Open Letter From Mr. Jones, Your Neighborly Financial Nemesis

Keeping Up With The Joneses -- Open Letter From Mr. Jones
Aaron Burden

Dear Neighbor,

Mr. Jones here — your well-to-do, mysterious resident up the street that you’re always trying to outdo as I purchase the next best thing, causing you to wonder how I support my awesome lifestyle while simultaneously burying you in an avalanche of debt. Recently, you’ve probably noticed that I have been downsizing. You’re probably thinking, to your satisfaction, that I must have finally hit on hard times so that you no longer feel stressed to fit in with our social and economic standards.

Well, that’s right. I have been downsizing lately. I traded in one of our fancy cars for a beater, and the other is aging and accumulating the miles. You haven’t seen deliveries for a while to fill up another new addition to Jones Manor. In fact, I’ll be selling my house soon to downsize that, too. (Hey! I’ll sell it to you FSBO if you’re jonesing to be the next neighborhood icon!) We’ll also be holding a massive garage sale to unload a lot of the items you’ve seen us receive and enjoy over the years: Our artwork collection and jewelry, all of the expensive gadgets that are updated every 6 months, and everything from my home theatre must go. I’ve also canceled my country-club membership and I won’t be traveling the world again next year.

So relax! You no longer have to sustain an appearance of equality to my lifestyle to maintain a sense of personal fulfillment!

So what happened? Have I finally lost the battle against you, my neighborly contestants stumbling along with me on the path to lifestyle creep?

Sorry, but no. I’ve merely seen the light regarding my extravagant spending and have found a new and better way for you to struggle to keep up with us. I have given you a head-fake by reducing my spending and am now going in a different direction. And, to be honest, there are many who are ahead of me at this new game. In fact, they’re the ones who have helped to redirect my focus. You see, I’ve been irresponsible all this time by staying five steps ahead of you with my continual buying spree. I haven’t really been winning like you thought. But now, I’ll truly be one-upping you as I divest of my impressive possessions to which I’ve become imprisoned and begin to live the frugal lifestyle on the road to Financial Freedom!

As of today, I throw down the gauntlet to keep up with my newfound frugal ways. Going forward, keeping up with the Joneses means you’ll need to tame your out-of-control spending habits and become financially literate. You’ll need to Live Below Your Means (LBYM) and sacrifice for the betterment of yourself and others. Good luck to you in our redirected competition — I’m already five steps ahead of you … AGAIN!!

Regards, your most frugal neighbor,

Mr. Jones

 

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25 Replies to “Open Letter From Mr. Jones, Your Neighborly Financial Nemesis

    1. Ha, yeah, great way to look at it. It was fun to spoof Mr. Jones and redefine winning to mean freedom from having the best “stuff” to frugality. It would be great if that became as much of a byword.

  1. I used to wonder how my friend and neighbor ALWAYS seemed to be on a nice, long vacation, they were away 4-5 times a year.

    Then, she learned I worked at a credit union and asked my advice on consolidating her $18,000 in credit card debt. Needless to say, I got my answer that day 🙂 For the life of me, I cannot fathom planning my next trip knowing that much credit card debt is already on my shoulders.

    1. A lot of recreational activities and hobbies are the same way — very expensive. We asked a couple who frequented an ATV park how people afford their ~$20k 4-wheelers, along with the large, newish pickups and trailers to haul them back and forth. “You just finance it all like you do your car.” So … “Easy Go!” I wish there was a way to get stats on how many people can afford the things they do versus those who finance their way through. Not to fault those who love to do whatever, of course. It’s obviously worth it to them. But how many struggle or regret it later?

      1. We generally always had ATV’s, they are a blast to ride and way cheaper than horses. But I rarely paid more than $1500 for very used one. Now we are slightly early retired and it was pocket change to buy a brand new Polaris RZR side be side. We have hauled it all over the country riding trails and meeting people. Honestly it is good clean fun (well, muddy fun) and is a nice break from the hiking we do much more often. It is like everything else, too expensive if you can’t afford it but pretty cheap for someone who invested and saved aggressively.

  2. Love it! “Jones Manor” is worth repeating!

    Isn’t human nature weird? We just know some people would take delight in our failures. I guess they can sign in relief, thinking they’re doing better. Little do they know.

    1. That’s right. Though I used that for a little playful reverse-psychology at the end. If you want to keep up with “us Joneses” now, you better get on the ball and start saving and living more frugally, making do with less!

  3. Clever post. In my subdivision, keeping up with the joneses has more to do with how often people cut their grass! Seriously, I don’t know what other people have and don’t care. I suspect we are among perhaps the two 3-4 net worth couples in the neighborhood, but we don’t advertise that theory. It’s our little secret.

    1. Hi Kathy,

      Fortunately, our small, immediate neighborhood is pretty much the same way. But we do live on a modest street where there’s not much to “show.”

  4. “I’ve merely seen the light regarding my extravagant spending and have found a new and better way for you to struggle to keep up with us.”

    Love that line! Also, I love how you emphasize the importance of pursuing the road to financial freedom instead of the road to “keeping up”. Chasing financial freedom is an intrinsic goal as opposed to the extrinsic goal of constantly keeping up.

    Great article 🙂

    1. “Chasing financial freedom is an intrinsic goal as opposed to the extrinsic goal of constantly keeping up.” Excellent way to put it. Mind if I save that for my quote collection?

  5. This brought me a smile this morning. 🙂 It’s usually the online world where “keeping up with the joneses” means downsizing. It’s easy to get sucked in through any medium.

    1. Wouldn’t it be great if this reverse “competition” could become a widespread (or at least a wider-spread) phenomenon, for those who would benefit from it?

    1. Ha — it does seem a bit April Fools, doesn’t it? But I think to make it stick, it would need to go from parody to something serious. Mr. Jones, the ultimate authority on staying a step or three ahead of his neighbors with his possessions, would be the expert having reversed course for something better — because, he would know which is really better! But you’re right, no one is going to start referring to the mythical Joneses as examples of frugal living (except maybe me now).

  6. Good for you Mr. Jones. You have caused many of your neighbors to feel envy since the start of the industrial revolution. I am glad that you have given up on your old focus of producing and consuming. Since you are a trendsetter, hopefully your neighbors will follow your new ways.

    1. Thanks! The much larger challenge would be to motivate others (through “good envy”?) to do the same — while there are plenty of people who would gladly step into the shoes of the “old” Jones.

  7. Interesting way to think about it. Imagine if you could see everyone’s saving rate and projected retirement date. That would really motivate you to save and see who could get there first.

    1. It would be pretty interesting to see some detailed stats/analytics on that. I’m sure someone is anonymously (at least) culling the data of spending / savings patterns (like money management apps and firms). But having that information out there could be considered a breach of privacy, I suppose.

  8. Well thought letter, I wonder what the other Mr. Jones would think after reading it. One thing about being in Asia is that, my neighbour Mr.Jones who seems to able to afford everything, usually can indeed, afford the lifestyle. If he has a 5mil housing loan, he has like ten fully paid houses.

    1. Yeah, a lot of people can afford a more affluent lifestyle and they’re generally not going to change their spending habits. They don’t need to. Typically it will only impact those who are overburdened by their debt and/or possessions. And that’s really what “keeping up with the Joneses” focuses on.

Thanks for reading! What say you?