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Being at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder sucks. Even when we're perfectly able to meet our basic needs for food, warmth, and shelter it does our egos in. There is a reason even poor people in developed countries are twice as likely to develop clinical depression than wealthier people. Poverty can make us feel inferior and even invisible, and being poorer than your self-selected peer group can make you feel just as bad as objective poverty.
When you really become conscious of those things, however, you can indeed escape that rat race and instead feel content with yourself. If you're guilty of having tried to keep up with the Joneses, you may benefit from asking yourself these tough but liberating questions.
Do Your Spending Habits Make You Happy?
OK, we know that choosing not to go on a vacation you really can't afford or saying no to that restaurant dinner to save some money can dampen our mood by lowering our social status. What does spending more than you can afford to do to your mood, though? Nothing good —financial worries are bound to be a main source of stress and a prime reason to keep you up at night. If you've ever made an impulse purchase that gave you tons of stress afterwards, you will know exactly what we're talking about.
Attaining services and goods that increase our social status may make us feel good for a while, but being financially responsible will give you a peace of mind that's even better.
Change Your Peer Group
Socializing primarily with people who have more than we do can make us feel depressed. If you recognize yourself here, perhaps it's simply time to change your social group. Move to a more modest neighborhood, become a hipster who wears thrift store clothes and eats vegan food out of principle rather than for financial reasons and hang out with those who do likewise, and volunteer to work with people who are less fortunate than you are. Quit looking at the instagram accounts of the super-rich, and stop watching shows about the most expensive private jets in the world.
See how fast your frame of reference changes. You may still feel the need to keep up with the Joneses, but they won't be the same Joneses!
Be Smug About Wisdom Rather Than Material Goods
The Joneses might be living a Martha-Steward worthy life from the outside, but chances are that they are debt-ridden, insecure, and depressed on the inside. Chances are that the Joneses aren't keeping up with themselves either, but even if they are, it has been proven that money doesn't make them happy either.
Humans may be inherently motivated by the "need" to be slightly better than others, but that need can be met in numerous different ways. Why not feel superior in the knowledge that you are more financially responsible than your neighbors instead, and that you were able to sleep better at night by not buying that new car?