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Top 6 Things Money Can’t Buy (+ What To Do About It)

There are a lot of things that money can buy, which is 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.

Since this is a website about happiness, we’ve written about how money can buy you happiness in some scenarios. However, the 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 can never buy. So even if you can buy stuff that will indirectly make you a happier person, here’s a list of top X things that money will never buy you.

This article is part of a much bigger guide on learning how to become happy that I’m sure is the biggest freely available guide on the internet right now. This article contains some great tips, but you’ll find a lot more actionable tips in the section Happiness Tips!

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. Respect

This one kinda speaks for itself, right?

Of all the things money can’t buy, this one is one of the most obvious. 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. 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.

love your neighbor cap

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. Wondering how you can still improve yourself in these aspects?

3. Love

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 area, 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. Friends

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? You tell me!

how to be a good friend 1

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:

  • Life experiences
  • 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 grateful 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.

Can money buy happiness?

Since this is a website about happiness, it’s only fitting that we discuss the topic of happiness vs money as well.

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

So, can happiness be bought? I personally 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.

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.

Closing words

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 these things that money won’t just buy you.

Did I miss some other things that you think belong on this list as well? 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 in the comments below!

Founder of Tracking Happiness

Founder of Tracking Happiness and lives in the Netherlands. Ran 5 marathons, with one of them in under 4 hours (3:59:58 to be exact). Data junkie and happiness tracker for over 7 years.

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