Are We Wired for Keeping Up with the Joneses?

Take advantage of the urge to fit inWhile I certainly haven’t traveled to all corners of the earth, the places I have been have all had something in common: every area has had clearly visible similarities within it.

These are things that you see all over the place in one area, but often not at all somewhere else.

Trends and fashions

In Hawaii, people had little sea turtle or flip flop stickers on their cars to indicate family size. In Bavaria, people hung a wide variety of pewter decorations in their windows or on their doors. Here in Arizona, the snowbirds all have wooden signs hanging from their trailers showing their name and home state.

Then of course there are the fads that sweep the nation (snuggies, anyone?) and the tendency of people to dress and act alike.

When your neighbor buys one thing, and you move to follow suit, that’s keeping up with the Joneses.

A pervasive phenomenon

That phenomenon is so pervasive that it makes me wonder, are we just wired to want the same things the people around us want?

Is “keeping up with the Joneses” really just an extension of the desire to fit in? After all, standing out or being socially isolated can literally be dangerous.

So maybe it makes sense, on a basic level.

And maybe we can turn that wiring to our advantage. This can be especially useful if we’re struggling to reach a money-related goal.

Turning keeping up with the Jones into an advantage

Turning the urge to fit in to our advantage can be a matter of finding the right Joneses to keep up with. Find the people who are already doing the things you want to be doing.

For example, if you want to spend less money eating out, start hanging out with the people at work who brown bag it. They won’t be receptive to eating out, and you’ll want to fit in. You can trade lunch-packing tips, and keep up with those Joneses by buying a single fancy insulated bag instead of buying lunch out at $10-$15 bucks a pop everyday.

Find a community that’s responsibly doing what you want to be doing, and let the tendencies toward fitting in work to your advantage.


  • I’m definitely not worried about keeping up with the Joneses because I have realized a lot of time that the Joneses are actually in worse shape then ever one else, a lot of time these people put on fronts to make themselves seem like something that they are not.

  • Snuggies was a fad? I just gave blood for a free snuggie last week! Maybe I am a sucker for free stuff and easy to bribe.

    The eating out thing is a problem I have to battle all the time. Everyone in my department loves to eat out, and I am constantly telling them no (my best excuse is that my wife made me lunch, and it’s so good it would be disrespectful for me not to enjoy it for lunch).

    • For some reason the idea of blood for snuggies is really cracking me up :)

      That’s tough when everyone around you wants to eat out. Nothing wrong with saying you aren’t into spending the money, but your excuse actually sounds very nice.

  • I definitely think the answer is yes. As a financial planner I always tell my clients to measure their financial success based on the lifestyle they want to have, it doesn’t matter what other people are doing. Great Post Jackie.

  • Kathy

    Actually….I aspire to BE the Jonses :)