From Surviving to Thriving: Where Millennials Are Spending Money

Striking a balance between spending money on things we want vs. saving and planning for the things we need is something that most Millennials (nay, all generations) on planet earth struggle with.

We want both: the practical—a reliable and semi-presentable car, a roof over our heads—but also to keep the fridge impractically stocked with expensive ingredients for meals worthy of Food & Wine Magazine. As we've navigated financially trying times, our more sensible sides kept us in check—sternly scolding our fun n’ frivolous selves into investing regularly in savings accounts with roomy cushions to bail ourselves out of unforeseen expenses. Like when our “reliable” car’s shoddy transmission goes out.

While careful spending will always be a worthy goal, many Millennials have started to shift away from simply surviving to thriving—both professionally and financially. We are now a major part of the workforce. According to a Pew Research article, for the first time ever, Millennials are officially outpacing Gen X in the workforce. We're also no longer newbies. Leading-edge Millennials have been working for well over a decade, are stepping into management roles, and continue to steadily increase earning potential.

While the aim of frugality is still top of mind, with this shift from simply paying the bills to having a little extra for creature comforts, Millennials are now pinpointing worthy spending. BridgeWorks is not only tracking how Millennials have contributed recently to consumerism, but also anticipating how they'll continue to spend their hard-earned cash. When Millennials feel they're in a financially comfy place, there are three major areas in which they are willing to shell out a few more bucks.

More Than Just Sustenance
In the past few years, the number of Millennial self-proclaimed foodies has notably increased. A book devoted entirely to this topic called A Taste of Generation Yum, claims that at least half of Millennials identify themselves as "foodies." Just look no further than the cubical next door! No longer willing to subject ourselves to the terrors (not to mention the extra pounds) of eating Ramen noodles for two meals a day in the interest of saving a few bucks, we now opt for the $10 build-your-own salad bar WITH a ginger iced tea. We’re comfortable shelling out a few extra bills for a more nourishing, regal lunch. We justify. Even if we treat ourselves to non-leftovers most days of the workweek, it’s still cheaper than a monthly cable bill. A luxurious lunch is a small price to pay for the satisfaction of feeling like our lunch break is a 30-minute mini retreat.
Seeking Our Own Shelter
Another stepping stone on the road to becoming a full-fledged, financially independent adult is moving off Mom and Dad’s couch to make a nest of your own. Whether it’s renting or buying, the home hunt is truly that. A hunt. Millennials scope out prime real estate with a keen eye for factors like workplace proximity, nearby art and entertainment, and aesthetic features to name a few. Now able to rely on a steady income, Millennial workers can afford to be relatively picky about finding a home that suits our needs and leaves room for customization. Though we’ve put off home buying—and other major life stages—we’re officially on the home hunt and predicted to supplant Gen X to become the biggest homebuying segment as of this year.
Experiences First, Things Second
Wanderlust. Another innately Millennial trait. We are a generation that craves experiences. A recent survey by BSG found that 75% of Millennials want to travel abroad as much as they can vs. 52% of non-Millennials, and our 20s and early 30s are an idyllic time to travel. Cultural curiosity piques our interest, and we crave to see how others live, work, and play outside of our own natural habitat. We’re willing to save up for an $8,700 trip to India because it’s worth experiencing the thrill of an adventure, even if it’s for only a week out of our lives. This yearning for travel can be either intrinsically or extrinsically motivated. Admit it; scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed viewing a plethora of your acquaintances' multi-cultural adventures makes you green with envy. The social media jealousy frenzy many times is enough to put the wheels in motion to plan your own getaway. Us Millennials want to not only see the world but also share our own uniquely awesome experiences.