10 warning signs that you are becoming too materialistic in life

Like Madonna said way back in 1985, we are living in a material world.

As social animals, humans are genetically programmed to seek status. And these days, especially in affluent modern societies, money and material wealth is what confers status.

In other words, the monkey with the biggest pile of bananas wins.

Now, lots of us see through this game. We all like to say that money doesn’t buy happiness, and that’s absolutely true.

At the same time, it’s so easy to get drawn into materialism.

Partly, that’s because there are just so many great things to buy these days.

Look, I’m not saying you need to run off and live in a cabin in the words. But I am saying that ultimately, materialism will never make you happy.

It’s okay to buy things to make your life easier from time to time. But be careful you don’t fall into the trap of believing that owning more stuff will make you happy. 

It won’t.

Here are some warning signs that show you’re being fooled into following the wrong path.

1) You spend too much

This is probably one of the most obvious signs that you are too materialistic.

However, it’s an easy one to overlook.

These days, it’s hard for any of us to keep up with the rising price of anything. That’s why it’s a common experience to find ourselves at the end of the month wondering where all our money went.

And maybe the root cause is that you simply don’t earn enough, and the cost of necessities such as food and a place to live is too much for you.

On the other hand, lack of money can often be a sign of a spending problem.

For a materialistic person, buying new things is a way to make them feel better about themselves and to impress others. Therefore, they will often spend much more money than they should and have a hard time sticking to a budget.

They may even go into debt to buy new things.

Take a week or month to track every dollar you spend, and when it’s over, take a good look at where your money really goes. Because if you spend more money than you should on material things, it’s probably because you’re getting too materialistic.

2) You covet the latest thing

These days, companies know exactly how to push our buttons. They have teams of expert psychologists devoted to using every trick in the book to extract as much money from us as possible.

The idea of keeping up with trends is one of the most powerful ways they do it.

I’m old enough to remember when the first smartphones came out, and they were truly groundbreaking. The idea of having a phone, a camera, a computer, a GPS device, and so many other useful functions all bundled into one pocket-size package was amazing.

But these days, that well of innovation seems to have run dry.

How much better is this year’s iPhone than the last model? Do you really need a camera with 48 megapixels, when the human eye can’t even tell the difference in resolution between that and last year’s model?

It’s the same with fashion. Somehow, the fashion industry has us convinced that what looked supercool and chic last year is embarrassing to be seen in this year.

If you want something because you have a use for it, that’s fine. But if you want something just because it’s new and shiny, you’re being materialistic.

3) You are jealous of what other people have

It’s okay to want things – to a point.

But that desire to possess becomes toxic when you start feeling jealous of what other people have.

Psychologist Seth Meyers points out that insecurity is the most common cause of jealousy. That’s true of romantic jealousy, but it’s also true of someone who is jealous of what other people have.

Put simply, a materialistic person values themselves and others by what they own. So if somebody owns something better than what they have, they will feel negative emotions toward that person.

4) You prioritize things over people

pic1569 10 warning signs that you are becoming too materialistic in life

I’m not saying you’d let someone fall off a bridge to save your phone or anything like that. Hopefully you’re not that materialistic.

Instead, what I mean is that you focus your money, time, and attention more on things than on people.

So instead of going out for a meal with your friends, you would rather spend that money on a new pair of shoes.

Instead of taking a trip to visit your family, you’d rather go shopping for clothes.

It’s okay to treat yourself now and then. But if you often find yourself avoiding spending time with people so that you can focus on acquiring more stuff, you may have a problem with materialism.

5) You are always on social media

This is one of the more subtle signs that you are becoming materialistic.

Social media has become one of the most important ways for companies to advertise new products. Therefore, the more time you spend on social media, the more advertising you are exposed to and the more likely you are to want the things companies try to sell you.

Also, social media creates this unreal lifestyle that you are supposed to want. Whether it’s the latest phone, trendy fashions, or exotic holidays, your favorite influencers are all selling something. And they do that by making you want it.

6) You judge people by their possessions

This is one of the big signs that you have taken your interest in material things too far.

Do you find yourself looking down on people who aren’t as up with the latest trends as you are?

Have you ever made fun of someone for not having the latest phone?

Do you refuse to date someone based on the car they drive or the neighborhood where they live?

If so, you are becoming dangerously materialistic. And judgmental, too.

Psychologist Dana Harron writes that people judge others to avoid their own feelings of inferiority and shame.

So if you are using material objects as a way to make yourself feel better by putting others down, you need to do some work on yourself.

7) You don’t use a lot of what you buy

I’ll admit it: I have a whole closet of clothes I never wear.

Granted, some of them no longer fit me. Others have gone out of style. But some, I just haven’t found an occasion to wear.

Which makes me wonder why I bought them in the first place.

If you find yourself owning lots of things that you don’t need and barely use, it shows you’re more interested in buying things than you are in using them.

8) You always want more

But however much you have, it’s never enough.

Materialistic people always want more. No matter how much they have, it’s never enough. And all the objects they acquire are never quite the right thing compared to whatever new object they have their heart set on.

We alll buy things sometimes. But the difference between someone who is materialistic and someone who is not is that non-materialistic people stop buying things once they have what they need.

9) You obsess over what other people think about you

By now, if you’ve read this far, you’ve probably noticed that a lot of the literature on being materialistic suggests it comes from a place of deep insecurity.

Basically, materialistic people buy things because they are insecure.

By having the latest fashions, the best car, and the most exotic holidays, the materialistic person is trying to impress other people to overcome their own hidden feelings of shame and inferiority.

If you worry too much about what other people think of you, shopping is one way to try and overcome it.

Unfortunately, it never works.

10) You are competitive

Often, materialism comes from being competitive.

You want to stand out. You want to be better than the others. And one way to show that is in the expensive things you buy.

But this only demonstrates that materialism often comes from insecurity. 

If you’re always trying to have the best clothes, shoes, and possessions compared to everyone around you, you have become far too materialistic and are focusing on the wrong things in life.

Don’t be materialistic

The thing is, in the consumer society we live in, there’s always something else you’ll want to buy.

But before you whip out that credit card, ask yourself, do I really need this?

Or am I buying it to fill a hole in my psyche that comes from feelings I’m not ready to face?

Watch out for materialism that often creeps in, even with people who try their best to avoid it.

Because not only will being materialistic empty your wallet, but it can also harm your relationships with others, too.

Picture of Clifton Kopp

Clifton Kopp

Welcome to my writings on Ideapod! I'm a bit of a "polymath" in that I like writing about many different things. Often I'm learning from the process of writing. I hope you enjoy, and please leave a comment on one of my articles.

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