Do You Envy The Joneses?

by Katy on September 29, 2014 · 59 comments


A thought provoking post was recently added to The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group in which Sarah shared this experience:

This was a tough weekend…. I was bitten hard by the jealousy bug! We visited relatives who seem to “have it all” – designer clothes, new cars, remodeled house, and I couldn’t help it, I wanted a taste of that lifestyle! Of course I don’t know what their financial situation is, but I know they work very hard. I have spent the last few hours reminding myself that our life is great (good health, good jobs, stable finances, beautiful kids, happy home life), and that no fancy car will make me happier in the long term. even when we have extra money sitting around (like now) we save or make extra payments on something. Anyone else feel a twinge of jealousy sometimes, and how do you deal with it? Maybe I’m the only one who feels that way?

I keep telling myself slow & steady wins the race, and I would rather have a paid-for house than new jeans purchased on a credit card . . .

The post was immediately replied to by multiple group members, varying in their responses. This is just a small sample:


I can tell you first hand that looks are not always what they seem. Our neighbors next door seemed to “have it all.” They had a Jaguar in the garage and paid to have the entire yard landscaped immediately after the house was built, while we planted everything ourselves as we could afford to do it. Fifteen years later, they abandoned the house, and it was foreclosed on. The property was vacant for two years, so I’m happy to have neighbors who are taking care of it again, but unhappy that they paid so little for a house right next to mine.


I think it happens to everyone. We have very dear friends who own 3 houses, a motor home and travel all winter. I don’t begrudge them what they’ve earned. They did the work to have it. But sometimes, when I’m sitting on their deck, with the lake just 20 feet from their back door, I feel a twinge. But, then I think about how much upkeep 3 houses entail and I get over it.


I feel jealous all the time, and my weakness is clothes because i care overly much about how i present, because I grew up poor in a wealthy area and everyone could tell by looking at me that we were poor. It’s a hang-up, I know. But usually when I feel jealous, eventually I come around to what Joan said about the upkeep. That’s not how I want to spend my time.


We have a town home that is feeling very small since we had our second child. I am having a hard time being content and really want a bigger house. Last week I decided that I need to focus my energy into making my current home beautiful, if not to get it ready to sell then maybe so that I feel at home again in this space.


When I see folks like that i just remember that they are most likely in debt up to their eyeballs and I am debt free. The peace of that far outweighs any fancy car, house or clothes! I’ll just get those fancy clothes at a 90% discount after they have gotten tired of wearing them (after 3 wearings!) and sent them to Goodwill!

I know that I’m not immune to envy, probably none of us are. Although the cliché is to be envious of The Joneses’ conspicuous consumption.

Fancy cars, gorgeous houses, designer clothes, glamorous vacations and let’s not forget those super shiny stainless steel and granite kitchens!

My envy runs differently. I envy those who’ve been able to fully fund their kids’ college funds, and those who can spontaneously travel without killing their financial goals. I envy people who can have an unexpected $1000 car repair bill without their stomach sinking to the depths. Or maybe it isn’t envy at all. I just wish we were in the financial state to achieve that state of financial independence.

I’m perfectly okay with my formica kitchen countertops and my thrifted decor. In fact I derive great satisfaction in being able to cobble together exactly the look and function that I want from thrifted goods. Personally, I prefer a funky aesthetic. My wonderful $30 love seat gives me daily pleasure in a way that no $500 piece of furniture ever could.

I personally know of two friends who perfectly remodeled their homes and subsequently found themselves unable to afford the mortgage and were forced to sell.

I do not envy that.

I’m happy with how my family lives. We’ve prioritized family goals over career goals, and because of this we’ve been able to be at every parent teacher night, send the kids (and even chaperone) on school trips to Japan and attend almost every single soccer game. Yeah, it feels kind of awful to have teenagers without fully funded college funds, but for that to happen would have involved thousands of extra hours away from the kids.

Which would be nothing to envy.

Do you feel envious when spending time with friends and family who seem to “have it all?” Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 59 comments… read them below or add one }

Krystal September 29, 2014 at 9:22 am

I’m not sure that jealousy or envy is the correct word for what I feel occasionally, but it’s something. I think it’s frustration.

Some of our best friends are the types who go out every night, at a show, on a quick weekend trip, etc. We’re pretty fortunate we do a lot of similar things, if it fits within our financial goals and budgets. However, we plan ahead (monthly, with our budget), and much further ahead for vacations. We could start spontaneously going out all the time, not a care, but we would be back in debt–our incomes don’t allow that freedom. Neither do most of my friend’s incomes–most of them have quite a lot of debt–and I see their health and relationships take a toll because of it

The thing for me is, I think we have the “answer” by being debt-free. And I want to share it with my friends, and I want to shout it from the rooftops. Because our lives have drastically improved since we worked our butts off to get there. I’m not going to because we all know what’s it’s like to have a fanatic in our face, especially about a personal issue! I get frustrated because our friends are in bad situations, our family members make bad decisions that end up costing our parents financially, and it seems everyone takes pity on us because we don’t keep up with the Joneses in their eyes. Our house needs major updates, our only car is worth one of our twice monthly part-time paychecks, and we say “no” a lot. In our eyes, we’re doing great, we travel as much as possible–which is more than most, we don’t have any payments except our mortgage, and we don’t live paycheck to paycheck. Somehow that’s pitiful, and that’s frustrating.

And I’m also frustrated that I care what others think!


K D September 29, 2014 at 9:29 am

I know for a fact that most people that have more than we have either have a lot of debt and/or they have had two incomes for many years, while I have not been employed for many years. I also like to keep our lives simple, we don’t like to drive all over the place all the time (thus the smaller house just a few miles from my husband’s job and schools not too far from home).

Right now I am trying to figure out if we should under take some home improvements that we actually can afford ( definitely a 1st world problem). I am less picky about things in our home than other family members.


Heather September 29, 2014 at 9:52 am

I feel like I have a lot and rarely have envy. My BIL has a ski-out home in Park City, a new home in Las Vegas, and another in WI where he works. He has worked hard and has climbed the corporate ladder to become a multi-millionaire. However, he missed most of his boys lives growing up to do it. He’s a great guy, but I’m grateful my DH wanted a different path. He puts his family and family time first in his life, not his career ambitions.

Here’s another question. I think it is human nature to feel superior about our choices. I.e., whether we buy new or used, eat meat or not, etc. I have found myself guilty of reverse discrimination. I might look at someone’s purchase and label it “frivolous, trendy, or consumptive”. When I am eating healthy, I might look at others with their designer cupcakes and think “unhealthy, artery-clogging, waste of money”. I’ve heard people comment on discussions like these that they are probably “in debt up to their eyeballs”. They might be, but then again, they might not. How do you get to the point where you are doing what you feel is right for yourself, your budget, and the environment; without becoming a snob?

My goal is to make the right choices for me, without passing judgement on everyone else’s choice. It’s hard.


Krystal September 29, 2014 at 1:35 pm

Such a great post Heather, I struggle with this. I’m a very cut and dry person!

I can easily get caught up in being sanctimonious about my lifestyle (generally, the debt-free, minimalist stuff), and I don’t like when I get caught up in that. Maybe this comes with age that I’m learning to let it go. Sometimes it’s because I have concern for others suffering (my family members health, my friend’s marriages), but sometimes it’s just snobby, for whatever reason. It’s important to realize regardless of the source of my feelings, I can’t change how others live their life.


jill September 29, 2014 at 10:03 am

I usually don’t envy other people but I do envy the immediacy with which other people can do things. Our new neighbors moved into the house across the street and gutted the inside/outside of the house in a matter of weeks while we have been working on our house for years. But I wouldn’t give that up for all the debt in the world. I just keep plugging away and remind myself that I have peace of mind. And no debt.


Katy October 1, 2014 at 8:57 am

That’s the one that gets to me too. When neighbors hire out their home improvement jobs I do get very envious. Then again, I would simply never take out loans for stuff we could do ourselves, even though the timeline for DIY is painfully lengthy.


Diane C September 29, 2014 at 10:25 am

I’d like to provide a different perspective, if I may. At this time in our lives, we could actually be perceived as the Joneses. We live in a big fancy house (complete with SS & granite, don’t hate, it came with the house, read on). It’s three blocks from work. DH’s friends envy his lovely house, the fact that he walks to work, the fact that his wife packs him a yummy lunch and walks to work with him. Recently, his 10-year-old, paid-for truck appeared on a top-ten list of stolen vehicles (more envy evidence). Twice people have left notes asking to buy our purchased-used-with-cash-and-well-maintained-by-DH RV. I routinely get compliments on my wardrobe and love to say, “Thanks, I got it at (insert bargain used clothing option here).”

**My message is that all the scrimping and saving PAYS OFF if you keep at it faithfully. **

We are in our fifties and have lived by the principals of Non-Consumerism most of our lives. When DH’s dad died and we realized his mom has Alzheimer’s, we needed to find a house where she could live with us comfortably. When the fancy house within walking distance to DH’s work (so he’s nearby if I need him) came on the market as a short sale, we were amazed to realize that we could afford it. When DH retires and MIL’s suffering has ended, we will buy a much smaller fixer and live below the radar again. In the meantime, it’s a very odd feeling to be perceived as the Joneses by outsiders who don’t know much about us. Fortunately, since we are solid financially and trust in our core values, we are enjoying our life as much now that we’re “fancy” as when we were “plain”. We also look forward to the time in our lives when we will be “plain” again. And the fancy house? It’s beautifully furnished with our old stuff plus CL and consignment finds.


Vickie September 29, 2014 at 1:24 pm

I love reading your reply. It’s awesome to read about those who’ve managed to afford things because they’ve lived conservatively and are debt free.
It encourages me greatly towards my own freedom from debt. My DH and I are working towards paying off our mortgage with a 5 year plan.
The fact that you are also taking care of your MIL is very touching. My own mother succumbed to complications from Alzheimer’s last December and I only wish I’d been able to retire and keep her at home. Thank you for sharing your story!!


Katy October 1, 2014 at 8:56 am

Thank you so much for sharing your story, and what a lucky woman your MIL is to have you in her life.


Jeana September 29, 2014 at 10:25 am

I’ve always told my kids that you have no idea what goes on behind the closed doors of anyone’s house. It can look great from the outside and be a stressed out debt box on the inside.


Barb Millard September 29, 2014 at 10:40 am

I worked at a veterans home for 17 years. Many of the residents had lived well. Many had done without most of there lives . The most frequent regret I heard was they wish they had spent more time with their kids. I never heard they wished they had more things.


A. Marie September 29, 2014 at 12:36 pm

Very interesting to read all the comments (especially Diane C’s; Diane, given that you’re caring for a mother-in-law with Alzheimer’s, my hat’s off to you).

I’d say the fundamental principles of envy avoidance boil down to the following: (1) Don’t judge other households by external appearances. (2) If the Joneses are deliberately setting out to make you feel bad, find other folks to hang out with. (3) Always remember that a lot of folks are worse off than you are. (Think of most of the Third World, for example.)


JD September 29, 2014 at 1:21 pm

I sometimes struggle with envy now that my husband has been unemployed or under-employed for four years, after the business he worked for closed. We’ve used up our savings and are living (my) paycheck to paycheck, and dealing with health issues for him that have started appearing in the last few years (he has juvenile diabetes). What with his age (he’s now 60) and health, getting a steady job has proven impossible for him so far. I’m working, but I make much less than he did a few years back. In contrast, we have some family and friends who are NOT in debt, are doing quite well, and can take the long trips, furnish the nice homes, easily handle medical bills, and enjoy life. It can get hard to watch, but it’s not their fault that we can’t do all that, so I don’t hold it against them. Still, the desire to take a vacation for at least one long weekend away from home again, the need to replace some big ticket items, and the tightening I get in my stomach when new medical bills arrive make me sometimes spend some moments in envy of others before I remind myself that I am fortunate compared to so very many people. I know it’s not all about the money and what we can buy. I’m working very hard on my attitude, and as a religious person, have found my faith to be most helpful in that.


Karen September 29, 2014 at 1:35 pm

Occasionally I envy a couple people in my circle for being able to travel and have more opportunities than I have. Occasionally it bothers me that though my husband and I have worked hard for decades, we are still not in the best financial state, largely due to losing jobs at businesses that downsized, and not being able to find jobs that paid that well again, and health problems, and other factors out of our control. Despite having principles of keeping our nose to the grindstone, sometimes others’ decisions and policies,and perhaps fate have really affected us. It sometimes leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

But then I take a deep breath and realize that our 2 grown kids plus partners still like us and like to hang out with us, that we both have jobs that make us feel competent, where we are appreciated, and though I worry about the next car repair and how to stretch our income with the price of prescriptions and co-pays going up, I have a good life. I have good friends, a solid family, books and cats. Life could be so much worse.


gloria September 29, 2014 at 2:02 pm

Why does everyone assume that those who seem to have more than they do are stressed out or in debt up to their eyeballs? Talk about sour grapes. Maybe, just maybe, some people have more money than you do AND they make smart financial choices.


Anne September 29, 2014 at 4:02 pm

Yes, and yes. I think we all tend to feel our way of life, consumer or non consumer is the superior one. We tend to look for examples to back up our choices. Then we say, “Oh yes, I know people who are…….., but dead broke actually.”

But in actuality many people are just plain doing well without debt or stress. We tell ourselves, what we have to tell ourselves to get along in life.


Katy October 1, 2014 at 8:52 am

I don’t think that everyone here is saying that those with enough money for conspicuous consumption are in debt. But many certainly are.


Mary S October 5, 2014 at 6:55 pm

I am a long time reader and follower of this blog, and I really enjoy reading Katy’s thoughts and appreciate her tips (thanks Katy!). However, I am not a frugal person (although I would like to be more frugal, which is why I follow this great blog) and am actually one of the “Joneses”. My husband and I work part-time and have very high-paying jobs, which gives us the both the time to spend with our children and the ability to buy a big house, take our children to fancy restaurants and to see the world. We are not in debt except for our mortgage, of which we have paid over half in 7 years. Although it may seem like it, I am not saying this to brag, but only to point out that not all of the “Joneses” have “debt up their eyeballs”. I find it kind of insulting that this is the perception of the “Joneses” as we have worked very hard to get to where we are (my husband and I are not trust fund babies and have had to work our way through college, grad school, etc). We give a big percentage of our money to the charitable causes we are passionate about and are proud of how far we have come.


Diane September 29, 2014 at 2:09 pm

I am an older woman who lives in the most frugal manner possible, mainly due to high debt and low income. I do admit to being envious of those my age who don’t have financial concerns always looming in the back of their minds. I am very grateful to be able to enjoy my simple life, but also resentful that so much went wrong to put me in the fix I am in now. Sometimes life throws curve balls no matter what you do.


Beth September 29, 2014 at 2:15 pm

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt


julie September 29, 2014 at 2:25 pm

We live very frugally and debt free. We are very fortunate to have a nice home and take 2 to 3 major trips a year. Alot of our friends aren’t in that same situation currently so we try not to boast or talk about our trips that much. If someone asks we say where we are going but try to think about how others might feel as just a few short years ago we were in debt and had no money in the bank. We also talk to our son about not being boastful about travels at school. That being said I get jealous of other people as well. If we went to Hawaii and I hear about a great trip to Africa I want to go there. I think it is human nature to always want more, something I need to work on.


Katy October 1, 2014 at 8:51 am

Interesting perspective, thank you.


Emily September 29, 2014 at 3:25 pm

I hardly ever comment on blog posts but this post (and the insightful comments from other readers) has really hit a note with me. Phew! It’s not only me!!

I’m dying to come back and read it all again when I don’t have three kids demanding my attention (what do you say about spending time with the family rather than the screen?!)

I think everyone has hit the nail on the head (even the contradicting comments) and it is so wonderful to feel I have allies in my struggle with consumerism and trying to live more simply. It’s hard!

Thanks so much xxx


Alison September 29, 2014 at 4:23 pm

We are very fortunate, in that we do have the kind of financial stability you speak of, Katy. Unfortunately, the reason our kids’ college funds are in place is that my MIL passed away and my FIL is unwell – the college fund comes from the sale of their home. I do love the security these savings bring, but I would have preferred my children having time with BOTH sets of grandparents.


Katy October 1, 2014 at 8:50 am

I know we will inherit after my parents pass away, but I would rather scrimp and save forever than have that happen.


WilliamB September 29, 2014 at 4:34 pm

I have had two experiences in the past couple of years, that make me realize I’ve made the right choices for me, and engineered a third.

The first was seeing the impact of someone else’s choices in a very immediate way. It wasn’t an objectively negative impact but my instant reaction – “I don’t want that in my life” – hit me so strongly that it was immediate confirmation that my choices were right for me.

The second was when a friend came to help me paint some walls. I’ve been in my long enough that the “oo, new, shiny” is gone. But not to him. Listening to him rave about my place reminded me of all the good things.

The third also had to do with my place. I made a list of things I would want if I moved, and of advantages I was willing to give up in order to get the new things. Then I did a bit of house hunting. It didn’t take long to realize that there was nothing worth moving to, anywhere near my price range.

The combination of these three experiences have led me to re-realize the good of what I have, and how well my decisions fit my preferences.


Shannon September 29, 2014 at 5:35 pm

Why must people assume that those with everything must be in debt up to their eyeballs??? Maybe they’ve worked very hard for what they have, maybe there are two high incomes, maybe it’s family money. We probably will never know.

True happiness comes from being content with where you are, right this very minute.


Katy October 1, 2014 at 8:49 am

I hope that I didn’t imply that “The Joneses” are necessarily in debt. Portland is full of people with very high paying jobs, (Intel, Nike, etc.) so many of our cohorts are bringing home very large incomes.


Julie September 29, 2014 at 6:00 pm

I am not at all jealous of material things, but I am sometimes jealous of intangible things. Having lost 2 siblings at a very young age, I learned early on what is important in life. We have stayed in a very small town in order to be close to much of our family. My kids have great family relationships because of this. The time I remember a painful twinge of jealousy was when a coworkers daughter got married. Another coworker was there with her husband and 3 teenage sons ranging in age from about 13 to 19. They left the wedding earlier than the parents. When they did, each son publicly hugged their mother and gave her a kiss on the cheek. We have a great relationship with our 2 teenage sons, but I don’t think they would ever do that….


Joitsie September 29, 2014 at 6:43 pm

I remember something my Daddy said 45 years ago. Even though I was only 13 at the time, it stuck with me. He said, “You know, when I was a boy, you could look at a kid and know how much money his daddy made. Now you look at a kid and know how much his daddy is in debt.”


local Joe September 29, 2014 at 7:06 pm

Our culture (TV, advertising, media, movies, etc.) teaches us to compare ourselves to others. As it has been said in other comments, true happines comes from within, not from things. However, it is nice to have enough money, as money buys certain kinds of freedom. But it does not buy emotional freedom.

It all boils down to what is important to me, in my own eyes. I can look at others for concepts of what I am or should be, or I can look within for knowing who and what I am.

Some years ago I heard a comment which stuck with me, and has guided me in my drive for financial and emotional stability. The comment I heard (which, unfortunately, I do not recall where I heard it), was when a person said “I got off the consumption train.” With that one idea, I was able to change my life. I want to be the one in charge of my mind.


Megg September 29, 2014 at 7:09 pm

I do feel jealous, envious, frustrated, all those things. On the surface, things look so much better for some of our friends. We have friends who went to England and Mexico last year, and France this year. Other friends recently redid their countertops, though they did all the work themselves, and while they didn’t do laminate, it wasn’t as nice as granite.
Then there’s the friend who, flippantly, commented that her house is “ridiculously huge.” Yeah, that made me feel great.
But it’s OK. The friends who take all their fancy vacations? They’re losing almost half their income because she was (voluntarily) laid off at work, and they decided they’re going to start a family. Yes, we will lose my income when we start a family, but I’m only working part time, so it will be far less of an adjustment for us.
While my friend will run out and buy whatever she wants, be it a $35 label maker or $250 tickets to a football game, I take pride in finding ways to get what I want cheaper. I borrowed her label maker instead of buying one, and I’m saving my babysitting money to put laminate floors in one of our rooms in our house.
So really, I have no reason to be upset or jealous. What they have works for them, and what we have works for us. Sometimes I have to sit back and take stock of what I have, and what we do to save money and my feelings of jealously usually abate. Usually. I am, after all, only human.


cathy September 29, 2014 at 8:03 pm

I have a slightly different perspective. I don’t find myself feeling jealous of the things that people have. Maybe it’s my aging hippie attitude, but I’m not all that impressed by other people’s homes or cars or clothes. In fact, I’ve been on a major purge for months, fueled by a feeling that we just have too. much. stuff. We have so many lovely things, many of them made by or given to us by friends/family, as well as hand-me-downs and thrifted items. Seeing *those* things always makes me feel great, not like I’m somehow missing out on better, nicer, shinier stuff.

What I envy is time. If someone is going on a great vacation, it’s not the location I want, it’s the free time. I feel the same way about food. My family has a variety of health-related food restrictions. I cook from scratch every day. But it’s not the restaurant meals others have that I envy, it’s the freedom to not have to cook every day.

Interesting post and comments. SO glad Katy’s back!
By the way, NO ONE should be envious of stainless steel appliances. No matter what you do, they always have streaks and fingerprints. I can hardly wait ’til mine need to be replaced and I can go back to white.


Judy September 29, 2014 at 8:57 pm

Interesting Post with a lot of varied perspectives. As someone else
mentioned, the things I’ve most envied in my life have not been material things. My parents both died very young and I have envied those who had parents and grandparents, or being raised with siblings. I’ve felt bad for my children who grew up without knowing grandparents.
My early life experience has made me treasure my time with my children and now my grandchildren that much more. Staying home with my children and family time have been much more important and valued than the career, the money, fancier cars, or clothes.
Slow and steady frugality does pay off given time also.


winterlighthomestead September 29, 2014 at 9:12 pm

My envy tends to be aimed at those who take having enough and convenience for granted. I envy people who can just spontaneously buy a pair of movie tickets or fill up the gas tank for a day trip or treat a guest to dinner out without worrying about how that money is going to impact the budget. I envy who don’t even blink an eye when the school sends a note home saying that the child needs x y z amount of money for a field trip or whatever and the school’s only given a day or 2’s notice.

I hope to be back into that mindset eventually. I used to have that life and a security net and middle class casualness. Then it got ripped out (divorce, single parenting a special needs child, impoverished rural area, high under and unemployment) from underneath me and I’ve been clawing my way to financial survival ever since. Now, I’m very jealous of those who luxuriate in that lifestyle and don’t even realize they are taking it for granted. They assume it’s normal. I envy those for whom being able to spontaneously and casually spare $20 is normal and not a burden.


honey October 3, 2014 at 1:46 am

Your reply struck a chord with me, that is just how I feel. I am envious of friends who don’t have to re-arrange budgets just to spend £20 on an impulsive drink/lunch get together.


jennifer p September 29, 2014 at 10:33 pm

we live in an area where rich people are all around us.we have barely enough to pay all the not jealous ,i dont want a million pairs of shoes,handbags,cars,houses, life cant be about having more and more things.what bothers me is that some people are just handed things on a silver platter and never had to work for it,and they act accordingly.a 21 year old girl moved next door to us.her father bought her the apartment and renovated it,bought her a car,pays for her college.and shes acts like it.i just wish we had money so we could have some security,and not worry about money all the time.not so i could buy more things.and the way people flaunt what they have in this day and age,on tv ,on facebook,its nauseating.


kathy September 30, 2014 at 3:58 am

I am not envious of other’s possessions and never have been. I’ve always been “cheap”. I work part-time and my husband has a good job so money is not an issue. A week and a half ago my 18 year old son died. One can scrimp, save, or work harder to have things the neighbors’ have but one can not bring back a loved one. We need to be mindful of our blessings.


kris September 30, 2014 at 8:52 am

I’m so so sorry for your loss. God Bless.


WilliamB September 30, 2014 at 8:06 pm

May his memory be a blessing.


Katy October 1, 2014 at 8:44 am


I am so sorry for your loss, I cannot even begin to imagine the pain your family must be going through right now. Thank you so much for the reminder to be mindful of our blessings.


honey October 3, 2014 at 1:47 am

I am so sorry Kathy xxx


CarrieP September 30, 2014 at 5:58 am

I do struggle with the comparison trap occasionally and I definitely wonder how some people I know seem to have limitless supplies of money. Living in an extremely affluent area has it’s advantages and disadvantages, but I live around a lot of people who are in great financial shape and spend huge amounts of money on everything–trips, home remodeling, incredibly expensive sports and camps and language schools for their kids, cars, personal trainers, household help. I do find that Katy’s blog and some others help me with contentment and also with reminding me that I essentially prefer to be frugal and live simply for many reasons, including the challenge of getting great things used and having money in the bank to deal with life’s emergencies.


frugal nurse September 30, 2014 at 6:39 am

Great post! I think this kind of envy, at least for me, is reflexive. I see something nice–car, house, TV, vacation, clothes–and immediately want one for myself. That’s human nature! But then I have to kick my brain into a higher gear and really examine why I want the item. Because it’s pretty? Because it’s trendy? Because I want other people to be jealous of me, too?

It’s taken years of nurturing my frugal side, and I now I can talk my I-want-what-they-have self down pretty quickly. But the immediate reaction is still there. It’s like a chronic disease that has to be managed, rather than cured.


kris September 30, 2014 at 8:50 am

^^ Very true. Since I will soon be purchasing a vehicle (used with money I’m saving), I’m paying a lot more attention to car commercials and think ‘that’d be nice to have such n such feature’ or whatever. But you know when the new wears off (and it wears off pretty quickly) and your faced with years of high payments, I think No thanks! So yeah, I can talk myself down pretty quick too!


irene September 30, 2014 at 8:22 am

I am ‘retired’ now. I live in a house my Mom (still living) owns. I am very fortunate. I can pay my bills- I have pared them down drastically over the years. I have no credit cards, my car is 14 yrs old and still in good working condition but soon will need some repairs. I have a ‘part time’ job face painting/ clowning -party stuff that I help a friend with. I get to visit a lot of homes for birthday parties etc. Some of these houses are immense! There is elaborate furnishings and 2-3 car garages with Hummers/Suv’s in them. I used to envy people who had homes like this (when I was MUCH younger) and had new cars until I realized they were probably mortgaged up the wazoo. I can only imagine how much it costs to heat these homes and how long it takes to clean them. My home is furnished with pieces friends have given me, yard sale items and furniture that had been purchased over 20 yrs ago. It is cozy, comfortable, and inviting.


Lesley September 30, 2014 at 8:24 am

Katy, when I was a kid I always envied your family’s house–so colorful and fun! I guess now it’d be called funky hippie chic, but back then I didn’t know the difference. I don’t blame you for carrying that forward!


Katy October 1, 2014 at 8:42 am

Thank you, our house was very colorful and fun. Do you remember all the patchwork carpets?


kris September 30, 2014 at 8:45 am

It took me many years of trying to keep up with the Joneses to realize that is no way to live. We have zero debt other than our rent and living expenses. Right now we only have 1 vehicle because my van died at the beginning of the summer and we are saving for another (used) vehicle. Luckily my husband lives across the street from the school he teaches at, so we aren’t desperate for another vehicle. His Jeep however, has over 350,000 miles on it so I know it could go at anytime. I know the whole home own/rent debate but for us, renting works. I don’t have to sweat coming up with money when something breaks. One thing that does make me a little sad about not owning is not having a home to leave for my kids to be able to sell & divide up. But when I really think about it, I’d rather they have the experiences that we do as a family which renting affords us. Nothing earth-shattering like annual trips to Europe, lol but lots of camping, beach & spring trips and daytrips. We live in Florida so we almost always have outside activity weather.

But what I’m saying is when we were in debt to our eyeballs, there were many, many sleepless nights. How am I going to pay for this or that. Now, I sleep so soundly at night. I don’t worry I’ve got to get up in the morning and figure out how to pay for this or that, which bill to pay that week or call up places asking for extensions. I have no envy for people that look like they have it all because it usually comes at a price. And if it doesn’t, then good for them! I’m happy for ya, but I’m just as happy with the little niche we’ve carved out for our family.


Ashley September 30, 2014 at 10:40 am

For awhile, I did struggle with envy. As I have grown older and been through a lot of therapy, I am in a much better place. I look back and realize my parents were all about keeping up with the Joneses, no matter what personal, emotional or financial cost it took. We slept on the floor of our house for over a year just so my parents could lease a vehicle we could not afford. They played the lottery (I despise gambling to this day) and wasted money we didn’t have to chase a dream. We literally ate nothing but eggs for 6 months so they could go on a ski trip with “friends.” They took money from me, opened up credit card accounts in my name, etc. When I went to college, they took money I was supposed to receive for tuition and books and a monthly allowance. I never was taught anything about money or how to manage it. My dad passed away 6 years ago but it’s still a point of contention I am and will always work through. I still can never and will never be able to trust my mother.

Enter my husband. Mr. Budget to the 9th degree. I ran up some credit card bills behind his back and hated myself for it. I never wanted to become what my parents were. He forgave me and I have worked hard ever since being frugal. Some people are put off when I say I receive a budget every 2 weeks but it’s one of the best things he could ever do for me. I know exactly how much money I have to spend and it’s money to spend. My big indulgence is going to yard sales. I am able to buy my daughter Justice clothing but pay only 50 cents apiece instead of the $20 to $30 the store charges. I shop clearance, I coupon and I am able to feed my family on $240 a month. We have mostly dug ourselves out of debt and it feels so freeing and wonderful.

Vacations would be nice but we will get there eventually. I am content with little getaway trips. We are going to a pumpkin patch this weekend. We usually go out of town for my husband’s family reunion once a year. My husband does everything in his power to make me happy and provide for me. We have a small house but it is the one I fell in love with. It could be bigger but it feels like home. We have a nice car. We have nice things even if we have to wait and save money up to get them. We have a special needs daughter who has managed to live well past what doctors told us. We don’t have everything but I don’t feel deprived. I have a husband who loves me, great kids, food to eat and a house to come home to.

We take advantage of all the events our library has to offer and I subscribe to emails that let me know what free activities there are to do with my kids. My kids don’t feel like they do without. I shop after the holidays when things are 75 to 90% off and also at flea markets and yard sales. My parents were ashamed of second hand goods. I am not. And I am proud of that.


Diane C September 30, 2014 at 3:27 pm

And I am proud of you, Ashley. What a great story. Good for you for all you have accomplished for yourself and for your family. Way to learn from your parent’s mistakes. My hat’s off to you!


Katy October 1, 2014 at 8:40 am

Ashley, thank you so much for sharing your story with us. It sounds like you’ve got perspective and a handle on things now.


Bonnie October 2, 2014 at 10:09 am

I sometimes have envy, (more when I was younger) but I feel the older I get, the more comfortable I am in my faded jeans and goodwill shoes. I really don’t care how others view me. I view myself as nice. I really don’t care if people have more money or not. The only thing that really bothers me is when someone obviously has more money than they really know what to do with and they don’t do anything to help others or their community or the environment. I think we were put on this planet to help each other and I think we should all do that, regardless of how much we have or don’t have. I guess that was more about my philosophy than envy.


Madeline October 3, 2014 at 11:27 am

We’ve downsized twice on our way to early retirement. I sold a lot of my precious “things..” furniture, clothes, etc.. we did both work and make good money and yes we had some luxuries.I did not realize how much I would miss the lifestyle. I am practicing being frugal once again.It’s hard. We traded: We have “freedom” and early retirement, but some days I miss being able to plan a trip or go out to dinner without worrying over money.Yes,it’s hard. A lot of the people in our new neighborhood seem to still be living the life I USED to lead, and I do get envious.I am trying to fall back on my spirituality and my gratitude. Transitions are always hard, I suppose. No doubt about it,I am blessed.But I guess I am sometimes greedy,too.


Eva October 5, 2014 at 5:13 pm

I’ve spent enough time around very wealthy people to know what my (very lower middle class) grandmother said was true: All that glitters is not gold.

Now that I have downsized my lifestyle I am much happier than I’ve been in 20+ years. No debt and very little stress. Only wish I had done it sooner.


Pat Moore October 10, 2015 at 5:20 pm

I have very real struggles with comparison with what others have- mainly because we have debt. At 62 & 64 – having taken care of my husband’s Mom – Dad- brother when we really didn’t have the money to do so- who have passed now- put the kids through college- taken care of
some debt when husband made some unwise choices/ building a spec house with
a friend, borrowing money on credit cards to finance that deal which left the house not selling for two years. We got a great price on our 3300 sq foot house 23 years ago and still owe over 100,00$ on it. We had built a house beside all of his family because I thought he would never leave them. We made nothing on the
sale of my dream house. Husband wants to take care of everyone. At our expense. Not now though. It only bothers me when a friend puts a pool in or buys a beach place because I know we will have debt until we die– no pool for me. We need a roof- repairs done to our house– It gives me heartburn. I don’t like being jealous of others- the feelings overwhelm me– I want to be happy for others but it’s hard knowing our debt situation… Sorry for the ramble.


Jen June 4, 2017 at 3:20 pm

I ended up reading this when googling envy others houses. It’s a feeling that puts me in such a down spiraling mindset.
I’ve read a lot of comments and felt a lot of similarities but not necessarily hope…
Went for a shower. And then it clicked.
It doesn’t help me thinking the others might have a just built a wonderful pool and lounge area on their backyard but are on debt, or have a health problem, or a miserable marriage.. I don’t want to trade my life in all aspects with them, I just wished so hard to have their taste and money and courage to spend tens of thousands on that project. And then be able to invite those beautiful people to all look good and extremely happy – living the life – on an instagram picture… know what I mean?
So thinking they are deep in debt doesn’t shake my envy – the pool is still there and my house is not that cool no matter how many mortgages they have. Or don’t.
It’s simply they have it and I don’t. And despite I talk to my kids on a weekly basis about the friends videogames, doll houses or motorized rovers, I also have to learn to live with that feeling oh, I wish I had it…
Then thinking about being grateful and that other people envy you and others have nothing… all true, but it also doesn’t help to dimish my envy. I’m not envy for being ungrateful, I am very grateful and conscious of all we have and probably a Joneses for other people..
So leaving the shower, I sat down on the sofa I have in my room (Joneses, so you see even joneses is just a perspective), and cried.
From the sofa I could see a beautiful tree outside which reminded me of some pictures I took of a tree root and thought about printing it black and white for my office. A sparkle of smile appeared.
I think I have created a recipe to put this envy out of my day: action. I think there’s a saying that empty head is a space for the demon. Not taking it to the religious side, but I’ve decided that I need a time from facebook/instagram/pinterest/houzz/realtor/hgtv lol and more time actually doing stuff. Not only house related, but for instance exercising. Things that will actually do good for me. Little day projects that will keep me busy. And smiling. And hopefully more peacefully centered to be happy from inside. So I douenvy beautiful things outside..


Bethany M September 17, 2019 at 1:09 pm

For me it all stems from a lack of gratitude. I spent 5 years living in the dungeon of my in-laws house. I can’t relate the elation I had when we were pulling away to move 16 hours away. But it wasn’t long before the apartment felt cramped and I wanted a house. Was tickled pink when we purchased, but then I started seeing my friends had beautiful awnings and patio furniture and we couldn’t even buy some used furniture or the sun would either destroy the fabric or it would be all metal and too terribly hot to sit in until nightfall. Lol. Started to notice the pattern. Self-correcting. Happier for sure!


Lynn December 17, 2022 at 2:29 pm

I think it’s important to note that most of us “work hard” and have for the majority of our lives. Certainly people make different financial choices in their lives…BUT different jobs pay *vastly* different wages. The janitor at my child’s school works hard. Are they able to buy a house in our town?…probably not. But meanwhile Google has come here of late and all those folks can afford homes in a city that is one of the most expensive in the country…do they work hard? Sure they do. Jobs pay differently and we all have different circumstances. Medical debt can be a huge factor in one’s financial situation as well. The idea that financially solvent people are so b/c they’ve “worked hard” is spurious logic.


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