January 13, 2017
If you’re aged between 20 and 32, you’ve probably heard the popular diatribe attributed to Millennials (and yes, I hate that term too). You’re spoiled, selfish, entitled. You can’t exercise patience. You get your parents to attend interviews with you. The reason why you’re not succeeding is you can’t get out of bed.
To most young people who get up early, work hard and budget, the above statements are hugely offensive. Especially if you’re struggling to save, and you have to account for every penny. You might feel you’re doing something wrong, or you’re not being as careful as you could be.
The sad truth is that living costs are increasing, and the average wage just can’t cut it. 16-24-year-olds are three times more likely to be unemployed, and even if you’re lucky enough to have a job, wages for the population as a whole are £1,600 a year worse off than five years ago. If you are in your 20s, you’re missing out on around £1,800 a month.
And if you believe that everything is getting more expensive, you’re right. The cost of living in Britain is rising faster than anywhere in Europe. The average London rent has increased 41% since 2000, and food prices have risen around 4% year-on-year. In August 2016, it was announced that rail fares fares would go up by 1.9% in 2017. The very basics of life - just having somewhere to live and getting to work - are becoming more and more costly.
Your parents might have told you that all your nights out are the root cause. Unless you’re out five nights a week, we doubt it. Don’t forget that they did exactly the same back in the day - but it was far cheaper to have fun, and most people’s salaries allowed them to do just that without getting into debt.
You could be forgiven for moping over these facts, throwing your hands in the air, and saying ‘What can I do?’ The answer, quite simply, is nothing. Prices will continue to soar; things may get harder. The cost of your first home, your rent, the price of your MOT and your travelcard can’t be negotiated. Please accept this. However, you’re not powerless.
Taking control and being flexible is the name of the game. Take renting, for example. You need a base - but you decide where, and how much you pay. If city centre accommodation is too much, look at flats further out. Look for house shares, or contracts which offer all-inclusive bills. Look for places which are near stations; you may find your commute gets even better. Your hands are never tied if you’re willing to adapt.
It’s the same with your job. Many people forget that what they earn - and taking home a decent wage - is the biggest lever they can pull in terms of comfortable living. Only 37% of Millennials have considered asking for a payrise; just think of the difference a £5k increase could make. In two years, you could save enough for a deposit on your first home.
The point I’m trying to make is that you have to realistically assess what you can control - and what you can’t. You can’t control the weather, increasing house prices, or hiked-up food costs. You can control where you buy your food, where you live, and how you spend your money. It’s all about making the most of what you have and recognising that you’re in the driving seat.
The world is not out to get you, and it’s not sapping money from your account while you stand helplessly watching. You will always have to pay a premium for having the privilege of living a normal, comfortable life - living in a warm house, commuting to work, and eating well. However, the premium itself can be tailored to suit your needs. The power to change what comes into your account every month - and what leaves - rests entirely with you.