Trouble Budgeting: Being a Millennial?

As with anyone else in the world, there are certain things that fill my mind with worry on a more or less regular basis. One of those things is budgeting. Let’s look at an example: My brother let the whole immediate family know a few years ago how he had found an online guru that would teach him how to retire by the age of 30. I must admit, we were quite skeptical, but still let him live his dreams. He had and still has a well paid government IT job, and he is an introvert who spends a lot of his time at home. So, he was already on to a good start, having not many costly expenses and having a high salary.

Jump over to me: I have worked since I could remember, doing jobs I enjoyed and that allowed me to travel. All the money I saved gave me the freedom to go on trips around the world on an almost yearly basis and for months at a time. I didn’t save any money long-term, but I accumulated years of life experience you don’t find sitting at a desk.


Me not sitting at a desk.


However, coming home, every time I faced an empty wallet and a new beginning. As much as it was freeing and I heard many people envy my courage to leave it all behind to explore the world, I looked at them and really appreciated how they had a stable income and a permanent home. My travelling made me so grateful for the opportunities my parents gave me and made me realize how many open doors I had waiting for me back home. I didn’t have any student debt, but I didn’t have any savings either. I always managed to get by without borrowing money, which meant that on many occasions I lived off of pasta and plain oats for undetermined periods of time.

Recently, this led me to take more concrete action to actually take control of my budgeting. Somehow, I stumbled upon this blogger who writes about budgeting as a millennial. She was saying exactly what my insecure self needed to hear at that moment: “It’s not too late to save for retirement.” I read a few of her posts, got her free budgeting tool,and…. told myself I would start the next month.

Hear me out! I am waiting because I still don’t have a stable income. I now have two regular jobs and can realistically calculate my income starting next month with my paychecks. So, until then, I will accumulate my receipts and mentally prep myself for the task ahead.


The other worry is food. Yes, food is part of budgeting, but how much is too much for food? What if you believe in organic? Local? Ethical killing? Of course, you can live off of No Name cans for the rest of your life, but I have somehow accumulated certain values that inevitably raise the cost of my grocery bill. This led me to Mr. Money Mustache on how to lower your expenses when it comes to feeding yourself. He basically described my food situation with the same financial worry I have:

To research this article, I biked over to the health food store in my town, a place called Natural Grocers that attempts to imitate Whole Foods. It seemed like a friendly place, where the customers are unusually slim, the bike rack sees frequent use, and everyone brings their own cloth grocery bags.

But Holy Shit, were the prices ever ridiculous there! In one quick tour of the store, I observed a package of four  “Bison hotdogs” priced at $11.85, a two-pound bag of plain Tilapia filets at $25.00, and jugs of organic milk at $11.00 per gallon.

However, what I got out of it was to keep it simple. I can still respect my values by making certain choices. Health food stores are pretty expensive, but farmers market and growing my own veggies helps cut the costs, which is what I intend to do in the warm months of the year.

Moving on, it made me research more about budgeting, especially for what seemed to be specific to our millennial generation. I found an interesting Youtube video describing our generation as “The most positive generation of the century” who, when it came to finances, were good at “Figuring it out on their own.” I certainly felt like I could fit into that description. However, it made me wonder: what is a millennial? Wikipedia says:

Millennials (also known as the Millennial Generation or Generation Y, abbreviated to Gen Y) are the demographic cohort following Generation X. There are no precise dates for when the generation starts and ends; most researchers and commentators use birth years ranging from the early 1980s to around 2000.

On the other hand, Adam Conover says that millennials don’t exist, which, after watching his informative talk, made me realize that I didn’t necessarily have budget problems because I am a millennial. From Adam’s talk and the interesting video mentioned above, we are supposed to be more optimistic and diverse than previous generations, and we are more educated, even though we earn less than our predecessors.

So, why do I hear so many of my friends complain about budgeting problems? Maybe it’s a first world country problem. Maybe it’s a natural step into becoming an adult. Or, maybe I just hang out with people with low financial skills (including myself-ish).

What do you think? Is not being able to stick to a budget a generational thing? Did our parents and grand-parents get a better education than us on that aspect of our life? Let me know your thoughts on the subject!


2 thoughts on “Trouble Budgeting: Being a Millennial?

  1. Hi Gaby:

    I’m amazed at what you have pulled off and that you could do this without borrowing money to get by…it’s quite a feat…(!) You’re clearly versatile and resourceful and very little gets in your way of experiencing life on your own terms.

    We share a common foe: the budget…(sigh). I, too, have combed the bookstores, airwaves, TLC [see and internet [see] searching for a better approach to understanding how to spend and save. How much to sock away for a rainy day or live within my means without totally flipping my basic lifestyle upside down. I suck; I’m terrible at it. I’ve been in the hole more times than I can count, but am lucky enough to have a stable decent paying job with the federal government to hold me up and a supportive family that’s helped me untangle the mess known as my bank account. I have borrowed to get myself afloat, but always pay off my debt, especially if it’s personal in nature.

    You are clearly better than I am when it comes to managing your finances…but still you deal with some of the same obstacles I do. It is hard to eat well and organic when you don’t make the money you would like to or the majority of the money you have is tied up in debt repayment. Unfortunately, most organic food stores DO charge a fortune for basic goods and so there is a high cost to eating well and subscribing to a more holistic approach to diet and nutrition. Look at the “good deals ” they advertise at Rainbow Foods [] . I love the place…don’t get me wrong…but it sure is different than checking out the flyer at Metro []. The prices are wayyy higher and their goods go on sale less often. Basically, it means eating well is tied to earning well; a notion that runs counter to what the whole holistic health movement is about which better health and nutrition for ALL…, but that will be for another blog.

    The good news is: you’re generation is still doing better than mine is when it comes to dealing with ducats. According to survey reported by CNBC last year, Millennials are actually ahead of the finance game than Gen X consumers like me [see Kudos to yall’ for finding creative ways to do so. I’m flipping this script ..slowly but surely …and finally developing a healthier and more grounded prosperity consciousness. It’s never too late to find your own way. You are brave. It’s takes courage to start over so often…to reinvent oneself or circumstances, time and again. Hopefully, we will both find the right approach to realistically and happily subsidizing our life and dreams.

  2. Hi Gaby,

    It’s funny, was actually talking to my sister, a fellow millennial, about this topic a few hours ago.

    I returned from volunteering abroad in April and will be abroad again in October for a short period of time. From the travelling and saving, for a little while, I was on a pretty low budget. I’m just starting to see a reliable flow of income from these past weeks. The issue is now that I have some income of my own, I’m asking myself how much should I spend and how much do I save? How much can I spend and still enjoy myself comfortably in October? I knew I could look up tips or download apps, or do the math myself, but the idea of it all was so daunting.

    The situation is, frankly, I do not know how to budget. So I just sort of guess and hope it all ends out okay. I shared this realisation with my sister who is the same age as me and our conversation lead to RRSP accounts, mutual funds, and gaining interest. I had (and still have) only the slightest idea what those words all mean and what I should be doing with them.

    Personally, I think that we should be guided in high school on these kinds of accounts. I think that as soon as you are making your own income you should be responsible for budgeting it and saving should be included in that. I believe that the school curriculum should have these topics addressed so that when we get to be in our 20s and we are trying to live independently, we’re not approaching our finances with traces of insecurity, doubt, or confusion.

    I would like to add to that parents can play a large role in teaching their children about earning, spending, and saving money. I was given a lot freedom in terms of spending the money that I earned growing up. But some guidance would have been quite useful.

    I enjoyed reading the links you posted, all being quite relevant to me right now and they’ve motivated me to get on track with budgeting once and for all.

    Thanks for your post Gaby!

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