But here's the thing that's easy to forget: although it looks like the "Joneses" are living a fairy tale life, this may not be the case.
You don't know what their struggles are.
You don't know:
What did they forgo to save up for that nice car?
How hard did they work to be able to afford that vacation?
How much are they suffering under the weight of the debt that paid for that pool?
That the beautiful house (and the mortgage that came with it) is causing their marriage to crumble behind closed doors.
That they have saved nothing for retirement and feel sick about it.
Appearances are deceiving. All may not be quite as good or easy as it seems.
You don't know what their struggles are and if you did, you might not want what they have
When I take the time to get to know the people around me, I discover that everyone has at least one struggle (and sometimes many). I learn that the nice things in life usually come with a price – either hard work up front or suffering after the fact, or both. I learn to have compassion for my neighbors and I'm not envious of them. I rejoice with them in the good times and try to give them an arm to lean on in the bad ones.
I've been doing this in my community lately and I've learned a lot
I've learned that one family has had to carry two mortgages for over a year because their house wouldn't sell after they were transferred to a new job and new location. I've learned that sometimes cancer comes back two or three times. I've learned that long-term unemployment is a heavy burden right down the street from me. I've learned that the woman with the six-figure corporate job just wishes she could afford to quit and have another baby. I know that divorce is rearing it's ugly head in so many homes.
So the next time you wish you could keep up with the Joneses and you're starting to get envious, remember that you don't know their struggles. You might not want to take the path they took to get where they are. Take some time to talk to your neighbors and get to know them a little better. You might be surprised at what you discover. Keep living beneath your means. Count your blessings.
Sarah Mueller is work-at-home mom to 4 rambunctious boys, wife to Juergen, and the creator of Early Bird Mom, a popular mom blog focusing on organizing, budgeting, parenting, and more. She loves to encourage other busy moms with simple, practical strategies and tips.