I was born in 1996, the forefront of Generation Z. Seeing as my generation doesn’t get much media attention and I’m almost a millennial (the cut off date for millennials, by most estimates at least, is 1995), it usually suits me to pretend to be a millennial. I, too, complain often and grew up fairly spoiled.
But when it comes to finances, I’m very much Gen Z. I’m tech-savvy to the point where social media actually influences my spending and I have frugal tendencies that probably resulted from growing up during the Great Recession.
Here’s how a Gen Z-er budgets ... if you can even call it budgeting.
I religiously track assignment due dates, freelance projects and what I’m getting friends and family for Christmas. I’ve even begun creating spreadsheets for my post-grad job hunt that’ll happen a year from now.
One thing I don’t track? My income. My income is seldom consistent. It’s also difficult to monitor because I receive it from multiple sources. I work part-time in college, intern, freelance for websites and run a monetized blog where I partner with brands.
I keep track of who’s supposed to be paying me and when, but I don’t keep track of the money once I have it. A large chunk of my money is in my bank account. Some of it is sitting in PayPal (Full disclosure: it’s been one of my blog’s brand partners.) and a lot of it is probably uncashed checks en route to me or on invoices that haven’t been sent yet. I’m sure I could easily create a system or use an app, but this all falls under what I like to call “Future Me Problems.”
My main financial mentality when it comes to student loans and money in general is: “That’s a ‘Future Me’ problem!” I’m choosing to worry about loans and budgets when I’m post-grad and they’re a more urgent issue. As a senior in college, I have no idea where my future will take me. So, until I have a legitimate career or somewhat stable life, I don’t want to dive in and budget. Again, I’m saving that for my future self.
Gen Z is all over technology. I’ve grown up with it so it’d be weird for me not to have my phone all but surgically attached to my hand. I have an app for everything, even finances. Like I said, I don’t religiously track my income but I do track my spending with the Wally app. Here’s the kicker — I do this out of curiosity, not for the sake of my budget. I don’t use this information to adjust my budget. I just look at it sometimes and say, “Wow, I bought a lot of makeup in July. My Metrocard was crazy expensive in June!” Truly riveting.
If something costs more than $10, I have to seriously debate on whether or not it’s worth owning. I purchase most of my clothes from affordable stores like Forever21, I almost always bring lunch and coffee from home and I prefer the library over bookstores.
That being said, I seldom invest in anything. A $5 shirt wasn’t built to last. I doubt most of my belongings will be with me for the long run. But, remember, those are “Future Me problems!”
I’m constantly worrying about the future. I save almost everything from mementos to money. I’ve been squirreling away most of my income into my savings account for the past few years. I can’t attribute all of my saving to wise decisions. I honestly don’t know how to withdraw from my savings. I’m sure I could figure it out, but I prefer to keep my savings saved and only spend my cashed checks from my part-time job and side hustles. My main money strategy is saving as much for the future as I can without depriving myself now.
I spend most of my money on food-related social outings and nights in. I often meet friends for dinner or order food to eat while watching Game of Thrones with my boyfriend. When I’m alone, I opt for cooking food or eating cereal out of the box, but if I’m with others I always end up spending on food.
Hand in hand with my social spending is the money I spend on viral food trends. I often rope friends into hunting the next colorful, giant dessert. It’s not uncommon for me to splurge on a giant ice cream sandwich I found on Instagram or brunch from a place that I discovered on Facebook. I tend to pay extra for food that’s pretty or unique so I can share it on social media. I also find myself buying makeup or jewelry I don’t need if Facebook shows me a advertisement I can’t pass up.
Millennials are the generation known for spending on experiences, and Gen Z is picking up where they left off. Though I spend a lot of my budget on food, I spend the majority of my budget on experiences. My money is often spent on discounted Broadway tickets, cat cafes, movie tickets, concert tickets, plane tickets and Airbnb rentals.
Gen Z has really been put on the backburner and that’s basically what I’m doing with finances. I’m really living in the now while shoveling away money and problems for my future self. Hopefully my future self won’t be too mad when I leave her with a lot of savings but no budget or strategy whatsoever — oh, and student loans. I can never forget about those.
How does a Gen-Z’s approach to money stack up to older demos? Check out how one millennial, one xennial (it’s a thing) and one Gen X-er budgets here. And, if you've got a good budgeting POV you want to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paige DiFiore is a Journalism student at Marist College and the blogger behind eyelinerwingsandprettythings.com. She loves soft kittens, sharp wit and even sharper eyeliner wings.
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