Odd Question About Being Materialistic...

Updated on March 08, 2014
P.R. asks from Akron, OH
27 answers

This pertains to another question I'll ask soon... Do you think the wealthy are necessarily more materialistic than the middle class? I typically think so on a general basis (of course can't make a blanket statement) but then it occurred to me - is the spending the wealthy do just a matter of proportion? We live in a pretty middle class neighborhood. Plenty of moms are redoing their kitchens to be really nice, redoing our small backyards to be really nice, cars people drive are nice etc. As a percentage of wealth, people in my neighborhood probably are actually spending more than someone really wealthy who has a really nice kitchen that is 4x the size of ours so it seems like it's over the top and that means they're so materialistic. But are they if the amount of money being spent isn't that big to them?... Another example - is a middle class person stretching financially to buy a kind of entry or mid level Mercedes less materialistic than the really wealthy person who drives a very high end Mercedes just bc of the absolute dollar amount?... Or is being materialistic more about attitude and bragging? Not accusing anyone of anything. Trying to think this thru as we make some decisions about where to live.

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So What Happened?

Thanks - we are contemplating moving to a wealthy town for the schools and I'm very nervous everyone will be very materialistic and snobby. Where we live now, people are just so nice. But then it struck me - aren't the moms I know redoing their perfectly functional kitchens being kind of materialistic? I know one family has to stretch financially to do this stuff... But she's nice about it so I've never found it offensive. So doesn't it come down to attitude?... And probably nice and snobby or materialistic people everywhere, right?

TF: didn't mean offense by the Mercedes comment. Just an example of what someo people perceive as a sign of wealth even though it isn't necessarily. We have a Porsche 911 convertible and a Chevy. Quite a disparity there but my husband really loves sports cars and we pay cash so it's kind of his thing. We also have a nice minivan. I don't judge on cars but some people LIKE to be judged on their car. That was kind of my point.

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answers from Grand Forks on

I know people who are wealthy, but choose to live simply and be charitable. I know even more people who are not wealthy, but choose to live far beyond their means. People who buy expensive things that they can afford are not necessarily materialistic. People who act like they are better than other people because they have expensive things are materialistic. Anybody who puts things before people is materialistic.

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answers from Reading on

Usual the wealthy people who really spend money like water are the nouveau riche. People who grew Up with money are usually fairly frugal.

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answers from Richland on

Two of my uncles were self made millionaires when that meant something. One lived in a very inexpensive home in a firmly middle class subdivision. The other had several homes in California. If you met them you would never be able to pick the one who lived modestly or the one that still lived well within his means. You also would have never guessed how rich they were.

I don't think materialism really makes a difference. What makes a difference is when people think the stuff they have makes them better than everyone else. That just happens to look even odder when the person is borrowing bit time to have those things.

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answers from Jacksonville on

I agree with those who said that the truly wealthy usually don't show it. My grandmother is very, very wealthy (like invested in Standard Oil wealthy). She's also incredibly cheap, just got air conditioning 3 years ago (her house is on the beach so the breeze generally kept it cool), and each grandkid gets $25 for our birthday. It's the newly rich that tend to spend. I liken it to "old money whispers and new money shouts". Also, spending and materialism isn't about wealth-I've seen many lower income people be soo concerned with labels and wealthy people who shop at goodwill.

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answers from Los Angeles on

I have lived a lot of places in my 41 years. I lived in some of the most expensive zip codes and some very poor zip codes. All I can say is that in every place that I have lived, I was able to find people that I truly liked.

Being in the same socioeconomic status as your friends is helpful, but it's not a requirement. I have found that all of my friends tend to have the same hopes and insecurities, regardless of their finances.

I live in a middle class neighborhood, and it is just right for me. I feel that this is a good place to raise my children. The homes that feed into our elementary school range from my the mid $200k's to probably around $800k. But you would never know any of the economic disparity by the cars the parents drive or the clothes the kids wear. I can really appreciate that.

Good luck on your decision! As long as you can teach your kids what is valuable and what is worthless, they will be okay no matter where you choose to live.

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answers from Dallas on

I believe new money breeds more materialism.

Those who have earned it know how hard it is to get where you are and live more modestly and below their means vs trying to impress.

We live in a very nice area and there are a lot of super nice people that I love dearly and there are some snobs that should be on the reality shows. My daughter went to the wealthy high school and there was a lot of ridicule that came with that but I was most shocked at seeing how some of the moms acted. You will see different attitudes and snobs everywhere.

We model behaviors and our children see them daily.

As for the Mercedes comment... We do drive Mercedes sport and luxury cars BUT.... they were not special orders and we intend to drive them until they die which may be many more years to come! We don't upgrade cars when we have perfectly good cars. Ours are model years of 07, 08 and 10... Our decision was based on the quality and safety of the product.

ETA; Oh goodness, I did not take your comment offensively at all. I got where you were coming from!! Interesting question you posed for everyone to think about!

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answers from Atlanta on

I come from the "wealthy" perspective. I really think the middle class is just as materialistic as the wealthy. The main difference is that the wealthy have the disposable income for it.

Our first home was in a middle class neighborhood/area. I had a very hard time making friends and getting invited to the social functions. We've lived in the wealthy (gated country club) neighborhood for two years, and everyone I meet is so kind, thoughtful, generous, and accepting. Yes, many of them like their nice things (LV handbags, Maserati cars, updated homes), it doesn't affect their personalities. They are good people.

My main point is that I don't see wealth to define the personality of a person or as a deterrent to friendship. You get snobby, materialistic, kind, generous, loving in every socioeconomic group.

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answers from Boca Raton on

I live in a very wealthy area - we do well but not as well as some around here. Keeps our egos in check LOL. :P

What I've found is that truly wealthy people tend to be low-key and fairly unassuming. A lot of times you don't even know how wealthy they actually are.

It's when you get in the "wanna-be" neighborhoods (McMansions and low-end Mercedes in the driveway but it's STILL A MERCEDES) that you see more of the crappy behavior.

Just my observation.

PS: I don't mean TF's really nice Mercedes. I like those! :)

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answers from San Antonio on

I don't see it as a "class" problem. "Poor" people are just as materialistic as anyone. I'll give you a few examples of people i ACTUALLY know.
My Cousin - pot head (only quit because she is pregnant) works at places that will NOT drug test, so that means part time, minimum wage, no health benefits. 2 kids one on the way, drives crappy car, has 2 bed room home (she inherited it, she didn't buy it) Has name brand clothes, designer handbags, kids dress in name brand clothing, name brand shoes for all. but often complains on facebook about not having money for food, or bills. she wants to LOOK like she has money, I think she is materialistic.

My (soon to be ex) Husband - together we make just under 90k a year not a LOT but enough to be comfortable, although he spends money like crazy!! "he works hard, he wants to play hard" gets upset like a 3 year old when I tell him we don't have money for another gun, for another bigger newer TV, he wants to "keep up with the Jones'" he, in my opinion is materialistic.

A friend of mine, makes just under 250k a year, has nice 3 bedroom home, 2009 truck, wife has 2014 car both Dodge, pool, they take trips once a year, last year 2 weeks across the US this year 1 week in London, he has nice clothes, but won't "waste" money on the "newer better" stuff if his is just fine "if it ain't broke, don’t fix it". In my opinion he is not materialistic, because he is modest.

being materialistic is not the amount of money you have or don’t have, it’s how you ACT.

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answers from San Francisco on

You're making my point of my favorite motto! COMPARE AND DESPAIR.

You have to do what's right for you, your beliefs, and your values. It is none of your business what others think of you! And it's more of a reflection on you, what you think of them.


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answers from Los Angeles on

Uh...odd question.
There are cheap wealthy people and poor people that eat Ramen noodles daily and sit on milk crates so they can drive a Mercedes.
But generally speaking, I think spending is proportional to income.
Is that what you mean?

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answers from Chattanooga on

Meh. I think it depends on the person.

My grandma is lower-middle class, and is VERY materialistic. It's ridiculous. Se has all sorts of jewelry and fur coats that she wears when she wants to look rich, and just got done redoing her kitchen, even though there was nothing wrong with hers, and she complained to me the entire time about how tight money was because of it... But she wanted her kitchen to look nicer.

Meanwhile, we have some family land that is apparently very desirable, and we have several neighbors in the area who are multi-millionaires... And most of them you wouldn't even really know it. Their things are nice and well cared for, but not as flashy as the stereotypical idea I once had of the uber-wealthy. Only one of our neighbors had a big ol mansion, the rest were more of a middle-class type home. Personality wise, they varied, just as people of any financial situation do.


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answers from New York on

I think materialism is about attitude, and less about means and price point or comparative cost of purchases. It is about the value and stock you put in possessions and acquisitions.

More food for thought, the group that is often most chided about their materialism are the chronically poor/ working poor/ or who receive benefits. People chafe when they see someone on benefits with a manicure, the latest hair or sneakers because they are underwriting that persons existence. It's a similar visceral response as you might have when you see a fat person chomping down on a king sized candy bar. We make judgements about how the first should spend their cash, and the second should regulate their calories.

Good luck with your relocation.
F. B.

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answers from Boston on

Since you added the information about possibly moving to a more affluent town, I'd suggest you try activities in that place. Visit the library, lunch downtown, visit the school and spend time walking around. What are the children like? Friendly, respectful, thoughful..... or..... ? What are the adults like? Friendly, respectful, thoughtful... or ?

We did this when we considered moving from our very family-friendly town, and eventually decided we had a lovely situation for our children to grow up with others with similar values. Nothing fancy, but plenty of opportunities and no super competition.

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answers from Columbia on

I think you're on the right track.

I mean, really, does it make any sense to live in a fancy house and furnish it with milk crates and cinder blocks? Or to put a '76 Gremlin in the garage? Of course not.

And on that same vein, it doesn't make sense to furnish a 1100sf ranch with heavy mohagany and marble floors, or to put a Bentley in the garage.

We tend to furnish, drive and spend according to our level of earnings. Yes, some folks overspend and some are more frugal, but we generally try to live within our means.

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answers from San Francisco on

I would define being materialistic as someone who places more importance and value on things and money than on people and relationships. You will find those kind of people at all income levels.
Though I will say you see more of that attitude in "new money" communities versus "old money" areas. People who come from wealth usually appreciate it more and know how to hold onto it, they don't fritter it away on a bunch of stuff like (often insecure) newly wealthy people do. It's one of the reasons we settled where we did, in an older, well established, multi generational community. We had no desire to move into a gated, McMansion community like you see on the "real housewives" (and trust me there are plenty of THOSE around here!)

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answers from Dallas on

You will likely find kindred souls in both neighborhoods that think like you do, wanting to reject some of the materialistic nature of our society in general. You'll also find the opposite.

I get that you are trying to weight pros and cons, and ultimately find a community that seems to fit with your family's particular ideological views, but don't think it helps to hope that any broad generalizations will be true about any socio-economic class.

If you want different amenities or schools or some other environmental element (better accessibility, more parks, etc.), make the move. Don't make a move because you have perceptions about people based on their wealth.

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answers from Las Vegas on

I don't think so.. some people have access to more things, but I know plenty of really well to do people who are quite content with the basics. I would also add that many of them also try very inexpensive cars as compared to what they could own if they wanted..
being materialistic has less to do with wealth and more about inner contentment..
so I ask.. who is more wealthy.. the person who requires more or who require less.....

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answers from New York on

New wealthy people I think are very materialistic. People with old money tend not to be.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I think you are being far too judgemental.

People are not snobby or materialistic because of where they live or how much money they make. People are people, in all walks of life.

If you want to move to a new neighborhood, then move there and get to know each of your new neighbors as individuals. I'm sure you will find that regardless of where they live, they are just people.

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answers from Baton Rouge on

I don't worry about how other people spend their money. It's theirs to do with as they please.

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answers from Boca Raton on

we live in a beautiful neighborhood. people seem to be doing great but you wouldn't know it because they look 'normal.' their cars are in the range of 75-80+k. i drive a 4runner. love my car. i bought it because it fits my personality, fun and sporty but tough too :). we are middle class, we have always been middle class. i am not burdened by who has what or 'class.' i think class is something you have naturally, not something you earn because of how big your paycheck is.

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answers from Iowa City on

I don't think I'm qualified to answer this...I drive a Chevy.

Someone who is materialistic is excessively concerned with material possessions (as opposed to cultural, spiritual, intellectual, etc.). I don't think that it necessarily needs to equate to the amount of money spent although that is how we conventionally think of it. I feel like I am being unclear in how I am stating this. What I am trying to say is that a person can be materialistic whether she spends $100 for 8 pairs of shoes or $2300 for 8 pairs of shoes that she intends to add to a large collection. It is the fact that she added 8 pairs of shoes to an already large collection that makes her materialistic not the price she paid for such shoes.

The way I look at it is if you buy a Mercedes because it is a reliable car with good gas mileage then you aren't making a materialistic choice. If you buy a Mercedes because it is a luxury car and it came in the color you wanted and you want that car as a status symbol then you are being materialistic. And that's OK. America runs on materialism.

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answers from Portland on

I think it really depends on the individual. I know plenty of people who are not financially well off but prioritize *things* more than people, if that makes sense. I know quite a few people who are very well off financially and you wouldn't really know it from their conversations or what sort of clothing they wear.

We are a middle class family (I grew up very poor and honestly, it feels very 'rich' to me!) and we've been fairly thoughtful and cautious in how we spend our money. We live near a rather well-off neighborhood. I can't say that I have met anyone who has gone out of their way to show off 'how much' they have. I've never heard anyone make any disparaging comments about the families who aren't as well off. I can say, in my lifetime though, that I have heard a LOT of reverse snobbery in my time from people who didn't have a lot, or who grew up not having a lot and then came into money (what we loosely termed in the 80s as 'nouveau riche').

It's easy to assume that "all rich people are jerks". It's not the truth though. We are all individuals. And honestly, I would LOVE to redo our kitchen- it is functional but the cabinetry is slowly degrading and the last time it saw some love was in the 50s. We refuse to go into debt over it,though, so that's going to have to wait a few years. We did have work done on our home last year-- quite a lot of it. Because we wanted to maintain the house and keep it in good condition over the next several decades. Overall, we make our choices based on what's best for preserving this house we will hopefully be leaving to our son. (and we are teaching our son to care for it just as well.) We use our discretionary income to invest in our home, health, and family.

I think it would help to look at the individuals you meet and not worry so much about if they are materialistic or not. Because that is really about YOU being judgmental of what they are doing. It's not a helpful lens to view the world through.

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answers from Las Vegas on

Loaded question. A couple of questions to you, just because a person spends, does that make them a wealthy person? What is wealthy to you? Is it an income level? Materialistic status? Does debt = wealth?

Many people spend outside of their means. I mean many! We work hard, make a little bit of money to some and a lot of money to others. We spend a lot. My daughter is involved in every activity she can get into. Are we wealthy in my view? No, we are hard working and my husband likes to spend, I like to save.

So I get a new car every couple of years. To some this makes me look a bit spoiled/wealthy, whatever you want to call it. Currently, it is a Dodge. To some this makes me look average. To me, based on my upbringing and ways, it is spoiled. Remember, my husband is the spender. In any event, it is not a Mercedes. Could I get a Mercedes and keep it for a longer period of time as opposed to a new car every couple of years, no, it is not affordable. In the long term, the payment would be much higher and and not affordable. I would have to give something up and it is not worth it to me, for the sake of a brand. For some it is a must.

So you ask about the bragging, I take it that you know about the remodels because they are telling you about their tile choice and not complaining about the mess. Maybe a dream kitchen is necessary for them because they entertain in their home as opposed to going out.

Unless you get into their personal business, which I don't suggest, you will never know the situation. Maybe they had to save everything they had to do the remodel. Maybe they gave up their vacation last summer and decided to remodel. Maybe they are up to their eyeballs with debt.

Everyone is different as well as their needs and desires. In our family, we have what we need and rarely splurge on over the top things, but it depends on who you ask.

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answers from Seattle on

We moved to a nicer community for the schools and I was worried about the same thing. Honestly, there are amazing, down to earth, regular people in our new town. The kids in school are caring and also down to earth. No kids are picked on for their clothes or anything like that, from what I have seen or heard. We have been pleasantly surprised that all of that doesn't seem to matter. Sure, there is a ton of money here, but no one really acts like they have money. There are nice cars, but plenty of functional cars too. I often drive my kids to play dates and never know if the other child's house will be huge or small...since the parents and kids all act the same. Maybe it's the area we're in, but the people aren't snobby or materialistic at all and the schools are fantastic.

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answers from Honolulu on

Being "rich" does not mean a person is "materialistic."

To me, it is about attitude and values toward what a person has or not per material objects etc.

There are also "poor" people, who are very materialistic.
And all they care about are brand names and what they have and they always compare themselves to others and what they have or not.
Rich or poor, people can be, materialistic.

And just because a person is "rich" it does not mean they are snobby.
And just because a person is snobby, it does not mean they are rich.

Really, it is not determined, by how much money a person has. That is too simplistic.

I have been on both sides of rich and poor.
No matter what I have or not, it doesn't determine if I am materialistic or snobby or not. And it does not CAUSE, me to be snobby or not, materialistic or not.
Things... don't make a person.

I know and see, many people who are low income, and they have a MERCEDES and designer hand bags! But their home is really, ratty and old etc.
What does this mean?
Does it mean they are "rich" and snobby? Or poor and materialistic?
And how are they as a person?

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