This Is How 1,000 Millennial Women Spend Their Money

by JR Thorpe
Hannah Burton/Bustle

If there's anything millennials like doing, it's comparing ourselves to one another, for better or for worse. We can do it in line at the bodega, at work, on social media — the list goes on. But do we ever know what other millennial women really want? Bustle interviewed 1,001 readers about everything — from their political beliefs, to their romantic lives, to their spending habits, to their social media use — to find out what millennial women put first. And the insights, particularly on their spending habits and their romantic priorities, were fascinating.

The financial habits of millennial women are of enormous interest to researchers and brands around the world, not to mention curious onlookers. We have more purchasing power than any other generation, even if we're comparatively less affluent than millennial men. One study in 2017 found that millennial women have 30 percent more debt than men, on top of earning less. (That pesky wage gap rears its ugly head once more.) We're also more likely than our mothers to be struggle financially, but more likely to own businesses. We're also deeply socially conscious with our finances. "For me and many of the women in my life, money and meaning cannot be separated," Sarah Saska, CEO of Feminuity, a consulting firm specializing in diversifying workplaces, told the CFA Institute in June. Figuring out how millennial women deal with their bank accounts and what they want financially is a big undertaking, but the overall picture shows that millennial women spend their money conscientiously, and on stuff that matters.

Brands With A Conscience Matter


Millennial women, according to the Bustle survey, are prepared to wield their wallets responsibly, and are attracted to brands and companies that prioritize the environment and social justice. Fifty-one percent of them believe that brands need to give back to society instead of just making a profit, while a full 19 percent also think that brands should make a contribution to their wellbeing.

This sort of melding of commerce with social responsibility is something that's been coming to the fore recently, and that's a good thing. Equniox's #PoweredByPride Campaign, for instance, was one of the many advertising strategies that attempted to meld profit with socially responsible themes. That's something that millennial women respond to: 24 percent of the respondents believe that brands can create change, while 57 percent of them said that social good themes in advertisements had high appeal, and 36 percent said that cause-related elements appealed to them.

Millennial women are also buying with future plans in mind. According to Bustle's survey, 65 percent of the women said they intend to get married (if they're not already married, like 23 percent of respondents are). 57 percent want to have kids, and 44 percent said they were looking for love. Their purchasing choices are influenced by those particular desires, and their priorities; 37 percent are prioritizing their career, 31 percent their families, and 24 percent social good, all of which shape the way they're using their money. Some, for instance, even reported having savings accounts to help them freeze their eggs; 75 percent of respondents would rather advance their professional careers over their love lives. Millennial women want their buying habits to shape their future and change the world.

The World Has Changed Around Them


It's clear to say that the world today is vastly different from the one millennials grew up in. Today, millennial women have enormous freedom to disrupt old-fashioned conventions and forge their own path in life. 56 percent of respondents say they are currently pursuing their passions, and 98 percent of women surveyed by Bustle agree that women can work outside of the home and still be a good mother, while 26 percent consider reproductive rights to be the cause that's most important for them. But that doesn't mean traditional values aren't important to them: almost half of readers say that a happy family is a sign of a successful life, and 65 percent of readers don't think that monogamy is outdated. The Bustle reader melds tradition with independence — and this extends to how she makes her purchasing decisions, too.

While many of us likely grew up browsing the mall, Bustle respondents now conduct a lot of their shopping life online, particularly when it comes to learning about products. While past generations saw their dream car, lipstick, or brokerage firm represented on billboards, radio ads, or on TV, millennial women today largely get their knowledge from social media.


A full 81 percent tell Bustle that social media was the best way to reach them, with 42 percent identifying Facebook as the best medium in particular, and 40 percent saying it was Instagram. Websites they trusted were also a big factor, with 36 percent identifying those as a good place for brands to attract their attention. Bringing up the rear were online articles (35 percent) and online video (17 percent). If you're running a business that caters to millennial women, it seems that the wise money is to spend big on Insta content.

Purchases Are About Identity, Quality, And Luxury (Sometimes)


So what do millennial women actually buy, and why? The Bustle survey found that, contrary to stereotypes about millennials, meaningless browsing often isn't on the agenda for millennial women. They have strong ideas about what their purchase choices mean.

More than 20 percent of the respondents said that the brands they buy are a form of self-expression; picking up a vintage bag at a market says something different than getting the latest cult designer clutch from Net-a-Porter. But there were only a few categories in which brand names, and their reputations for quality, genuinely mattered. Millennial women seek brand names in technology, personal care, cosmetics and beauty, cars and health and wellness products, and they want high-end brands for phones, laptops and other tech, as well as cosmetics and toiletries. They don't want to waste time and money on drug store makeup or poor-quality computers.

In other areas, brands don't necessarily matter, or cheap brands rule the day. Millennial women don't really care about the branding of their furniture, office supplies, what their kids wear and use, or what they wear to the gym or use to exercise. (So much for expensive yoga mats.) They're inclined to go to cheaper brands for their wardrobes — shoes, clothes and accessories and also for alcohol, while they're perfectly happy with store-brand purchases on food, household stuff and office supplies.


What do these rankings reveal? That millennial women are particularly attuned to quality when it comes to what they put on their skin and body, as well as where their digital lives are concerned. Cosmetics and beauty are a relatively inexpensive way to experience luxury and high production standards, while millennials aren't willing to compromise on lesser performance for their devices. Clothes and shoes aren't so crucial — millennial women are far more likely to balk at spending $2,000 on a coat than on a decent and necessary laptop. And when they do buy luxury, they are intent on investment; a new study from a diamond company found that, for millennial women making big purchases, authenticity and proper quality are hugely important. If they're going to buy a diamond or a car, they're going to research the hell out of it to make sure it's worth what they pay.

The end picture shows that millennial women want to make their purchases matter, and are willing to spend more on their priorities with brands that they trust. They demand a lot from their shopping and want it to work for them, even if they only have enough money for one MAC lipstick every two months. While people may bemoan millennials' readiness to kill off entire industries (newsflash: the Great Recession probably had a bigger hand in that than millennials), Bustle's survey makes it clear that with the money they do have, millennials will spend it thoughtfully, effectively, and on brands that resonate with them.