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See Inside Scientific American Mind Volume 25, Issue 4

Put Your Money Where Your Values Are

A few simple steps can help anyone conquer materialism
materialism


Keep track of every single penny you spend for a month. Then ask yourself how much each purchase fits your values.
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We may be living in a material world but being a material girl is definitely not the path to happiness. In fact, the latest experimental evidence hints that letting go of all of that stuff is a surer route to satisfaction.

Psychologist Tim Kasser at Knox College is among the researchers who have studied how the importance of making and spending money compares with other values, such as focusing on the community or self-growth.

To examine your own materialism and perhaps take steps to change it, Kasser suggests the following:

• Try to keep track of every advertisement you are exposed to for four days. Or, alternatively, try to avoid being exposed to any advertisements for four days. Afterward, reflect on the difficulty of the task and think about the purpose of advertisements in our society.

• For one week see if you can go without nonwork screen time: No TV, video games, Facebook, smartphone surfing. At the end of the week, reflect on how you spent your time instead.

• Think about your intrinsic values, which for most people are personal growth, connection to family and friends and contribution to the community or the world at large. Write down how your choices or behaviors uphold each of these values.

• Keep track of every single penny you spend for a month. Then ask yourself how much each purchase fits your values.

• If you are like most people, you will find that your spending does not always fit your values. Ask yourself why you are spending money the way you do. Is it insecurity; to impress people or feel worthwhile; because it is normal in our society to do so?

• Have a conversation with the important people in your life about money. Where does it come from? How much do we give away? How much do we save? What are we saving for? Why do we spend it on the things we do?

These activities are all aimed at shifting our mental focus toward our intrinsic values, which will naturally decrease our materialistic tendencies. Doing so could improve your well-being, according to Kasser’s study and many others.

This article was originally published with the title "How to Let Go of Materialism."

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