Home  >  My Life  >  A Better Life

13 Tips on How to Be a Less Materialistic Person

Living the high life may be great, but it’s important to still take the time to appreciate the things that money can’t buy.

how to be less materialistic

The world is filled with evil politicians, corrupt businesspeople, and greedy mega corporations. The last thing we need is another shitty human being taking up space on this planet. The earth is about ready to implode just to rid itself of all the ugliness so prevalent in society. As cliché as this may seem, it is not that hard to change the way you live your life and start being a person that this earth is proud to call its citizen.

I will admit that I was guilty of living a very materialistic life. I loved beautiful clothes, expensive makeup, five-star hotel stays, comfortable cars, and fine dining. My fiancé’s expat status as well as my earnings ensured that we got plenty of chances to wine, dine and taste the high life that so many yearn for.

One day he stopped, turned to me and asked, “Why are we even doing this?” As hard as it was to admit at first, that really got me thinking. Having the luxury of spending power, no matter how minuscule, tends to take the focus away from the things that should matter in life. What is the point of struggling day to day at work, stressed out and angry, to be rewarded with numbers that do nothing but distract you from the things that are really important?

It may be a long and winding road before the world is cured of the many diseases brought on by greed and materialism, but if you take the necessary steps to do so now, that is all it takes, and that is exactly what we did. We started living a simpler life within our means. We learned to respect those around us and stopped feeling so entitled to things that we didn’t even deserve.

Trust me when I say that others will eventually follow suit, starting with those whose lives you touch and influence. It will not be easy, because at the end of the day, you are revamping your entire lifestyle and its priorities, but you can certainly do it if you try hard enough.

How to be less materialistic in life

Though material possessions still matter, it’s important not to let the things you own start owning you. Here’s how you can do that.

#1 Volunteer more. Who cares about what your nails are going to look like after you spend all day volunteering at the local soup kitchen? Why does it matter what people think if you turn down all social events every weekend, because you are spending time at your local animal shelter or orphanage? Volunteering will not only change your life, it will also feed your soul in ways that stuff never will.

You can do something to make a difference, even if you don’t have time to physically be there. If you are a social butterfly, you can use your skills to organize fundraisers and build awareness for the multitude of non-government organizations out there that desperately need your help.

Write for a living? Pen press releases and grants for these organizations. In the finance industry? Use your skills to organize and give advice to NGOs on how to better manage their finances and make every dollar stretch. There is no excuse for you not to volunteer and brush materialism aside in favor of more substance. [Read: 5 ways volunteering can help you feel happier and more fulfilled]

#2 Curb your shopping. Contrary to what Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton may preach, shopping is NOT a pastime. You sound ridiculously shallow and downright dumb if you ever go around telling people that. There are tons of other ways to pass the time, instead of spending it at a mall.

Stop wasting your time and money on makeup, clothes and more useless things that you really do not need. All it does is feed your hoarder tendencies, because at the end of the day, do you really need another black dress or that particular shade of eyeshadow or that new watch or that new pair of shades? [Read: 10 annoying girlfriend habits that guys hate]

#3 Buy pre-loved items. If you absolutely have to shop, head to flea markets. Even people swimming in money adore flea markets. Celebrities like Lily Collins, Megan Fox and Julianne Moore have all been very vocal about their love for flea markets and bargain shopping.

You will be surprised at the amount of fabulous deals that you can procure at a fraction of what it would normally cost you at a conventional retail store. Everything from pre-loved antique armoires to handmade plates can be garnered from flea markets. Not only are these items unique, they also boast character and soul, two things that shopping at a mall won’t buy you.

#4 Be an eco-warrior. Another way to be a less materialistic person is to actually give a shit about the environment. Not only should you recycle and only buy sustainable and organic products, you should also make an effort to travel green by cycling or taking public transport. You can also be uber European and chic by investing in a Vespa or scooter, instead of hopping into cabs or driving that gas guzzler parked out front.

There are plenty of celebs out there who are doing wonderful things for the environment, and this extensive list includes Hollywood A-listers like Leonardo DiCaprio, Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt. If you won’t do it for any other reason than to be hip like them, we’ll take it. It sure beats you not doing anything else.

#5 Purge, purge, purge. The whole point of purging is to get rid of things that senselessly clutter your life. Start with your closet and work your way out. Get rid of clothes that you have been holding onto, hoping that you may one day fit into them again.

Move on to the rest of your house and get rid of junk like old magazines, excess kitchenware, food and all those things that you’ve categorized as “spare” or “just-in-case” items. If you aren’t using them now, you probably never will, so donate them to people who will value these things.

The next and most difficult step is shedding your friends. Start with doing a massive Facebook purge. Get rid of all the people whom you wouldn’t even stop to say hi to in the street, or those whom you don’t remember meeting. Then start slashing out toxic friends in real life.

Toxic friends are the complainers, the whiners, those who belittle you and who exude a very negative aura and mindset. Surround yourself with positive and like-minded people who genuinely want to see you succeed. [Read: 10 types of friends you should remove from your life]

#6 Don’t be quick to replace stuff. Another way to tone down the materialism is to fix things or use them until they are worn out, instead of throwing them away. A great example is your cell phone. People today tend to upgrade their cellphones as often as they change their undies. Why upgrade to the latest iPhone 6 when your iPhone 4S works perfectly fine? Most people don’t even know how to use all the features and only want the new phone as a hot accessory. Silly, isn’t it?

You should also breathe new life into stuff that you would usually throw away. You will be surprised at how far a little tinkering and a fresh coat of paint or varnish can go when it comes to everyday items.

#7 Value yourself more. Stop placing such a high value on items, and shift the focus onto yourself. Although many people place a value on success by measuring dollars, success is subjective. Always remember that a life of value isn’t determined by what you own, what labels you buy, what you look like and what other people think of you. It has everything to do with how much you value yourself and whether your conscience is proud of the things that you have done to get to where you are.

#8 Treat others with respect. Although comparing yourself to others is perhaps the wrong way to approach this, it is the simplest way to gauge just how much you already have. Be grateful for everything around you, and never belittle anyone else for having less than you. Always remember that your worth is not measured by how you treat your equals, but by how you treat those whom you deem are beneath you. Even then, who are you to say that anyone is beneath you, anyway? You don’t know everyone’s story, so don’t act like you do.

#9 Choose experiences over items. When given the choice, always pick experiences over items. Instead of splurging on those leather shoes, go on a trip instead. Instead of overpaying for that fancy bottle of wine, use that money to visit Cambodia for a week. Always pick experiences over objects, as the former will pay you back in ways that you never imagined.

#10 Backpack and travel cheap. I will be the first to admit that staying at beautiful hotels is a real treat. The five-star treatment, glorious food, soft sheets, pillow menu, and all the intricate details that make your stay so good are unbeatable. However, if you want to be a less materialistic person, you have to lessen the time spent in the lap of luxury and sample what it’s like living rough.

Do us all a favor and travel cheap for once. Backpack in South East Asia and meet a whole new world of people. Hear their stories, draw from their experiences and learn from their examples. You will be surprised at how many of these backpackers and worldly travelers come from impressive backgrounds like yours. The only difference is that they have realized that life isn’t worth living if you aren’t able to feel all its flaws and see it for what it truly is. [Read: 7 life lessons you’ll learn from an awesome road trip]

#11 Live within your means. And, if you are able to, below it. Never be an earn-a-dollar-spend-two type of person, because that’s going to bring you nowhere but down. This doesn’t mean that you have to live frugally and behave like a pauper. On the contrary, only spend on necessities and forego splashing cash on clothes shopping, unnecessary buys at the supermarket and so on. Set a daily budget for yourself, and remind yourself that wasting money is the number one sign of materialism. [Read: 17 brilliant ways to save money as a couple]

#12 Invest in people, not things. A ridiculous Maserati car showroom opened up a couple of blocks away, and just for shits and giggles, my fiancé and I decided to head over. It blew our minds just how much people are willing to pay for a car. Right there and then, we made a mental list of just how many other things can be done with that money.

Being the dramatic hipsters that we are, we named things like starting a charity organization, sending a kid in need to college, building a school in Thailand, feeding the local orphanage for a whole year, and so on. Sure, we know that not everyone has that kind of money to blow, but if you switch your mindset and tell yourself, “Well, instead of buying this, I can do this instead,” the world will be a nicer place.

Whether you donate the money to charity or put it in your little sister’s savings account, it is always better to do something that will benefit someone else, rather than to buy another piece of junk that you don’t really need for yourself.

#13 Imagine the story you would tell the world if you had one day left to live. One final tip on how to be less materialistic is to imagine the story you would tell the world if you had one day left. Would you tell everyone about how many pairs of Jimmy Choos you own or how long you waited for that Birkin bag? Would you be proud to share with the world how much you spent on luxury cars and hotel stays? Will the world revel at the fact that you spent more on fine wine than on a whole Burmese village’s education?

Think long and hard about the legacy you intend to leave behind. Sure, people say that life is too short to slum it, but then again, life is too short to be a materialistic, inconsiderate asshole.

Always remember that at the end of your life journey, your indelible mark on this world as a human being is not measured by how many things you owned or how much money you made. Rather, it is judged based on how much of a positive impact you made on the people in your life.

[Read: Finding your purpose – 5 things it will do for you]

Being materialistic and owning a cool phone, driving an expensive car and flying first class means nothing in the grand scheme of things. How you change and shape the lives of people is what matters the most. Strive to be an inspiration to the world, because in the end, that is all you will be remembered for.

Liked what you just read? Follow us on Instagram Facebook Twitter Pinterest and we promise, we’ll be your lucky charm to a beautiful love life.

Gemma Hsieh
Born in Singapore and raised in Canada to multi-racial parents, Gemma is a self-proclaimed travel and food junkie. Having traveled extensively around the world,...
Follow Gemma on