Keeping Up with the Joneses: Defining “Enough”

If you have been around long enough, you must have heard the phrase “keeping up with the Joneses”. This phrase became popular in 1913, thanks to a comic strip that ran for 25 years. English speakers immediately adopted the expression to express their comparison to their neighborhood as a benchmark for their social class and amassing wealth and material goods. This article defines “enough” in relation to the phrase “keeping up with the Joneses.”

What Is the Meaning of “Keeping Up with the Joneses?”

When someone says that they are keeping up with the Joneses, they mean that they are doing something to show that they have as much money as other people, rather than because they really want to do it. In the past, the phrase meant peering over someone else’s fence and yearning for their expensive TV set, fashion items, or cars. Today, the tendency to compare ourselves to other people and desire other people’s possessions has grown stronger than ever before.

But unlike before, when people used to look across the street, today everyone is admiring the lives of celebrities on social media and television sets, setting a completely different trend for how the world defines wealth and measures happiness. The American dream has changed completely, moving from the traditional values of hard work, prudence, and carefulness to a culture that worships bling, celebrity, and narcissism.

Defining “Enough”

To truly appreciate the meaning of “enough”, you have to ask yourself several questions. First, what really constitutes a good life? What is the true value of money? Why do you work long hours just to acquire greater wealth? According to Robert and Edward Skidelsky in their book “How Much Is Enough”, they argue that progress shouldn’t be measured by the traditional yardsticks of growth or per capita income, but rather by the seven components of the good life, health, security, respect, personality, harmony with nature, friendship, and leisure.

The main drive of the book is the belief that there is more to life than having millions in the bank. It is only recently that the idea of growth at all costs has become prized as the main objective of economic policy. Today, America is divided into two main groups: overachievers who have more money than they know what to do with and millions of unemployed and underemployed people. There isn’t a universal definition of “enough” because people face different circumstances and have diverse values. It boils down to your day-to-day happiness and life satisfaction.