In recent years, the economy has experienced major challenges, from job losses and economic contraction during the pandemic, to rising rent prices, high inflation and low entry-level wages. During this time, Generation Z, those born between 1997 and 2012, have started to become financially independent. But as their purchasing power grows, so do their financial worries.
According to Deloitte’s 2023 Gen Z and Millennial Survey, 35 per cent of Gen Zs said their top concern last year was the cost of living. Indeed, 56 per cent of Gen Z think it will become harder or impossible to ask for a raise and 61 per cent think buying a house will be harder or impossible.
Despite these sobering statistics, Gen Z has spearheaded one part of the conversation surrounding money — the terminology. And where better to spread this message than TikTok. While the app may be known for dances and trends, there’s a whole other side where “Finfluencers” blossom. It’s called #FinTok and it’s all about finances. Whether it’s describing their current financial situation or outlook on finances, Gen Z has started to adopt new financial terms on the app.
Here are some of the most popular ones.
“Loud budgeting” is all about saving money. “Loud budgeting is a new concept I’m introducing for 2024, it’s the opposite of quiet luxury,” says TikTok user Lukas Battle who coined the term in a video. “It’s not, ‘I don’t have enough’ (money), it’s ‘I don’t want to spend’” that money.
This term is all about being loud and proud about saving. Battle believes it’s “more of a flex” to be able to save money rather than spend it. “Sorry I can’t go out to dinner I’ve got seven dollars a day to live on,” he says in a different video.
Another term to describe Gen Z’s financial habits is “soft savings.” According to data from Intuit, Gen Z would rather “feel more fulfilled now than save for (their) future.” In short, Gen Z would rather spend money on experiences — like travel or concerts — and live in the now. They are not looking to retire early or retire at all and are more concerned about “personal growth and mental wellbeing in the now.” While Gen Z is interested in learning about saving, according to the study, they are doing so “much softer” than previous decades.
A popular term that summarizes this generation’s views on the economy is doom spending. Like doom scrolling, where one reads as much negative information as possible, doom spending follows a similar pattern. According to Intuit Credit Karma, doom spending “is defined as spending money despite concerns about the economy.” In fact, 27 per cent of Americans doom spend to cope with stress, according to a study conducted for Intuit Credit Karma. For Gen Z, that percentage rises to 35 per cent. It seems young people would rather spend money on purchases they will get to cherish now, rather than save money for an uncertain future.
While this next concept isn’t uniquely a Gen Z term, it has become popular on TikTok for this demographic. Cash stuffing, also known as the cash envelope method, is a budgeting technique to separate expenses, where you put aside a certain amount in cash, for groceries, for example, and can only use that set amount for the whole month.
There are thousands of videos on TikTok where people showcase their monthly cash stuffing refills with even more commenters infatuated with the idea. However, some experts say having too much cash laying around can do more harm than good.
A popular TikTok financial concept is “free money.” Perhaps this one seems self-explanatory. You might assume this term relates to getting money as a gift, but for Gen Z that’s not all that’s free. Yes, gifts such as cash and gift cards count as free money, but so does store credit, a negative credit card balance and cash back. “I’m a girl (of course) any cash I have is free money,” reads a post from X, formerly known as Twitter. The idea is that any monetary value that doesn’t affect your current bank account balance is free money.
“Girl math” is another popular phrase that took hold among young women on social media. The light-hearted concept rationalizes spending money on purchases through silly comparisons. “I know we’ve been talking a lot about girl dinner, but I really think we should focus our attention on girl math,” says TikTok user Samantha James in a video. The idea is best explained through real-life examples. In the video, James says she bought Starbucks and since it was under $5 “it was pretty much free.” Other commenters quickly understood her logic. “Spend an extra 20 pounds to avoid paying 5 pounds delivery,” one comment reads. “I made a return, so I actually made money,” another says. Girl math and free money go hand in hand.
While these terms may be viewed as silly, they are opening the conversation for Gen Z to learn about their finances and openly talk about the subject with others — without it being taboo.
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