Gen Buy: Why Millennials Consider an Iphone A Basic Human Right

What dictates your spending?

Your current economic circumstances? Or the lifestyle in which you were raised?

I grew up as the eldest of four kids in a house that only had one bathroom.

I was raised on SPAM. We never had money for vacations. My mother’s mandate

Spam Lunch Meat

on brand name jeans was, “I’m not paying extra money for you to wear someone’s logo on your rear.”

As a girl who wore Toughskins until she could make her own babysitting money, I wasn’t accustomed to luxury.

But oh, how times have changed.

Today’s teens and tweens have flat screens in their rooms, iPhones in their pockets and they’ve worn designer duds since they exited the womb.

I didn’t have a problem living on mac ‘n cheese during college or when I first got out of school because: A) It was what I was used to, and B) I felt like there was a better life in front of me. Yearning for more was motivating. After sharing a bathroom with two toddlers for most of my life, my dumpy first apartment felt like a step up in the world.

But what about today’s kids?

Why would you leave your parent’s house when your next place will be smaller, with fewer amenities?

I spent my childhood craving privacy and Jordache jeans.  But if your parents set you up with your own rec room, what motivation do you ever have to leave?

Kit Yarrow and Jayne O’Donnell, authors of Gen BuY: How Tweens, Teens and Twenty-Somethings are Revolutionizing Retail, says, “What you learn as a kid kind of becomes your values as an adult, so this generation really knows luxury and quality, and that’s what they want.”

A recent buying survey reveals that despite sometimes astronomical student debt and often grim employment prospects, the more than 80 million millennials (those born between 1980 and 2000) are spending 1 trillion dollars annually.

A millennial may be sleeping in their parent’s basement, but they still consider an iPhone and daily soy lattes necessities of life.

I confess, when it comes to my own kids, I’ve struggled with this issue. I want to give iphonethem more than I had, but I don’t want to give them so much that they become entitled little brats who never leave.

This is definitely a first world problem.  Because they were raised in a time of economic stability, millennials don’t have habits of economizing when it comes to their tech toys, dining out, and the latest must-have fedora.

Yarrow, a PhD consumer researcher, author, and professor at Golden Gate University, has identified a major shift in purchasing priorities from prior generations. A childhood of household prosperity has created a habit of adult indulgence. Millennials are shopping 25-40% more than the average consumer.

In a recent MasterCard survey, 53% of millennials ranked technology as their top passion.  If iPhones had been invented when I was a teen, I feel fully confident that my mother would never ever have considered buying me one. technology-92313-863

I love that my college student daughter can text me a photo of the sun setting over the bridge in Boston as she walks home from class. But I do wonder how her generation is going to marry their iPhone tastes with a GoPhone budget.

Every generation has their challenges. Perhaps this generation will be the one forced to figure out how to live on less.

41 thoughts on “Gen Buy: Why Millennials Consider an Iphone A Basic Human Right”

  1. I believe the last paragraph in this article will be realized by a portion of today’s kids. As parents, we have a huge responsibility to teach them about earning, giving, saving and spending.

  2. Good post, Lisa. It’s a very complex, but very important topic.

    The key is GRATITUDE.

    There’s always someone with more than you (money, hair, clothes, house, looks, etc.), but there is also always someone (actually A LOT of someone’s) with less.

    It’s okay to have more – and even want more – but you have to be GRATEFUL for what you have.

  3. I believe that kids today are missing out on the simple pleasures of life. They have become too tech savvy to even begin to interact with people in person. Texting and cell phone in the “always on” mode is rude and distracting. Lets get back to a few basics i.e. how to compose in cursive writing, learning to tell time on a clock with hands, etc.
    Does anyone play scrabble, cards, or dominoes ever? Family game night is still a staple in our home, even though the kids are grown and have families of their own. My husband and I still enjoy quiet walks on the beach, watching brilliant sunsets from our screened in lanai. Thanking God for the gifts in our lives remains prominent. Most kids have never heard of a dictionary or a thesaurus, let alone how to use them.

    1. Totally agree Every discussion on? this soduns like certain humans are trying to study aliens or something Sorry, we’re individuals, and I hope you old people are too.

    2. I had the same problem Brian. It was a tough, but the first time I took the quiz, I went with One of the most imntroapt things. A change to Not imntroapt enables me to score 33 and join my generation 😉 I hope several retests don’t end up skewing their data too much :-0

    3. I require myeslf and my staff to dress in a code that I call, professionally fun . I sell educational children toys so I like to be dressed in clothes comfortable to play with my in-store guest in. I think that being too dressy is intimidating and doesn’t put you on the same level as your customers. The majority of my customers being stay-at-home moms, are in jeans and T-shirts so I join them. Right away when they walk in the door, the feel they are on the same level as me. I do not use uniform T-shirts or polo shirts because I feel it takes away from individuality. I want my staff to be happy here. Not feel like they are owned by my store by having to wear the name on their shirt.

    4. They are all cooler than “Baby Boomers.” I hate that! But that’s bteter than “Generation W”At work we are hiring lots of people out of college and we are getting a little generational difference training. Some of my fellow old farts are dismissive of the Y’s.I’m trying to be nice to them since I figure I’ll be working for one of them one of these days.

    5. Buy Expo tickets once you aivrre in Shanghai. Official ticket sales outlets include China Post and many banks. Do NOT buy tickets online because American scam artists are selling fake tickets on Ebay and Craig’s List.

    6. this, they have the technology to make a phone that you would never need to chngae but they would not make money so they drip feed the consumer with small upgrades to keep a non stop supply of customers, at the end of the day its us the consumers who fall for thier marketing ploy and keep buying the must have latest phone that has just been released

  4. Millennial shopping habits and focus on technology advancements reminds me of traps I’ve encountered. Dan Baker in his excellent book, “What Happy People Know” talks about the Happiness Trap of “trying to buy happiness”. I find living from internal purpose makes me happy. Maybe more a lack of knowing and living on one’s purpose here?

  5. Dear Lisa,

    Great article and topic! Being raised in a 1,000 sq/ft home with three bedrooms and one bathroom was simply the life I knew. It really didn’t matter because I played outside most of the time until it was almost dark. As a pre-teen, I didn’t know about Izod, Polo, Jordache or most brands in general. My mom made me wear Sear’s Five Pocket Jeans for years. Rather than buying new jeans, she would sew patches on my jeans when I wore holes in them — usually the knees. I didn’t know our family was at the bottom rung of middle class.

    I have a hard time blaming the young people today for their constant need for more. We, the Baby Boomer generation, created this mess. I love my kids and they have turned out to be very responsible citizens.

    Regardless of what we didn’t have as a child, I knew without a doubt they loved me and cared for me. That, my friend, is what counts the most.

    Kevin Kennemer
    Owner, The People Group
    Tulsa, OK

    1. What a trip Mike! You’re not the only one of my young adult friends who screod low’ (a friend reported an ’11 on Facebook). But you are the lowest. My father-in-law tied my score using his iPhone, wish I had one of those! Maybe we can finally give a number to being countercultural 😉

    2. Question 10 of 14How important is linivg a very religious life to you personally? I wasn’t sure how to answer this question, since I grew up in a generation of Christians that wanted a relationship with God, not a religion, but I didn’t want to sound like I was atheistic.

    3. , not for business. One thing it is not, hoeewvr, is purely about music, but it’s easy to make that misconception. When you boil it down to the basics MySpace is two things, a way for friends to keep in touch through pictures, blogs, etc. and a way for businesses to market to Millennials.Granted, a lot of that marketting is for music & movies, but if you do a search, you will also find a bunch of other businesses, big and small, that use it as well.I even found out that Guiness has a MySpace page, Brilliant!

    4. News feed of Top News vs. Most Recent is useless. Clicking on Most Recent gives you direffent results each time. Many posts are simply missing, they never show up. Hopefully this is a bug they will sort through quickly.And two clicks to now log out? Seriously?

    5. That’s a very naive point of view, Guest. There’s nothing about aitnacttrg and maintaining an engaged and excited workforce that . . .

  6. Well said indeed! Much like you I grew up with one bathroom and two brothers to share it with and my mother also did not see what I valued so much in name brands. I look at my children now and I am grateful to offer them more opportunities but I will not let the changing times ruin their understanding of values. Our goal is to limit what they have until they can earn it and to speak openly about our financial plans for the future. We show them how we give up the little things sometimes (my dunkin’ donuts fix) to enjoy the better things like a family vacation that is paid for from savings and not borrowed on credit cards. It is our responsibility to pave the road for their futures and give them the occasional bumpy ride reality check.

  7. I can understand your points with this blog post. I grew up with 6 younger siblings, a hard working father and a stay at home mom with very little luxuries besides some heat when it was cold and a screen door in the summer. I was told to get what I wanted out of life I had to work for it. My chores were washing the family car, raking the football field size yard and taking out the trash. This was on top of washing the dishes, cleaning the house, helping out with my brothers and sisters, going to school and church every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Oh, did I forget to say the church yard sell on every summer Saturday. I love my life now because those things mentioned above allowed me to gain responsibility, leadership and hard work which proved valuable now that I’m running my own business and chairman of boards and organizations at age 37. I’m into technology because the luxury was just a dream growing up, now I use it for a living and teach other blind individuals how to as well at I guess growing up without a iPhone makes some hungry to get the best out of life. Now I buy what I want, do what I want to do and go where I want to go because my parents taught me to work for what I wanted. Whatever will the new generation do when things are just handed to them?

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    2. If it works for you Makya, that’s great. I find many times when the employees look just like the cueomtsrs it doesn’t feel like going to work for the employees; which may not carry the urgency of selling the merch. I would personally suggest trying to dress up a bit more than your cueomtsrs so they look at you as an expert, not the same.

  8. Maybe they spend more because they are more lost? There is a segment of the Millennial Generation that is pushing a less materialistic lifestyle. But for the others, maybe they are numbing the painful emptiness of their lives with the dopamine rush provided by the act of acquisition?

    Great quote from Max Frisch.

  9. Love this article. I never comment on articles but this was spot on. I am right between Gen Y and Gen X. I grew up on a tight budget. I am glad I did. Most Teens and young adults don’t even know a problem exist.

  10. Great article Lisa. I have three teenage boys, and the best cooking that I do is when I go to Mc Donalds if it was up to them. Lol…. They all have jobs right now, thank God, however they spend 2 weeks of hard earned money on one pair of shoes. I definitely grew up differently and can relate to your childhood. It’s a balancing act, for sure!

  11. I grew up on a farm in Iowa. Some of the hogs we raised probably went into SPAM. We had beef and chickens, too, so didn’t buy meat. I will not wear jeans of any brand because they remind me on living on the farm. We had plenty of food, but not many material things. Since this was before TV we played a lot of board games and did a lot of craft things with paper and paste. We used our imaginations. We were great readers and still are.

    If kids now days are spoiled, it’s the parents fault for buying the things that no one really needs.

  12. Great post Lisa!
    I grew up with TV that relied on rabbit ears for reception and still use regular antennas in most of my house – the only cable/satellite is in the den/family room. And I feel blessed to be able to set my priorities around my goals, family, friends, and what I need to do in life not technology. I think the sooner kids have to contribute, work, earn money or privileges, and make decisions the more responsible they become. Lastly, the tree (parents/family) bears the fruit (children), not the other way around.

  13. I would not say our kids are spoiled but they have what they need and even some stuff they want. My 18 year old son came home one day and told me an older, not well off lady approached him and asked him if he could buy her some groceries. He went with her through the super market and bought her $20 worth of groceries, with his own money. He did not ask us to pay him back or anything. When he makes decisions like these it’s easy to overlook his normally narcissistic bent.

    In a way, I treat my kids like little entrepreneurs. I look for the ROI in my kids and only invest in what is working.

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