To Tame Inflation, Gen Z Is Turning to Cash

Gen Z is seeing green.
Gen Z is seeing green. / Riska/E+ via Getty Images

From groceries to real estate to utilities, inflation is everywhere. If you’re feeling helpless in the face of it, you might consider taking a cue from Gen Z and returning to an old-school form of budgeting: carrying wads of cash.

According to a new survey conducted by Credit Karma, use of cash is on the rise for young spenders born between 1997 and 2012. In a poll of 2118 adults over age 18, 69 percent of Z-ers (which numbered 331 in the poll) said they were using more cash today than 12 months ago. Roughly a quarter use cash for most purchases, including groceries, takeout food, and clothing—a pace that far exceeds the cash use of Baby Boomers and Gen X.

Why the uptick in paper currency? For many, withdrawing a set amount of money to cover monthly expenses allows them to better adhere to a budget, especially when compared to the high spending ceilings of credit cards. If it’s not in your pocket, the thinking goes, then you don’t have it to spend. And if you do have it, you’ll be more discerning in how and when to use it. The result: you spend less.

Credit Karma cites the rise of TikTok financial advice—some influencers call it “cash stuffing”—as a major driver of the trend. While the approach can vary, it usually involves setting aside a set cash amount for different categories of spending. You may budget $100 for clothing in a month. Once it runs out, that new jacket is off the table.

Eighty-nine percent of those polled said cash stuffing has resulted in more money being set aside for savings. But it may not be a one-size-fits-all approach: Some 20 percent of respondents also said they spend more in cash because a lack of a digital record—like a credit card or cash app statement—made it seem less tangible. It may also be difficult to ascertain the true spread of the trend, as the sample size—just 331 Gen Z participants—is small.

It’s also unwise to avoid credit cards entirely, particularly for those just beginning to build their financial identity. Judicious use of cards allows users to establish a positive credit history that will be needed for future mortgage and loan evaluation.

So is cash king? Maybe, but having a diverse approach to spending is likely to provide the best payoff down the line.

[h/t USA Today]