As Long As The Joneses Are Doing Worse …

Christina Passariello wrote an interesting article today in The Wall Street Journal about the guilt people have when they are buying luxury goods. I absolutely agree with the article and there was one line in particular that keeps sticking with me because it is one that I’ve heard in research plenty of times.

“It used to be about keeping up with the Joneses, and now it’s about outsaving the Joneses,” says Alexis Maybank, the co-founder of Gilt Groupe

On the surface I think this statement is very true because more than ever we are comparing ourselves to our neighbors and friends (even more to our enemies) to see how we are faring against them while the times are tough.   On a deeper level I’m just not sure how much saving is really going on.

I spent a lot of this year traveling to talk to women about their lives and the economy and what I kept hearing was that they were still spending but they were spending differently.  Some used coupons for the first time (my favorite was a self proclaimed luxury queen who said ‘coupons were her crack’ now) and others shifted spending from themselves to buying for their children or saving for college but not for retirement but the money was still being spent.

Many women talk about being “good” almost Puritanical for a few weeks and then feeling righteous enough to let a little spending slip in.  Before they know it they have spent more than they anticipated and jump right back on the saving wagon. (A pattern us women have learned from years of dieting!) Bottom line though is the money is still spent.

Making sure we are on par with the Joneses protects our egos and makes us feel like we aren’t that bad.  (A little Schadenfreude, anyone?)

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