Don't base your life on others' choices

Your neighbor buys a brand new BMW -- the same one you eyed in a catalog last week -- and you burn with envy.

Your coworker purchases a new house and invites you to a housewarming party. You debate whether to turn down the invitation only because you're angry that you haven't found a home for yourself after a frustrating two-year search. 

There will always be things others possess that we wish we could own, too. 

But comparing yourself to others and always trying to keep up with the Joneses is the wrong approach.

If you want something badly, work hard to acquire it -- whether that means saving money for years, cutting vacations for a while, or angling for a promotion. 

Once you have it in your possession, take pride in the fact that you accomplished a huge goal by virtue of your hard work -- that you rewarded yourself with something you truly deserved. 

In other words, what you achieve should revolve solely around you -- not what others do or own. 

We all have different goals and ambitions in life. While some people work hard for what they have, others got lucky: They were either born into privilege or found a well-to-do partner. 

Even so, who's to say they won't lose the item in question under unfortunate circumstances (e.g., a car totaled in an accident or diamond ring lost in a robbery)? 

The fact is, we don't take our material possessions with us when we die. Wanting to own something simply because someone else has one is absurd. If you truly like what they have and want one for yourself, that's a different story. 

The compulsion among so many people to follow trends and best their friends and neighbors when it comes to expensive clothes, jewelry, and other items explains the debt epidemic in the U.S. and abroad. 

These profligate shoppers are more concerned about having what everyone else has than living within their means. 

As I've pointed out in other posts, this can have dire consequences. I've met people who have been forced to file for bankruptcy and still others who were one warning away from being put out on the street.

Remember this: If that happens, the people you're trying to emulate -- those gaudy friends, neighbors, and relatives -- will not come and pay all your bills for you. 

Again, buying stuff you really want -- with money you've worked hard for -- makes sense. Buying stuff you may not care for or afford, but wish to acquire nonetheless because someone else has it is ill-advised. 

Be sure to keep this in mind, especially now that the holiday shopping season is underway. Forget about what others have -- buy what calls out to you. 

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