If I see one more big mouth talk about Lattes and Avocado Toast and Millennials I am going to literally scream through my computer. The shaming around Millennial spending is almost always from a Baby Boomer - Banker or Billionaire.
As a Gen X caught in between these generations, I can tell you first hand the ridiculous things Baby Boomers have spent money on over the years. And I mean truly ludicrous. Where to start..Decanters, "China" better known as plates, redecorating their homes every three years, fuzzy toilet seat covers, Laura Ashley, wine cellars, yard decorations - see Garden Gnomes above - etc. And they are still at it. Just take a minute and Google homes in Bend Oregon on a golf course - you will see hundreds of 4,000 sq ft homes that are soullessly empty with formal dining rooms, walnut furniture, over-sized "can you tell that I am retired" brown leather chairs and wall to wall carpeting. Oh, and jacuzzis..!!!
Stop listening to people who are criticizing your spending choices, and start understanding your spending choices with these few simple steps instead:
- Do you have more money at the end of the month/year or not? If you do, then you are cash flow positive and give yourself a pat on the back. If you are not investing it, then wait for my next installment on Bad Millennial Advice - Investing Revisited.
- If you are not cash flow positive, then there is only one of two reasons: you either are not generating enough income and/or you are not aware of what you are spending money on (or both). But that's not really the point, the question is why. Why are you not making enough? Are you in a dead end job? Why are you living on credit cards and not tracking spending? Why are you supporting a deadbeat roommate/spouse or whomever? Do you have student debt? Okay, why? Why did you take on the debt, what did you think it would provide to you and why is it not working? Get to the why and you will get somewhere. It's the why that counts. Continue on to #3&4 if you are in this situation.
- If you are an ardent user of Facebook or Instagram or any other social media, go through your posts and add up the costs of participating in your own posts in terms of time and actual spending for a month.
- How to be aware/mindful of spending. If you have not done this before, this is how.
- Every single time you spend anything write it down - do not use an app to track it. Print out your banking statements and use a paper and pencil or an excel spreadsheet. Spending means money, debit cards, credit cards etc. It's all money.
- Once you spend it, ask yourself why you needed to spend it at that moment and categorize your spending as follows: a) survival (only food at home, public transport, basic sundries, shelter, medical care, taxes, mandatory fees and education), b) to belong and to feel connected (this also includes cultural and religion related spending), c) to demonstrate generosity or indulge others, d) because I feel guilty or shame if I don't, e) it gives me power/sway over others, f) for show - you know others will see you wear/have/own/do X, g) convenience, h) to experience a sense of freedom.
- "Because I want to" or "because I can" is not an answer. You have to understand why you want to. Also not included is "because I value experiences"..nope, that one does not really tell you anything and is used too often as an excuse.
- Just do that for three months and reflect.
I promise to write again in 3 months and help you debrief yourself. There are no wrong answers but the more honest you are with your own emotions, the more headway you will make. Just take three months and do the above exercises. If you can throw in 2-3 nights a week where you take yourself out for a thirty minute walk, this will help you reflect.
Andrea Kennedy, author of Own Your Financial Freedom, is a Singapore-based Certified Financial Planner and Asia's only Financial Behavior Specialist™.