Ask My Readers | Keeping Up with the Joneses

Reader Q&AToday’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.

Do you have a question about budgeting, couponing, menu planning or anything else? Please send me an email – I love hearing from my readers!


  1. anonymous says

    We dont quite live among millionares but we are definitely earn on the lower end in our community. I often find myself explaining to my kids why we aren’t going to israel or florida for winter break and I do feel sorry for them. But I was always a leader not a follower. I do fun and creative things with my kids that don’t cost my whole life savings and my kids great lives.

    We started budgeting our money better recently thanks to Kosher on a Budget and now I feel like we have a little more spend money because we are spending wiser.

    My friends mock my couponing saying how much do you spend on gas going to all these stores and my answer is not as much as you spend going to the mall every day. Most people now know me as the couponer and they do mock me still from time to time but mostly I think its becuase they wish they could do it to.

    Its all in your personal attitude thats what I’ve decided!

  2. My husband and I do very well(it wasn’t always this way) and recently, a friend voiced similar concerns to me about having less. Your real friends won’t care what you drive, where you live or what your Shabbos table looks like.

  3. FeelForYou says

    I totally feel for you. I have a similar situation though our community sounds a lot more mixed than yours. Since there are others like us in our community, alongside the millionaires, we are able to keep a low profile and put our foot down a lot. It also helps that my husband and I are do not do well financially, as you seem to, and the whole community pretty much knows our situation. We have shed any notion of keeping up with the Joneses long ago and do not hide it. My suggestion is to pick up a copy of Dave Ramesy’s Total Money Makeover. You can get it at the library and it even comes in an audio book you can listen to. FOLLOW HIS STEPS and you will be paying off your debt in no time.

    At the same time, I would begin to focus less on monetary ideals and more on loftier ideals, together with your children. If you begin teaching them (and yourself!) that there are more important things in life than what money can buy, this will help you financially, psychologically, and make you a better Jew! I wouldn’t just talk, though, I would put it into practice by bringing them along to make clothing donations, to a soup kitchen, deliver food to the homebound, etc. My daughter was complaining about her hair the other day and we had a talk about the girl in her school who lost her hair due to a battle with cancer. That put things into perspective. GOOD LUCK! It’s tough but you will grow from this, trust me! And your kids will bet better people, too.

    I just read an email from Partners in Kindness about this week’s parshah: Behar. Hope it helps shed some light on what I’m talking about. There’s a lot more out there you can read to help redirect your priorities:

    In Western society of the 21st century, money has come to be the most valued commodity. Having wealth is a sign of success. It is the goal that everyone strives for, the top rung of the ladder most people climb. But the Jewish people have another measuring stick for success and that is chesed. One of the concluding verses of the parshah states “You shall not make idols for yourselves,” (26:1). One of the interpretations of this verse is that you shall not decide what to worship. G-d has given us a yardstick for what we should aspire to. While we are certainly allowed to attain prosperity this is not an end in itself but a means by which to serve G-d.

  4. Shana –
    I can empathize with your situation. We don’t live in a community like that now, but I have lived in one. When we feel the urge to keep up with the Jonses, or start comparing what we have with our friends, we have 2 things that we remind ourselves:
    1) Dave Ramsey says, “If you live like no one else now, you will be able to live like no one else later.” By saving and scrimping now, you are ensuring a healthy financial future for you and your kids. What better gift could you give them?
    2) You never know what people’s financial situations are. Even millionaires can easily live beyond their means and have tons of debt.

    In reality, even if we could afford many of the beautiful things we see at our friends’ homes, those kinds of purchases do not mesh with our values.

    Good luck, and know that you are not alone.

  5. anonymous says

    I can so relate to how you feel. Despite being soo into couponing myself, I would NEVER use a coupon in the kosher store- it would feel too degrading cause I would just feel like e/o is looking down on me.
    There’s no concrete advice anyone can really give you about how to decrease your expenses. However, the one thing you have to realize about spending to match your friends is that at the end of the day, you and your hubby are the ones responsible for the debt. No one else (ok, maybe your mom and dad might help) is going to pay it off for you… none of your friends or your kids’ fancy parents are going to come back to look for you after your bankruptcy (chas v’shalom).
    I’m sure that where ever you live you can find like-minded friends who are not living this super-ostentacious lifestyle and maybe are interested in shopping the sales at the departments stores, look online for cheaper brand name stuff.
    Look around at what you feel like you can do to save money. Nowadays the NY stores are killing each other with sales on food staples. Take the stockpiling idea to heart and when barley’s on sale for 75cents, buy 6 month’s worth of it. Check the flyers and go to each store for what they have on sale and menu plan carefully. You will easily save 50% over shopping haphazardly. Strictly limit dinners eaten out.
    Give your kids and allowance and stick to it. Growing up, we didnt have an allowance, it was a mommy-give-me-money as needed situation. I’m sure that cost my parents more than the strict allowance would have; certainly in high school years. (Make it reasonable amount or it will totally flop)
    Creative things are good. Also, get memberships to places. It might seem more expensive than the price of going somewhere once but it gets a lot cheaper if you use it frequently. There’s a great discount on the Bronx Zoo/Queens zoo/bklyn aquarium membership that is valid thru beginning of july; its like $150 for a year can go to all of those as many times as you like; whereas, the admission to bronx zoo for 2 adults/2kids is $100!!!
    One idea you might consider for couponing though: travel to closeby not so frum areas where you won’t feel like a weirdo rolling your CVS bucks and using coupons to get freebies.
    Good luck!!!

  6. I feel the need to echo Kate’s sentiment. True friends will not care one bit whether you’re “keeping up”. I don’t know your community – it’s entirely possible it is superficial and competitive and you would truly be alienated by your efforts to cut back. But it’s also entirely possible that the community would take it all in stride. And here’s the thing – if the people in your community would alienate your family because you didn’t spend as much money, is that really the right community for you? I can certainly appreciate that moving out of the community is a radical move – one that would have ripple effects for your entire family and especially your children. It certainly wouldn’t be easy. And maybe it’s not necessary.

    I would recommend sitting down with your family and having everyone pick one thing they can give up to help make a meaningful impact to the family’s bottom line. Set expectations that you will do this regularly (every month, two months, three months?) until your excess debt is paid off and you’ve built a savings cushion. It can be hard to admit to our kids that we can’t afford to give them the material things that all of their friends have, but I think it’s a valuable lesson. In learning to live within your means. In deciding what’s really most important. And in why there are always trade-offs and opportunity costs to be considered.

    I think you hit the nail on the head when you noted that this is a psychological problem more than a financial one. I hope you are able to find a way to repair your finances, and that you are pleasantly surprised by your community’s reaction to those efforts.

  7. I agree with what people are saying, real friends will not care what you have or make, but will enjoy your company for the conversations they have with you and the reliability that you will be there for them and vice versa when necessary; Basically they will be your friend for who you are. I know how every parent wants what’s best for their children, but what is best is not necessarily what everyone else has. You need to give them their needs, food, clothing, shelter. Next you give them a good education and hope that this will give them the ability to be better off than you are/were at the same age. and finally and most importantly a code of moral ethics; because no matter how wealthy you are, people will not respect you if you are immoral.

  8. I do happen to live in one of those communities, but before we moved in, my husband and I sat down and discussed it. Our attitude is that you can always look down and you can always look up. Someone is always going to have more than you do and someone is always going to have less than you do.

    While we live in an expensive, wealthy community, we are definitely on the lower end of the spectrum and while I’m not going to deny that it can be hard sometimes, we long ago decided that we cannot keep up with everyone and are not going to try.

    What we try to do is look at our own situation and realize that we’re happy. We have our family, our lives and our home. My jewelry isn’t the biggest, but it’s nice and we can’t go on vacations constantly, but we do get away and enjoy ourselves.

    The keeping up game is a zero-sum game and you will always be the loser. What’s more is that your kids will absorb that lesson and that’s not good for them either. YOu need to realize that it’s you as people that have the value, not the possessions… I do hope that you have the strength to put your foot down to your kids and to the values that are being taught.

    Best of luck to you…

  9. It may not be so comfortable to have to tell your kids that others have more money, but if it’s true, it’s true, and you must help them learn to accept it. Everyone makes choices in life about career, family, life etc. Just go ahead and show the world that you are choosing to be sensible about money. (and for the record I don’t coupon so much b/c much of what I buy doesn’t come up with coupons, but I do price check and comparison shop etc. Do what works for you).

    Oh – and anyone who mocks you isn’t really your friend.

  10. suzette tanen says

    My husband and I both had very little money when we were dating and then after we got married. The frugal lifestyle we led has carried over now, and even though we may not ‘need’ to do it, we use coupons, always try to find a discount code when buying online, sales, etc. We’ve instilled the same in our kids and they too wouldn’t dream of buying something full price. Rather than be embarrassed, we’re actually quite proud of it and it’s become something we kibitz about with our friends!

    • NotCinderell says

      I’m the same way with my family. I don’t understand, when there are so many offers out there, why someone would elect to pay full price for something when the exact same thing can be obtained for less, and sometimes much less.

  11. The next time you need a gift for your kids, look around for arts or cooking classes instead of “stuff”; it might be more expensive at the outset, but it will help teach them skills that they can use to make their own lives richer. Instead of taking your kids to the mall to hang out with their friends, host a “bubble party” on your deck. Noone with good taste has EVER passed over a homemade chocolate chip cookie in favor of a store-bought one. If you don’t feel like you’re creative, go to the Progressive end of town, find people you think ARE creative, and ask them to teach you something.

  12. I recently have been tightening my financial belt. It’s hard at first and you may even feel like all eyes are on you.My husband and I have struggled with major health issues,fertility expenses,adoption expenses and we both come from a family of very wealthy people.Sometimes your harshest critic is you. If people don’t understand you respecting the money you earn by spending it wisely educate them they may thank you later . Your children will grow up to appriciate what they have and respect the money they earn, even if its just enough to put a roof over thier heads. Maybe you go to israel once every few years or to florida only once in a while? Being a millionaire is only temporary if people don’t learn to budget. Think of all the money you will have saved for a rainy day? When bad things happen you will have the means to sustain your family till the issue is resolved. Welcome to the couponing side of life .. we have cookies and they we bought on sale with a double coupon 🙂

  13. It can be a challenge–but are you sure the “keeping up” mentality is not just in your head? We live in a an upscale area too — went to school and have now settled into live with the millionaires (which we are not.)

    I sold advertising for many years and I know with absolute certainly that very rich people use coupons. Actually you find the coupons and special offers being taken advantage of by the rich more often then anyone else. If these people would mock you for it then you live with stupid people.

    It comes down to being comfortable with who you are and in your own skin. If you invite these people to your home for Shabbos do a casual fun theme–a picnic, perhaps–great time of the year for it? The birthday parties can be over the top crazy expensive–you don’t have to do that for the kids to have fun. My sister gave her six year old a games party–the boys had a great time playing at the stations. She even made her own cupcakes–they devoured them.

    You don’t have to keep up-if these people look down on you because you don’t live in a “palace” they are not your friends. To heck with them.

    Go volunteer at a homeless shelter, abused women’s center or cancer ward–you’ll be grateful for what you do have and stop judging yourself against the Jones family.

  14. This may seem odd. But maybe the answer is to convince yourself and your kids that you have a lot less than you actually do. Put away half of your husband’s salary in a place where it cannot be touched (except in absolute emergencies) for some period of time and live on the reduced salary. I think that we tend to want what people one or two steps above us have. Once they are 12 steps above us, there tends to be less “keeping up with the Jones”

  15. I can understand how you feel the way you do. Living among very wealthy people with grand lifestyles CAN put pressure on you and your family. I live in NYC and yes, this is a truth that we live with too. I like this motto: “Save what you can so you can buy what you want” because at the end of the day I really do like nice things.
    My (very practical) suggestion: start spending less on the things that wont “hurt” so much and calculate how much you save over time. For example, I stopped buying snacks and drinks when out on trips or at the gas station. Now, before a trip, I fill up bottles of water or drinks, and I use ziplock bags to pack food and snacks already in my pantry. This hasnt “hurt” my outings, and I save about $10 each time – which may not seem like a big deal when we are used to spending so much on our clothes, etc., BUT $10 multiplied by 2 times a week by 52 weeks a year and thats a total savings of over a $1000 a year! and my kids havent complained a bit (maybe my husband did at first but he’s getting used to it too – now he takes bags of chips and nuts from the house and leaves it in the car for his snacking).
    Maybe you can cut down on your cleaning lady just 1 or 2 hours a week; at $10 an hour that can save you about $500 to $1000 a year.
    Kids’ clothes: I like to buy trendy kids’ clothes at crewcuts and zaras. First, I buy at the end of the season for the next year when things are on sale.
    To make the clothes “last longer” from winter into summer – fold up long sleeve shirts to make them short sleeved, cut off part of the long sleeves on tees to create short sleeve tees with raw edged short sleeves, role up long pants to capri length (looks soo cute – I get compliments on my kids’ summer capris all the time!), cut long jeans into jean shorts, etc.
    So if looking cute is important to you and your neighbors – yes, it’s easy to tell you not to care but right now you do, so this suggestion is great!!
    Say you try the above 3 suggestions and save yourself $2000 and more – you can now use this money to pay credit cards or treat yourself to the expensive things you like without breaking your bank account.
    Also, just start tracking your expenses to see what you spend where – down to the last details. Have a list for fixed expenses like housing, insurance, gas, tuition, etc. and other spending like food, clothes, etc. Also have a list of all your earnings and figure out how much you can spend monthly.
    Being aware of HOW you spend your money is sooo enlightening and informative, it will automatically give you a sense of control and will empower you to make some changes. Even if you cut costs from one area that wont “hurt” you to another area where you feel you need to spend more, at least you will be spending earned money and not spending extra on credit cards and you wont be accumulating debt.
    Try it – I did and I am feeling amazing about it!! You would never guess that I actually peruse such sites to learn more tips. No I dont cut coupons etc. and am not saving as much as I would like, but I am not overspending either B”H. I feel empowered and richer and thank Hashem for the money he has blessed us with!
    Good luck!

    • These suggestions are only a ‘taste’ of the small changes you CAN make in your life that over time will amount to saving lots of money. Moving may be a great idea but might not be a practical for you at this point. My suggestions above might seem small in the face of a much larger issue, but I know that’s how I started – with what was easy for me to stop spending on – and those savings inspired and empowered me so that now I have cut costs in many many areas of spending and am able to B”H pay my bills and save, and most importantly I can live within my means. In some way, you will have to care less what everyone thinks, but it will be a slow hard process. Be confident that you are doing what’s right for yourself and your family. Iy’H you will be able to save and then reap the benefits when you can use those savings for college, to help your children get married, pay money towards homes etc. Save now for later!

  16. Consider the homeschooling lifestyle. Recently in Baltimore, MD there was a large conference of Orthodox Jewish homeschooling families. See this article:

    I attended but my oldest is 2 so I am not doing it yet formally.

    If you really think hard (maybe not just you, “Shana,” but others in similar positions some of whom may mesh well with the option and its values and benefits) you may realize how significantly it could impact your sense of thriving in your life.

    That said, it’s going to set you apart in different ways, but it may save you some big $$ too.

    I also strongly recommend out-of-town communities! And kudos to everyone who is doing what is right for themselves, and trying to stay strong doing so!

  17. I had a similar experience for many years. Since I came from a modest background in a down to earth community, it was a real shock for me after my husband and I relocated to a community like the one you describe. We didn’t own a home and were known on the block as “the renters.” My daughter came home upset one Shabbat because all the other girls had “Shabbos coats,” something I’d never heard of before. Isn’t one nice, good quality warm coat for the winter enough? My jaw would drop when I would go into local clothing shops and see the price stickers on some of the clothing. Like you we were earning reasonable salaries and were able to provide our children with all of their basic needs plus the occasional treat and we were able to pay our yeshiva tuition. What we couldn’t do was afford things like designer outfits, crystal for the Shabbat table, and Pesach at a hotel.

    While it’s true that your real friends won’t care about what you can and cannot afford, a big part of being a Torah observant family is participating in the larger community, so I don’t think the pain of this situation can be dismissed lightly. Truthfully, our situation created a lot of stress in our marriage.

    My advice, though it may sound extreme, is to move. Move to another community where the focus is on true Torah values and not all of the externals that you “need” to belong. Once my children grew up and married, they all moved a long distance away to find that kind of community, and I wish I had done so when they were still young.

    • I grew up with Shabbat Coats – and an entire wardrobe of Shabbat clothes and shoes that I was only allowed to wear on Shabbat and Chag. And of course I got new clothes specially for Pesach and Rosh Hashanah. It took me years to realize that the clothes shouldn’t be the focus, but rather the holiday itself and the time spent with our family and friends.

  18. Thank you all so much for taking the time to answer with such compassion and insight! I love my readers!!!

  19. As dramatic as it sounds, I strongly agree with the poster(s) who suggested moving. It might be a royal pain in the you-know-what in the short run, but I bet you will be happy later on. I know four frum families who moved from my city (Akron, OH) in the past four years just because our Jewish community lacks a substantial observant community, and the parents really wanted to feel a part of a like- minded group. To me, that’s a great reason to move.

  20. There’s a great book you can borrow from the library called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. She details her year of trying to be happier, and along the way, she discovers what she calls “Secrets of Adulthood.” One of them is something like, “No one is paying nearly as much attention to you as you think they are.” I really try to remember that a lot when I find myself agonizing over whether my jeans make my butt look big or my shabbat appetizers are on a fancy enough plate. People are so wrapped up in their own stuff that they don’t have time to worry about yours, you know?

    I also agree with commenters who advised being comfortable in your own skin, and those who advised considering moving. You MUST be comfortable with who you are and what your values are. And that is NOT easy. For a while, when we lived in L.A., the only picture we had hanging in our dining room was a small framed piece that said in English & Hebrew, “Who is Rich? He who is happy with his lot.” We called it our “statement wall.” We joked that the statement was that we couldn’t afford art. We moved from L.A. (to Houston, and now to Israel) — and we still have that piece, and I still try to live it.

    It’s not easy — but it’s worth working on yourself. Because the moment you become comfortable with yourself, everything else WILL fall into place.

  21. You can save lots of money on food, especially store bought snacks and bakery goods, etc., by starting to cook healthy. If you need an ‘excuse’ for your friends and kids for saving money on food, blame it on adopting a really healthy lifestyle where you try to limit sugar and food coloring and junk. Instead cook with whole grains, have fruits for snacks, etc. and you can have store bought snacks for shabbos as a shabbos treat.

  22. Simple suggestions to save money that you and your family will not notice, like saving change and cutting out meals at restaurants and cafes once or twice a week, but the savings add up to a few thousand dollars a year.

  23. Mom in NJ says

    When we were first married we were students and really didn’t have any money to spare. We always explained to our kids that, thank God, we have enough for the necesseties: food, clothing (hand-me-downs, second-hand stores or clearance racks) and shelter, but everything else (dance lessons, summer camp,) is a want, not a need, and we did not have the money for it.

    Now we are in a better place, but our family has also grown, and it is still a struggle to make ends meet. We have tried to instill in our kids that it is who you are, not what you have that matters.

    Of course, it is hard for them, and me too. I wish I could buy a new outfit for myself for yom tov but the stress of how we would pay for it is just not worth it.

    I’m sorry that your friends mock you, but it could also be that they are envious of your decisions to do with less and they wish they could have your strength.


  24. Hi- I suspect we live somewhere near each other as I (and others I know) have the same problem as you. We moved here from a neighborhood in Queens where people just didn’t show off no matter how wealthy they were. To begin with you have to realize and teach your kids too – that no matter how much you have there will always be people with more – way more – than you have. There will also be people with less although you may not notice them as much. And there is no way of knowing which family is happier or even happy. My kids knew that pretty much everything we bought was from Syms, TJ Maxx and those types of discount stores. I never pay retail, and why should you? You get the same items in the same season for way less. I have seen the same things in more expensive stores on those occasions that I went “window shopping”. My kids know they will never wear Abercrombie, but they do get Aeropostale – on sale. They have so many seasons of clothes there is always something on sale. They also have a uniform division online where you can get solid white and blue shirts with the Aeropostale logo, and much better quality than other places. If you shop at Walmart instead of CVS you can save a dollar or two per item. They have a lot of kosher crackers and cookies under their own label. Walmart and Costco have a lot of kosher candy – Costco sells Jelly Belly’s in bulk for much cheaper than “Oh Nuts” and those types of stores. I package my own candy for gifts by buying pretty china plates and bowls at Homegoods, TJ Maxx… and putting the candy into pretty, plastic candy bags and wrapping with metallic string and colored cellophane. You will save 50% doing it this way. If you bake and are not worried about the recipient questioning your Kashrut send baked goods. People love it more than the candy. You have to bargain with your kids sometimes. My daughter wanted a “Hardtail” skirt that was over $50 on sale – more than 5 years ago, and I said ok but it’s your Chanukah present. She was not thrilled, but she got the skirt and wore it on a staggered schedule to school so that it could be washed in between wearings yet she could wear it more than once a week and no one knew she had only the one Hardtail skirt. Your kids will always point to the family that goes to Israel every winter break (or more, every Yom Tov, every summer…)and you have to point to the families besides yourselves who don’t. It’s ok to tell your kids you can’t afford it, and even if you can that you don’t want to spend the money because you don’t want them to be spoiled. If you constantly tell your kids what your values are and what is or isn’t acceptable some of it will eventually sink in. At some point your kids will bring home friends who are more like them. No one, however, will be exactly like your family. My kids only went to day camp or sleep away for 1 month, 2 was just too exorbitant. Other families sent 4 or 5 kids for the whole summer, and a few families never sent their kids to any camp at all. If you look hard you will find people with similar values with whom you will agree most of the time and who will respect you for who you are and not whether you can keep up with them. You can enjoy vacations at home by taking day trips – not every day – into Manhattan and seeing the tourist sites and even getting TKTS tickets for Broadway – which are easily $50 apiece discounted. Still not cheap but less than at the box office. Google what you want to do and many places have discounts if you buy online or come with a coupon. Your kids wants and desires may get worse before they get better and they will, eventually in their late teens. Good luck, hope this helps.

    • anonymous says

      We too live in a very affluent area in NY( 5 Towns) are professionals but we are happy with what we have. There is a great difference between wants and needs and we try to teach our kids that too. Budgeting is such a important value to teach children. You should read this book called, “Blessings of a skinned knee” the author talks abut how often as parents we want only the best for our children but when children are given good enough they often raise to the occasion. I read that book seven years ago and it totally changed my perscpective on parenting. BTW- If you don’t like your children’s chevra or unhappy with the abduance of wealth in shul consider switching. We didn’t switch schools with our oldest a popular girl with B”H good Middos at a competitive school. She loves to “show off” to her friends how little I pay for things us but she is one of the most responsible independent poplular girls in school( I think its kind of funny). We did switch shuls a couple of times since we moved here though. In fact many of my friends( even the ones with the big fancy houses) ask me to show them how to coupon. I find many people love a great deal! For the record I usually use my coupons at Stop and Shop or King Kullen because they double them whike the kosher supermarkets don’t. A few years ago I worked at one of the local chesed organizations and there were so many frum people asking for financial help. It was a very humbling experience! You never know who! Yes, some of the people here get so caught up with keeping up the Schwartzes but do yourself a favor and try not to because if you do you will never be happy and it can ruin you financially. Hatzlacha!

  25. anonymous says

    I’m going to try not to climb up on my soapbox here. It’s very likely that many of the people you consider to be millionaires are up to their eyeballs in debt. The economy is not in a good place right now, and it really affects everyone in some way. My household income would probably classify us as “rich” in most people’s eyes. Both of our cars are over 11 years old. We live very simply. People come to us for loans (which we have stopped giving & signing on because we have SO many out), and we are shocked to see who it is that is coming to us! This craziness has to stop! The gashmius is not good for anyone. You don’t say much about how your husband feels about all this. You need the strength of being on the same page with this. When everyone else is living a certain way, you have to be super strong to go against the current. Daven. Try to find at least one other family with a similar outlook; it will bolster you.

  26. Having grown up in the NY – NJ area, I decided not to settle there myself when I had a family. Regardless of how much money my husband and I make, I didn’t want to raise my kids in an environment where there was such a focus on appearances. We’ve lived in a few cities around the US, and we’ve come to love a few things about smaller cities:
    1) There are fewer kosher restaurants. Big deal.
    2) There are genuine, friendly people. Super nice people. People so nice, that having grown up in NY, I had to fight my cynical instinct which said, “Why are you so nice? what do you want from me?
    3) You can be yourself. Seriously. You can drive a car with scratches on it. You can wear whatever you want. You can have any opinion you want. Most shuls in the midwest, it is perfectly respectable to wear a plain skirt and a sweater to shul on shabbat, the same one you wore 3 years ago. No one cares.

    It’s fantastically freeing to not feel like you are being judged every minute. I am very different from my friends, but I don’t care. I had frum friends who were truck drivers and mechanics and massage therapists – jobs that my parents and their friends would have looked down their noses at. It is worth it to explore other cities around the US.

    • #2 reminded me – when we moved to Kansas City from Israel, my husband – who is from New Jersey originally – could not get over how friendly people are here. He kept asking me, “Are these people for real??!!”

      • 4daughters says

        I have to admit that I was quite upset to read your letter. The state of “gashmius” in some communities is completely out of control! Their values are totally backwards. I agree with everyone has posted that your *real* friends will stand behind you when you make the necessary budgetary/lifestyle changes.

        We lived in a wealthy “out-of-town” city for 6 years and loved it. We were poor students with frumpy clothes, old cars and a simple furniture. Many shul members lived in fancy mansions and drove expensive cars but we were a community and everyone was friendly with everyone regardless of socio-economic status. A few of them told us that they started where we were, as young couples with student debt, and worked hard to get where they were and appreciated what they had now. It seems that this helped them to impart good values to their children. Their kids worked in the summer, volunteered for good causes, babysat and even helped us move (hard, physical labour) for $10 per hour.

        I think this is the chinuch that you need to give your children.

        Wishing you a lot of strength to making steps towards being true to yourselves and getting rid of your debt!

  27. Read The Millionaire Next Door for some healthy perspective. I am with the above poster who doubts that your friends are really millionaires. Statistically that is highly unlikely. How some people have so much to burn is beyond me, but I do know that many are drowning in debt and eventually the tables will be turned.

  28. Our children are 6 and 3, and we are very honest with them about our money situation. WHO you are is what’s important. NOT the “things” that one has. I simply will say: “I’m sorry sweetie, but we cannot afford that. But here’s what we CAN do instead.” I never feel shame about using coupons. I would feel more shameful to lie and pretend to be something that I’m not….

  29. I can say that growing up, my parents were very frugal with us- we knew that we couldn’t get everything that we wanted, we were not spoiled at all, and my other defintely cut coupons and bought clothing on sale (though I wore many hand me downs as well). My mother worked in a camp so that they could afford to send us, and also worked in pesach hotels (and I had to work as a day camp counselor), so that my family could go. My parents did travel, but it was usually paid for by my father’s work, as he went to conferences all over the world. Now that we are all older, and my parents saved for all of us very responsibly, they were able to help each of their children buy their homes, and have money to spend on family vacations with their grandchildren. While I did not feel deprived growing up, I knew that I could not have everything that I wanted, and I think it’s a very healthy attitude, though there were many in our community who earned (or at least spent) a lot more than my parents did, I think we were all better off in the long run.

  30. The Torah specifically states in several books not to covet thy neighbors and materialism is not one with G-d. I went to a Judaic store a few weeks ago to pick up mezuzahs for our door posts. The sales staff seemed shocked when I asked for four basic, plastic mezuzot. I ordered my candlestick holder off Ebay for $6. I have no challah cover. I use a fancy napkin.

    The point of Shabbat, Yom Tov and Yom Kippur is to be more holy and experience what it is like in the after life. It is to honor G-d and perform his mitzvot. I do not judge those who choose to live like this because this is between G-d and them.

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