Millennials are spending a ton on basics. Are they using credit cards enough?
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Millennials are spending money — lots of it — and not on the kinds of things that lead to memes about avocado toast.

Young adults today say they spend big on goods and services more associated with soccer moms and suburban dads. A big chunk of their monthly budgets are devoted to groceries, dining out, gas and cellphone service, in amounts higher than you might expect, a new Bankrate survey finds. Millennials spend $2,300 more per year on those categories, on average, than older generations do.

Those basic bills represent rich opportunities to earn money back, or points that can add up to cool vacations and other rewards. So millennials might seriously want to consider putting more of their everyday spending on credit cards.

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Food eating up their budgets

Feeding millennials’ expanding families can really add up. On average, young adults report spending $797 per month on groceries, a higher amount than any other age group.

“Because I have three kids I always surprise myself every week at how much I spend on groceries,” says 35-year-old Joanna Horowitz of Boca Raton, Florida. “It just never seems like we have enough food. I have to go to the store at least two or three times a week.”

And even with all of that fridge-filling, millennials still report spending about $50 more per month than other adults on restaurant dining and take-out food.

Spending a lot on getting around

You also can scrap the notion that the youngest adults are primarily urban dwellers who live near work or favor public transportation. They say they spend an average $254 per month on gasoline, versus $211 among other generations.

“Older millennial spending on gas is likely higher than other generations as older millennials are starting families and need to drive their children to everything from daycare and school to after-school activities,” says Jason Dorsey, president and millennials researcher at The Center for Generational Kinetics, a consulting firm in Austin, Texas.

Alaina Bailey, a 36-year-old office manager in Mobile, Alabama, says her monthly fuel costs easily top $200. “I miss the days of 99 cents for a gallon of gas, where 15 bucks would buy you a full tank of gas and trip to Taco Bell,” she says.

Make a high-cost life more rewarding

If you’re a millennial dealing with high day-to-day expenses, here’s one good way to fight back: Apply for a rewards credit card. It’s free money — but you have to tackle your fear of credit to get it.

“Focus on cards that have the highest payouts in the categories where you spend the most. This is the way to maximize the return you’re getting on everyday spending,” says Greg McBride, CFA, Bankrate’s chief financial analyst.

Not sure which card to choose? Be sure to read our companion story, Millennials, here’s how to find the right rewards credit card.

Princeton Survey Research Associates International obtained telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of 1,002 adults living in the continental United States. Interviews were conducted by landline (501) and cell phone (501, including 313 without a landline phone) in English and Spanish by Princeton Data Source from July 6-9, 2017. Statistical results are weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies. The margin of sampling error for the complete set of weighted data is plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

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