Millennial Money Chatter: Money Sense for Us

moneychatter_450x375-01You know FOMO and YOLO and adulting. You’re probably familiar with regifting. But what about degifting and frugle and debth? It turns out, that as we sort through our money, millennials are creating new language right along side of it.

Why the need for the new vocabulary? Our generation is looking at money differently. Sometimes we’re confronting new issues. Other times, we’re confronting age-old issues in new ways. And when an entire generation is faced with unprecedented money obstacles, it’s going to take some new words to sort through the numbers and the emotions behind them. Because when it comes to millennial money, some of it is good, some of it’s bad, and some even gets a little ugly.

The Research

First things first. Let’s talk research. How do I know all this? Besides being really smart spending all my time on Twitter, Filene Research Institute sent me their Millennial Money Chatter findings, a summary of an online ethnography that looked at semiotics, syntax, and other things that I haven’t thought about since I was an English undergrad. See? Smart. But seriously. The report analyzes the way millennials talk about money online* with words, hashtags, and emojis. And it turns out, we’re talking about everything from being good grown-ups to drowning in debt.

*They’re reading our tweets, guys! We’re basically famous! Now when do we get to be rich?

The Good

Adulting – We’re adulting! We made it. And we’re totally owning it. We have jobs, we pay bills, we rent, we buy. We are officially grown-ups. Merriam-Webster says the use of adult as a verb showed a six-time increase in 2016 compared to 2015. Why shouldn’t we make a little noise? We’re figuring life out and doing awesome things.

Degifting – An example of our awesomeness? We’re not just big on DIY. We’re not just stretching our dollars with staycations. We do both of those things, and we also degift. Instead of just regifting, many millennials are pausing or stopping the gift exchange. Some of us are trying to stretch our dollars further. Some of us are looking to minimalism and meaningful experiences. And most millennials are taking a long, hard look at the consumerism that literally crushed my closet.

The Bad

Frugle – I love me some frugality. I crushed our grocery budget goal. I spend $7 on breakfast all month. Aldi is my BFF. That’s frugality by choice and for a purpose. Being purposeful with my money takes the latte factor out of my closet and helps me tackle goals like slaying the mortgage monster. So what’s with the weird spelling? It turns out that frugle is similar to frugality, but it is due to financial hardship. Forced frugality, if you will. When I stumbled across this word, it was another great reminder to check my privilege.

The Ugly

#debth – What do you get when your debt feels like a death sentence? Debth. Before anyone accuses our generation of being hyperbolic, let’s look at the numbers. This study quoted other research (like Inception but with data, not Leonardo DiCaprios) that shows 43% of millennials have delayed starting a family over debt, 55% worry that they won’t actually pay off their debt, and 75% have delayed saving for retirement because of debt.

Pause. No, full stop.

Almost half of the people surveyed aren’t having families on their own time because of money. Over half don’t feel like debt will ever end. And three-quarters of the people surveyed are going to be sad old people because of their currently-overwhelmed-selves.

While the numbers aren’t all pretty when it comes to millennial money, the fact that an entire generation is talking so loudly about a topic that was once considered incredibly taboo speaks volumes about what we can do. We can have smart conversations. We can share real stories. We can climb out of debt and make sense of our money in ways that should leave other generations inspired.

So Tell Me…How do you make sense of millennial money or money in general? Do you have any favorite words or strategies? Feel free to toss links my way!


Millennial Money Chatter: Money Sense for Us

23 thoughts on “Millennial Money Chatter: Money Sense for Us

  1. I don’t make much sense of millenials when it comes to money, but they all seem to have a LOT of debt. In talking with a lot of millenials around the office, and listening to stories about them and their friends I’ve found there are generally 2 camps: the ones that are working towards paying off debt, staying debt free, and learning about investing to be able to do something besides having to work 20 or more years, and the ones that complain about adulting and that investing is hard, and they should learn about it, but instead they’ll just pay $200/mo for a kickboxing gym membership they don’t use because it’s too crowded, and they can’t get out of their 18 month contract…

    Hell yeah to the first camp, way to go guys!
    Then I just shake my head at the second group, actually, I point them both to lots of PF and simple investing blogs trying to sway them towards a different non-debt filled path.

    Once, I pointed out how much fees would eat into your savings over the course of 20-30 years to 4 of my colleagues, and 2 totally got it and were on board with lower fees being a good thing, and the other 2 thought I was talking Swahili and pointed out that this is why they should just pay a financial advisor since they know what they’re doing. Palm slap to forehead…

    But… when I showed the 4 of them Vanguard and how easy it was to DIY invest, and even set up a “no-brainer” lazy portfolio, then 3 of the 4 were on board and have even followed up later on with investing questions.

    I feel like I’ve been able to help more people that want advice than those that just want to stick their head in the sand, so that’s been nice. Even seeing one of my teammates go from being $7k in debt, to debt free and reducing spending and following up about setting up investing accounts makes me feel like a proud parent, lol.

    1. That’s incredible, Mr. SCC. It’s hard to know what you don’t know if that makes sense. And I think that’s why it is so important to have conversations like yours.

    2. That is great you are helping your coworkers 🙂 I also tried to educated people when I had an office job. I am a millennial but thank goodness I’ve never had debt (other then a mortgage but we sold the house) and I’m not a complainer. I’ve always been interested in all things money but just recently feeling more comfortable investing.

      1. I’m going to jump in your conversation, Liz! That’s awesome that you’re feeling more comfortable investing. I’m hoping to get there someday. I’m white knuckling my way through, but I’m glad to be doing it.

  2. TJ says:

    How do I find friends who are on the “degifting” train?

    I feel very cheap when I don’t buy gifts. :-/ I hate buying gifts just because I don’t have the gift (no pun intended) of knowing how to find a quality gift that someone can actually use rather than random junk.

    1. I have ONE friend who is on the de-gifting train. We explicitly said we’d rather take the time and/or money that goes into shopping and grab coffee or drinks to catch up instead. SO MUCH BETTER. But, alas, only one friend.

    1. Not even a little bit, Matt! I hadn’t heard #debth, and it was really eye-opening to me. When I looked at the hashtag on social media, my heart plummeted. Student loans really are a national crisis.

  3. So glad that some millennials are getting exposure on social media even if they don’t have good examples from their parents. All it takes sometimes is planting the seed, and they’re great at finding the rest of the information.
    Technology and progress are great, yada yada, but I also wonder what our society would be like without credit cards and car loans.

    1. Right! Social media is definitely becoming a place to have these conversations. As an anonymous blogger, I can ask questions and share situations that might be much more difficult IRL.

  4. I guess I’m getting old.. I had never heard of Frugle, degifting, or #debth 🙁

    Like you, ALDI is my BFF as well, I spend close to $80 for two WEEKS worth of food, that’s savings that I can’t even believe to have!

    1. Yes, yes, yes to Aldi! Our grocery budget is $200 for two people. We eat a decent amount of organic produce, too! It definitely helps us stretch our dollars.

  5. I think blogs like yours, and the message about experiences being more meaningful than things is getting through to a large portion of millennials. There’s also more guidance and information available about doing college without massive debt. #Debth is scary as a term. If you accept that you’re in debth you might wallow in the negativity and never get out of debt.

  6. Degifting. Great term! My wife and I beg each one another not to buy gifts. It took a few gift seasons to figure out, but we both understand we truly mean it. Gift giving and particularly receiving was awesome when I was a kid.

    Now, I buy what I want for myself, and I kind of assume the rest of my non-kid family does the same. I would love to expand our degifting efforts. There are better ways to show friends and family you care than with objects they don’t need and may not want.


    1. I agree, PoF! My dad has long said if he wanted something, he’d already have bought it. I’m not totally against gifts, especially little (edible) treats. But there are so many things I prioritize over giving and receiving gifts. Time together, for instance.

    1. Vanguard has been very good to me. Or I guess, the markets have been! When I first dove in, it was red all over the place. Seeing green consistently has won me over. I know it’ll be up and down for the rest of my life…but seeing the green for myself really helped!

  7. I really like the word “frugle,” even if it’s not a good thing. It really highlights the fact that us millennials do have our own financial struggles. We’re not always being frugal just because we’re young and weird!

    As far as managing my millennial money, I think it all comes down to debt, debt, debt. Avoiding debt and getting out of debt are our primary goals for the next few years. Our generation on average is carrying a much higher debt load (thanks in part to student loans), which means that we have to be more creative and motivated about how we pay off these loans.

    Also, this is unrelated, but I’ve always hated the word “adulting!” It was all over the place in college and I just wanted to yell, “Cut it out!!” Real adults don’t “adult,” they just *do*.

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