Materialism vs Minimalism: The Balancing Act

For the majority of us, life is a constant battle between wants and needs. Those who live a minimalistic lifestyle take pride in ‘appreciating the simple things in life’ whereas those with lots of ‘things’ can be found driving around in a nice car, though their bank account tells them they shouldn’t be. This article aims to tell you that either is just fine, but a balance of both is better.


The idea that fancy cars and big houses don’t bring you happiness. That living with the bare necessities and working as little as possible is your avenue to contentment. Minimalist’s live within their means and take fewer risks to achieve security.

How do you know if you’re a minimalist? You treat life simply, you dislike debt and don’t have a credit card, you have no interest in fancy cars and live in a basic house/apartment, you don’t swap your smartphone over every 12 months and tend to have a healthy amount of savings.

The obvious advantage of the minimalistic lifestyle is that it’s pretty stress free. With few lump sum purchases and little ongoing expenses, you tend to have the security of knowing that not much can go wrong that will result with you ending up on the streets. You can work less and focus on experiences and people to get your fulfilment instead of slaving to buy a bigger house or nicer car.


The opposite end of the spectrum. Where upgrading your car every few years and having all the latest tech puts a smile on your face. Often gets a much worse wrap than a minimalist! Being called materialistic is generally considered an insult, which isn’t really fair, there’s nothing wrong with liking the finer things life has to offer.

How do you know if you’re materialistic? You’re a risk taker and high achiever, you probably drive a European car, you have the latest iPhone or Samsung, you may have a hefty mortgage on a house that’s probably a little too big for what you need, you may have credit card debt and can often be found at the bar buying expensive scotches after working a 60-hour week to sustain your lifestyle.

A materialistic lifestyle can be a heap of fun! Flash cars get you noticed and eating at nice restaurants and flying business class can be a rewarding experience.

So which one is the right one?

If you’ve read any of my articles, or know me, you’ll probably know my answer to this… Both choices can be the right one. But it comes down to you as a person not the actual lifestyle you lead.

Living a minimalistic lifestyle is great! As long as you’re gaining genuine fulfilment from it. Are you sitting in a tiny apartment freezing your arse off because you don’t want to spend the money on electricity, after driving your 1995 Civic back from the shops to pick up home brand cereal just so you can feel good knowing you’ve got $300k sitting in the bank whereas you’re actually miserable because your life is uneventful and boring?!

Living a materialistic lifestyle is great! As long as you’re gaining fulfilment from it. Are you sitting in your giant beachfront house, after driving your latest generation European car to the shops to pick up a fine bottle of scotch just so you can feel good knowing everyone looked at you thinking ‘he’s rich’ whereas you’re actually miserable because you don’t know how you’ll ever pay off your credit card debt and keep up with mortgage repayments?!

Like everything in life, it’s about finding a balance. It’s okay to buy a $100,000 BMW, but will this mean you can’t pay off your credit card or comfortably make mortgage repayments. It’s okay to buy beachfront instead of a street back, but will this mean significantly more hours at work, eating into your personal time?

Australia is notorious for its ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’, which often makes people feel like aspiring to be able to afford nice things is somehow, something to be looked down on. If being a minimalist is holding you back from being a ‘better’ person or contributing back to society, then maybe it’s time to have a look at things before judging others. Conversely, if you’re judging someone because they don’t have a nice car or big house, maybe you should work out if they are actually content and be happy for them instead of looking down on them.

There’s nothing wrong with either lifestyle, just make sure you are living it for your own reasons and fulfilment, not to impress or satisfy others.

Information current as of 13 June 2017.


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