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The Dangers of Keeping Up Appearances

The British sitcom about Hyacinth Bucket’s mission to impress everyone was a hoot, but there’s nothing funny about mounting debt, writes Lynda Moore.

26 October 2023

When it comes to money, there is a lot of Keeping Up Appearances going on as well, especially during this economic downturn.

A change in circumstances often causes this phenomenon. The loss of a job, business downturn or a relationship breakdown. The money just isn’t there, but you don’t want to let those in your social circle know that you’re not as flush as you once were.

So, you carry on doing what you have been doing and hope things will sort themselves out. The reality is often they don’t, and you end up going from bad to worse, which results in more debt, and that can be hard to come back from.

It effects all income earners

Keeping Up Appearances with your money is something that affects all income earners, from those on minimum wage to the high rollers. It’s all about meeting the expectations of others and your perception of how you want to be seen by others.

Keeping Up Appearances is closely aligned with Keeping Up with the Joneses.  You peer over your neighbour’s fence and the green monster awakens in you.  This can be driven by the, “I work hard so I deserve to have anything I want (whether I can afford it or not)” thought process or spending solely to maintain your social status.

The problem is, both phenomenons are putting your own financial wellbeing in jeopardy (and possibly your existence) when you have no idea of the circumstances in other peoples’ lives.  For all you know the Joneses are broke too!

The parent trap

As parents yes, it’s hard to be the “bad guy” and have to tell your children they can’t do all the activities they want or have the latest cool tech gadgets and fad clothes. After all, you don’t want to feel as if you are letting your children down. Then there is the fear of what they might say to their friends, which then gets back to their parents.

As parents we want to be able to give our children the best of everything, just as our parents did with us. But there are times and circumstances when that just isn’t possible.

To counter this, have an age-appropriate money conversation with them. You don’t need to pull out spreadsheets or discuss your household finances, but you can engage them in the process of changing spending behaviours and be honest with them about why.

As a parent all this may seem a huge task, but stick with it. When you see your children set up for life, because of what you have taught them, it will be worth it.

Being the ostrich and not wanting to face your change in circumstances also leads to Keeping Up Appearances. We often see this in relationship breakups.  One partner will carry on as if nothing has changed, but their income is now stretched or even diminished.

Heads in the sand

A major life event is a very emotional time. We only have so much bandwidth in our brain to cope and quite often looking at our finances is a low priority when dealing with a myriad of other life issues.

Pulling your head out of the sand is the only way to deal with the ostrich. This can be difficult and a little humbling as your pride, self-esteem and confidence all take a hit. Having to cut back your spending (even if only temporarily) can add to the feeling of failure.

When you are in this space, get help from experts who can guide you into a money plan. You may have to swallow your pride and tell those you are close to about the change in circumstances. They are probably sensing something is going on anyway and are waiting for you to ask for help, or they may offer help and support right off the bat.

The longer you “Keep Up Appearances” the more stress you put on yourself and your family. This stress can negatively impact your health, your relationships and your ability to generate the income you need to recover.

If you feel you are either trying to Keep Up with the Joneses or Keep Up Appearances, you need to look at your numbers and take stock of where you are now. Ask yourself what small changes you could make today to stop going backwards?

You don’t want to get to the point where you are having to make obvious and significant changes; when that happens everyone will know you have just been “Keeping Up Appearances”.

If you are serious about discovering ways to change your behaviour so you can reach your financial goals and build a happy and successful life, then drop me a line on lynda@moneymentalist.com

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