It’s the end of the month. You take a look at your bank account, figure that you’ve spent about $200 on coffee this month, and ask yourself something we have all asked ourselves at some point, often while looking at our bank accounts: What on earth am I wasting my money on?
No judgments! Life is tough, and sometimes spending money just feels good. If you’re a millennial woman and you’ve ever wondered to yourself, “Are other millennial women spending $200 on seasonal, almond milk Starbucks lattes?”…well, we’ve got you covered. Here are eight ways many millennial women are wasting their money, just like you:
Yes, it’s true. Many of us are spending our dough on weekly (or daily) liquid fixes. Whether you’re shelling out cash for those iced double-shot espresso chai latte white chocolate mochas that you love so much or charging your credit card with those other beverages of the fermented or distilled “it’s five o’clock somewhere” variety that make life more livable, know that you’re not alone.
As Kim, age 29, tells Bustle: “Coffee!!! I buy WAY TOO MANY coffees out. I know it would be WAY cheaper to just make it at home, but I always have an excuse—running late or I HAVE TO try Starbucks’ new drink! And then I get addicted to that new (pricey!) drink! Plus, my coworkers love to go have a coffee break in the afternoons. I guess I can go and not have any coffee, but, once again, temptation creeps in. Someone help!”
We feel your pain, Kim!
You’ve probably long suspected that it was more expensive to have lady parts, and you’d be right. Our machinery can certainly be high maintenance—or maybe that’s an unfair characterization, informed by centuries of women’s bodies being pathologized. (After all, if spending $84.24 million annually on erectile dysfunction isn’t high maintenance, we don’t know what is.)
Whatever the case, it is certainly expensive to be a human being who gets a period.
A 2015 estimate from the Huffington Post suggests that in her lifetime a woman might spend somewhere around $7,000 on period-related items such as Midol, tampons, panty liners, new underwear (because stains), chocolate and other sweet treats to feed the PMS cravings monster, acne medications for breakouts, and heating pads.
That’s not even counting copays for doctor visits or the extra thousands of dollars for birth control pills—we’ll get there in the next section—that many women use to alleviate period-related cramps and acne.
Being Active…in the Adult Way
Most women have to pay for birth control, whether it’s a sponge, a patch, a ring, pills, a shot, or an implant.
Although some insurance may cover the majority of your costs, and some clinics might waive fees, things are not exactly looking good on that front in these United States, the land where we’re quickly learning that, actually, large swaths of the population don’t deserve fundamental rights.
But even millennial women who aren’t active in the hetero way are still racking up bills in this arena, because the price of STD testing can be pretty astronomical, insured or not.
As CostHelper.com breaks it down: “For patients covered by health insurance, tests sometimes are done at no charge to the patient. If not, typical out-of-pocket expenses consist of a laboratory copay of $10 to $30 per test. For patients not covered by health insurance, STD tests done at a doctor’s office usually cost $50 to $200 each, depending on the test.”
Cori, 25, confides in Bustle that she throws dollars monthly at cosmetics. “I’ve had a bad habit of wasting money on makeup,” she says. “I never need anything new, but I tend to get sucked into the marketing, and convince myself that it’s OK to treat myself.”
But it’s not just the marketing, Cori! It’s the pink tax. What’s that, you ask? It’s the extra amount of money women have to pay for gal-branded items. Mic explains it thusly:
The pink tax refers to the extra money tacked onto products and services targeted at women. It’s what makes Gillette charge almost a dollar more for women’s shaving cream even though it’s essentially the same product as men’s. The worst part? The price gouging is almost inescapable, affecting everyday products like razors, shampoos and deodorant.
“In fact, a 2010 consumer report found that personal hygiene products can be up to 50% more expensive for women as they are for men. Often these products are the same brand and contain the same active ingredients. The only difference is their smell.”
Everyone has to eat, and therein lies the problem—if, like many of us millennial women, you like to enhance your eating experience with fine dining or expensive high-quality groceries.
Benét, 29, tells Bustle:“I waste money on fancy/new/trendy restaurants. I LOVE to try new places, and it seems like the Nashville food scene right now is full of amazing restaurants popping up every week. As soon as I hear about a new restaurant, I don’t even look at the prices, I must go (in my mind). If I could avoid eating out as much, I would save quite a bit of money. I would save easily $500 a month, if not more, if I didn’t go out to eat as much.”
But sometimes even the non-fancy food can rack up a hefty bill. “Snacks are definitely something I waste money on each month,” says Lynette, 27.
“Not the ones I intentionally purchase while grocery shopping, but the ones I buy when I am out and about because I forgot to bring something with me.” Simply put: Having an appetite is expensive.
Millennial women are on a roll, hitting all the bottom-of-Maslow’s-hierarchy-of-needs bases, with many taking blows to the wallet to pay for their shelter of choice.
According to a U.S. Department of Labor blog post, “Spending Habits by Generation,” millennials are spending an annual household average of $16,505 on housing. “Unlike older generations, the majority of millennials (2 out of 3) rent,” writes Steve Henderson, an economist with the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
GOBankingRates did a breakdown of millennials’ “essential” spending burdens and found that rent was the biggest expense, coming out to an estimated cost of $1,059.51 per month—or the equivalent of roughly 68.41 hours of work:
“But where millennials live impacts how much they pay for rent. In some cases it makes more sense to own rather than rent a home, as there are only a few states where renting is the more affordable option, found a recent GOBankingRates study.”
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs strikes again! Darci, 30, tells Bustle:
“I’d say shopping is my vice. If I need to go buy something essential, like a bra, but then I pass by X, Y, and Z stores that have sales, watch out!
“Soon, that bra will cost me hundreds of dollars because of all the additional (and unnecessary!) purchases I made along the way. So now, I’m trying to just order essentials online, via Amazon, and NOT browse for things I don’t need, no matter how cute those shoes are that pop up while I’m ordering the bra!”
Do you, Darci. But just know that the “pink tax” also applies to women’s clothing, which are often lower quality but more expensive than men’s clothes. To make matters worse, even the dry cleaning for these clothes sees cost discrepancies based on gender.
According to MarketWatch, “if a man and woman got one shirt dry cleaned per month for 10 years, on average, it would cost a man $247.20 in today’s dollars, while a woman would end up paying $474; over the course of 30 years, that would balloon to $741 for men and $1,422 for women.” Seems pretty dirty, if you ask us.
Not Contributing to a 401k
The good news is that Glamour reports that compared with women from previous generations, wealthy millennial women are more likely to be entrepreneurs, the primary or an equal income earner in their relationships, use hedge funds, try venture capital, own impact investments, achieve significant gains by taking big risks, and make significant gains thanks to market timing.
Still, not all millennial women are killing it in the finances.
One of the biggest ways millennials waste money is by not contributing to a 401(k), says Brianna McGurran, student loan and personal finance expert at NerdWallet. “Contributing early gives your money more time to grow, meaning you can save less in your 20s and it will have more of an impact on your savings. You should also check with your employer to understand their 401(k) benefits—if your company matches your monthly contributions, you should aim to meet that amount. If you don’t, you’re actually losing out on free money!”
Okay, okay, Brianna, we’ll look into this. But we make no promises about our coffee habit.