When you see your neighbour’s latest TV set (higher resolution, wider screen, brighter colour, thinner and trendier), you want one for yourself. So you decide to buy even a bigger one, just to show off that you can do the same, or even better than your neighbour.

That’s called “keeping up with the Joneses”.

“Keeping up with the Joneses” is a catchphrase in many parts of the English-speaking world referring to the comparison to one’s neighbour as a benchmark for social caste or the accumulation of material goods. To fail to “keep up with the Joneses” is perceived as demonstrating socio-economic or cultural inferiority.

Since this is always not a smart reaction for someone who is financial savvy, why keeping up with the Joneses? In fact my question is not “why you want to keep up with your neighbours”. It is why “Joneses”? Why not “Tans”? Why not “Ramli” or “Muthus”? But “Joneses”!

The answer is available on the Internet.

This term is 20th century American. It originated with Arthur (Pop) Momand’s Keep Up With The Joneses comic strip in the New York Globe. The strip was first published in 1913 and became popular quite quickly. By September 1915, a cartoon film of the same name was touring US cinemas.

Keepin up with the Joneses Comic

The ‘Joneses’ in the cartoon weren’t based on anyone in particular, and they weren’t portrayed in the cartoon itself. Jones was a very common name and ‘the Joneses’ was merely a generic name for ‘the neighbours’.

Have you done anything just to impress your neighbour? Tell us what you’ve done to keep up with the Joneses.


Personal finance author and trainer

    5 replies to "Why keeping up with the Joneses?"

    • Jackson MMA

      This is another “mind-boggling” question – “Why keeping up with the Joneses?”

      Well, if we look at another perspective, the connotation itself – in the context of today’s world – isn’t about “to show off”. It’s more on “healthy and strong competition among aggressive business competitors”.

      The more they compete, the more goods and services of high quality would and could be produced at a much lower price!

      And; I guess that consumers would be happy and smiling from ear to ear… (“,)

    • eugene

      Personally i dont subcribe to such notion as ” keep up with the Jonneses”, i am happy of my currents………………

    • lee

      You may not realised, we are living in this kind of world…… i do feel the world is sick ? Can anyone tell loudly they don’t like BMW but Kancil even if money or safety is not an issue ? We are living in that way, deny nor disagree to it …. but that’s the fact. If your friend asked you ‘what ? you never drink a coffee at StarBuck ?’, i think after the 5th person told you the same thing, the next day you will go to starbuck to buy a coffee ….

    • Gerald Fernandez

      Good article. Unfortunately many does this and do not live or spend based on their capacity. That’s the reason why our credit card debt’s are so high and many have very little savings or disposal income. We need to be practical and live within our means.

    • Lai Seng Choy

      Spend to impress others does not sound like a smart move and generate no value. Ask yourself, is it really matter to impress others? What is the worthiness on impressive others? What will you gain from impressive others? Is it for your short-term pride gain or long-term financial loss? Think twice before you act.

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