Money is a feminist issue — and yet, women are still reluctant to talk about it. According to a recent Bustle survey of more than 1,000 Millennial women, more than 50 percent of people said they never discuss personal finances with friends, even though 28 percent reported feeling stressed out about money every single day. Bustle's Get Money series gets real about what Millennial women are doing with their money, and why — because managing your finances should feel empowering, not intimidating.
Sometimes, making big purchases — i.e., expensive ones — is inevitable. Yet other times, it's frivolous. I spoke to 17
Millennial women on the most expensive thing they've bought and why, and the responses varied a lot, as you'll see in a moment. I also asked them how their purchases made them feel. "Avoiding big financially blunders is one of the main keys to financial success," Canon Hickman, wealth manager at Equity Concepts, tells Bustle. "You can drink coffee from home every day instead of [buying it], but it won't really make a difference if you go out and buy a $60,000 car when you can't afford it." So What Should We Do When Considering A Big Purchase?
"A helpful way to think about purchases is: Know what your hourly rate is," Hickman says. "If you take your salary and divide it by the number of hours you work, you get an idea of how much you make an hour. Then, when making a purchasing decision, you can think about it like, 'Am I willing to work 15 hours to buy this purse?' It's not just
money coming out of your pocket, it's hours of your time."
Funny that Hickman says that, as I do the exact same thing. I think about how much I am paid for a freelance piece and then think: "OK,
that shirt at a name-brand store is worth half an article from 'x' publication. However, I can get five shirts at Goodwill for the same price. Or, I can just buy none of them, put the money into savings instead, and go through my closet and see what I haven't worn in a while."
what Millennial women spent the most money on and how they felt about it? Here's what I found out. Check out the entire ‘Young Money’ series and other videos on Facebook and the Bustle app across Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV. 1 Stephanie, 28 "The most expensive thing I've ever bought was my car. I got it because, at the time, I felt it would be more affordable to buy a car than it would be continuing to get my current car fixed. I suppose I could have bought a cheaper car. Looking back now, I really wish I had just gotten my car fixed because I think that would've saved me more money long-term." 2 Sian, 33 "It's a toss-up between getting my teeth straightened and going to Zanzibar on holiday. Health and travel are two of my top priorities. A lot of people wouldn't have seen the need to get my teeth straightened, but it was important to me and something I felt self-conscious about for years. The Zanzibar trip — travel makes me happy, and I wanted to remind myself that I work hard for a reason. Life is for living and not simply working to pay rent! Everyone has their own priorities, and we should fulfill them." 3 Jackie, 27 "My iMac, LOL. I know — it's not a very expensive item when you think of other things I probably should have bought as a married 27-year-old (like a house or car). I was a freelancer working from home on my laptop. Ergonomically, it was horrible. I invested some cash on a bigger screen that would allow me to sit more upright at my desk. It truly did make me happy, as it made my life easier and more comfortable. As a contractor, I was able to write off part of that purchase on my taxes. So, no regrets there. :)" 4 Gina, 29 "The most expensive thing I've ever spent money on is my business. I used to do marketing for major corporations. I'd work 75-hour weeks, on average. It bothered me that I was working so much for other people without something to really call my own. I had a great salary and a decent title, but no true financial freedom. I literally drained all of my savings to establish SalientSocial.com. My team offers affordable digital and social media services to individuals and small businesses. So now I do what I'd done for major corporations, but on my own terms and on my own schedule. So I'd definitely say it was worth the pricey investment. I have no regrets." 5 Elyssa, 27 " Most expensive thing I bought was a house — I closed on it a few months ago. It was a terrifying process because it's a huge expense, and my husband and I had to put a ton of our savings into it as a down payment. But we knew this was a big goal for us — we saved and waited until we could afford to become homeowners. I have yet to stop being surprised at how much the total cost of the whole house purchase and move has added up to… but I think, over time, it will be a worthwhile investment. With our two kids, owning a home was something that was important to us. The lifestyle benefits have been amazing." 6 Shannon, 33 "The most expensive thing I ever bought was a car. It wasn’t something that made me happy, per se, but it was a requirement because I was living with my parents in Ohio and commuting to a college in Northern Kentucky. It definitely ate up a ton of money since it was only a year old. In the end, it enabled me to live with my parents rather than in an apartment or a dorm while I was in school. So, overall, I guess I ~saved~ money by having the car." 7 Amanda, 26 "The most expensive thing I bought lately was a five-night trip to Playa del Carmen, Mexico. I bought it because I work hard and I believe I deserve a nice long vacation once in a while. It definitely made me happy. Who can't be happy sipping margaritas by the ocean?!" 8 Lauren, 33, Evolution Advisers "Our house is definitely the most expensive thing my husband and I have ever bought. We love the location, which is why we bought it, but it hasn't increased our happiness. We were happy before and we are happy now. Beware of the stories that we tend to tell ourselves (i.e., 'If we lived in 'x' neighborhood or if I had a car that was nicer, I would be happier,' etc.) — they tend to be distortions. Possessions do not provide lasting happiness, experiences and connection do." 9 Emma, 24 "In my lifetime, a car has been my biggest purchase — and it definitely isn't worth it anymore since I gave it away before I came to New York City. The day I bought it, I had to take out a loan, and when it was approved and I drove home, I started bawling because I couldn't afford it (but really felt like I needed it). More recently, my splurges have been more experience-related. I spent so much money when I went to Italy for a week, and honestly, it was worth every cent of debt I'm stuck in." 10 Kelsey, 28 "I bought a $30,000 vehicle right after university — a crossover SUV, Hyundai Tucson. It was beautiful and I loved it. But I very quickly realized that the $800 a month in related car expenses, including payments, insurance, gas, and then general stuff that comes with cars as they age, was too much. It was overwhelming to try and save, pay rent in the city as a single female, and enjoy life. For now, my partner and I drive his 17-year-old Jetta. We sold the SUV at a $4,000 loss after paying off $18,000 of it — and I have nothing to show for it. I'll never buy a brand new car again." 11 Tiffany, 23 "The most expensive thing I have recently purchased off the top of my head are Christian Louboutin shoes. I got them for graduating college, and I didn’t wear them for an entire year because I was too scared to ruin them! They did make a pretty decoration for that year, and were my most prized possession because they reminded me that I accomplished graduating college with honors. They made me very happy!" 12 CiCi, 27 "My car. I needed a new one and it made me very happy. Aside from my car, I have purchased motorcycles. They, too, made me happy — but, as you get older, you realize the risk [of riding them] is not worth it anymore." 13 Jenny, 27 "I'd say the studio condo I bought in D.C. was the most expensive thing I've purchased ($210,000). I got it because my parents gave me the down payment, and it beats throwing away rent money every month that I'll never see again. It's also nice knowing I’m building equity every month." 14 Amy, 29 "The most expensive thing that I've ever bought was my 27-inch, all-in-one iMac. I got it as a present for myself when I quit my job to start freelancing. It did make me happy and definitely made me want to get up every morning (weird, I know!)." 15 Larissa, 27, Budget Undercover Blog "My car! It was a whopping $2,000 and I found it on Craigslist. It's expensive because I still have to insure and fuel it, but the freedom is priceless. I didn't think I wanted a car, but now I don't think I could live without one." 16 Rachel, 28 "When I was working in Tokyo, I wanted to go to this outlet mall under Mt. Fuji. I rented a Prius and drove two hours to get there in tears because my navigation was in Japanese and I didn't know what I was doing. I was going back and forth between buying this neon yellow Moschino satchel or a silver Jimmy Choo hobo bag. I went home with the Jimmy Choo ($1,800) and loved it for about a year. In hindsight, I should have bought Louis Vuitton, Hermes, or Chanel, because it would have been a better investment. The value in that bag I bought has severely dropped and now it just sits in my closet inside the dust bag. The story certainly outlived the style." 17 Lauren, 22 "This is a hard one, mostly because I buy lots of inexpensive stuff (which probably adds up to one or two expensive items anyway). The only big thing I can think of is a trip to New Orleans that I paid for last year. The trip was expensive, but 100 percent worth it. I'd much rather save my money and spend it on an experience like a trip, concert, etc. That way, I'm not crying when someone scuffs my expensive shoes on the subway — because, let's be real, morning commuters don't care if your boots are designer."
As you can see, people's responses varied a lot, though some similar patterns emerged, too. One thing to keep in mind for the future?
When considering a purchase, it's not necessarily always about how much something is," Hickman says. "It's about getting value for the money that you have. Money is there to be earned and spent — it's going to be spent on something, whether it's your retirement or going out with friends. It's there to accomplish the things in your life that you want to accomplish. The real key differentiator is spending money on things that actually bring you value. If you look back at your last month's bank statement and see all of the money that you sort of just wasted — you didn't get any value out of that fast food purchase or one of the other random items that you bought that didn't really mean anything to you — you'd see how much that adds up to be."
OK, that looking back at bank statements idea is pretty genius, right?! I know I'm going to start doing that more often, as well as be more conscientious about what I spend money on. Hopefully, you will be, too.
Check out the “Get Money” stream in the Bustle App for more tips and tricks on how to save and spend your money.