The Gen Z approach to life, in general, is vastly different to that of Millennials, Gen X, and Boomers. While some parents are clutching their hair in fear that their children are departing from tradition, Gen Z’s aspirations and motivations actually make a lot of sense when examined.
In a society fraught with the economic downturn, environmental insecurity, and increasingly dystopian divides, Gen Z is adjusting their trajectory to a lifestyle and future that promises greater holistic wellbeing.
Inflation, unstable economic conditions, and skyrocketing personal debt has changed the way young people look at finances and plan for their futures. Gen Z has witnessed their generational predecessors become mired in student loan debt, credit card debt, and other financial struggles by building lives around ideas that may no longer be sustainable.
Older generations insist that overspending on avocado toast and Starbucks is at the root of Millennials’ financial woes.the reality is far more complex. Millennials spend their money in largely the same ways previous generations did, on housing, groceries, and debt. However, the cost of the aforementioned has multiplied, while wage growth has stagnated.
Why is this so? Well, the earliest Millennials entered the workforce on the heels of the most destructive economic collapse since the Great Depression, a stroke of bad luck from which many have never recovered. In addition, Millennials who managed to salvage their financial prospects are now facing the economic crisis that accompanied the Covid-19 pandemic.
If Gen-Z has proved one thing, it’s that they learn from the struggles of the past. Determined not to become another cautionary tale, members of the Gen-Z population are adjusting their financial strategies and lifestyles adaptively for the times we live in, with a focus on minimalism and frugality.
Members of the Gen-Z population are thinking more than twice before getting into debt. Plus, they’re generally choosing career trajectories with greater potential for financial stability and upward mobility.
Gen-Z is by far the most environmentally aware generation the world has ever seen. Greta Thunberg and her ilk are defining the voice of resistance for youth today. They are crying out for ethical and sustainable practices, and they certainly aren’t all talk.
Environmental insecurity and economic instability intersect in the day-to-day behavior of Gen-Z. They are choosing affordable, sustainable practices wherever possible. Pioneering a new way of life that is gaining traction.
First, Gen-Z is bidding farewell to pollutant-heavy, expensive modes of transportation, opting instead for public transport, fuel-light scooters, electric vehicles, and bicycles. They are aware of their personal carbon footprints at every turn, and their actions reflect this. Choosing sustainable transport not only increases the life expectancy of our species, but it also cuts out the significant expense that comes with car insurance, fuel, and maintenance.
Second, the highly questionable practices of goods manufacturers are causing Gen-Z to turn away from buying first hand, instead opting into the second-hand market. Our long-lived consumer culture is characterized by single-use products, planned obsolescence, sweatshop labor, and environmental devastation. Gen-Z is redefining the way we look at our habits as consumers, emphasizing reuse, repair, and independence from unethical manufacturers.
Skills Development and Sharing
Student loan debt is arguably one of the most crippling factors for Millennials in dire financial straits, and Gen-Z has picked up on that. They are therefore making use of alternative methods for skills development such as eLearning, apprenticeship, and entrepreneurship.
Nowadays, there is a wealth of knowledge available online with world-class educators facilitating massive open online courses and training programs. Gen-Z is putting college in their rear-view mirror and focusing on developing essential skills via online education, with the goal of shaping their futures the way they believe is right.
In true Gen-Z spirit, the youth of today are refusing to enter employment among the ranks of companies that do not prioritize environmental and social responsibility. Larger numbers of the Gen-Z population are choosing entrepreneurial careers, with the goal of controlling their money and ethics from the word go.
Skill sharing on social media has also become a generational trademark, encouraging people around the globe to get their hands dirty instead of paying outlandish fees to firms. There are YouTube tutorials for just about anything you can imagine, from home repair, to salvaging old clothes, to coding, and everything in between. Gen-Z has recognized the power of collective knowledge and is using it to empower themselves.
Early Financial Independence
Determined not to end up in the same debt trap as previous generations, Gen-Z is prioritizing saving, financial planning, and carefully monitoring credit scores. Careful budgeting, frugal spending, multiple part-time “side-hustles”, and avoiding debt like the plague are some of the practices that are catapulting Gen-Z into a new form of prosperity.
Status symbols and luxury living hold little appeal to much of today’s youth. They are painfully aware of the consequences that come with spending more than they can afford. The absurdity of archaic spending habits is becoming increasingly apparent in the face of the disappearing middle-class and environmental catastrophe. Our priorities have shifted, and this is apparent in the attitudes of 18–25-year-olds the world over.
The entrepreneurial spirit characteristic of Gen-Z is driven by a desire for autonomy from broken systems and lays new pathways to financial independence. Slaving away at a 9-5 desk job for two weeks’ vacation or building a new company from the ground up isn’t Gen-Z’s idea of a good approach. Instead, small businesses with minimal overheads and a focus on the sustainable circulation of goods are winning the day.
Redefining Minimalism Itself
When most people think of minimalism, they picture a radical opposition to opulence and consumerism. While this is partially correct, it isn’t the tiny-home, ramen-eating, boho-hobo lifestyle that older generations tend to imagine.
Gen-Z values growth, prosperity, and independence. To them, minimalism simply means doing away with what we don’t need and being satisfied with the basics. Key to this approach is finding joy in experience and connection instead of material possessions.
Gen-Z still enjoys good food, but they buy and cook fresh groceries from small, local suppliers instead of queueing outside of trendy restaurants. They still live in comfort, but they satisfy themselves with enough space to live and work without aspiring to mansion-living. They still appreciate the finer things in life, but for them, these are gestures of appreciation characterized by thoughtfulness instead of expense.
Simply put, Gen-Z is trimming away the fat of arbitrarily defined value and deciding for themselves what good living looks like. The pressures of a status-obsessed society have no bearing on the aspirations of these young people, and they are better off for it.
Doing Away with Hoarding
Older generations have come under fire for buying big houses purely to store all the stuff they never use. The minimalist movement offers an alternative to this type of lifestyle, and Gen-Z is all about it. While they hold on to possessions with sentimental value and practical utility, they spurn clutter in all forms.
If something is broken, they will get it fixed or give it to someone who can fix and use it. If something is going unused, they will hop online and sell it in a matter of hours. Many members of the Gen-Z population are physically repelled by the clutter they find in their parents’ homes, lamenting the accumulation of broken and unnecessary goods that never see the light of day.
That said, Gen-Z takes a less radical approach to minimalism than Millennials do. The latter generation developed a taste for minimalism in response to extreme consumerism, and thus may have over-corrected slightly by rejecting forms of material possession that are actually quite necessary. Gen-Z takes a more balanced approach to this, drawing a fine line between what is important and what is not.
Shared Living Space
There is a trend among Gen-Z to prioritize communal living spaces that benefit all of their occupants. They aren’t interested in renting tiny, overpriced apartments, no matter how impressive the amenities may be. Instead, they’d rather move house to share comfortable living spaces with friends or family, bringing back the trend of communal living.
Before “commune” alarm bells start going off, however, Gen-Z knows how to define and enforce personal boundaries. Shared space does not mean that boundaries dissolve, it simply reflects a desire for connection and utility characteristic of the generation.
Despite negative representations in the media, Gen Z navigates social issues with admirable directness and respect, ensuring that everyone is afforded their personal space and that both personal and communal property is treated with care.
Making A More Minimalist World
Like it or not, Gen Z is the future of our society, and they are making their priorities clear to the world. They are changing the face of consumerism, day-to-day living, and personal success by acting on their values in every move they make. They have captured the attention and respect of generations who tried and failed to reinvent modernity, despite the odds stacked against them.
Lisa Benett is the writer behind Apex Removal Group, a blog about all things moving and relocation. When she’s not writing or packing boxes, Lisa can be found binge-watching her favorite shows, practicing yoga, or exploring her new city. A self-proclaimed nomad at heart, Lisa is always on the hunt for her next great adventure