The millennial generation is growing up — and learning financial lessons along the way. Consisting of those born between 1981 and 1996, the oldest members of this group are now in their early 40s.
In 2019, millennials officially became the largest adult demographic in America, with 71.2 million members, according to Freddie Mac. In total, they consume 22% of the country’s population.
Even the youngest millennials are several years past college-aged, meaning they’re old enough to have made at least a few regrettable purchases. While everyone makes spending mistakes, it’s what they learn from them that counts.
If you’re a millennial — or even if you’re not — you might already be guilty of some of these common spending mishaps. It’s also possible you’re thinking of making one of these purchases that will almost definitely disappoint, so take heed.
Curious about what millennials are buying and usually regretting? Keep reading to find out.
New or Luxury Car
“It feels good to buy a first ‘fancy’ car, but years later when the opportunity cost sets in and they realize that money could have been invested and used as the entire down payment on a new home, that’s when regret sets in,” said Noah Damsky, CFA, principal at Marina Wealth Advisors.
As of December 2022, the average price of a new car is $49,507, according to Kelley Blue Book. Even more expensive, the average luxury car cost $67,050, as of November 2022.
“It feels good to treat yourself every now and then, but sometimes every now and then becomes every Friday and Saturday night,” Damsky said. “A nice dinner and drinks with friends can easily top $100 in a metropolitan city.”
He said a couple of these nights per week can ultimately cost more than $10,000 per year. Millennials who spend this much likely look back and realize the money could’ve been put toward a better cause, such as paying off debt, a down payment on a home or saving for retirement.
They’re certainly not the only generation to invest in collectibles like baseball cards, stamps or Beanie Babies, but Nate Hoskin, CFP, founder and Lead Advisor at Hoskin Capital, said that doesn’t mean these items aren’t a regrettable buy.
“When you rationalize a purchase as an ‘investment,’, it’s suddenly very easy to sink hundreds or thousands of dollars into something with little or no chance of providing a return,” he said.
It can be beyond disappointing to spend a lot of money building a collection that doesn’t deliver, so millennials should really think twice before making this type of investment.
Too Much House
“Being house-poor is a crippling feeling that unfortunately overwhelms most families in the United States,” Hoskin said. “Because mortgage companies will lend far more than you can actually afford, it is easy to get wrapped up in a home that is too expensive and often more than you actually need.”
He said this was particularly prevalent in 2020 and 2021, when bidding wars caused people to buy homes for $50,000 to $100,000 over the asking price. Despite this, he said many quickly discovered they didn’t like the home, location or couldn’t actually afford the exorbitant mortgage payments.
Peloton Exercise Equipment
During the pandemic lockdown, Peloton equipment was all the rage, as it allowed people to exercise in the comfort and safety of their homes.
However, Julian B. Morris, CFP, principal and founder at Concierge Wealth Management, said most people he knows now prefer the energy of a live class or gym environment, instead of taking a solo bike ride with virtual friends at home.
He said the initial expense of a Peloton bike or treadmill, plus a monthly subscription and accessories for a bike that is now worth over 50% less on the resale market seems regrettable. “Statistics show the number of active users on Peloton is much lower than pandemic highs,” he said.
The average cost of a wedding in 2022 was $30,000, according to The Knot. While it can be hard to put a price on the memories associated with a wedding day, it’s not uncommon for millennials to wish they’d opted for less expensive nuptials.
“Millennials may be pressured into spending a lot on weddings, but the expense can add up quickly and lead to regret over not saving for other goals, such as a down payment on a home,” said Marcus P. Miller, CFP, founder and financial planner at Mainstay Capital.
Expensive Tech Gadgets
They’re a generation known to have a passion for technology, so it’s not surprising that millennials end up regretting some of these — often pricey — purchases. “Millennials may be quick to jump on the latest tech gadgets, but the high cost and constant upgrades can lead to buyer’s remorse,” Miller said.
Instead of being the first in line to buy a new tech gadget, millennials would likely fare better by waiting awhile to see how these items hold up and ensure they actually need them.
“Although purchasing a timeshare might first seem like a smart move, it can quickly become a financial burden,” said Levon L. Galstyan, CPA at Oak View Law Group. “Since they are forced to pay maintenance fees and other charges even when they cannot utilize their timeshare, many people regret their timeshare purchases.”
In 2019, there were roughly 600,510 U.S. timeshare transactions, and the average sales price was $17,460, according to the American Resort Development Association. Given the size of the average investment, it’s easy to understand why millennials regret the purchase, if they feel like the value wasn’t there.
“Even without factoring in all the additional costs of a boat purchase — such as taxes, transportation from the site of purchase to your home or dock, maintenance and insurance — the boat ticket price is frequently exorbitant,” Galstyan said. “This purchase has the potential to blow your budget completely.”
Boat prices vary greatly, including $18,000 to $45,000 for a fishing boat and $100,000 to $500,000 for a sailboat, according to the National Boat Owners Association.
College Degrees With Few Career Opportunities
“Many millennials have racked up debt to pursue degrees in professions withscant employment opportunities,” Galstyan said. “While education is essential, beforespending money on a degree, it’s crucial to consider the employment market and possible earnings opportunities.”
Millennials who regret their college major can’t go back in time to change it. However, those having trouble finding work can exercise better judgment if they decide to go back to school to improve their career opportunities.
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