You are Worth More Than a Brand: How to Identify/Combat Materialism

        I just want to start-off by saying your worth is not determined by the tag on your shirt, the label on your shoes, or the emblem on your car. You are worth more than the price of your outfit. You have more to offer than being a walking billboard/ad, especially, if you’re not being paid for it. Too often I see people fall into this materialistic mentality. Materialism is just as dangerous and detrimental to your wallet and your finances as lifestyle creep (If you don’t know what that is, check out my post on Lifestyle Creep). But unlike lifestyle creep, which can inadvertently happen due to lack of planning for increased disposable income, materialism can be harder to overcome because people tend to tie it directly to their self-worth.

What Does it Mean to Be Materialistic?

        According to an interview with Knox College psychologist Tim Kasser Ph.D., “To be materialistic means to have values that put a relatively high priority on making a lot of money and having many possessions, as well as an image and popularity, which are almost always expressed via money and possessions. Research shows two sets of factors lead people to have materialistic values. First, people are more materialistic when they are exposed to messages that suggest such pursuits are important, whether through their parents and friends, society, or the media. Second, and somewhat less obvious — people are more materialistic when they feel insecure or threatened, whether because of rejection, economic fears or thoughts of their own death.”

        I understand that materialism can be a learned mentality, often starting in school and sometimes as early as grade school. Feeling the pressure to wear brand-name clothes to gain the respect and admiration of your peers or to simply fit-in, is all too real. I’ve witnessed it. Even succumbed to it. Who else wore Timberlands (those are boots in case you don’t know) on the first day of school even though it was still 80 degrees outside? 😖

        Materialism can also be manifested through society and the media. Have you ever bought or wanted a particular item because it was deemed a “must have”, even if the item wasn’t that stylish or even functional? Yes, I’m talking about UGGs. An approximately $200 pair of boots that you can only wear if the temperature is below 50 degrees (unless you don’t mind having sweaty feet) and weather conditions are fair (meaning do not wear them in the rain, snow, or ice)😒. Consequently, after all of that, their only real value is the name and the perceived status that comes with that name. You could probably buy a pair of $50 boots that are just as good and possibly more functional; saving yourself $150 and the headache of all the limitations.

Know Your “Why?”

        Now before I continue, I want to make sure that no one thinks I’m saying you can never buy something expensive or buy the latest/hottest item currently out. This is not what I’m saying at all. What I am saying is that you need to/should understand the reasoning behind why you are purchasing an item? What’s the thought process behind it? And what’s the benefit to you?

  • Are you buying the new Jordans because they are comfortable and are great support for your feet? Or is it just to stunt on your friends?
  • Are you purchasing the latest cell phone because the new features will make certain aspects of your life easier? Or are you buying it simply because it’s new?
  • Do you want to buy a luxury car because of the fuel efficiency or just for the status symbol?
        Basically, make it make sense. Know your why, because the answer to this question can determine how much harder it will be for you to reach financial stability. If you continue to allow materialism to run your life, you will spend most of it in an endless cycle trying to figure out why you can’t seem to get ahead. Now I am a realist and I understand that no one is going to read this post and magically lose their materialistic mentality. Just as it took time for you to learn this behavior it’s going to take time to unlearn it. However, I have come up with some questions to ask yourself before making a purchase. This hopefully will make you more mindful of materialism and challenge yourself to make purchasing decisions that will be more beneficial for your finances.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Making a Purchase to Identify & Combat Materialistic Behavior
  • What’s Your “Why?”
    • As stated above knowing the reason for making a particular purchase can help you identify if you are being materialistic. But you have to be honest. Did I want and then buy a pair of UGGs because they are quality boots that were going to effectively get me through the winter? No. Did I buy a pair of UGGs because that symbol on the back was an unspoken sign of status, or more often than not perceived status? Yes. This purchase was purely materialistic.
  • How Does This Item Add Value to Your Life?
    • Is this purchase genuinely adding value to your life or is it purely for clout? When I got my last new cell phone, the Samsung Galaxy s10, in September 2019, I did so because I was about to travel internationally and wanted to be able to take better pictures to capture my adventure. My old cell phone could no longer hold a charge which made searching for outlets a new hobby of mine. This purchase added value to my life. Yes, I probably could have found a cheaper phone but since I keep my cell phones for a few years I like to purchase one that will last; and so far, Samsung has not failed me. Therefore, I do not deem this purchase to be materialistic.
  • Is there a Cheaper Alternative and Why are You Adverse to this Option?
    • There’s always going to be an alternate and/or cheaper option, but this doesn’t automatically mean you have to buy it. What’s your reason for wanting the name-brand item? Is it because you’ve actually had experience with the brand in question? Do you like the product, and you know what you’re going to get? If so, then no doubt buy it. However, if your only reason for going with the name-brand item is because you fear people will judge or ridicule you for having the generic option, you are falling into the materialistic mindset. And your finances will ultimately pay the price for your insecurity.
  • Will/Can Your Future-Self Benefit from this?
    • A friend of mine told me she was saving up to purchase a $3,000 laptop. My initial reaction was ‘WTH??!!!’ but to put this in perspective—She is a writer. This is her dream, her goal, and her passion. She’s not planning to buy this particular item just to say she has it; for her a $3,000 laptop is an investment for her future. It makes sense. And at the end of the day that’s all we can ask of ourselves to make it make sense.

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  1. We all be chasing the Jones. I can say that when it comes to clothes that not really my thing. But I have fallen into it with tech before. Wanting the latest and the greatest. Even now the PS5 is on its way but I will ask myself some questions before I get it. Though I know for me getting the new system won't be for bragging rights, it'll be because video games is how I take a break from the world. On the other hand bragging is an added bonus! Either way this was really helpful.

  2. Thanks for the comment Ez! LOL Yes, we really need to break-up with the Jones! But if the PS5 brings you joy then go ahead and Treat Yo' Self :-)

  3. Good points! I was guilty of being pretty materialistic when I was younger, but thankfully not as much any more. I don't think that expensive purchases aren't that bad unless the quality is better and if, like you said in this post, makes sense.

  4. Thanks for the comment Chrissy! Yes, making it make sense is key! If it truly adds value to your life and you can afford it by all means buy it. But if it's just for a status symbol and you're already struggling financially, it might not be the best choice.

  5. So as I was reading this, I just kept hearing India.Arie's song "Video" playing in my head. "My worth is not determined by the price of my clothes." That's the specific line that I attached to this post. Personally, I don't think I am materialistic as it relates to clothes, shoes (though I do like Uggs lol) and even electronics. I have the Note 10 + but only because my previous phone finally broke beyond repair and like you, I like my pictures to be crystal clear.

    I do recognize materialistic behavior in the children I teach however. I see lots of children picking on one another because their peers don't have the latest Jordan's or uggs or Jojo Siwa bows (I teach Kindergarten lol) the level of materialism that is instilled in children at a young age really plays a factor into their own self worth which stays with them well into adulthood. It's honestly something that needs to be addressed on a wider scale.

    Your relating of materialism to finances is also crucial! If kids are picking up these ideas, who is laying them down??? Well, obviously their parents! And if their parents are decking their kids out in Jordan this and Prada that, there just might be some frivolous spending happening. I'm not saying that parents can't buy their child these expensive things. I'm just in agreement with you on asking yourself why and how this will effect your budget.

    Great post as always! Thanks for the discussion!

    1. Britt coming with it as always! LOL. Yes!!! I was re-watching the FX series Atlanta and the FUBU episode pushed me to write this post. The episode, while sad, is an actual depiction of what many kids face in school. More concerned with who or what they're wearing as opposed to what they're learning. Kids being teased because they aren't in the latest fashion. It's sad when children do this, it's even more frustrating when adults perpetuate it.

      I often hear people complain about being broke and not having money yet are wearing an outfit that's probably the price of a car note! We have to get our priorities in order.

      Like you said, I'm not against people buying expensive things but I am against people keeping themselves in a financial struggle for an image. You're wearing Jordans, but are struggling to pay your bills? You're wearing Gucci, but don't have any money set aside for emergencies? That doesn't make sense. Make it make sense!

    2. AND I’VE DRAWN A CONCLUSION ITS ALL AN ILLUSION CONFUSION is the name of the game a misconception a vast deception somethings gotta change.... I am getting my life to that song right now @Britt I don’t even know if those words are right but yea. Question: Do you agree with uniforms for students in schools? @SDot Yes ‘make it make sense’ is a great theme to say to all of this. And the first step, I think you mentioned earlier is to sit down and make a budget.

  6. I think being materialistic is something we learn from society but we don’t really realize that! And now with social
    Media and all those people doing hauls is so easy to be more like that without realizing it

    1. So true Nallely! Thanks for the comment :-)

  7. I really enjoyed reading this post. Totally agree that this mindset starts in childhood. I remember asking my parents for brand name clothes just because that's what the cool kids wore. Love the suggestion of asking "why?" before you make a purchase, that should really help people consider their motives for wanting to buy something and hopefully allow them to avoid some shopping temptations.


    1. Thanks for the comment Rebecca! Yes, understanding your why can be very helpful. I started using this method awhile ago. Like why do I want this item? Because of the quality and functionality? Because I actually like it? Or because that's what everyone else has? It has definitely helped me make more informed purchases.


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