Today’s reader question comes from “Shana” (not her real name), who lives “somewhere in New York”. I just got this question yesterday, and while I don’t normally post Ask My Readers on Friday, I couldn’t wait on this one. I hope some of you will have words of wisdom to share!
I found your blog about six months ago, and it definitely came at the right time. We are really struggling. I think it’s actually more psychological than financial for us. My husband makes a good salary, thank God, and I work part-time and do pretty well also. The thing is that we are totally out-paced in our community.
We feel a lot of pressure – I can’t tell anymore if it comes from us or from our community – to “keep up”. But honestly, we can’t afford it. We have credit card debt and a second mortgage, both of which we know we need to get rid of immediately. Tuition hurts, but having spent the last few months tracking our expenses like you suggested, I know that we could do it if we reduced our “lifestyle” expenses.
Yes, my husband does well, but he’s a professional, not an entreprenuer. Most of our friends are millionaires, and that’s not even an exaggeration. The world of coupons is so incredibly foreign where I live. I’m not exaggerating when I say that people would mock me if they saw me using a coupon. And maybe I don’t “need” to use coupons, but we do NEED to do something, because our lifestyle just can’t be sustained. A big part of it is saying no to our kids, who also feel that what their friends have is “normal”. I’ve gotten better at this, but I’m still a work in progress.
I guess I’m asking more for moral support than anything else. Even Shabbos is stressful. People’s homes are like palaces; you should see their Shabbos tables. I just don’t know how to put my foot down and say – No, we’re not going to keep up with this rat race – without totally alienating myself from my friends and community.
The truth is that while I definitely feel compassion for the emotion this reader is experiencing, I can’t really relate to her specific situation. I guess I’m fortunate in two ways: (1) Our community is Kansas City is extremely down to earth. We certainly don’t have the biggest house on the block, nor drive the nicest cars, yet I don’t feel any kind of external or internal pressure to be something that we’re not. And (2) We simply don’t make enough money to even entertain the notion of ‘keeping up’. It would be laughable if we tried.
That said, moving to Kansas City and/or slashing your income are probably not the kind of suggestions this reader is looking for!
So, I’m hoping that some of you, especially those that might live in more similar communities, can offer some suggestions about how to buck the “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality.
Feel free to comment annonymously – and please do so kindly.