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Why are some people more materialistic than others?

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It's understood that we humans have necessities and in extension, desires. We want to have a nice looking bag, high quality kitchen utensils, etc.
But there are people who are after cool expensive cars and designers clothes, which cost a bomb. So why? What are you insights on this behaviour Question

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Hi CuriousAboutMoney!

Alrik here, interesting question which I think a lot of people have probably asked themselves before but are afraid of expressing it to others in fear of offending those who they think might be materialistic among other possible reasons. I read an article from Lifehacker: Why We're So Materialistic, Even Though It Doesn't Make Us Happy in developing my opinion and understanding on this topic, I think you can give that article a read as well.

And I think you phrased the question pretty well as you acknowledged that to a certain extent we're all materialistic. The question as you say is why is there a such a huge difference between people's level of desire for materialistic things? I think the fact is not everyone is materialistic for the same reason, in my opinion there are a few possible reasons as to why this social phenomena is occurring, and these are my own thoughts on it:

1. Some people might believe that having more things means you are more successful and brings more happiness
I think this is a pretty common reason as there are wealthy figures who are boastful of their financial wealth and show it off with the objects that they own and they seem to show to the world that they are happy and "living the dream", adding to this fact is a lot of us believe that success or part of success is being rich enough to do whatever we want to do as we'll no longer be tied to what need to do to survive, but because of these grand depictions of wealth we get the idea that owning more things will make us more happy as they seem to do so for those wealthy figures. And this is the key thing, it's the belief that buying things will make us more happier and successful in life, are we actually happier when we end up owning those things we thought would make us happy? If we end up buying things that offers no lasting experience or is something that we just want to show off to people then probably not. For the people who think that owning cool expensive fast cars is going to make you happy, if you've read my  recent blog article on the Ferrari example, then I think you might have second thoughts because apart from showing it off I honestly think it serves no other purpose in the long run. And in my opinion, showing off something gets old really really fast.

2. Perhaps some people want to show off things to have a sense of pride and accomplishment
I think it's possible we sometimes feel prideful of ourselves when we own something expensive like a new iPhone or watch while the rest of our friends are stuck using an older phone or a cheap digital watch. Taken to the next level, some people might feel that owning more and better things than others makes them more successful and better than them which makes them feel accomplished in their life. Obviously if anyone does think this way it's the wrong way to go about it, life shouldn't be seen as some kind of a contest, this mindset breeds unhealthy competition IMO.

3. Some people feel that showing off their wealth will get them the attention from others that they lack in their life.
There's no doubt that showing off fast cars or expensive clothing is going to catch the eyes of a crowd, but the attention you get from them is likely superficial and it's probably not the good kind of attention, either you pose as a gold mine for robbers to strike or people who start to take notice of you are likely only looking out for themselves. Understandably some people feel lonely and would do anything to get people's attention, but the fact is there are better ways to get the right kind of attention from people such as joining volunteering groups and mixing with people who actually care about society.

Well these are just some of thoughts I have in mind now, again I'm not trying to offend anyone here and I'm just sharing possible reasons as to why we all have different levels of desire for materialistic items and why some seem to have an extreme sense of materialism. I could be wrong with what I mentioned above, but the point of a discussion is to understand different people's perspectives and hopefully we can learn together.

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I agree with the points above,but I would just like to add,that some individuals may even be influenced by the celebrities that they admire.You may see a footballer wearing a certain shoe in an advertisement and think,"I could be that guy if I had those shoes".Companies know this and its almost impossible to not be exposed to ads these days.

But I think at the end of the day,we have to come to grips with reality and spend based on our means.Its better to not live a life of luxury than to live a life burdened in debt.

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Hi Alrik & CuriousAboutMoney!

I stumbled upon this little gem of a question and I thought that I could possibly weight in and maybe shed some ideas onto the topic as a student of psychology.

1) It may not so much be the difference in materialism between people as it is a disorder called Compulsive Buying Disorder (CBD). This is an impulse disorder but depending on the sources, it may also be considered a bipolar disorder, an obsessive-compulsive disorder or even an addiction. CBD is characterized by an obsession with shopping activities and an uncontrollable impulse to keep on buying, which would then lead to more adverse effects

2) The behaviour that leads to the facade of being purely materialistic may possibly be a coping mechanism with certain self-esteem or self-confidence issues that plague some people. When some people feel the pangs of low self-esteem and when they feel their own self-worth declining, they would go out and about to shopping. Purchasing expensive brands or item that they do not need may satisfy and make them feel better about themselves with the justification, "If I look good or if I have expensive things, I would definitely feel good about myself".

3) The behaviour can also be an outlet to fulfil a primal desire to be better than other people and to flaunt it for them to see. Everybody has a natural competitive drive and some people sate it using this method. By buying expensive branded items, they themselves see it as being more successful (something Alrik has already mentioned) and then they ejust extend the behaviour by showing off and boasting which would lead to the view of being materialistic.

4) This might sound like a repeat of the point made in (2) but when buying items, everybody feels a rush of excitement or exhiliration. Just remember back to the time when you got that new game you've been waiting so long for or when you saw that nice bag in the shop and you finally saved enough money to get it. That feeling of happiness and adrenaline, some people by virtues of their own brain chemistry are more susceptible and sensitive to these sort of feelings. This feeling is then what drives them to keep buying items.

I think I may have become repetitive and possibly lost the gist that I was hoping for but I do sincerely hope I may have helped shed some light on the basic human drives that back the materialistic behaviour in question.

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Thank you Alrik, TheVenau and wayming95 you all really did shed some light and relieved my curiosity on this matter.
I did know that this behaviour would be a disorder as well. It is really shame though, for people to spend to feel better. Or perhaps they haven't experience the greater satisfaction of achieving other things. Very Happy

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