Buying Habits of Teenagers in 2021

Welcome to Buying Habits of Teenagers!

When we think of teenagers nowadays, we associate them with Generation Z. According to Pew Research, the age bracket of Gen Z is anyone born between the years of 1997 to 2012 (ages 7 through 22, according to the year of 2019).

Gen Z is considered to be the smartphone generation, for they are one of the newer generations to grow up using smartphones. Based on that idea, you would assume that Gen-Zers shop more online, right? 

Well, that is not exactly the case. In accordance with Lexington Law, the majority of Gen Z prefer making purchases in brick-and-mortar (physical) stores than online. This, I found fairly interesting because I would think the opposite. What do you think? 

Typical Gen Z Shopping

As mentioned in a survey by Piper Jaffray, teenagers spend an annual average of $2,600 on food and clothing alone (CNBC). Adriana Belmonte, an Associate Editor of Yahoo Finance, supports that American teens spent approximately $77.2 billion in 2018, according to Piper Jaffray (Yahoo Finance). 

As reported in a Forbes article by Jeff Fromm, an expert on Millennials and Generation Z, by the year 2020, Gen Z will account for $29 to $143 billion in direct spending (Forbes). It’s pretty safe to say that this age bracket has a lot of spending power.

So the questions are: what exactly does the typical Gen Z buy? Or what does the typical teenager buy for that matter? What are their habits and tendencies? 

In this article, I will address various factors that influence the buying habits of the typical teenager or Gen Z individual. Also, I will briefly explain what you should do as a young person to prepare yourself in a better-suited direction of saving and investing your money. 

Disclaimer: I do not spend a lot of money. As a teenager, I am an outlier to this research, for I only buy what I need. I would say that I spend less than $400 annually on things like clothing or take out food. I am merely presenting this information through my research and my advice. 

Teenager Spending Tendencies

Brand Name and Loyalty

Nowadays, a large majority of teenagers like to flaunt their clothing or accessories with expensive brand names. Take, for example, Supreme or Gucci. Maybe you might even see those teens wearing AirPods in public. 

I’m not saying that everyone who wears Supreme, Gucci, or AirPods are complete show-offs, but it does rub off in that way to represent social status among peers, especially in public. 

Ever seen or heard of the AirPods craze a while back? It was all over social media like Snapchat and Instagram. For a couple of months, owning AirPods became an absolute flex, and if you didn’t have one, you were considered to be poor. 

Some say, “Sorry, I can’t hear broke” as they pretend not to listen to other people, resuming to flex on their AirPods. 

Here’s a video to prove my point: 

Regardless of intentions, the fact is that high-end top brands are dominating in the commerce world, and it is among a huge preference in this age group. 

It’s like choosing between a top brand item versus the generic choice. The trend indicates that younger people would rather pick the top brands instead because they signify higher social status. Therefore, consumer loyalty in this age group depends on the reputation and clout of the brand and/or product.

Statistically, brands like Nike continue to be at the top clothing brand for teenagers along with the following brands like American Eagle, Forever 21, Lululemon, Adidas, and H&M in the year of 2019 (Business Insider). 

While top footwear brands include Nike, Vans, Adidas, Converse, and Steve Madden (Business Insider)

Influenced by the Media

With the media constantly at our faces, it only makes sense to be easily swayed by all these companies that want our money. Marketers are required to keep up with the trends and to use tactics to allure their customers (USA Today). 

Social media marketing is one strategy among them. In the 21st century, it’s common to see influencers promoting either both their brands or partnership deals. 

They build relationships with their small or large audiences, and one way to gain commission is to advertise products and/or services. Mostly everything we see is in the media is interconnected through the metric of business.

Of course, the higher the reputation among these influencers and top brands, the more people would buy. 

Essentially, we are dealing with a generation of people introduced to the presence of the media, which makes media influence such a huge factor in our spending habits and lifestyles. 

With increased research among marketers between the relationship of advertisements and consumers, the standards of attracting one’s attention also amp up society’s standards of beauty. 

So in turn, social media marketing is partially about the visual appeal to the consumers. This explains why most social media feeds are “aesthetically pleasing,” for they have the purpose of attracting the attention of an audience. Think of the slot machine analogy for advertisements. 

Again, everything is interconnected. These top brands will strategize to promote their products and services accordingly to the trends of the general consumer. 

Preferences Differentiate Between Boys and Girls

Gender aside, the basic needs of an average teenager are food, clothing, and video games (Yahoo Finance). Still, there are differences between the spending habits of boys and girls. 

I want to briefly touch base with this concept because gender does truly play a role in this. Typically, the stereotype is that women tend to shop more than men. I don’t agree or disagree with that, for my thoughts are more geared towards the differences of the individual and the lifestyle that they are pursuing. 

However, here are some statistics on the percentages of what teenagers tend to spend on, based on their genders: 

As reported in Yahoo Finance, the spending distribution of upper-income teenage males consist of 23% towards food, 16% on clothing, and 14% on video games. 

On the other hand, upper-income teenage women spend 25% on clothing, 24% on food, 11% on personal care (Yahoo Finance). Also among teenage girls, concerts, movies, sporting events, and shoes are things that contribute to their major spendings (Yahoo Finance). 

Lack of Financial Education

Unfortunately, in 2015, approximately only 33% of adults worldwide are financially literate (Financial Literacy Around the World).  

Considering that, how about the younger people? 

I believe that financial literacy comes down to how relevant you speak of it in the household. If your parents constantly talk about how handling finances is important, it would make sense to say that the kids would, in turn, follow that behavior of valuing it. 

If there are negative connotations of finances in the household, then, of course, that behavior is modeled to negative reactions towards it.

It goes for all people, despite age. If you don’t value saving or investing, then your life will be congruent upon that, which is a higher risk to a financial burden. 

If you implement financial education in your life, you will gain more understanding of how you could prevent further debt. It’s as simple as that. 

What You Should Do as a Teenager

Don’t Spend a lot on Unnecessary Items

Ask yourself, “Is this even necessary?” or “can I live without it?” 

It is easy to say that you need something when you truly don’t. In your head, check upon that source of validation. To what extent do you need it?

Approach it as, “what could I do with this money?”

For example, you could be donating to the poor. 

Better yet, ask for advice from the people around you. Ask your older relatives for their opinions. Most likely, they have more experience. 

I am not saying to eliminate your desire to chase for all materialistic items, but you should consider lessening it. 

I think that the luxury of materialistic items is nice to have and that you have every right to pursue the type of lifestyle that you want, but I advise never to overdo it. 

Find a balance. You must find a balance because managing finances is crucial in everyday life! Keep in mind that finances are one of the main factors that induce stress down the road in adulthood.

Save and Invest 

In academic institutions today, financial literacy barely makes it into the spotlight. Trust me, finances do not seem to excite the average upper-income teenager for that matter. 

There are some exceptions such as those in lower-income teenagers who have to make ends meet to support themselves and their families. 

All in all, finances are imaginary boundaries categorized for “adults only.” So much of it is not taught to the kids. 

In the culture of today, many individuals are drowning in debt. If you don’t address your financial habits such as spending, saving, investing, and managing, you could potentially be in serious trouble.

Save

Instead of spending a whole ton, shift your mindset to saving your money. You can do this in small steps. Build upon your emergency fund.

Did you know that 44% of Americans don’t even have enough to cover up a $400 cash emergency (Forbes)?

Imagine that; one day, something tragic could happen to you and your family. How are you going to sustain that financial distress? 

As a teen, you can help out in case of those rainy days. 

Plus, instead of spending your money on clothing or shoes or any of that sort, you could save up for college! 

Because as a rising adult, you need to build upon being adept at finances or you will end up like those who are struggling to pay off their debts. 

Check out How To Save Money As A Teenager Without a Job!

Invest

If you know your way around investing, I would recommend it. 

Although, you have to consider the risks.

Are you a conservative person, and you would rather keep your money safe? Or do you have a higher risk tolerance to volatile investments? 

Some people may not want the risk of losing their money, so they tend to stay in safer accounts, but with lower cap rates. 

If you want to reach higher cap rates, you must be more prone and exposed to higher risks of losing your money. 

Needless to say, I would recommend saving up first in an emergency fund if you do not know much about investments or if you do not like risks. 

Despite that, if you want to give it a try, why not? The best way to learn is by trying and making mistakes that you can reflect on. 

Plus, imagine finding an investment with, for example, 7% interest! Can you picture the compound interest of your money instead of putting it in a bank?! The bank’s interest averages out to less than 1% (and I’m being generous).

Check out Best Ways to Start Investing With Little Money!

Manage a Budget 

Sometimes we just buy and buy, and we don’t often think about the limit. How much is enough

Managing a budget could save you so much money and it’s a chance for you to set up a structure in your lifestyle.

For example, you can challenge yourself to only spend $100 a week. Of course, this varies from person to person. According to Gallup, the average American spends an average of $101 every day (Mental Floss). Though, our spending as a teenager is much less consistent.

If done right, you will learn to live below your means. Tracking your expenses and managing a budget is one way to fix that. 

Check out 10 Budgeting Tips for Teens!

Overview

In summary, it’s okay to spend your money once in a while. It’s your money and you have the freedom to spend it on whatever it is you desire. In spite of that, you must be vigilant about your shopping habits. Be cautious and obtain more financial education. 

For more information, check out the book: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens Workbook.

In the long run, by developing a saving and investing mindset while disciplining yourself to manage your spending, you can minimize the debt that you can inquire as to a rising new adult. 

It’s all about setting a great foundation of habits in our finances. 

Author’s Note

If you’re still here, thanks for reading! I would like to know your thoughts on either this article or this topic. I am nowhere near perfect and I am more than happy for constructive criticism and comments. 

Feel free to connect with me here or my blog MakeFinanceEasy. Till next time! Best of luck!

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Disclaimer: We are not experts or certified financial advisers. Our advice for you based on what has worked and continues to work for us. If financial problems occur we are not responsible for them and advise that you speak to a professional. That being said, we believe wholeheartedly that the advice we give to you will help your financial situation greatly.

1 Comment

  1. Zen

    That was awesome maturity of being at your age Amanda! Keep up the good work, because you definitely making sense, and nailing it!

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