Saving Up Is Hard To Do: 10 Reasons Why We Can't Hold On To Our Money
When it comes to conversations with my close friends, I can't recall the last one we had that didn't include someone mentioning just how broke she was. Lately, it seems this topic is the foundation for all our chats, even if we're professionals making over $60,000 a year.
The notion that any of us are actually “broke” is baffling, especially when some of us have the luxury of dual incomes.
After a decade of drowning in debt while living with three roommates in Miami, I moved to Atlanta to find townhouses going for $800 a month and a new surplus of cash in my bank account I never imagined in my 20s.
I seriously thought I'd made it to financial freedom.
Eight months in and two hefty bonuses later, my current account balance reads $4.13. I hadn't exactly bought myself three Prada purses or gone on an excursion to South Africa, so what, exactly, had I spent so much money on?
The following month, I begrudgingly took to tallying absolutely every dollar I spent, entering amounts to the cent on an excel spreadsheet I titled “Money Gone.” During the month of June, I managed to spend $4,366.10, which was more than I made on a monthly basis.
Only a third of that was spent on rent and other living-related expenses. The rest, it seemed, went to shopping, coffee, restaurants galore and a hair extension addiction I didn't even know I had.
I was aghast.
The next day, I told the ladies about my new discovery on our group chat, and they all complained equally.
“Wait 'til you have children,” my friend Jen warned while she laughed at me. “You can kiss your extensions goodbye.” One could assume that factoring in kids changes the game for the worse, and suddenly, I felt furious for being so irresponsible all on my own.
After interviewing 20 Millennials about their current state of economic affairs, I discovered I am not alone. Only two of them actually had savings, and only one of those reached the three months worth of salary recommended by economists.
The awful truth is we have too many reasons for being “broke.” These here are the top 10:
1. We want what we want, and we want it now.
Everyone knows Gen-Y is a generation of instant gratification. Waiting to have the things we want is like waiting for a text after the first date: It's agonizing.
“Why would I put off buying a pair of Tom Fords when I can just charge them and pay the bill later?” said Angelica, 29. “Half the population doesn't even know how interest works. And you know how the saying goes: Ignorance is blissful.”
That's actually not how the saying goes, but a pair of Tom Ford sunglasses sounds pretty blissful to me.
2. Anxiety is big business.
Billions of dollars are spent every year in America for anxiety and depression medication. Being on the edge does something to a person, and what better way to take the edge off than to purchase something nice?
“Talking to a therapist is great,” Nicole, 32, remarked, “But buying something is way more gratifying, and I can actually justify it because I can touch it.”
It appears retail therapy isn't just a part of that awful “Confessions of a Shopaholic” movie. It is a real struggle we face every day, whether in the form of shoes or more gems for your Clash of Clans imaginary fort.
3. Ads make us their bitch.
There hasn't been a moment in history when our senses have been this saturated with ads. Every social media outlet is drowning in celebrities peddling tea detoxes, hair bundles (What the hell is that, anyway?), or the latest electronic gadget.
“Last week, I bought running shoes because Kate Hudson was advertising them on Instagram, and I thought they looked cute,” Jen, 25, told me. “I don't even run,” she confessed, after sending me a picture of her very cute pink kicks.
I looked at the picture and made a mental note to ask if she was a 7.5 a few weeks later.
4. We are educated (consumers).
Education is the key to everything, but with it comes a higher understanding of what it means to be a consumer.
“Ten years ago, my wife and I were okay with a meal at Applebees and a bottle of Yellow Tail for a special occasion,” Sahar, 33, told me. “Now, we want to go to a Michelin-star restaurant and drink a Barolo to celebrate our anniversary. It doesn't make sense, but that's what it is.”
5. But first, coffee.
According to Consumerist.com, the average American spends a little over $1,000 a year on coffee. That amount increases by about $500, if long commutes are involved.
“Honestly, I would rather not eat lunch if it means not having my skinny caramel macchiato every morning,” Lisa, 27, stated. “It's a nice start to the usual routine, and I deserve it because I work hard.”
I pointed out that she was probably spending $150 every month on coffee, and she shrugged her shoulders and asked what my point was.
6. We believe in safety nets.
Our generation is so far removed from the times of the Great Depression and other deeply uncertain periods. We worry less and less about what living without a safety net would be like.
Whether it's a lover, a parent or simply good old Mastercard, we always feel that if the sh*t hits the fan, we will have something to hold us down until the next check comes in.
7. Credit cards are our friends.
Speaking of safety nets, what better savior than a credit card? All over Facebook, I see acquaintances who don't have a penny to their name, yet manage to lead the lifestyle of a millionaire, purely by the grace of Visa, Mastercard and American Express.
In an era where everything we do is photographed and posted for all to see, many Millennials place too much emphasis on pretending to live the life, rather than actually living it.
Friends shack up with their parents just so they can push a Benz and go to Paris with their besties. Saving becomes secondary when taking a picture with a new Louis Vuitton bag and tagging it #MyNewBaby is critical.
Meanwhile, our credit cards are bursting at the seams, while we make minimum payments and promise to spend less than following month.
8. We like shiny things.
When it comes to treating ourselves, our generation's indulgence comes with a hefty price tag.
I remember when treating myself a decade ago was a dress at Forever 21 and maybe some cheap hoop earrings. When I think of treats these days, I think of a trip to Europe, a nice Kors watch or a massage that'll set me back two days' pay.
It takes a lot more to satiate our appetites than it used to, and I'm not just talking food.
“I told Ethan that if he didn't buy me a Michele watch for my birthday, it was over,” Claudine, 30, told me matter-of-factly. “I know I'm being petty, but it's my birthday. I want that watch.”
9. We are lazy.
“Even though I spend a lot of time thinking about the things I want to do, doing ain't exactly my specialty,” Marilyn, 26, stated. “More often than not, I waste a lot of money on services I could be doing myself.”
And she's right. There's no reason to spend three hours cleaning when you can find someone on Yelp to do it for you. Why iron all the clothes piling up in the corner when you could take it to the dry cleaners? Cooking is messy and time-consuming, so maybe it's better to order some greasy Chinese and call it a day.
The reality is we put in that work, so spending precious time doing things someone else can do for us seems pointless. The idea of inconveniencing ourselves borders on offensive.
The times my mom points out that I am, indeed, being a lazy ass, I rationalize it with, “I'm helping the economy.”
10. Too legit to quit.
The number one reason why we are broke goes to our lack of self-control. There is nothing wrong with treating yourself, going to Mommy for help when rent is due, hitting up that Michelin-star restaurant or buying a bundle of weave for your new U-part wig.
The problem is we don't know when to stop. Our inability to stop ourselves from spending is our number one enemy in the saving war.
“Sometimes, if I'm bored, I'll hop on the Internet and buy something because I can,” Leena, 28, revealed. “If I took a few moments to really think about it, I could probably talk myself out of clicking on that ‘buy' button. But, I rarely ever do it because I'm compulsive that way.”
I think of all the times I've been in the same situation, and I grimace.
Soon after, I glanced at my Michele watch, pulled out a credit card from my Kors wallet and headed to Starbucks.
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