“Like Gandhi, my husband had struggled with the issue of materialism.”
Coretta Scott King, Activist
Pros and Cons of Materialism
Materialism is a concept that refers to a state where the top priority for people is to increase their consumption levels since a big fraction of their happiness depends on those material things.
Although materialistic behavior has become quite popular over the past decades, it still also implies some problems.
In this article, the pros and cons of materialism are discussed in detail.
Advantages of Materialism
- You may buy you some level of comfort
- May give you the opportunity to feel better in the short run
- Materialism gives you the opportunity to always have the latest things
- You may be able to impress your friends
- Nice toys may make your day better
- Materialism can result in better health insurance
- You might be more motivated to perform in your job
- You may be respected in society
- It can be easier for you to find a partner
- Can help you to protect yourself against old-age poverty
You may buy you some level of comfort
One advantage of materialism is that you may be able to buy some level of comfort. For instance, if you earn good money, you can buy fancy things of many different sorts. In turn, your overall level of convenience may increase significantly.
For instance, imagine you are in a store and want to buy a couch. You have a huge variety of options, but the more expensive ones are usually the ones that are more comfortable.
In such a case, the materialistic person can just buy those expensive things and may benefit from those things in the long run.
This can be true for various parts of our daily life and money can definitely help us to live a more comfortable and convenient life.
May give you the opportunity to feel better in the short run
Materialistic persons often also get a certain emotional push when they buy new stuff. This may result in an increased level of happiness in the short run.
Buying things can be regarded as kind of a drug for materialists since they want to feel this push over and over again and always have to buy new things to get this feeling.
Therefore, even though materialism can have many bad effects in the long run, it may increase the level of happiness of people in the short term.
Materialism gives you the opportunity to always have the latest things
Since money will be quite important to you in case you live a materialistic lifestyle, you will always have the opportunity to buy the latest things. Many people work quite long hours just to be able to afford the latest smartphone or the hippest handbag and so on.
Basically, materialistic people often trade all their time against money in order to be able to buy the latest stuff. Thus, if you are one of those people who always need to have the latest things, the materialistic lifestyle might be suitable for you.
You may be able to impress your friends
When you live a materialistic lifestyle, chances are that you will gather people around you that live a similar lifestyle and for whom material things are also quite important.
Therefore, you might also be able to impress your friends by buying new and expensive things on a constant basis. Hence, if you are a person who loves to show off and to impress other people, materialism might be one way to do so.
Nice toys may make your day better
Let’s be honest. From time to time, it is nice to buy a new toy and to have some fun with it. It can definitely make your life a little bit better if you really want to have something and you finally get it.
Yet, remember that materialism often doesn’t work like this since materialists often just buy all the things they want right away and the level of satisfaction is often only quite limited since they will not value their things after a short while anymore.
Materialism can result in better health insurance
Many studies have shown that our overall health level and our wealth are positively correlated. This is quite logical since if you have more money, you will often be able to get better medical treatment and therefore, your overall health level as well as your life expectancy tend to increase.
Therefore, materialists may also be able to benefit from better medical treatment, from a better health level and from a higher life expectancy.
You might be more motivated to perform in your job
Since you know that your level of happiness depends on your material things and those material things are often quite expensive, you will also be quite motivated in your job in order to be able to continue to buy new things on a constant basis.
Hence, your overall quality of work might be quite good and you may be willing to work long hours, which may also benefit your employer as well as our local economy.
You may be respected in society
Many people in our nowadays society are in fact quite materialistic and always want to have the latest things in order to show off in front of their family or friends.
Hence, if you live a similar lifestyle, chances are that you will perfectly fit into our current society and you will be able to get high levels of respect for it.
Thus, if you a person whose confidence depends on the admiration of others, the materialistic lifestyle may be perfect for you to become a valuable member of our society.
It can be easier for you to find a partner
Let’s be honest. Money is also helpful when it comes to finding a partner. Money gives a family a feeling of security and many people search for this kind of safe state.
Consequently, if you have lots of money due to a materialistic attitude, your chances regarding finding a partner may be much higher compared to a person who is quite poor.
However, always note that you will also attract many partners that are only with you due to your wealth and not since they like you, which may not be your ultimate goal and can lead to several other issues later on in your life.
Can help you to protect yourself against old-age poverty
Another advantage of materialism is that it might protect you against poverty once you retire. Many people all over the world suffer from poverty once they get old since they haven’t earned enough money in order to get a good pension.
However, due to a materialistic attitude, chances are that you worked quite hard and you may have high pension claims due to that and can avoid old-age poverty.
Disadvantages of Materialism
- You can’t buy true happiness
- Your well-being will depend on your consumption level
- People focus on showing off instead of creating real value
- Unhappiness in case you lose your belongings
- You may become quite snobby
- Materialism will force you to continue to buy more goods
- People may take too much for granted
- Materialists often have to work long hours
- The gain from upsizing is lower than the loss from downsizing
- Inefficient use of resources
- You may become a target for envy
- More material things also imply more work
- Materialism will not lead to improvements on a personal level
- False friends
- Mental issues
- Financial problems
- Excessive waste production
- Air pollution
- Particle pollution
- Global warming
- Soil pollution
- Endangerment of species
You can’t buy true happiness
As we have seen before, there are some advantages related to materialism. Yet, in the following, we will see that materialism also implies many downsides. One problem with materialism is that it is not possible to buy true happiness.
Yes, it might be nice to buy some new things, but those rather increase our level of comfort or give us a little boost in our daily life, but buying the latest things all the time cannot lead to real happiness in the long run.
Therefore, if you want to reach the goal of real happiness in life, you will likely not be able to do so through a materialistic lifestyle and you should work on yourself instead.
Your well-being will depend on your consumption level
Since you will focus to buy new things all the time with the expectations that those things will make you happy, your overall well-being will depend on your consumption level.
This can be rather dangerous since in case you lose your wealth due to various reasons like divorce or other adverse events in your life, you will have nothing left that can make you satisfied or even happy.
Hence, relying on material goods for your well-being is a quite dangerous idea and can lead to all sorts of trouble for materialists in the long run.
People focus on showing off instead of creating real value
Another issue with the materialistic attitude is that people often want to show off in front of their friends and their family and put all their focus on looking good in front of these people instead of creating real value in the world.
In many cases, those people also work in jobs that pay good amounts of money in order to be able to buy the latest material things, but those jobs are often not that useful for society. One prominent example is working in an investment bank.
You can earn a six-figure income right after college in your early twenties, yet the social value of those jobs is often quite limited. Thus, this mentality of showing off may not only make quite limited sense on an individual level, it may also be rather harmful to our society as a whole.
Unhappiness in case you lose your belongings
The nature of material things is that you are able to lose them. Thus, if your sole focus in life is to acquire new expensive things, you may be quite vulnerable in case you lose your precious belongings. For instance, imagine you bought a new and expensive watch and you want to wear it all day long.
However, one day, your watch will be stolen or you lose it somewhere. In such a case, chances are that you will be quite unhappy and your initial good feeling from buying this watch may turn into anger and a quite bad mood.
You may become quite snobby
Since you will attract many people who have the same attitude towards life and will also be quite materialistic, chances are that you will also become quite snobby. If you want to live this kind of lifestyle, fine!
Yet, in my opinion, snobs will sooner or later realize that they will end up quite unhappy most of the time and if you currently have this snobbish attitude, I would highly advise you to change your lifestyle in order to achieve real happiness in the long run.
Materialism will force you to continue to buy more goods
Another downside of materialism is that you will have to continue to buy new things on a regular basis in order to maintain your level of satisfaction.
In fact, materialists often even become addicted to buying things since they want to get back this initial high of buying new products. However, this can lead to quite unhealthy consumption patterns in the long run.
People may take too much for granted
Since materialists are often able to buy plenty of nice things, they may take too much for granted over time and forget that billions of people on our planet suffer from poverty and starvation.
Therefore, materialism may not only lead to a flawed perception of the world, it may also lead to plenty of unhappiness since people take too much for granted and will not be able to value their amenities too much anymore
Materialists often have to work long hours
In order to finance their fancy lifestyle, materialists often also have to work quite long hours. This means that these people often trade all their time against additional income in order to be able to afford the latest material stuff. Therefore, materialism may also lead to a waste of lifetime when practiced in an excessive manner.
The gain from upsizing is lower than the loss from downsizing
Many studies have shown that the gain from upsizing is significantly lower than the loss from downsizing for most people. This means that if you buy a new watch, your level of happiness may only increase slightly.
But, if you lose this watch, your level of happiness will drop below the level of happiness you had before you initially bought the watch.
Therefore, this skewed perception may lead to plenty of unhappiness and to a vicious circle of consumption and an ever-increasing level of unhappiness in the long run.
Inefficient use of resources
Materialism may also imply a quite inefficient use of our natural resources. For instance, nobody really needs five different cars at the same time and our resources could be used for other much more important things instead.
Consequently, if most of the wealth of a country is owned by only a small rich materialistic elite, chances are that those people will waste large amounts of natural resources since they often buy things they actually do not need.
In turn, our fossil natural resource may become depleted quite soon, which can lead to all sorts of problems and may also slow down our technological progress significantly.
You may become a target for envy
There are also many haters out there. If you buy new things all the time and show off with them, there will be other people trying to bring you down since they envy what you got.
Therefore, if you are a sensitive person, you might actually suffer quite a lot from those verbal attacks since your level of confidence may depend too much on the opinions of others.
Thus, materialism may not improve your level of happiness, it can actually lower it quite a lot since other people may start to pick on you.
More material things also imply more work
Many people might also ignore the fact that will more material belongings, you also have to spend more time managing those things. For instance, if you are into real estate and earn many homes you rent to other people, you have to do plenty of paperwork and also have to react in case a tenant will not pay his or her rent.
Materialism will not lead to improvements on a personal level
People who rely on materialism as their way of life may also ignore the fact that independent of how much stuff you will accumulate over time, you will not improve on a personal level.
In fact, your character will likely develop in a rather poor and unhealthy manner and many people even try to cover their insecurities by buying plenty of unnecessary material things.
Thus, if you really want to grow in character, you should try to expand your knowledge and your experience instead of just buying things you actually don’t need.
If you live a materialistic lifestyle, chances are that you will also attract many false friends into your life. There are many people out there who just want to profit from your nice things.
However, in case you lose those things or you will suffer from difficult times in your life, chances are that those false friends will be gone quite soon and you will have nobody who will support you in your darkest hours.
Therefore, relying on materialism may also attract the wrong types of people into your life, which may turn out into a quite bad state for you in the long run.
Some people who excessively engage in materialism are actually also quite insecure and broken inside. Many people use consumption as a way to escape from their bad mental state.
However, in the long run, this will not work out most of the time and therefore, materialists often tend to suffer from serious mental illness over time.
Even though materialists may work quite hard in order to be able to afford their lifestyle, they may still run out of money sooner or later. This is especially true if they live a quite costly lifestyle and lose their job at some point in their life.
In such a case, their costs for their house and for other amenities they acquired over the course of their lives may eat up all their savings and over time, those people may get into serious financial trouble since they might not be able to lower their overhead sufficiently.
Excessive waste production
A materialistic lifestyle also implies the excessive production of waste. People who put materialism on a pedestal often buy plenty of stuff they actually don’t need.
Therefore, large amounts of fossil resources are wasted and also plenty of unnecessary waste is produced. In order to get rid of this waste, it either has to be burned or disposed into landfills.
Materialism also contributes to plenty of air pollution. Since all those material things have to be produced in industrial processes and those processes also imply the emission of large amounts of harmful gases into our atmosphere, materialism also implies a degradation of air quality.
In those production processes, also large amounts of fine particles are emitted into the air. Even though those particles might not be visible to us, they can be quite harmful since particle pollution can cause serious pulmonary issues like asthma or lung cancer.
Therefore, in order to protect the general public from those diseases, you might want to change from a materialistic to an eco-friendlier lifestyle instead.
The production of material goods also implies significant greenhouse gas emissions. In turn, this also implies the acceleration of the process of global warming and the related adverse environmental effects. Hence, in order to slow down global warming, it is crucial that everyone of us also lowers his or her consumption level.
Since plenty of our waste also ends up in landfills, this can lead to serious soil pollution. In turn, large areas of land may become unsuitable for agricultural purposes in the future, which may translate into serious global hunger and poverty in the long run, especially in poor developing countries in the Southern hemisphere of our planet.
Endangerment of species
Materialism also implies the need for excessive mining and deforestation since we need plenty of natural resources in order to produce those material goods.
In turn, many natural habitats all over the world are destroyed and many species become endangered or even extinct.
Therefore, it is crucial to reduce our material consumption in order to protect those species as best as we can.
Top 10 Materialism Pros & Cons – Summary List
|Materialism Pros||Materialism Cons|
|Can get you some level of comfort||You will attract false friends|
|You may feel better in the short term||Can’t deliver true happiness|
|You can impress your friends||You may get in debt|
|Supply with the latest things||Problems in case you lose your job|
|Toys can make your life better||Consumption as sole goal in life|
|May increase your motivation||Showing off instead of creating value|
|Materialism may make you work harder||Materialists do take too much for granted|
|Can help you get proper health insurance||Mental problems|
|May protect you against old-age poverty||Unnecessary waste|
|Easier to find a partner||Bad for our environment|
Although materialism implies some benefits, there are also many problems related to it. In my opinion, the cons of materialism outweigh the pros and we should all try to reduce our consumption levels in order to make our lifestyles more sustainable and to ensure a livable future for the next generations. After all, true happiness comes from the inside, not from material things we actually do not need.
If you want to learn more about the opposite way of life, check out my advantages and disadvantages of minimalism.
About the author
My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people of all ages about our environmental problems and how everyone can make a contribution to mitigate these issues.
As I went to university and got my Master’s degree in Economics, I did plenty of research in the field of Development Economics.
After finishing university, I traveled around the world. From this time on, I wanted to make a contribution to ensure a livable future for the next generations in every part of our beautiful planet.
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