture on payment plans. Their credit cards are in full use and never paid off, as they are used to living beyond their means. Nothing they have is truly theirs. It is owned by the credit card company, the bank, and the furniture store. It is a life built like a house of cards that can come toppling down anytime with a major life catastrophe such as cancer, a debilitating car accident, or a home invasion that wasn’t covered by the home owner’s insurance. A life built on money borrowed is a scary way to live, because it can easily fall apart when tragedy strikes. And it will eventually strike, as no one is immune to accidents, health problems, or death. The question is only when it will strike. Too many “Joneses” aren’t prepared for tragedy, as they are living on borrowed money and esentially a borrowed lifestyle.

Buying a House at the Top of Their Budget

When shopping for a house it becomes easy to get lured into buying at the high end of your budget. It doesn’t matter your budget range, this is a human tendency; to want the maximum of whatever you are looking to buy. This is why many people become “house poor”. “House poor” means you have so much of your monthly income or budget going toward house payments that you have to sacrifice other things such as family vacations, parties, and other luxuries that you would otherwise be able to afford had you purchased a less expensive home. If they were to buy at the low end of their budget, think of the possibilities that could be done with that money each month that wouldn’t go towards an expensive home. Making memories are far more important than having the biggest, best house on the block. When you are on your death bed are you going to say “I am so glad I had the best house among my friends” or will it be something a long the lines of “I am so thankful for the time that I got to spend with friends and family in my lifetime, and all the wonderful memories we had together.”

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Fake, Faux, Replica

Whatever you want to call it, wearing or using something that is a knock-off of the original is… saving money? Being fake? Who cares. Not our business. Just know that not all of what you see others wearing or using in life is the authentic brand. Knock-offs are everywhere these days, so don’t compare your handbag to others because you may be thinking they paid $400 when in reality they spent $25. Buy what you like because it’s your style and what you want, not because of a brand or because others own it. Happiness comes from being yourself, not someone who you think others want you to be. Don’t be a fake and don’t buy a fake because you think you will be happier, neither will successfully make you happy in the long term.

Living Paycheck to Paycheck

There are many people in our country living paycheck to paycheck. They don’t have money in savings and they don’t have money squirreled away for emergencies. They may seem to have it all because of everything that they have and all that they do, but they are really on the brink of disaster. If tragedy strikes they will be in a world of hurt because of their overspending and lack of saving. Living paycheck to paycheck out of necessity is one thing. It is another story when living this way is purely done for the satisfaction of our desires. Living by the urge to buy, buy and buy will not bring happiness long term. It will set you up for disaster, lots of worry and anxiety when living paycheck to paycheck is done for the pursuit of happiness in materialism.

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Sometimes They Are Lucky

They may have a wealthy spouse or they have a family inheritance. They may have a fabulous job and have made wise saving choices to afford what they have. You don’t know. Frankly, it’s none of our business. All that matters is that we are responsible with the money that is provided in our own lives. Living within our means gives us peace of mind that is precious. Having anxiety about money destroys marriages. It can give people so much angst that they need to now spend money on counseling or even worse, a divorce.

Living within a budget and the means you have will provide you contentment, as long as you stop comparing yourself to others. Look in your own life and what you do have. Find gratitude daily in the things you may have, such as a vehicle that works, a roof over your head, and food on the table. There are many in the world without these basics needs for survival. Look to the less fortunate for your comparisons if you have a need to compare. Gratitude should be the response, which makes you more content with all that you have been blessed with in this life.

Featured photo credit: Cadillac via kaboompics.com

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Dr. Magdalena Battles

Doctor of Psychology

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Published on September 17, 2018

How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

Achieving financial success is not something that just happens. Maybe if you win the lottery or something, but for the average person like you or me, it comes from a series of small steps you take over a long period of time.

With each step, you form a new smart money habit. And with each smart money habit, you build towards financial independence.

So what sort of habits can you form to get on that path? Let’s take a look at smart money habits you can start today to get you closer to a financially independent future.

1. Avoid being “penny wise but pound foolish”

It’s tempting to try saving a couple cents here and there when buying small items. However, that’s not where the real money is saved. You’re putting in extra effort for something that doesn’t move the needle.

You get the most bang when you’re able to cut down on your bigger bills. For example, finding a lower interest rate for your mortgage could save you $50+ per month. And cutting your transportation bill by purchasing a cheaper car or taking public transportation can provide large gains as well.

So, look at your recurring expenses such as housing, transportation, and insurance, and see where there’s wiggle room. It’s a much better use of your time than trying to pinch pennies here and there on smaller purchases.

2. When you want something big, wait

Impulsivity can get you in trouble in most aspects of life. Finances are no different.

It’s human nature to see something and want it right then and there. It starts as a kid in the checkout line at the grocery store, and it continues on through adulthood.

We get an idea in our head of something we want, and it’s hard not to go out and get it right then.

A good example is wanting a new car. Perhaps you’ve had your car for several years. It’s crossed the 100k mile mark. Maybe maintenance is due, and you’re annoyed that you need to replace the timing belt or purchase new tires.

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So, you get the itch.

You start digging around online, and you realize you could trade in your current car for something newer and more exciting… all for a few hundred bucks a month. Then you get obsessed.

Here’s where you have to take a step back.

Your newfound obsession is clouding your judgement. Rather than giving into the impulse, wait it out.

Set a timeframe for yourself. Maybe you come back to the decision three months down the road. See if the obsession lasts.

It might, but often, a funny thing happens. Often, you forget about it. And often, you find that the new car wasn’t a need at all.

The impulse faded. And you just saved yourself a ton of money.

3. Live smaller than you can afford

You finally get that big raise. And you want to celebrate – and why not?

You’ve been looking forward to this forever. And after all, it was all due to your hard work.

That’s fine, splurge a little. However, make it a one-time deal and be done.

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Don’t get caught in the trap that just because you’re now making more money, you should spend more.

Too often, people get more money and feel like they that gives them the means to buy a bigger house, a bigger car… you know the drill. Resist.

The fact is that living smaller than what you can afford is one of the fastest ways to build savings.

But if you constantly upgrade as you begin to make more, then you’ll never get ahead. You’ll just build up more debt along the way and have just as little wiggle room as before.

4. Practice smart grocery shopping

Food… it’s one of the biggest portions of any budget. And if you’re not careful, it can be one of the biggest drains on your wallet.

But luckily, there are a few things you can do to ensure that you stay smart with your money when buying groceries.

Create a grocery budget

Set a strict weekly grocery budget. When you know how much you can spend on groceries, you can then plan your weekly menu around it.

Once you know what all you need, you can go shopping and keep a running tally as you shop to ensure you’re on track.

I tend to do this in my head, rounding for each item. However, writing it down as you go would probably work best for most people.

Make a list… and never deviate

Never go to the grocery store without a list. If you go to the store with a ballpark idea in mind, you don’t have a true ide of what you need.

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You’re not well-researched. You don’t know what the sales are. As a result, you’re going to make decisions on the fly.

These impulse decisions will lead to overspending, which will derail your grocery budget.

Eat before going grocery shopping

It’s also important to eat prior to going to the grocery store. Hunger is a powerful force.

If you’re shopping on an empty stomach, everything is going to look good. In particular, you may find a lot of ready-made, processed snacks will look enticing.

After all, you’re hungry now and that food is easily available. So subconsciously, you may lean towards those items.

Unfortunately, not only are those items typically less healthy, but they’re likely more expensive. You pay for convenience.

However, when you eat prior to shopping, then you’ll shop with a clear mind. Your hunger won’t cloud your judgement, influencing you to make poor decisions like a cartoon devil resting on your shoulder whispering in your ear.

This makes it much easier to stick to your grocery plan.

5. Cancel your gym membership

Now that you’re all set on your food, it’s time to get smart about managing your budget in terms of physical fitness. And let’s begin by avoiding the gym. The gym bill, that is.

The average gym membership costs around $60 per month. That’s $720 a year.

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Yet, two out of three gym memberships go unused. That means two-thirds of people who have a gym membership are literally giving away almost a thousand bucks a year. It’s crazy!

I recommend seeking an alternative. One good alternative is to look into fitness streaming services.

Streaming services allow you to stream hundreds of workouts like Insanity and p90x, right in your own home for around $10-20 a month. That’s $40-50 less a month than the average gym membership.

Of course, then there’s the free option. The internet is full of free workouts that you can do on your own with minimal or no equipment.

For example, there’s the Couch to 5K program, that I personally used a decade ago to ease myself from couch potato to running my first 5K race. If I could do it, anyone could.

Then there are free resources like reddit that have limitless information on workouts. The Fitness subreddit has done all the research for you, populating workout tips and detailed workout routines for anyone to use in their wiki.

There are several routines that require no equipment. And you can join in on the subreddit to become part of the community, making it easier for those seeking comraderie and encouragement in their fitness goals. All for free.

It’s baby steps… And baby steps can start now!

I’ve never met anyone that can’t stand to be a bit smarter with their money. And on the flip side, anyone can get smarter with their money. But remember, it doesn’t happen all at once.

Begin by fighting your impulses. Prepare for the week and be smart at the store. And cut monthly expenses like gym memberships that are overpriced and you probably aren’t getting your money’s worth out of anyway.

The devil is in the details. And the details can change your lifestyle and prep you for a financially independent future.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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