Since household formation often alters spending patterns, one of the best ways to isolate differences in spending between the sexes is by comparing singles. As millennials, born between 1981 and 1996, are less likely to have formed families relative to older generations, they provide an interesting lens to understand how men and women spend and save money. Do single millennial men and women spend and save differently? SmartAsset gathered data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Consumer Expenditure Survey to take a closer look.
Below we discuss the typical spending of millennial men and women according to 11 major categories: housing, utilities & housekeeping, food, healthcare, transportation, apparel & personal care, entertainment, reading & education, alcohol & tobacco, personal insurance & pensions and cash contributions & miscellaneous. For more information on our sources and data, check out the Data and Methodology section below.
- Single millennial men tend to make and spend more than their female counterparts. The average post-tax income for a man between the ages of 25 and 34 was roughly $41,800, according to data from the BLS 2017-2018 Consumer Expenditure Survey. By contrast, the average post-tax income for a woman between those same ages was about $38,600. Annual expenditures for both sexes exceeded their post-tax incomes. On average, millennial men spent close to $42,000 over the year, while millennial women spent approximately $39,100.
- Spending diverges the most on reading & education and alcohol & tobacco. On average from 2017-2018, millennial women spent about $850 more on reading & education and $620 less on alcohol & tobacco than millennial men. Therefore, millennial women spent more than twice as much as men on reading & education and less than half of what they spent on alcohol & tobacco.
Spending by Category
Millennial men spend slightly less than millennial women on housing in both gross and percentage terms. Millennial men spent an average of about $11,000 on housing, or 26.3% of their total budget. By comparison, millennial women spent almost $11,500 on housing throughout the year, or 29.3% of their budget.
That’s potentially a result of differences between the sexes in homeownership rates and outstanding mortgages. Single millennial men are more likely to be homeowners than single millennial women. Data from the 2017-2018 Consumer Expenditure Survey shows that, of the surveyed participants, 25% of single men between the ages of 25 and 34 were homeowners relative to only 21% of single women who were the same age. However, millennial men who are homeowners are less likely to have a mortgage than their female counterparts. About 68% of millennial male homeowners surveyed had mortgages, compared to 86% of millennial female homeowners.
Utilities & Housekeeping
Both millennial men and women spend about 10% of their total budget on utilities & housekeeping, which includes utilities, fuels and public services; household operations; housekeeping supplies and household furnishings & equipment. For both genders, the majority of spending in this category goes toward two subcategories: utilities, fuels and public services along with household furnishings & equipment. In 2018, single men between the ages of 25 and 34 spent about $2,000 on utilities, fuels and public services and roughly $1,200 on household furnishings & equipment. Similarly, millennial women spent averages of $1,950 on utilities, fuels and public services and $1,262 on household furnishings & equipment.
Millennial men spend about 22% more on groceries and eating out than millennial women. In 2018, single millennial men spent about $5,500 on food. Single millennial women, on the other hand, spent a little more than $4,500. As a percentage of total spending, however, millennial men and women spend similar amounts on food. Millennial men spend 13.2% of their annual spending on food purchases while millennial women allocate 11.6%, a difference of just 1.6%.
Millennials generally allocate greater shares of their food spending to eating out (including take-out and delivery) than to buying groceries and preparing food at home. Of their total food expenditures, millennial men spent about $3,500 on eating out, or 63%. Millennial women ate out slightly less; about 56%, or $2,500, of their food spending went toward meals at restaurants and take-out.
Both millennial men and women spend about $1,800 annually on healthcare, including health insurance, medical services, drugs and medical supplies. Single millennial men spent an average of $1,747 on healthcare in 2017-2018. By comparison, women spent an average of $1,838. Although they spend $2,848 less on healthcare per year, millennial women allocate slightly more of their budget, 4.7%, to healthcare expenses relative to millennial men, who allocate 4.2%.
In 2018, single men between the ages of 25 and 34 spent about $7,200 on transportation and single women between those same ages spent about $5,100. Much of the difference in spending seems to stem from the forms of transportation millennial men and women are more likely to rely on, with men skewing more toward private transportation like cars and women more towards public transportation such as buses and subways. About 80% of the millennial male survey participants owned or leased at least one vehicle, relative to 77% of female survey participants. This is reflected by their spending on vehicle purchases. Moreover, female participants reported spending about $100 more on public transportation than men.
Apparel & Personal Care
Millennial women spent about 42% more than millennial men on apparel and personal care in 2017-2018. Within this category, their spending particularly diverged on personal care products. On average, millennial women spent close to $800 on personal care compared to millennial men, whose personal care spending hovered around $300. Part of this difference may be a result of the pink tax, which tends to be levied on female personal care products such razors, shaving cream and body wash.
In 2017-2018, millennial men spent more on entertainment than millennial women in both gross and percentage terms. Though women spent $100 more on admissions and fees, a BLS subcategory of entertainment, male spending on audio and visual equipment and services, a second subcategory, was higher than female spending by about $230.
Reading & Education
Millennial women tend to spend more on education than millennial men do. Of single participants between the ages of 25 and 34 in the 2017-2018 survey, 89% of women had a college degree compared to 78% of men. The difference in achieved education levels mirrors their prioritization of continued education and spending on education. Data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey shows that millennial women allocated almost $1,700 to reading & education in 2017-2018, more than double the amount men allocated.
Alcohol & Tobacco
Like reading & education, there are wide differences in spending on alcohol & tobacco between millennial men and women. In 2018, single millennial men spent an average of almost $900 on alcohol and roughly $300 on tobacco products and smoking supplies. Millennial women spent about $440 on alcohol and $130 on tobacco products and smoking supplies.
Personal Insurance & Pensions
Personal insurance & pensions spending includes post-tax income spent on life, endowment, annuities & other personal insurance and retirement, as well as pensions & Social Security. Millennial men allocated slightly more of their spending and budget – $5,260 or 12.5% of their budget – to personal insurance & pensions than millennial women in 2018 – $4,438 or 11.3% of their budget.
Cash Contributions & Miscellaneous
Cash contributions & miscellaneous spending includes donations and other spending such as bank service charges and credit card memberships. Both millennial men and women allocated about 3.3% of their total spending to cash contribution and miscellaneous charges.
Notably, both millennial men and women spend more annually than they receive in post-tax income. In 2017-2018, single millennial men spent $130 more than their post-tax income while single millennial female spending exceeded their average post-tax income by almost $500. While spending on pensions and Social Security, a subcategory of personal insurance and pensions, may be counted as savings, both groups are generally not saving the recommended 20% – according to a 50/30/20 budget plan – and beyond this, are accruing debt.
Data and Methodology
Data for this report comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2017-2018 Consumer Expenditures Survey. Since the BLS reports averages per consumer unit, we looked at the spending of single men relative to single women to isolate differences in spending patterns by sex. Millennials are defined as those between the ages of 25 and 34.
The BLS measures the variability of average expenditures by calculating a coefficient of variation, which is the standard error divided by the mean expenditure and is expressed as a percent. Per BLS recommendations, we did not rely on estimated averages with a coefficient of variation greater than 25.
Saving Tips for Millennials
- Don’t put off saving and investing. Many millennials are at the beginning of their careers, meaning that they have plenty of time to build up their savings and take advantage of compound interest. Take a look at our investment calculator to see how your investment can grow over time.
- Contribute to a 401(k) or IRA. One of the best ways to save for retirement is through a retirement savings account. A 401(k) is an employer-sponsored defined contribution plan in which you divert pre-tax portions of your monthly paycheck into a retirement account. Some employers will also match your 401(k) contributions up to a certain percentage of your salary, meaning that if you chose not to contribute, you are essentially leaving money on the table. Our 401(k) calculator can help you determine what you saved for retirement so far and how much more you may need. If your employer does not offer a 401(k) plan, an IRA is another great option.
- Consider a financial advisor. A financial advisor can help you make smarter financial decisions to be in better control of your money. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
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