A Critique of Millennials’ Spending Habits by a Millennial

Millennials: are they irresponsible with their money, or are they simply misunderstood? Well, as part of a school assignment, I was instructed to compose a persuasive speech on a topic of my choosing. I decided to persuade my classmates into managing their money more effectively, operating on the premise that we have no way of knowing when the economy will take a downturn, and so it would be in their best interest to substantially cut down expenditures on recreational activities like attending the movie theater or hitting the bar. Obviously under the Trump administration, the economy is doing quite well, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average consistently soaring above 26,000 until finally dipping in February 2018. But someday, perhaps under Trump or a different president, the economy can and will take a nosedive, so we best be prepared for it.

Being the determined college student that I am, I went all out for this speech, telling the story of the time my friend hastily spent so much of his money on drugs and alcohol that he wound up sleeping on the streets for several months. At the end, I handed each of my classmates a one dollar bill to hammer in the point that if they refrain from making unnecessary purchases, that one dollar bill could easily turn into hundreds or even thousands more. As Kathleen Elkins (2017) would suggest, however, the majority of them probably spent that dollar within the first twenty four hours of receiving it.

In her article, Elkins writes that people aged 20 to 36 struggle to garner at least $1,000 in savings, while a “significant number” are broke. She references a report from Charles Schwab who assessed Americans’ spending habits according to four factors: (1) goal setting and financial planning, (2) saving and investing, (3) staying on track, and (4) confidence in reaching financial goals. It was found that millennials spend more money than previous generations on non-necessities like the latest and greatest technology, $4 cups of coffee, and taxis and ubers. Despite this, millennials in their 30s are more careful with their money than millennials in their 20s, hinting that upon moving out of their parents’ houses, they become increasingly mindful of the consequences of reckless spending behavior.

The piece of data—that millennials’ spend more money on recreational activities in the short-term than Generation X and the Baby Boomers—is not a shocker to me. In fact, most of my friends do not have a single dollar to their names, wasting their money on vapid and meaningless goods and services mere hours after receiving paychecks from their minimum wage employers. To my utter bewilderment, one friend whom I will not name spends upwards of $150 to $200 a week on marijuana. Another just buys crap he doesn’t need.

I’m not going to take the moral high-ground and say I’m a better person than you by virtue of my propensity for frugality, because money is intended to be spent and cannot sit in your bank account forever. In fact, sometimes my frugality can be a little crippling, as there have been purchases that would’ve ostensibly benefitted me but that I held back on. At the same time, I’m not going to sugarcoat the fact that money is best put to work when it is invested in the stock market or put towards a college education, because when it is otherwise spent on too much fast food, clothing, and technology that you do not have any use for, you will have very little of it left over for more pressing matters such as medical bills, car parts, and gasoline. Thus, it’s preferable to save up until you are capable of achieving (and sustaining) financial independence.

Take it from me: think twice about the things you wish to spend your money on. Because you’d be surprised by how rich you could become if for a few months, you showed some restraint and waited for that $900 iPhone to drop in price.        



Elkins, K. (2017, June 30). Here’s how millennials spend their money, compared to their parents. Retrieved December 14, 2017, from https://www.cnbc.com/2017/06/30/heres-how-millennials-spend-their-money-compared-to-their-parents.html

Categories: Personal Finance

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