“Sorry, I already ate,” I say, blushing, as I admit to my friends that I’d rather scarf down three-day-old leftovers than spend $20 eating dinner in a restaurant. “Maybe I could just get an appetizer, but no beer,” I rationalize.
I can blame my miserly disposition on one of two things: the fact that I’m working three jobs and simply don’t see the point in spending money when there’s food at home, or the fact that I am indeed a cheap bastard. Either can be attributed to my membership in the millennial generation, which is both hailed for its frugality and reviled for its stinginess.
A slew of articles condemn millennials as a generation of killers, single handedly destroying every industry our parents and grandparents have worked hard to cultivate. From golf to diamonds to the coveted dinner-date, these cold-blooded, kale-eating nonconformists are abstaining from the finer things, as well as the less than finer things. Millennials are the most educated generation, with almost 20 percent of 18- to 33-year-olds earning a bachelor’s degree, while combating an annual $1.4 trillion in student loans. Yet, as of 2016, the unemployment rate from the same demographic was 3.8 percent, and 12.7 percent for millennials without a college degree.
This generation currently navigates a workforce starkly different than that of our free-spending baby boomer parents, and therefore is reluctant to spend money on items that can be easily forgone. Even financial milestones such as houses, cars and marriages are being delayed or even waived entirely. According to a 2016 Bankrate survey, millennials save more of their paychecks than any other age group. A Gallup poll showed 71 percent of millennials compare prices online before making purchases. So does this make us stingy or efficient?
Young people have also made seismic efforts to reduce waste. Trends such as composting and relying on public transportation in lieu of a car are just a few of our thrifty exercises. They also report going out less than their parents and grandparents. Yet millennials are not prone to begrudging themselves of a good time. We are creating new, more affordable ways to have fun that value both economics and experience. Walks in the park, hiking or going to a beach or a local ball game are just some alternatives to both the anti-romantic Netflix-and-chill session or an extravagant date at a high-end restaurant.
The flack millennials receive is not always warranted. We may be stereotyped as lazy, entitled, arrogant and homicidal toward the diamond industry, but nothing could be further from the truth. Millennials want the best for themselves, but they often chose the more pragmatic route to procure it. Living with parents and using a bike as a preferred method of transport may imply an aversion toward adulthood, but it is a more feasible avenue toward financial independence.
Older folks may caution young adults that they must spend or instead face a crippling economy. Somehow, the future of cinema and diamonds are in the hands of overgrown teenagers that download movies and are morally opposed to the mining of these gems in Africa. The truth is that no single generation is responsible for the twists and turns that govern our economy. Baby boomers did not ruin the stock market and millennials will not fix it. Yet, if we’re to take any stock in generalizations, I feel secure growing up with individuals who recognize the value of a dollar and understand that money is not always necessary to have a good time.
Kristen DiPietra is a senior double-majoring in English and human development.