The cult of 'extra' — & how it's messing up your money

Jeanine Skowronski


Jeanine Skowronski

Jeanine Skowronski

Former Head of Content at Policygenius

Jeanine Skowronski is the former head of content at Policygenius in New York City. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, American Banker Magazine, Newsweek, Business Insider, Yahoo Finance, MSN, CNBC and more.

Published August 30, 2017|3 min read

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Funny thing about the word “extra”: It's morphed in meaning since hitting the Urban Dictionary in 2003. Back in those old days, extra was a disparaging term, a way for millennials to say someone was just too much, over the top or trying way too hard. A perpetual (and purposeful) drama queen. A person with nothing to prove who’s trying desperately to prove something. A ridiculous thing used to drive an ultimately pointless point home.

Like every Real Housewife in existence. Or Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah’s couch. Or Pharrell Williams’ dumb Grammy hat.

##What is ‘extra’?

That core meaning is still in tact. (See this 2017 Urban Dictionary entry on extra, courtesy of Performingfartist, a poet for our time: “Doing the absolute most. For no reason.”) But the negative connotation associated with the term has dulled. In fact, it’s trending toward aspirational.

Extra drama kings or queens are still melodramatic, but also endearing. Less Jean Ralphio Saperstein and more Titus Andromedon. Beyoncé’s royal birth announcement, in which she sports a bright blue veil and technicolor dreamcoat, is meme’ed ad nauseum, but still the most liked Instagram post of all time. This obviously ridiculous brush that helps you lick your cat (yeah, I don’t know) nets over $50,000 in funding on Kickstarter. The list goes on and on.

##How staying ‘extra’ messes with your money

I first encountered the concept of ‘extra’ when this article popped up in my Facebook feed a few weeks ago. (Listen, I’m old and usually late to stuff.) I clicked on it, because I was surprised to see something written for Gen Z as opposed to millennials. Turns out “In Defense of Dressing Extra” was actually a sponsored post, urging young people to proudly wear tutus and Pumas while stepping on made-for-TV ice cream. (Seriously, there’s a video.)

“After years of neutral tones, timeless silhouettes, and understated handbags reigning supreme, it's so refreshing to see this set take risks and really play with fashion,” the copy reads.

OK, sure.

So now ‘extra’ — which, remember, used to describe your most obnoxious friend — is a sparkly mermaid churro you can pose with on Instagram. It’s a pair of destroyed high-top sneakers that cost $1,500 and are currently sold out. It’s $400 pants. No, wait: It’s taking out a subprime loan just to buy $400 pants. It’s an $85 rock you can use for … rock stuff.

In other words, it’s expensive. And, really, just a way to rebrand and sell excess to Gen Z-ers inching closer to college graduation and a boatload of student loan debt. Or millennials, who still can’t buy homes, possibly because they're so extra already and won’t eat toast unless it’s slathered in avocado.

##How to save while being ‘extra’

Honestly, if you’re into trends, you might want to check out minimalism, an equally prominent concept (think tiny houses) that, given its central and completely unextra principle of less is more, will go much easier on your money. In fact, it just might help you save.

Beyond that, I dunno. Share the churro. Destroy your own high-tops. Go hiking and find a nice rock? I get these aren’t really satisfying answers. Extra isn’t really my area of expertise, so I reached out to my favorite Gen Z-er (and PolicyGenius contributor) Paige DiFiore, who actually came up with some solid ways to stay extra and save. You can find her tips right here

I will say you definitely shouldn’t take out a loan for pants, though. That’s not extra, so much as just a really bad idea. You’re better off investing that money or putting it toward something that’ll improve your overall financial health, like life insurance or that one credit card balance that never seems to go away.

Image: wundervisuals