The term “millennials” is broadly used to refer to the generation of young people who are entering adulthood around the turn of the 21st century. The exact age group of millennials aren’t exactly agreed upon universally – some sources group anyone born between as early as the 1970s and as late as 2004 under “millennials” – but it can generally be used for those between the age of 18 and 28 today.
Growing up while the internet revolution exploded upon the world has inadvertently influenced the world view of millennials, and in turn, their attitude towards money. Everyone seems to have a lot to say about millennials and their spending habits – Voxpops thinks we spend too much on toiletries and avocado toast (maybe that’s why we’re the “avocado generation”), Vice says we value caffeine more than having enough money for retirement, and Yahoo Finance in Canada figures that we overspend because we spend too much time online.
While not all of these may be true, there are still instances in which we spend more money than necessary, and here’s why:
Why Millenials Tend To Overspend
1. Lack of Financial Awareness
Image Credit: GIPHY | ‘Silicon Valley’ Season 3
Most millennials don’t know what exactly to do with the money that we have. Multiple bank accounts? Insurance? Saving plans? If all these feel like unfamiliar grounds to you, fear not, you’re not alone. It’s understandable, since we’re still young and money woes are probably not at the top of our list of worries (yet).
However, our generation has the least excuse for staying ignorant, solely because of the sheer volume of information available at our fingertips. Never has picking up a new skill or acquiring new knowledge been easier than in this generation. While not all of us are blessed with exceptional IT skills, Googling a simple term remains well within our web-navigating abilities. Costly university fees also mean that we’ll have huge debts even before entering the workforce. This is why early exposure to financial management is even more crucial for our generation.
Invest some time in understanding how to make your money work for you in the long run, and start early. Starting to save early means you will be saving for a longer period of time and amassing a larger amount of money to do other stuff (like invest) with. Future you will only thank you for that!
2. Being Away From Home
A huge proportion of millennials are college or university students who are living away from their parents for the first time. The sudden freedom and independence that comes as a result may be exhilarating at first, but it usually leads to two types of overspending habits.
Firstly, living away from our parents means we no longer come back home to a wide array of delicious home-cooked meals. Being busy with school work may drive many students to seek the convenience of eating out (or ordering in). We all know this is far from the thriftiest option, but we all do it anyway. And it may be costing you a lot more than you think. I’m not just talking about money; the amount of oil and MSG in food can take a toll on your health in the long run.
Secondly, being away from the watchful eye of your parents may induce a bit more recklessness in your spending habits. You’re probably receiving a larger sum of money than you’re used to when you were living with your parents, and having so much money at hand can make you a little too excited about spending it. Not seeing your parents everyday also means you don’t have to account for where your money is going. There’s no one to reign us in when the urge to splurge hits. All this makes it all too convenient to splurge unnecessarily. We know the pain, we do. On top of this, we’re taking on higher levels of personal financial responsibility, since we are responsible for buying household necessities and school materials such as notes and laptops.
3. The #FOMO Game: The Game No One Can Win
Yes, social media is at fault again. But this time, the blame isn’t misplaced. Malaysia has the highest percentage of Instagram and Snapchat users in Asia Pacific. With the pervasiveness of social media, we can’t help but be reminded of the new café we haven’t visited, or the new pair of shoes our friends are flaunting on their Instagram accounts. We’re living in a very visual age and we’re always looking out for the next big thing that’s more aesthetically-pleasing, more extravagant, and more outrageous.
This constant quest to one-up the previous Instagram post is not only unhealthy for our minds, it’s unhealthy for our wallets as well. What the social media wave propagates is a meaningless, mindless chasing of hollow experiences that (more often than not) costs a lot of money!
The need for instant gratification also makes it easier for us to spend without thinking twice. It’s really quite pointless if you #treatyoself every few days. This perpetual focus on the “now” definitely won’t be helpful for our bank accounts years down the road.
How To Save More
Whether you identify with any of the above reasons for spending more than necessary, or whether you’re just interested in more ways to save a little extra money, here are some tips for you!
1. Knowledge Is Power
The best way to win a war is to equip yourself with knowledge about the enemy. In this case, your enemy is bad spending habits.
Among university students, business majors are more likely to know more about personal finance management than students outside of their major. For all my non-business majors out there, a simple way to combat this is to take business modules at your university. This is not to say that all business majors are excellent at saving money and that all non-business majors are broke spendthrifts.
The point is that education in financial management is helpful and we should take advantage of the education available to us. If your college doesn’t allow you to take modules outside of your major, or if you’re not a student, Google is your next best friend. Go online and find out – there are plenty of resources that teach beginners how to manage their finances.
2. Know Where Your Money Is Going
Another way to cut back on unnecessary spending is to track your expenses. It may seem like an additional responsibility, but trust us, it’s super helpful for knowing how your money is being spent (and coming up with a game plan). Especially in this era, when online shopping is becoming increasingly popular and convenient, expenses can really add up since we don’t see the physical stacks of money disappearing from our wallets. This is where the habit of tracking your expenses come in – having all the numbers in one place would really show us where additional savings could be made.
There are many methods for tracking our expenses, but the most common is probably using smartphone apps. There are plenty of such apps nowadays, with many good and free options. Having an expense-tracking app would encourage you to be accountable to the app and to yourself in terms of your spending. If you need some suggestions on which apps to use, we have a list for you so you could start sticking to your budget.
We know, we know, ignorance is bliss and many of us would rather not have the burden of our accumulating debt weighing on our minds every day. But this lack of knowledge about our own bank accounts may very well lead to an even bigger burden in the near future – an impossibly large debt. Knowing how much we’ve already spent is a good reminder for how much we need to save, and being conscious about cutting back where necessary will save us a lot of worries later on in life.
3. Learn To Cook
Young Malaysians tend to spend more on food than on any other type of expenses. And with all that good food in our homeland, who could blame us? Still, it’s worthy to invest some time and effort in learning to cook, instead of eating out all the time.
Really, there are so many birds to kill with this one stone. Not only is cooking the cheaper and healthier option, you get to develop an essential life skill. Whipping up a scrumptious meal with your friends and sharing it together afterwards is also a wonderful bonding activity. You can even take turns cooking and cleaning up afterwards, so you don’t have to do all the work all the time.
4. Save Your Loose Change
Remember how we had piggy banks when we were young? We would deposit what little money we had into it every day, eagerly waiting for it to become full so we could smash it open. We could do the same now, be it in jars or envelopes or other forms of storing money. The concept remains the same – save a small amount of money each day and it will add up to a significant amount of money after enough time. Putting away our loose change won’t require drastic adjustments to our daily spending habits, but we’ll still end up with some savings at the end of the day.
5. Begin With The End In Mind
Perhaps you’ve just started work, or perhaps you’re still completing your degree. Regardless, it pays to start thinking about retirement plans early. Again, starting to save early will give you the advantage of having a longer period of time and thus more money to save. Others may call you kiasu, but you’ll be having the last laugh when it’s time to kick your feet up and enjoy retirement phase. Besides, you don’t have to be accountable to anyone but yourself for your spending and saving habits.
As a millennial, I get tired of hearing about how we waste too much money on transient experiences, and we don’t spend enough time working hard to earn our keep. It’s true, our generation values a memorable experience and quality time more than possessing a hoard of material goods. There’s nothing wrong in that, but we should pause once in a while to take a step back and reevaluate if the amount of money we’re exchanging for all these experiences is worth it.
Ultimately, a penny saved is a penny earned. These simple and effective ways to save money are but the beginning to effective long-term financial management for you and I. They can finally stop calling us the avocado generation now.
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