As a 36 year-old, I’m right on the cusp of being considered a millennial. I feel that labels don’t really matter much but it is interesting for statistical purposes. I laugh when I read news reports about millennials causing the downfalls of restaurants such as Applebee’s and Buffalo Wild Wings. Come on, it seems the world is blaming everything that doesn’t go right on millennials.
On the other hand, I also read reports of how it’s tough being a millennial these days because wages are stagnant, college tuition keeps rising, and housing costs make owning a home out of reach.
Is it truly tough being a millennial when compared to other generations? Is it more difficult to do live these days than it was for our parents? I do think that it certain aspects, life is harder in that it’s tough finding jobs and things do cost more. If I’m really honest with myself though, I have to acknowledge that much of the hardship is self-inflicted.
I pay for a lot of things that I don’t want to live without that my parents didn’t have to account for. There are also so many more things these days competing for our attention and wallets. I’m not making excuses, just stating facts. Let’s dig deeper into the factors behind why our lives appear to be more difficult and find some solutions.
Smartphones & Internet Bills
When our parents were growing up and even well into their adult years, they didn’t have cell phone and Internet bills. Those things didn’t exist for them.
I consider hubby and I to be fairly frugal but we still fork over $70 a month for the privilege of carrying mini computers (that’s my nerdy way of referring to smartphones) in our pockets. Can we live without them? Sure. Do we want to? Well…no. And I suspect the answer’s the same for most people in my generation and that’s why we keep paying such high cell phone bills. Can you believe some people pay $148 a month just for the cell phone service? That’s not including the cost of the phone itself which some people choose to finance.
Similarly, our parents didn’t have the Internet in their youths so that means no Internet bills to deal with. As with our cell phones, we can probably make do without them but the thought of life without easy access to the Internet doesn’t sound appealing. For this service that makes our lives less boring, we pay $55 a month.
In this respect, we’ve willingly made our financial lives more difficult by paying for these little luxuries that weren’t available to our parents’ generation. Is it tough being a millennial? Perhaps. But we’re also paying for a lot of conveniences and that we don’t want to do without.
Cable, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO Now…
If cell phones and the Internet have made our lives more convenient, then cable TV and the endless options of streaming media help make sure that we’re never bored. Even though cutting the cord is getting more popular, more people than not still pay for expensive cable.
Even without cable, there are still lots of ways to entertain ourselves these days. Services like Netflix and Hulu don’t cost a lot in the grand scheme of things but they’re still luxuries. More significantly, they weren’t around during our parents’ generation. We pay $10 here and there and before you know it, we’ve forked over $30-$50 in order to have easy access to media content.
Not only do we want to be entertained, we feel like we need to stay informed of the latest and hottest shows. A coworker once said that she was getting HBO because she felt left out of all the Game of Thrones discussions. Can you imagine? We’re shelling out money because we want to stay informed of what’s hot and what our friends are talking about.
The next area where millennials feel like we’re getting squeezed is housing. In markets like San Francisco, New York City, Seattle, and Chicago, millennials feel like it’s impossible to get a foot in the housing market due to the high housing costs.
What makes it worse is that even in average-sized cities, many young people are having difficulties coming up with down payments for a house. It’s true that housing costs are at an unprecedented high but let’s not forget that houses are also a lot bigger now than they used to be.
If you’ve decided that buying a home is right for you, it’s worthwhile to think about whether you’re willing to buy an older home as they’re likely to be cheaper. Also, if you can pay less for a house, are you willing to live in neighborhoods that aren’t as fashionable?
Yes, housing is expensive but it’s also because many people of our generation want trendy neighborhoods that have bars and restaurants within walking distance. Homes in the suburbs are cheaper but suburbs are considered boring.
So, while home ownership appears to be more expensive than ever, we have to take an honest look and ask ourselves whether we have expensive tastes.
Social Media & Peer Pressure
Something else that millennials deal with and our parents did not is social media. I believe that social media goes hand in hand with peer pressure.
So many aspects of our lives are so exposed and put on public display for everyone to gawk at and judge. We feel the pressure to create the perfect life so that we can put it on display for others to admire. It’s Keeping Up With the Jones gone amok.
If you don’t have the right gadgets, you risk being considered weird. Think about it. Do you or anyone you know own a flip phone? It’s a rarity these days. If it’s an old person who has a flip phone, we tend to be forgiving and say it’s understandable that they can adapt to technology.
If it’s a 20 or 30 year-old using a flip phone, we’re likely to think that they’re weird and there’s something wrong with them. We may even think that they’re poor and that’s why they can’t afford a smartphone.
All of these points go to show that we face an inordinate amount of temptations and everyone is competing to get our hard-earned money. Is it tough being a millennial? Yes. It’s easier than ever before to spend money and that can be why it’s difficult to build up savings. This is an explanation for our present situation but it shouldn’t be an excuse.
We really have to reevaluate how we think about things and what we consider needs vs wants. If you want a nice smartphone and hi-speed Internet, fine, knock yourself out.
But, if you’re consistently over budget, you have to remind yourself that it’s because you’ve prioritized paying for luxuries over savings. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t complain about how hard it is to make a living yet spend money on non-necessities. This is the thought process I urge you to undergo if you feel like your life is harder than it was for your parents. We have to be accountable to ourselves and acknowledge that the hardships we’re enduring are results of our own actions.