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The Top 15 Things Gen Z & Millennials Would Buy If They Had $500

If they had $500 dollars, well they’d buy…what? We asked Gen Z and Millennials what they would do with an extra pile of cash, and found out just where their priorities lie…

Young consumers’ financial habits are regularly scrutinized—usually to be torn apart as they’re accused of killing industries with their frugal natures, or alternately, splurging on unnecessary items instead of big milestone purchases. (We’ve looked at what they’re actually spending their money on, and despite stereotypes, it’s not all on avocado toast and video games.) But whichever you believe to be true, brands depend on Gen Z’s and Millennials’ spending, which is why knowing what they want to buy next is essential.

According to our recent personal finance survey, shows that 44% of 13-36-year-olds are currently saving money to spend on something really special. But we wanted to find out what they would spend extra cash on if they had it right now—so in that same survey, we also asked 13-36-year-olds, “If you had $500 to spend right now, what would you buy?”* Their answers reveal a lot about their priorities, and their financial outlook:

*This was an open-end response question to allow us to capture the full range items or experiences that Millennials and Gen Z would buy if they had $500 to spend—without our preconceived ideas shaping their responses. As with any qualitative question, the responses include those that are top of mind and those that are most popular. The lists are ordered according to number of responses received, and alphabetically when ties occurred.

What Would Gen Z & Millennials Buy with $500?


  1. Savings
  2. Debt / Bills
  3. Clothes
  4. Travel
  5. Food
  6. Invest
  7. Books
  8. Home furnishings
  9. Car / Car repairs
  10. Shoes
  11. Laptop / Computer
  12. phone
  13. Video Games / Console
  14. Tablet
  15. College

The top things that Gen Z and Millennials told us they would spend an extra $500 on were savings and paying off debt, reflecting their practical financial natures. As CNBC just reported, the financial crisis might have made these young consumers better with their money, resetting their financial views to prioritize savings. (Over investing, as you can see clearly here.) As one 21-year-old female told us, “I would save it; I don’t need $500 worth of anything right now.” Even many of those who told us an item they would buy outlined that they would save some of the money before buying anything for themselves.

At number three on the list is the top product that they told us they would spend on, clothing, followed by travel. But the popularity of these responses varied by age:

All three age groups have saving the money in their top two responses. But 18-36-year-olds were more likely to also prioritize paying bills, while teens (likely not yet burdened by debt) were more likely to say they would spend on clothing. This youngest age group was also more likely than older groups to say they would buy shoes with their cash—a preference we also saw when 24% told Ypulse they like to spend “extra” money on fashion, compared to just 11% of 18-36-year-olds.

The dream purchases of 18-24-year-olds and 25-36-year-olds are fairly similar, with one exception. Older Millennials were more likely to tell us they would invest the $500, while 18-24-year-olds said they would spend it on books. And while they might like to read, in reality it’s costly college textbooks that many were referring to.

To download a PDF version of this insight article, click here