15 Things Boomers Spend Money on That (Most) Millennials Don’t

SAVING & SPENDING - BUDGETING & EXPENSES
Exploring the unexpected ways Boomers and Millennials invest their hard-earned cash.
Updated April 9, 2024
Fact checked
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A recent Bank of America study revealed that while Baby Boomers control most of the nation's wealth, their spending habits might surprise you.

Millennials, burdened by student loans and the high cost of raising kids, are struggling to keep more money in the bank.

So, how exactly does each age group approach their hard-earned cash? Let's dive in and explore the spending habits of different generations.

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Cable TV

StratfordProductions/Adobe sitting on couch watching tv

Cable has been dying a slow death for a while now, but baby boomers have been keeping it alive. A recent study by Statista revealed that 40% of baby boomers watched cable daily, compared with just 25% of millennials.

Landlines

nyul/Adobe smiling senior using landline phone

Who uses a landline anymore? Baby boomers do. A report released by the CDC revealed that about 45% of people over age 65 lived in a home with only wireless phones, compared to 83-87% of millennials. 

That said, two-thirds of baby boomers own a smartphone — they just prefer to keep one foot in each era of technology.

Cruises

michaeljung/Adobe couple hugging at sunset

Baby boomers remain the largest demographic of cruise vacationers, but millennials' interest in this form of travel has been growing since the pandemic. 

While boomers may have more money to spend on travel, millennials want cruises, which offer an all-inclusive option for family vacations with children.

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Travel

Songsak C/Adobe enjoying a beautiful nature

While millennials are known for their love of travel, they're scrimping to do it on a shoestring budget. Baby boomers spend about a third more per trip than millennials do.

Greeting cards

Roman Tiraspolsky/Adobe greeting cards isle

The stereotype of getting a birthday card in the mail from Grandma still rings true in 2024. Baby boomers still purchase the most greeting cards of all the generations. 

And even though they buy fewer of them, millennials are willing to spend more on each, averaging $6 per card.

Checks

Happy Hues/Adobe prepare writing a check

Older generations are more familiar with checks and more likely to use them, so, unsurprisingly, baby boomers use more of them for payment than millennials do. 

According to a Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta report, each year of age makes a person half a percent less likely to prefer checks.

In-store impulse buys

BGStock72/Adobe choosing clothes from new collection

Oddly, Gen Z and baby boomers have one shopping habit in common: They prefer to shop in a brick-and-mortar store, while millennials and Gen X prefer shopping online. 

This trend of preferring an in-person shopping experience holds true, whether at a department or a discount store.

Business suits

Rido/Adobe businessman looking at camera

Very few people wear full business suits to work every day now, but the last holdouts are bound to be boomers. 

Millennials are known for wearing business casual (or completely casual) clothing to work — a trend reinforced by companies that have relaxed dress codes to lure employees back to the office.

Lottery tickets

Stephen VanHorn/Adobe state lottery

Almost half (49%) of all U.S. adults buy lottery tickets, but this method of gambling is much more popular among certain demographics. 

According to a Gallup poll, millennials are much less likely to have bought a lottery ticket in the last year than their baby boomer counterparts (33% vs. 61%).

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Beer

pavel siamionov/Adobe two glass of beer

Unlike baby boomers before them, millennials prefer other types of alcoholic beverages over beer — unless, of course, you’re talking about craft beer. In this case, millennials are the top consumers.

Golf equipment

sculpies/Adobe golfer ready to make shot

While Tiger Woods and Annika Sorenstam have brought some much-needed diversity to the sport, baby boomers are still the top purchasers of golf equipment. 

As the sport is regarded as a common pastime in retirement, it’s no wonder that boomers spend more time and money on golf than other generations.

Bar soap

Lana Langlois/Adobe white soap bar

Liquid soap didn’t hit its stride until the 1980s, so it’s no wonder that more boomers use bar soap than millennials. Younger generations think that liquid soap is less messy and harbors fewer germs.

Motorcycles

uladzislaulineu/Adobe black motorcycle helmet hanging

You might expect the opposite, but millennials have less interest in motorcycles than baby boomers. This could be due to all the student debt millennials are still paying off — or boomers could just be way cooler than anyone gives them credit for.

Extra electricity

Nattawit/Adobe turning on the lamp

Boomers use more electricity than millennials, thanks to larger homes, luxury appliances, and extra energy-using amenities like a pool or hot tub. This discrepancy costs boomers around $500 more annually.

Newspapers and magazines

Federico Rostagno/Adobe pile of magazines at table

According to data from Statista, 45% of baby boomers have an active newspaper or magazine subscription compared with just 33% of digital-native millennials.

Bottom line

Reese/peopleimages.com/Adobe one happy family

While technology and trends evolve rapidly, spending habits are often ingrained by the economic realities of a generation. 

Boomers, now in retirement, prioritize discretionary spending, while millennials, facing student loans, child-rearing, and rising costs, must find ways to save effectively if they are to get ahead financially.

If you're interested in learning about more about group spending patterns, check out our article on male vs. female spending statistics.

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Author Details

Jenni Sisson Jenni Sisson is a freelance writer and editor who focuses on personal finance, real estate, and entrepreneurship. She has been published in Business Insider and The Ways to Wealth. In addition to writing, Jenni hosts the Mama's Money Map podcast to help fellow stay-at-home moms on their journey to financial freedom.

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