How to Combat Financial Envy

Stop trying to keep up with the Joneses and put your money jealousy into perspective.

White Picket Fence
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Compare yourself to people poorer than you. "The mistake that most people make is comparing themselves to someone who is very wealthy. There is always someone who has more than you. If you're feeling envious of someone else's financial position, it usually just means you need to change your perspective," says Steven Hirsch, a CPA in Mineola, N.Y.

In other words, remember that compared to some people, you're Mr. or Ms. Jones. Hirsch adds that familiar but accurate truism: "Life isn't just about money. What dollar value would you put on your health? Your relationship with your significant other? Your friends? Your happiness? If you feel jealous of someone else's finances, remember that there are probably things that you have in your life that would make them jealous."

Use your envy as motivation. But if you really can't shake the feeling that you should have more material goods or as much money as your friends, family or acquaintances, a little envy can be useful, Epps says. "Take what you see as fuel to the fire to aspire you to work hard and live frugally so you can obtain such items more practically with less cost," he advises. "Constantly remind yourself of long-term goals."

[See: 10 Ways to Cut Your Spending This Week.]

Which, ideally, should be lots of money in the bank instead of a fancy sports car or another asset that rapidly depreciates in value, Epps says.

Jenna Mayhew, a therapist who runs an email and counseling service in London, concurs. As she puts it, if you're chasing after money that you don't really need, you're likely never going to be satisfied and may always feel a bit uneasy. But some level of greed is in our genes.

"Materialism for the sake of survival is healthy and adaptive," Mayhew says. "It's a good thing to be driven to have enough money for medicine, food and safety."