Gen Z is Throwing it Back Old School and Making Cash Cool Again

After being hit hard by a tumultuous economy—soaring inflation and an unexpected crypto crash—Gen Z is taking it old school and embracing cash.

As many in Gen Z watched their investments plummet in the recent stock and crypto crash while prices simultaneously soared for everyday necessities, this generation is looking at their financial wellbeing and starting to spend differently. Leading the charge to influence this new way of thinking…TikTok, of course.

This new generation of young and emerging adults are stashing money away for rainy days, everydays, and anything in between. The mindset Gen Z brings to saving and paying with cold hard cash is that if they aren’t racking up debt on credit cards and they aren’t watching their bank accounts dwindle, then it feels like they’re getting more for their money! Factor in the discounts many small businesses offer to customers for using cash, and you can see why this generation is throwing it back to using dollar dollar bills y’all.

“Gen Z is a throwback generation, so the act of carrying cash is still new and different.”

For Gen Z, the vintage vibes cash gives only adds to its appeal for this nostalgic generation. Plus, for a generation that spends so much time living in a digital and virtual world, holding something with tangible value versus looking at numbers on a small screen is an unexpectedly rewarding experience. But make no mistake, though they may present an air of lightheartedness and nostalgia in using cash when they release videos about it on TikTok, the truth is that this generation is being pragmatic in their approach to money.

As any of our readers know, Gen Z’s personal finances took a brutal hit during the pandemic because of massive layoffs and then were followed by the unexpected crash of investments they often thought were safer than they appeared. Add in record-setting inflation, and Gen Z is in a place where they are trying to limit costs—especially hidden and unnecessary fees—so paying with cash makes all of this easier for many purchases.

“They want to know about fees and costs associated with a payment method, and cash is this tangible store of value without surprises that allows them to limit their spending.”

As many non-Gen Zers know, when a person sees money available to be spent in their bank account or more credit available for them to use on their favorite credit card, it can have a tantalizing effect on getting people to spend more than they plan, need, or want. However, as other generations often know, too, cash is finite when you’re holding it in your pocket, wallet, or purse, and it feels much more tangible to spend it than swiping a credit card or paying by text. 

So, where does TikTok come into play in all of this? If you have been following along with me and The Center for Generational Kinetics’ research, then you know that Gen Z has been taking to TikTok (aka “FinTok”) for financial pearls of wisdom for quite some time—and now is no different.

Financially savvy TikTokers have gone viral educating, informing, and inspiring fellow Gen Zers in “cash-stuffing.” Cash-Stuffing is a dedicated expenses/goals strategy. The idea is that you have multiple envelopes you put cash in for bills, food, gas, entertainment, long-term goals, and so on. While the idea is not new, for this generation, it is a novel idea that seems to be working—giving Gen Z a feeling of being back in control over their spending.

With so much change happening to Gen Z—and the change that Gen Z is driving—it is an exciting time for us at CGK to continue our studies into this generation and their entry further into adulthood as consumers, team members, neighbors, and influencers. In our latest State of Gen Z® annual research studies, we dive deeper into this generation’s views on personal finances and so much more! If you haven’t already downloaded our latest Gen Z studies, please check them out here

Thank YOU for being on this journey of research, insights, and discovery with us and Generation Z. Please reach out if there is a meeting or event where we can speak to you and your stakeholders about the hidden generational trends and solutions leaders, marketers, and employers need to know now!

Gen Z Investing Research

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