How Millennial Spending Habits Compare to Other Generations

A millennial aged man sitting at a table working on his budget and financial accounts.

 Anchiy / Getty Images

It’s no secret that millennials spend money differently than previous generations. And while some of the spending habits may not necessarily lend themselves to future financial security, the financial track record of this generation isn’t all bad.

Read on to find out how millennials’ spending habits compare to other generations, from how much they spend on housing to dining out to buying clothing, even who’s more likely to spring for that fancy coffee.


This really depends on whether you rent or own. For example, a survey by "" reports that millennials spent nearly $93,000 in rent by the time they turned 30, which is $10,400 more than Generation X and $21,600 more than Baby Boomers, adjusted for inflation.

Regarding homeownership, just 37% of millennials between the ages of 25 and 34 own homes, compared to 45% of Baby Boomers at this age. These are the findings of the Urban Institute, a nonprofit research organization. Either way, millennials spend about 35% of their annual spending on housing, while Generation X spends 33% and Baby Boomers spend 31%.

Buying a first home isn’t always happily ever after for millennials. A recent survey found that 68% of those millennial homebuyers surveyed had buyer's remorse, due to overspending on a down payment, underestimating maintenance costs, or settling for a home that wasn’t exactly what they wanted.

Experts have also noticed a lag in homeownership among the millennial generation – about 8 percentage points lower than Baby Boomers or members of Generation X. This can likely be attributed to rising student loan debt, delays in marriage and having children, and even a slower rate of building wealth.

A quick refresher: Millennials are roughly defined as those born between 1981-1996, and they are the largest living generation. Generation X are those born between 1965-1980, and Baby Boomers are those born between 1946 and 1964.

Food and Dining Out

Generally speaking, millennials are bigger spenders than the generations before them, especially when it comes to dining habits, like eating out or buying expensive coffee. For example, Charles Schwab's Modern Wealth Index for 2017 found, 60% of millennials will buy a cup of coffee that costs more than $4, compared to only 40% of Generation X-ers or 29% of Baby Boomers.

Eating at a popular restaurant is another habit of millennials, with 79% polled saying they would do so, compared to 66% in Generation X and 56% of Boomers.


Millennials are also more likely than the previous generations to spring for extras, such as taxis, Uber rides, or a new electronic gadget. In fact, 76% said they’d spend money on a new gadget, while 69% buy clothes they don’t need.

Another survey found that about 75% of millennials were competing with their friends in terms of clothing, cars, phones, and other extras, while about half were using credit cards to pay for necessities like food and monthly bills.

Retirement and Financial Planning

But it’s not all bad when it comes to millennial spending habits. For example, more than a third of millennials have a financial plan, compared to 21% of Generation X-ers and 18% of Baby Boomers.

Millennials are also more likely to create their financial plan with the help of a financial advisor and update it annually. They are also more likely to monitor their financial accounts and are generally more knowledgeable regarding fees. Though millennials, Generation X-ers, and Baby Boomers all earmark about 12% of their earnings to saving for retirement.

Millennials’ Take on Spending

The Schwab study mentioned above also found that regardless of some of their spending shortfalls, a majority of millennials feel secure in how they spend their money. For example, 81% of millennials felt confident in their ability to achieve their financial goals, compared to 65% of Generation X and 54% of Baby Boomers.

Overall, millennial spending habits seem to reflect the generation’s priorities: convenience, a focus on experience rather than things, and a delayed start when it comes to homeownership and starting a family.

It’s also difficult to observe the spending habits of millennials without considering outside factors such as rising student loan debt, lower salaries, even the gig economy. These factors, as well as millennials’ spending habits, definitely play roles in the financial health—and future—of this infamous generation.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. "Millennials Spend About $93,000 on Rent by The Time They Hit 30."

  2. Urban Institute. "Millennial Homeownership," Page 7.

  3. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Consumer Expenditure Survey," Page 3.

  4. Bank of the West. "The 2018 Millennial Study: What We Found Out."

  5. Urban Institute. "Millennial Homeownership," Pages V-VI.

  6. Pew Research Center. "Defining Generations: Where Millennials End and Generation Z Begins."

  7. Charles Schwab & Co. "Modern Wealth Index 2017."

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