First Person: I’m Not Interested in Being a Conspicuous Consumer

Yahoo Contributor Network

Ostentatious expenditure isn't just something reserved for the extremely wealthy. In fact, according to, conspicuous consumption, otherwise known as "keeping up with the Joneses" has brought excess to the suburbs. As a middle-class suburbanite, I see conspicuous consumption all around me. I have friends, acquaintances and neighbors who go on expensive vacations, buy new cars and have a lot of designer clothing. Personally, I don't get it. Extravagant spending to impress others or make myself feel more important seems silly. I'm not interested in being a conspicuous consumer. In fact, I would rather be known for my frugal than flashy lifestyle.

Redefining the Term Necessity

Compared to those around us, my family and I live a simple life. We have two older cars with over 100,000 miles on each one. They are both running fine. For this reason, I have no reason to even think about getting a newer car or an additional car. Yet, people all around me have three cars but only two drivers. In addition to their three (sometimes four) cars, some have RVs and boats. The extra insurance and registration fees alone have me wondering how people (in a modest zip code like mine) can afford this. Yet, the Forbes article also says the term necessity has been redefined. For example, a 2006 survey from the Pew Research Center found that "33% of Americans now view cable or satellite TV as a necessity. In 1996 that number was 17%." My family has gone without cable t.v. for about four years. However, according to, in 2012, "84.7% of all households" had cable or satellite services. Other things like smartphones, landscaping services and SUVs have become commonplace too.

Living Within my Means

Sometimes, I think it would be nice to have cable or a gardener. In fact, the other day my husband and I saw a deal for $29 a month for cable for a year. Then, we would also get a $200 gift card. It was pretty tempting. However, even an extra $29 a month is an added expense that we don't need. Then, if we didn't cancel at the end of the year, we would have an additional $100 tacked onto our monthly expenses. Cable, along with gardening services, would cost us $200 a month. It's these types of expenses that push us over our budget and into credit card debt.

Stop Trying to Keep Up With the Joneses

Sometimes, I wonder how people can afford their lifestyles. Then, I think, perhaps they can't. After all, the Forbes article noted "43% of American families spend more than they earn." Thus, perhaps it is time that we stop trying to keep up with the Joneses. After all, it is likely that many of the conspicuous consumers you know are deep in debt. Rather than trying to keep up with excessive consumerism, I would like to live a simple life. In the long run, a frugal lifestyle is much less stressful than a flashy one.

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