The Gen-Z vs. Millennial Mindset in the Cost-of-Living Crisis 

Protest march. People holding signs about prices rising.

By Chloe Pigneguy 

In the past year it has become virtually impossible to ignore the rising costs of…. well, just about everything. 

Trips on public transport now cost $10 a day when they were $9.20.

University HECs fees are being indexed at a higher rate than ever before. 

I consider myself quite lucky that this year my rent only increased by 10%

My friend recently returned after studying abroad and was astonished to find a sausage roll (thought to be a cheap and easy, grab-and-go food) was $6.50. Even more horrifyingly for her, seemingly every person who she complained about this to said, ‘That’s not that bad. It could have been worse.’

It’s just the new normal.

When my friend brought her plight to me, she moaned, ‘I could easily spend $15 before dinner.’

‘You could spend $15 on lunch alone,’ I replied. 

In fact, many of my conversations with friends currently consist of sentences like, ‘the world is against us students,’ or ‘the government wants us to die poor and starving’. 

A defeatist upbringing

In the case of my aforementioned friend, she may be surprised that she has returned from a highly expensive European city to find that life isn’t all that different in her hometown either. However, I would argue that she’s alone in her surprise. For most of the Gen-Z cohort, the rapidly growing cost-of-living crisis feels like the cherry on top of an already pessimistic childhood.

We have grown up with the mindset that there is a good chance we will never own a house. We have known that retirement might be out of the question. We have known we may be forever renting, and now that rent is exponentially increasing it just all seems exhaustingly typical; reflective of a continually disappointing future. Notably, this outlook is in stark contrast to Millennials. 

Great Expectations

Millennials were raised with the mindset that they could have everything that their parents had. They could have the house, the car, maybe even the boat if they worked hard enough. As they grew up, this view of their future was slowly and painfully deconstructed. Then, of course, they were told that actually they created this problem themselves. 

‘You eat too much avocado toast!’ cried those in power. 

‘You buy too many lattes!’ deplored the Boomers. 

The term ‘gaslight’ is being thrown around rather frequently these days, but it can sometimes feel like Millennials were gaslit by both older generations and those in positions of government. When Millennials express their disappointment and sadness, they are told they were never promised such things like owning a place to live. Instead, a narrative was created that millennials are lazy snowflakes who ask for handouts. 

Gen Z, on the other hand, is in a slightly different camp. They saw the treatment given to Millennials and applied a different mindset. They made adjustments like moving out of home later in life, and then living in share houses for longer. I would argue as well that they generally expect less, not only because of the economic climate, but also the literal climate. Climate change, that is. 

POV: Everything Sucks

I have had debates and conversations with friends about whether it is morally right to bring a child into a world that may become inhospitable within their lifetime. Thus, not only is there a portion of Gen-Z who doesn’t believe they will ever be able to retire, there is a subset of that group who doesn’t believe they will ever have children because of the rapidly warming earth.   

Sometimes, for Gen-Z, the future can seem disastrous, and for some of us that radicalises us. The Greta Thunberg types who operate on both a small and large scale. This could include anything from going to rallies to reposting important climate information on Instagram. For those who don’t choose the path of the warrior activist, they instead adopt a more cynical attitude. This attitude conforms to the idea: the future is bleak, so why bother? 

Why bother worrying about what is to come?

Why bother giving your all at your 9 to 5?

Why bother doing anything but living in the moment?

Is it all apathy?

Don’t get me wrong, the current increase in the price of just about everything is frustrating. It’s more than simply annoying, it’s stressful. Of course, you can’t help but be stressed when there’s not enough rental properties to go around, and the ones that are there will cost you an arm and a leg. That is objectively worrying; however, it is not surprising. For Gen-Z this is the way we saw things going from the get-go. I would argue this foresight makes it all just that little bit easier to handle. We saw the blow coming, so we had time to prepare for the impact. 

This is the crux of the difference between Gen-Z and Millennials in this cost-of-living crisis. Most Millennials had both their fight and their hope slowly kicked out of them. For Gen-Z, they saw from the outset that trying to find their place economically in the 2020s would be a losing battle. 

Chloe Pigneguy is currently in her final semester of a Masters of Creative Writing, Publishing and Editing. Perhaps unsurprisingly she is an aspiring writer and editor as well as a lover of stories.

Feature image: Freeze Prices, Not the Poor. Creator: Alisdare Hickson. Used with a CC-BY 2.0 licence. Link

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