I’m an Xennial. Here’s how I budget

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I’m an Xennial. Here’s how I budget

Xennials became a thing last week, after some Australian sociology professor went ahead and defined them on Facebook. Really though, the case for Xennials has been around for years. (I know, because I am one — and, for the record, I prefer the term "Catalano Generation.")

If you’re new to this game, here’s the gist: Millennials grew up with technology; Gen Xers didn’t. Somewhere in between – 1977 to 1983, according to our new professor friend — there’s a micro-generation that grew up using a typewriter, but got a cellphone and internet while still young enough to form opinions.

Sounds trivial, sure. Except if you’re an Xennial who has never eaten avocado toast.

Plus, that’s why generations get defined. It’s all very scientific — there’s apparently a thing called the "cohort effect" and something else called "the period effect" which Pew explains much better than I ever could right here — but basically, because of generations, researchers can track public sentiment around stuff and how it got formed. We tend to think about this in terms of broader social issues — like, say, the legalization of marijuana — but that stuff includes money, too. So, in the interest of research, I thought I’d share some insights into how I budget. Here’s how this Xennial manages her money.

I don’t use budgeting apps ...

I tried. In fact, there’s one on my phone. Occasionally, it sends me notifications about a bill coming due. I have always already paid this bill. That annoys me, for sure, but it’s not why I abandoned the app. No, I abandoned that thing because I had to change all the passwords to my financial accounts (long story), which then required me to go into the app and update everything there, too, and, by then, I didn’t really see the point. I was paying all those stupid bills anyway.

... but it’s not like I’m using an abacus either.

Mostly, I budget by checking my financial accounts every day. It helps that almost every important one I have is with the same bank. It’s a big bank — which, yes, makes me feel like I’m selling out to the man or at the very least kind of old old-school. But here’s the thing: If I had to boil my money management preferences down to a single sentiment, I’d say I almost always opt for convenience.

The "almost always" is an important caveat, though, because I have a threshold. For instance, I’ve online-banked forever, but it took me awhile to trust remote deposit capture. In fact, I just started using it about two months ago. Up until then, I wanted my checks cashed by an actual person (#nobots2017). And there’s technology out there I know I will never, ever adopt.

Like Venmo. I can’t.

I’m extremely debt-averse ...

I’ve got all of my monthly bills set to auto-pay, except for my credit cards. That’s not a weird #nobot holdover or anything. I’m just extremely debt-averse. I can’t really stomach the idea of carrying a balance — which jives with a lot of research about Millennials. Thanks to the Great Recession and boatloads of student loan debt, they don’t really like credit cards. Thing is, I use my credit card for everything (I want the points!). I just pay the balance every time it gets too high. That’s my big budgeting secret right there, ladies and gents. Pay your credit card bill on the reg. And, by on the reg, I mean, like, every other day.

As for my debt-aversion, I'd love to link it to some sort of event (see: the aforementioned "period effect"), but honestly I’ve been scared of going into the red for as long as I can remember. It’s come in handy every time I had to make a big money decision: I went to a state school because I didn’t want astronomical student loans. I bought an economy car, which I paid off a year ago and plan to run into the ground, and I bought less house than I could afford, because a mortgage is terrifying.

… but not really good at or meticulous about penny-pinching.

I don’t clip coupons. I spend way too much money on lunch and coffee every week. I know showrooming is a thing, but that’s about it. And I’m not very good about comparison-shopping for services. I could write a novel about how long I paid too much for a subpar cable subscription. I got my auto insurance by calling up my parent’s company and taking out a policy, then got my homeowners insurance by essentially doing the exact same thing. These aren’t the worst money management mistakes ever, per se. But they’re also not the best practices.

I’m saving for retirement, but it took me awhile to get started.

I have a traditional IRA (with my big bank overlords) and I started a 401(k) at each job I’ve had since circa 2008 … but I graduated college in 2003. Of course, the late start probably has nothing to do with my generation. Most people suck at saving for retirement.

I have an emergency fund.

It sounds like I’m patting myself on the back, but I’ll get to more budgeting foibles in a sec, I promise. Plus, my emergency fund is really just a consequence of my debt-aversion and I haven’t always had one, because, well …

I haven’t always been a saver.

In fact, in my 20s, I was a bit of a spendthrift. I didn’t buy anything that would necessitate interest, but I splurged … and sometimes on truly stupid things. Like, this one time, I bought a $400 pair of completely impractical (and, in retrospect, really ugly) boots I never wore. Or this other time, I blew all of my college graduation money renting a summer shore house. (I know. Terrible.) Attribute this to the Millennial in me: They apparently love buying experiences, including buying something as an experience.

Of course, if I had to do it all over again now, I’d put the shore house money in the bank. Or use it to start an IRA right out of college. I would shop around for car insurance and sell those boots on eBay.

Still wouldn’t have Venmo’ed, though. I can’t imagine ever wanting all my friends to know I just bought a pizza.