Live Like the Jones, Without Keeping Up

by Guest Contributor · 26 comments

Just because you don’t make as much as someone else doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to enjoy the same things they do. Things like education, home furnishings, and working out can still be enjoyed by you regardless of your income. It just takes a little creativity. Keep in mind that it’s not about the thing so much as it is about the result. For example, I can listen to music on a $1099 iPhone or I can listen to it on an older iPod Touch. Regardless of the kind of player I use I still get to listen to my favorite music.

Here are 19 more ideas.

Cars: The rich – buy a brand new Corvette. The frugal shopper – buys a 10 year old Camero for less than book value. Everyone – drives a sports car.

Entertainment: The rich – go to the new casino that just opened. The frugal shopper – organizes a poker game with your friends at home. Everyone – enjoyed a night of gambling entertainment. I would even argue that a poker night with friends is even more fun!

Landscaping: The rich – hire a crew to cut the grass, trim the hedges, fertilize the yard, and plant new flowers for $2,000. The frugal shopper – did all the same things for $200 on the weekend with materials bought on sale. Everyone – has a good looking front yard with curb appeal.

Home Furnishings: The rich – buy from art galleries. The frugal shopper – buys artwork at clearance prices at the furniture store’s going out of business sale. Everyone – has artwork hanging in their homes.

Education: The rich – live on campus for four years at expensive universities. The frugal shopper – receives a grant, works part time, and goes to the community college. Everyone – graduates with a college degree.

Cell Service: The rich – just gets the family unlimited plan for everybody. The frugal shopper – uses cheaper carriers like Ting. Everyone – gets exceptional service.

Books: The rich – have all the latest books mailed to them through their book club. The frugal shopper – borrows all the latest books at the library. Everyone – has read the latest books, magazines, and newspapers.

Movies: The rich – stream a newly released movie each week for $15.00 each. The frugal shopper – gets streaming services and waits for the movies to be online for free. In the meantime, she gets unlimited access to thousands of new and older movies. Everyone – gets to watch movies.

Gym: The rich – go to the swankiest gym in town. The frugal shopper – gets all the same exercises done using their body weight and objects found at home or the park. Everyone – gets a workout.

Food: The rich – buy organic vegetables and fruit at a specialty health store. The frugal shopper – plants a garden in your backyard. Everyone – eats healthy, organic food.

Specialty Clothing: The rich – buy $200 football jerseys at the team’s retail store. The frugal shopper – buys an exact replica at an online auction for $40. Everyone – wears a new, high quality football jersey.

Television: The rich – buys an 85” flat TV for $3,000 with the latest bells and whistles. The frugal shopper – bought an 85” box TV from Costco for $800 without the features that most people even know about. Everyone – gets to watch the same shows.

Clothing: The rich – may buy the newest summer fashions in June and winter fashions in September at full retail price. The frugal shopper – plans ahead and buys this year’s summer fashions right after Labor Day and this year’s winter fashions after Valentine’s Day at 75% off. Everyone – owns new, fashionable clothing.

Home Accessories: The rich – may buy cooking utensils, candle sticks, vases, and other miscellaneous household accessories at specialty shops. The frugal shopper – makes those same purchases at the dollar store or auction. Everyone – has equipped and decorated homes.

Holiday Decorations: The rich – can buy their new Christmas decorations in November at full retail. You buy your new Christmas decorations marked for clearance on December 26. You both have a stockpile of beautiful Christmas decorations in your home.

Alcohol: The rich – have no problem paying $8-$10 a beer at the bar. The frugal shopper – pays $1 for every beer bought at the distributor. Everyone – gets to drink, but the frugal shopper can buy beer for two of his visiting friends as well for the same amount the other guy is paying at the bar for just himself.

Lunch: The rich – go out to a restaurant for lunch every day. The frugal shopper – goes out to lunch as well, but takes a packed lunch to the park. Everyone – went out for lunch.

New Car Look: The rich – achieved a new car look by purchasing a new car. The frugal shopper – spent the afternoon washing, waxing, sweeping, scrubbing, shining, and detailing her car. Everyone – has a glistening car sitting in the parking lot at work.

Baby Clothes: The rich – buy brand new baby clothes every three months for their infants. The frugal shopper – uses hand me downs from friends, co-workers, and “the rich”. Everyone – has their babies in cute clothes.

What else can you think of? If you see someone doing or purchasing something you believe would bring enjoyment or value to your family’s life, ask yourself how you can replicate the same result within your own means. When you think outside the box, explore, research, and ask questions, you will be pleasantly surprised at just how many things you can have and do as well without going into debt.

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Vince says:

    “I am indeed rich, since my income is superior to my expense, and my expense is equal to my wishes”

  • Gwen says:

    I’m more of the mindset of Gerard. Live like you want, not how someone else lives. I don’t enjoy sacrificing quality over saving money. Buy quality, it will last.

    Art – I want gallery quality art. Make friends with local artists and buy directly instead of going through a gallery. Galleries take a huge commission, often 50% or more.

    Alcohol – Brew your own beer.

    Stuff – buy quality used items on eBay and Craigslist. Shop at consignment shops. While you are at it, sell the stuff you aren’t using.

    Landscaping – Grow your own plants, or buy root stock from the local county conservation district. Don’t install a high maintenance landscape in the first place. Also, Home Depot has some pretty awesome deals on their discount plant rack. Best for perennials.

    I’m not a big fan of buying replicas and knock offs. It supports intellectual property theft as well as encouraging the use of underpaid/sweatshop labor.

    Saving time – Sometimes it can be worthwhile to spend a bit of money up front to save time, not to mention using less gas, reduce wear and tear on vehicles, avoid stress, etc. I just paid $100 for Trusted Traveler authorization. It is good for five years. That’s $20/year to give me back hours of time I would have had to use for business and personal travel. It means I don’t have to wait in the 1 hour+ lines when I travel from Canada to the US. I can also apply for NEXUS status which applies when I travel from the US to Canada. When I fly, including domestically, I also don’t have to wait in the TSA lines. I can walk through the express line without taking off my shoes, unpacking my bags, etc. How often can you buy back time like this? That feels like traveling first class, even if my ticket is for coach and I purchased it during an internet sale.

  • Gerard says:

    This post set off some really interesting comments. I think one of the things that puts me off about many frugality sites (not this one) is the whole Joneses thing. “Instead of buying a crap frozen dinner for five bucks, use this online coupon to buy a crap frozen dinner for four bucks!”
    The people who seem to be happy-frugal have a whole different culture:
    *instead of a coupon for a half-price meal at the Keg, they eat at little places aimed at immigrants or students, or they get together with friends for a potluck, or organize a local Order Of The Good Time;
    *instead of saving money on used cars, they live near work (or work from home) and travel by walking, cycling, or bussing;
    *instead of buying art from bankrupt furniture stores, they buy real art from friends in the local art community, or art students;
    *instead of getting a better price on a TV or a gaming system, they spend their time talking, reading, and having more/slower sex.
    They don’t keep up with the Joneses, they don’t even know the Joneses! On the other hand, other people ask them when they’re going to stop living like students…

  • Zellie says:

    Having never tried to keep up with the Joneses….all I can contribute here is, go to the garage sales in the older established neighborhoods where the generation in their 70’s and 80’s are selling to move in with their children or assisted living centers….Why? They took care of their things….they valued their hard earned and worked for possessions….they did crafts, they purchased things during a time when they were made in America and weren’t made out of plastic….they had good taste…and they treasured their treasures….that’s where you’ll find inexpensive treasures, too….so you can give these as gifts or enhance your frugal lifestyle….Just went to one this past week, got a wonderful old wheelbarrow, old metal gas can in perfect condition, broom, rake, beautiful useful plates, a purse, a book and could use them all…I love to buy gifts for others at garage/estate sales, too.

  • Blue Spyder says:

    Nowadays the Joneses are now the Kardashians, the Hiltons, the Carters and the Obamas. People wanna live they’re lifestyle, but nobody wants to do the work they did to get there. Warren Buffett is retarded rich and still lives on a congressional budget of 100k a year…

  • HTB says:

    your list got me thinking WHY?

    why should I aim to have an iPod, cable and all that nonesense, the real frugal should really be asking “hmmm do i really need this stuff”. especially non funtional stuff i.e
    -fashion; look good yes but the latest?.?
    -Television; switch it on before u know it usefull amounts of time > gone.
    -iPhone; distracts you. and i dont mind a quite bus ride…
    -Holiday; beach towel on you lawn- yup good to go. (ok thats ghetto)
    -Food; Organic?. to me veg is all organic unless it made of plastic, bite-me.

    The answer to WHY? Media – apparently we all need to buy stuff we dont need.

    To help me I always keep in my mind that the smug model on tv will get the product taken away from them after the shoot. And even if they are pictured sweeping a Mercides across beautiful country roads that guy probably earns and lives the same as you do.

  • Smarter Spend says:

    Very good post and great follow ups.

    You basically covered all the important points with this post. Spending less doesn’t mean you have to dispose of your regular lifestyle- it just means being smart with money.

  • Benson says:

    Yes. The JONES’ are BROKE. Their in debt up to their eyeballs because they base how much they buy on how many payments they can afford to make each month. Their wealth is an illusion. They can’t buy anything without getting a loan from somewhere because they are so broke. I prefer to buy the things I want by SAVING CASH until I can pay for the item. I make my own laundry detergent, use cloth diapers on the babies, shop at the Sal, drive two older, well maintained used cars and bank the all the money I save. What I have, I own. Mr. Jones, I highly suggest checking out “The Total Money Makeover” by Dave Ramsey, and then you’ll understand why I always have that big smile as I drive by your house in my old used car.

  • Chuckles McGee says:

    “$8-$10 a beer at the bar”. Try $12+ for a Guinness….

  • paulo says:

    I think it’s all how you spend your money and how frugal you are, I was always adverse to shopping for second hand clothes online however now I regularly check ebay and gumtree for good clothes, I’ve bought several great ties which would normally cost $70 for $7-13, I’m yet to buy a suit but I’m constantly looking!

  • David @ says:

    I was thinking about how to respond to the “rich don’t do it” comment, because I think the answer lies in how we term “rich”.

    So, who really are the rich people? Multi-millionaires who build wealth through businesses/high income? Or the millionaires who saved their way to their fortunes regardless of their income?

    I think the list of things that these two groups of people do are going to be VERY different.

    • Sam says:

      Both I think David. There’s a reason why people become rich in the first place, and it’s largely by doing none of the many things above. Sure, we all have our vices, but for the most part “the rich” are ubiquitous, and are some of the savviest savers and spenders.

      Feel free to provide an example of what you are discussing regarding the two being very different. I think it would make a good discussion.

      Best, Sam

      • David @ says:

        I think at the extremes of spending (buying $10,000 art or something), you are right in that most of the people we deem “rich” don’t buy them. However, something like going to the movies, having a nice dinner often and even buying new cars are regular indulgences that high income earners enjoy frequently.

        On the other hand, a modest income earner will most likely not do ANY of those things because at the median salary, it takes years of pretty aggressive savings to amass a fortune.

    • marci357 says:

      Yep – depends on your definition of “rich”….
      I consider myself rich… no debt and no wants and no needs unfullfilled 🙂
      An interesting life, family, and good health 🙂

      • David @ says:

        Good for you. I think those who rely on money are NEVER going to feel rich, no matter how many digits their account balances are.

  • Cd Phi says:

    Travel:The rich travel to luxury vacation spots during peak seasons, while the frugal family travels off-season.

  • Kristine says:

    True true Sam. The rich get rich because they think differently than the middle/poor class.

  • Sam says:

    Haha, nice follow up comment Marci.

    In fact, I actually think the rich don’t do much of that stuff either. They’re rich b/c they don’t do it.

  • April says:

    Splurgers – Buy their kids playhouses, sandboxes, trikes and power wheels brand new from Toys ‘R Us. Frugal people get them from tag sales and Free Cycle. Everyone – enjoys sending their kids outside to play.

  • marci357 says:

    AND HOW The even MORE FRUGAL do it 🙂 ……
    MOVIES – free at the library or at Monday Movie night at the library- why does it have to be new releases? A movie is a movie. Period.
    LANDSCAPING – scrounge the materials for free from the debris dump at the transfer station, or from recycled plant stores, or from garage sales and friends cuttings/clippings/seeds. And they plant permanent edible landscaping so they are getting something back that’s edible out of the lawn.
    HOME FURNISHINGS: Art work by kids or grandkids including family photos. Or frame a beautiful piece of fabric, or buy art at garage sales for under $1.
    SPECIALTY CLOTHING – Why? The even more frugal realize what a waste of Money it is and don’t bother with jerseys at all 🙂
    CLOTHING – the even more frugal know how to sew and pick up fabrics for pennies at yard sales. A $1 bag of used fleece bathrobes will make up 10 sets of fluffy pj’s and matching teddy bears for the kids… for just the cost of the thread and $1…. That’s about 10 cents a kid 🙂
    KITCHEN UTENSILS – again – garage sales or thrift stores 🙂 Just wait long enough and it will come up.
    ALCOHOL – think how much you save by NOT buying it at all 🙂
    BABY CLOTHES – Garage sales…. or learn to sew…. 🙂 My 3 kids had a beautiful wardrobe growing up – mostly hand sewn – and yes, I was a working mom – so it can be done 🙂

    The biggest challenge these days is managing to get all the stuff you need without spending hard earned dollars…. so much is free if you can do it yourself 🙂

    • David @ says:

      Great list 🙂 In Chinese tradition, we actually have a newborn wear clothes that others have worn so she doesn’t cry as much. This works perfectly with garage sells, though those who buy them should thoroughly wash them.

  • Joseph | says:

    I prefer not to care about what the Jones are up to. It’s there business and have nothing to gain comparing myself to them.
    Great points though.

  • James says:

    Great perspective. I definitely took heed to the TV one.

  • Miss A says:

    I am frugal. I could care less what other people have. When I see people with expensive of things, I’m just hoping these people have an emergency fund and they aren’t going into debt to have these things. I could buy all these things too, I just feel better not buying them.

  • Wes says:

    A few notes:

    Most glaringly, the Camaro is a Chevy, not a Ford. I think you lost your Man-Card on that one, Mike. Also, the $188 TV will mostly likely not support HD – arguably, you would not be watching the same show. Identical plots and content, yes, but on a different channel.

    To add to your list though, I would suggest vacations: The rich – fly to a tropical island and stay at a swanky all-inclusive resort for $800/day. The frugal – find friends who live on the cost in their same country and work out a deal to borrow the guest room for a week. Everyone – gets to spend some quality time relaxing in the sand.

  • Lakita says:

    I get the point your making, but I don’t think “the rich” do many of those things. Perhaps the “Jones” do…but I like what Dave Ramsey says….the Jones are broke.

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