“Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves.” Few phrases are less relevant to anyone under 30, those “millennials” and “Generation Zs” born just in time to pay thousands in university fees and have the property ladder pulled up before they could get a foot on the bottom rung.
Young people in London are worst off. We suffer from a form of Stockholm syndrome: any twenty-something Londoner will tell you they can’t imagine leaving the city that’s robbing them blind in rent (the average flat costs £1,500 per month, up 10 per cent on last year) and pints (try finding one for less than £4 in Zone One).
So it’s here that we’ll be renting — i.e. burning money — for the rest of our lives. Our parents might have made their down-payment on their first house at 25, but there’s fat chance of that when the average house price across the UK is more than £200,000. You can at least double that for a place in London. When George Osborne announced Help to Buy ISAs for first-time buyers, aspirational twenty-somethings perked up — until they realised that the maximum £3,000 the government would contribute to a carefully hoarded £12,000 probably wasn’t going to be enough for a cosy two-bed in Bermondsey. And what bank is going to offer you a mortgage when you’re already nearly £50,000 in debt? When university fees were trebled in 2012, the average graduate debt shot up from an already hefty £25,000 to £44,000 — an insurmountable amount when the average graduate salary is £29,000. Even those earning enough money to fling it into an ISA earn a pittance in interest.
Given that the notion of getting back into the black seems laughable for the under-30s, no wonder we’re just saying “sod it” and spending whatever we do earn with abandon. Never have there been more ways to splash the cash — not just on material objects, but niche experiences, food and alcohol. A constant stream of pictures on social media of others having fun (i.e. spending money) inspires envy so badly that it has spawned an acronym, Fomo (fear of missing out). We can’t move for Instagrammed images of over-proof cocktails in jam jars or delicious “street food” that costs as much as a Michelin-starred meal. All our friends seem to be at bespoke music festivals that charge £300 for the dubious pleasures of our generation’s form of field sport, or at “secret cinema” events, where one pays £25 to sit in a disused car park and watch a crackling car boot sale VHS.
Forego saving for the future, forget ever owning property — and instead yell “carpe diem” as you fling yourself into the great sea of exciting, expensive experiences available. I’m calling for the death of thriftiness and penny-pinching. Let’s embrace eternal debt.