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6 Things Money Can’t Buy (and Why it Shouldn’t Matter)

by Hugo

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There are a lot of things that money can buy. That’s maybe why a lot of us have the desire to be rich. But if you’re a little wiser than that, you also know that there are things that money can’t buy.

We’ve written a lot about how money can buy happiness in some scenarios. However, this effect is often indirect and not directly traced back to you swiping your credit card. Even then, there are just some things that cannot be bought with money.

This article discusses the things that money will never buy for you, why that is, and why you should focus on what matters most (it’s not money).

Top 6 things money won’t buy

Without further ado, let’s dive into the things that your credit card will never get you. But please remember that there are plenty of other ways that you can still “acquire” these things.

1. Money won’t buy you respect

If you want to be respected, you shouldn’t expect a couple of credit card swipes to do the trick.

Instead, you should earn respect by inspiring others or making the world a better place. How? It depends.

When researching this topic, I landed on this page by Gallup about the most admired people, and ironically, all the people on this list are either billionaires or millionaires. But did these people make the list because of their wealth, or because of their other achievements? Who knows.

As for me, I have the most respect for people that (voluntarily) try to make the world a better place. And you often don’t need any money for this.

2. Wisdom

Sure, money buys you an education, and education gives you knowledge. But does that result in wisdom?

My grandfather taught me that wisdom is not the same as being smart. Some of the smartest people can act the most ignorant, while I know plenty of less-educated people who are much wiser than that.

In my opinion, wisdom comes from experience, self-awareness, learning to think before speaking, and mental resilience. Are these things that you can buy?

I don’t think so.

If you’re wondering how you can still improve yourself in these aspects, here are some tips:

3. Love can’t be bought with money

This one tops most of these lists. Google the phrase “things money can’t buy” and every single article will say that you can’t buy love.

It’s true, though. No matter how rich you are, money won’t buy you a partner that you love and loves you back.

Love is built with trust, communication, work, and even sacrifice. These things have nothing to do with money.

4. True friendships

Just as how money can’t buy you love, it also won’t buy you true friendships.

According to psychologist Robert B. Hays, as cited in the Handbook of Personal Relationships, friendship is a “voluntary interdependence between two persons over time, that is intended to facilitate socio-emotional goals of the participants, and may involve varying types and degrees of companionship, intimacy, affection and mutual assistance”.

Or, put shortly: friendship is a supportive relationship between people, but you define the rest.

In another article on this site about how to be a good friend, we discussed 13 essential traits of good friendships:

  • Trustworthiness.
  • Honesty with others.
  • Being very dependable.
  • Loyalty to loved ones.
  • Ability to trust others.
  • Experiencing and expressing empathy for others.
  • Being non-judgemental.
  • Being a good listener.
  • Supporting others in their good times.
  • Supporting others in their bad times.
  • Being self-confident.
  • Being able to find humor in life.
  • Being fun to be around

Do any of these things require money? No!

5. Self-esteem

Money doesn’t buy you self-esteem.

Now, before you argue that rich people are often obnoxious and condescending, this doesn’t mean that they are confident in themselves. Or at least, not for the right reasons. I don’t want to name any real-life examples, but if you’ve seen The Wolf Of Wall Street, you might get the idea.

If your self-esteem is dependent on the number of commas in your investment account, then I wouldn’t call that self-esteem.

In a recent article on confidence, we found that self-confidence is made up of a lot of things money can’t buy:

  • Personal achievements.
  • Physical and mental health.
  • Gender, with men being often more confident than women.
  • Stress.
  • Quality of relationships (which you also can’t buy).

Want to work on your self-esteem in a meaningful way? Try the self-esteem activities discussed in this article!

6. Gratitude

Being grateful is not just dependent on how much you have to be thankful for. It’s based on what you choose to be grateful for.

Being grateful is a choice that you can make. There are poor people in the world that are grateful for the simple fact that they have a healthy family or even a roof above their head. Yet, there are some rich people who are under the impression that they have nothing to be grateful for.

No amount of money will buy you the feeling of being grateful.

So what? Why do I have to be grateful, you ask?

It turns out that gratitude is linked to happiness. If you want a happy life, it’s proven that a little gratitude every once in a while is not a bad idea.

Here are some tips on how to be more grateful in life.

Can money buy happiness?

What about happiness?

Can money buy happiness? It’s certainly the most Googled question, so the answer is probably not as easy as the others on this list.

things money cant buy happiness

I scoured the web for the answer and ironically had to conclude that yes, money can buy you a little happiness.


Well, because money can buy things that are significantly linked to happiness. And I’m not just talking about fleeting happiness, like buying a good bottle of wine, a birthday cake, or a jet ski.

I’m talking about long-term happiness.

It turns out that money can buy you these things:

  • Safety.
  • Stability and assurance.
  • Comfort.
  • Experiences.

Some studies even went as far as to say that money can buy you time.

These things are all, in fact, heavily linked to happiness. So yes, money can buy you a fraction of happiness if you spend it wisely.

Why money is not the goal

If there’s one thing I want you to take away from this article, it’s that money should never be the end goal of your decisions.

Of course, we all need money to live a safe, happy and comfortable life. But money is just a vehicle that allows us to get there. Having more money won’t necessarily make you a better or happier human being.

Being an honest, kind, grateful, and loving person makes you a better human being. 

And money will never buy you these things.

💡 By the way: If you want to start feeling better and more productive, I’ve condensed the information of 100’s of our articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet here. 👇

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Thrive under stress and crush your goals with these 10 unique tips for your mental health.

Wrapping up

I’m sure I missed a couple of other things that money can’t buy, but these are definitely some of the most important. Instead of focusing just on the money in your bank account, try to spend some time and effort on the things that money won’t just buy you.

Do you have an interesting anecdote that you want to share, about how money bought you something that’s on this list? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Hugo Huijer AuthorLinkedIn Logo

Founder of Tracking Happiness, with over 100 interviews and a focus on practical advice, our content extends beyond happiness tracking. Hailing from the Netherlands, I’m a skateboarding enthusiast, marathon runner, and a dedicated data junkie, tracking my happiness for over a decade.

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