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12 Things Millennials Aren’t Spending Money On

8 minute read

Devon Taylor

By Devon Taylor

Key Takeaways

  • As the cost of living continues to rise (without increasing wages to match), Millennials are getting selective about how they spend their money.
  • Industries that were mainstays of previous generations are now in danger of disappearing entirely.
  • Some companies need to pivot or adapt in order to secure Millennials as customers.

It seems like every other month, Millennials are blamed for the death of one industry or another. Like it’s somehow our fault that we’ve collectively decided that [insert product here] just isn’t worth the money. We do things differently. Many of us can’t even afford to buy a house or save for retirement. Some of us have student debt that seems insurmountable. So we’re certainly not going to spend our precious little extra cash on whatever previous generations deemed important.

In many cases, Millennials are prioritizing experiences over material goods. That means we’re spending more on travel or concert tickets, and less on vehicles, clothes, or jewelry. Since this generation doesn’t tend to have much extra money, we’re picking and choosing our expenses very carefully. The result is an increasing death toll of industries that “Millennials are killing” — like some sort of 80s slasher film, but for economics instead of teen camp counselors. Here are a dozen things that Millennials just aren’t buying anymore.

12. Casual Dining

We’re not saying that Millennials aren’t spending their money at restaurants. They definitely are. But not just any ol’ place. They are increasingly shunning those run-of-the-mill chains like Applebee’s or T.G.I.Friday’s. Same warmed up pub food, different name on the door. Instead, Millennials are hitting up unique local eateries or craft brewery pubs.

Not only is the food better, but Millennials take pride in supporting their local small businesses instead of another national corporation. This generation also cares about culture, ethics, and treating people with respect. A trendy local eatery that pays a living wage and took care of their employees during the pandemic is going to beat out one of those casual dining franchises every time. At least, if Millennials are choosing where to eat.

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11. Weddings

Millennials are still getting married. However, the days of huge, lavish weddings are quickly coming to an end. The cost is simply too outrageous for most Millennials to justify. Even an average sized wedding can cost anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000. Millennials would rather spend that money on a down payment for a house — or a month in Europe.

Many Millennials are opting for smaller, backyard weddings — forget renting an expensive venue. They are also skipping paying for expensive centerpieces, décor, catering, or open bars. You’re more likely to see a food truck and a simple cooler of drinks at a Millennial wedding. Guest lists are also incredibly small. Your Great Aunt Edna, who you haven’t seen since you were seven? She’s not invited. Only a small circle of close friends and family need to be there, really.

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10. Diamonds

Speaking of weddings, Millennials are changing how engagements work too. The classic, traditional diamond engagement ring is quickly becoming a relic of the past. So are most other forms of diamond jewelry too. The diamond industry has been seeing massive dips, for a variety of reasons.

For starters, the price is too high. On average, Millennials work too hard for their already scant income. So there’s no way they can justify spending $5,000 to $10,000 on an engagement ring. There are also plenty of ethical concerns surrounding diamonds, even those that advertise themselves as “conflict free.” In short, the whole diamond industry is propped up by a decades old De Beers marketing ploy that an engagement ring should cost two months salary.

Millennials are wising up. They are instead buying unique gemstones or hand-crafted rings from local vendors. The prices are cheaper and they aren’t spending money on an industry with questionable human rights practices.

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9. Cable TV

The number of channels you could access used to be a weird status symbol of sorts. Frankly, we’re not sure why anyone felt the need to brag about having 900 channels when they only regularly watched three of them. But whatever. While our parents might have loved their cable TV (or satellite), Millennials are ditching those expensive plans. It’s streaming all the way (or resorting to some classic piracy).

For a while, a $10/month Netflix plan was just as good. Now that every company wants a piece of the streaming pie, there’s DisneyPlus, HBOMax, ESPN+, AppleTV, Hulu, AMC+, and Paramount+. There’s also a whole host of smaller, niche streaming services for things like anime, horror movies, or certain sports. Millennials are often picking and choosing though. They’ll pay for a couple services, binge watch the shows they want, and then move on to another service for a few months. Or they’re simple sharing passwords (while it’s still allowed).

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8. Single Use Plastics (and Other Wasteful Products)

Canvas bags. Metal straws. Reusable water bottles and coffee cups. Every Millennial likely has a whole drawer full of these things, somewhere in their house. While it’s true that society as a whole is moving away from wasteful things like single use plastics, it’s being largely driven by Millennials.

Climate change is a big concern for many members of the generation. And while using a metal straw for your morning latte or a canvas bag while shopping won’t counteract the massive amounts of pollution being done to the Earth by a few dozen soulless corporations, it can’t hurt. Every little bit helps, after all. At the very least, Millennials won’t have the death of turtles on their guilty consciences.

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7. Beer

The days of downing watered down Natty Light in a dilapidated frat house are long gone for Millennials. Remember, these “kids” are now in their 30s. They have careers, children, mortgages, and other priorities or responsibilities. And frankly, the standard, cheap suds options don’t cut it for Millennials.

They are still drinking, though. They are favoring craft cocktails, hard seltzers, or local microbrews. The craft beer market, in particular, has exploded in the last decade. There are soooooooo many great, unique beer choices — so why order a Bud Light? The major national brands have tried to release new products to appeal to these tastes, but they are mostly too little, too late.

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6. Houses

Millennials not buying houses isn’t so much a choice as it is an unfortunate reality. In many North American cities, the price of real estate has skyrocketed in recent years. Wages haven’t nearly kept pace, so an entire generation is basically priced out of the housing market. Unless they managed to buy a house before the boom (or received generous help from their family members), a lot of Millennials have all but given up on owning a house.

Not that renting is a cheaper option, of course. The price of rental units has also shot through the roof lately, meaning Millennials are facing a housing crisis of epic proportions. Their rent is as much (or more) than a mortgage payment would be, but banks simply won’t qualify someone making $55,000 a year for a $600,000 mortgage. It’s hard to predict how the current housing bubble ends up, but many Millennials are openly hoping for the real estate market to crash again. It might be their only chance at owning a home that doesn’t include inheriting one.

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5. Anything a Smartphone Does (But Isn’t a Smartphone)

Younger Millennials may not remember this, but older ones definitely will. We used to travel around with multiple devices. We needed a digital camera to capture moments, a discman or MP3 player for personal tunes, and an in-car GPS so we wouldn’t get lost. Not to mention an alarm clock on our watch or a pocket calculator (if your job required one). These days, everything is built into your latest smartphone.

We’ve even gotten to the point where smartphones can replace most (but not all) of what a full laptop can do. That means many Millennials don’t even bring their computers while traveling. You can respond to any important DMs and emails on your iPhone, after all. You can even edit the shared spreadsheet or approve the latest PDF proposals. Modern smartphones have made a lot of other technology redundant, so Millennials can’t be bothered to spend their money twice.

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4. Doorbells

For Millennials, there’s nothing more terrifying than an unexpected ring of the doorbell. No one just shows up unannounced anymore. And even if you are expecting someone, they likely just text you “I’m here” before they even get to your door. Honestly, most Millennials don’t even answer the door if the doorbell rings. It’s just some sales person or scam artist, right?

So take that logic one step further. Not only are Millennials not buying doorbells if they move into a place without one, but they are also actively removing pre-existing doorbells. Who wants to be woken up on a Saturday morning by some guy trying to sell you a newspaper subscription or a cheaper cable TV package — which Millennials also aren’t buying, as previously discussed.

The one exception is smart doorbells. Millennials do love their gadgets. The rise of internet-connected video camera doorbells continues, although privacy concerns have popped up to slow the momentum a bit.

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3. Souvenirs

Millennials do love to travel, but they aren’t bringing home much more than memories and smartphone photos. The days of buying kitschy knick-knacks like shot glasses that say “Myrtle Beach” or those “I [heart] NY” T-shirts are over. That stuff just collects dust in a cupboard or dresser somewhere, before it’s eventually thrown out or given to Goodwill. Millennials have realized the souvenir industry is kind of dumb, so they’re just not wasting their money on it anymore.

The one exception seems to be hand-made items. A unique wood carving or custom ceramic piece from a local vendor is a much more likely purchase for a Millennial on vacation. They will display it proudly in their home, a welcome reminder of the fun they had on their travels.

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2. Cruises

Let’s start by stating the obvious: cruises are pretty damn terrible for the environment. And your immune system, since they are basically floating incubators for disease. Despite their numerous and obvious pitfalls, millions of people seem to enjoy these floating vacations every year. Not Millennials, though. They are skipping cruises altogether.

Millennials, in general, have a desire to truly enjoy the local culture when they travel. You don’t get that experience on a cruise. Even cruises that port in various cities usually only give you a few hours on land before setting sail again. Most Millennials see cruises as nothing more than overpriced luxury resorts that just happen to be on a huge boat. They simply have different priorities when traveling, which a cruise can’t offer.

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1. Department Stores

Online shopping is here to stay. While e-commerce of all sorts has been rising steadily over the past decade or so, the pandemic really saw it hit a whole other level. Why spend hours browsing a crowded shopping mall when you can just order whatever you want from a website and have it delivered to your doorstep with a day or two? Some people have even converted to fully buying their groceries online.

As a result, major department stores are struggling in some areas of the country. They can’t match the sheer volume of options available online. They can’t really undercut on prices, either, since they have to pay for physical store space. All in all, department stores are slowly being run out of town by the likes of Amazon and Wayfair — and every other online retailer, big or small.

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Devon Taylor

Managing Editor

Devon is an experienced writer and a father of three young children. He's simultaneously trying to build college funds and plan for an eventual retirement. He's been in online publishing since 2013 and has a degree from the University of Guelph. In his free time, he loves fanatically following the Blue Jays and Toronto FC, camping with his family, and playing video games.

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