Ines Vuckovic/Dose

Memories > material possessions.

Last week I found myself in an impossible situation: stuck in the middle of a conversation I absolutely did NOT want to be having.

A friend of a friend had cornered me at a party and somehow we got on the topic of the home he had just purchased. Long story short: He had discovered a major flaw in the flooring that required a $15,000 repair and his boyfriend was angry that it may derail their upcoming travel plans. The poor guy was stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place, and I was trying to come up with any polite excuse to escape.

This story only reinforced what I already knew: Home ownership hasn’t really ever been that appealing to me. Which is why, at the ripe “old” age of 30, I am no closer to owning my own place than I was on my 16th birthday.

Call me cheap AF if you want to, but I prefer to invest in other, non-material ways of having a good life.

Instead, I am very happy to be able to choose to travel to Berlin or Sydney next year (provided my savings account cooperates), or even pack up my bags and move to one of those cities, without the hassle of being tied down financially.

And it seems that I’m not the only one, either.

An article published in The Atlantic calls us millennials the “cheapest generation” because we’re not fans of making big purchases like cars or houses. According to the piece, only 27% of those ages 21–34 bought a car in 2010 (down from the peak of 38% in 1985) and the homeownership rate fell by 12% between 2006 and 2011. Thank you, recession.

But the truth is it’s not just the Great Recession that keeps millennials such as myself from making the big purchases that were important to past generations. The truth is that having these markers of “success” just aren’t as important to me.

Call me cheap AF if you want to, but I prefer to invest in other, non-material ways of having a good life.

Didier Weemaels/Unsplash

To be honest, not having a car or aspiring to own a home has been pretty easy. I’m primarily surrounded by like-minded people who prefer to live in big cities where a car isn’t really all that necessary, who work remotely or who prefer to rent a Zipcar or call an Uber rather than pay for insurance and worry about the current state of gas prices.

Even now, after I’ve moved out of a major city and find myself actually needing a car sometimes, I find that I can usually rely on borrowing one from the few people I know who own one. And guess what? I’d much rather make that friend dinner as a thanks than to spend my hard-earned money on buying a vehicle for myself.

That might be because we as a generation tend to value great experiences over great expenses. It’s evident in the way millennials do weddings: We want to create something unique with all of our closest friends instead of a grandiose affair filled with hundreds of people. It’s not just that we don’t have as much money or are cheap (though I’m sure those things contribute) but I just don’t see the point in feeding 300 people that I barely know when I can instead invite 30 of my closest friends to a mountaintop in Italy. Talk about an experience to remember!

I’ve always been pretty cheap, and that attitude isn’t just about cars and houses. I’d rather make brunch for a friend than go out for unlimited mimosas, I find pleasure in DIYing holiday presents and I just think it’s easier to embrace the sharing economy than to worry about spending money in all the wrong places, or feeling tied down by my material possessions.

Isn’t it much nicer to stay in an Airbnb than some fancy hotel that costs twice as much? Yes, in my opinion, it most definitely is.

Is it really so bad that I’m not really aspiring to acquire a car payment or a mortgage? I don’t think it is. My money is better spent elsewhere, like those trips I dream about, or a cool new cooking class, or something else that means investing in my skills or personal growth.

For me, this means embracing that I’m going to be labeled “cheap AF.” If the older generations think that my having fewer material things and more memories at the end of the day means I’m not spending my money wisely, well, then, too bad for them.

Clearly they’re just missing out on my latest Instagram #foodporn photos from my recent trip to New Orleans. And I’m okay with that.