The pandemic was the strangest time. We spent most of it at home, ordering in instead of dining out, relying on Netflix and Disney+ for entertainment, turning into gardeners and bakers and using Zoom for all our social needs. We decreased our credit card debt while on it.
After over a year of such existence, it’s no wonder that many can’t wait to get out and live their best post-pandemic life.
Now that the world if finally opening up, it’s a perfect time to splurge—to book that trip you’ve dreamed about all through the pandemic; to buy new outfits after having worn pajamas and yoga pants like they’re business casual; to go to the movies, shows, baseball games…
There’s just one catch: All this can get quite expensive.
This, however, doesn’t seem to bother young Americans. More than half of millennials and Gen Zers don’t mind getting into debt to fully enjoy the end of the pandemic.
Read on to learn what they’re planning to spend on and how you can celebrate the world opening up without hurting your finances.
56 percent of Gen Zers and 59 percent of millennials don’t mind post-pandemic debt
Travel fever is real. After over a year of being stuck in one place, many of us are yearning to travel and go out to have fun.
And travel is the number one category they’re planning to spend more in. Thirty-eight percent of millennials and 39 percent of Gen Zers said they’re expecting to spend more on travel in the second half of 2021.
Unsurprisingly, another popular category is out-of-home entertainment, with 36 percent of Gen-Zers and 34 percent of millennials planning to spend more on things like movie theaters, concerts and sporting events.
The third most common category for expected spending is clothing and accessories, with 34 percent of Gen Zers and 33 percent of millennials ready to invest more in new outfits in the second half of 2021.
The two younger generations are showing their willingness to up their post-pandemic spending across the board—more so than all other generations. Other popular spending categories among millennials and Gen Zers include bars and restaurants, home renovations, physical fitness (gym memberships, workout classes and other expenses of that kind) and car purchases and maintenance.
To sum up, young Americans want to go out and travel and look amazing while doing so. They want it so much that debt doesn’t seem like such a bad idea anymore.
It’s a dangerous notion. Of course, it’s exciting that life is mostly back to normal, but is it worth putting your financial health in jeopardy?
Fortunately, there are ways to protect your budget and still enjoy all the fun the newly open world offers.
Budgeting for post-pandemic discretionary spending
It can be easy to get carried away catching up on the things you’ve been missing during the coronavirus crisis.
I’m feeling this too: I’ve gone on one trip, and it felt so good, the post-travel hangover is intolerable. I’m clutching my credit cards telling myself not to book my next three trips all at once.
Yet, if I did that, I’d get into debt. Luckily, the thought of owing money is still terrifying enough to me to avoid this kind of overspending.
Does it mean I’m not going on those three trips? Definitely not. I’m just going to take a deep breath and think of smarter strategies to make them happen.
Here’s what those strategies are.
Reviewing your budget
Your pandemic budget might have looked different with increased grocery spending, streaming subscriptions and a lot of room left from things you weren’t able to do during this time. Now is the perfect time to revisit your budget or create one if you haven’t yet.
Think of the categories you’re most excited to spend in and determine how much of your paycheck you can allocate to them, as well as which other expenses you can cut. Then, make sure to stick to your new budget.
Sometimes, that will mean stopping yourself from buying another pair of jeans or saving up for bigger purchases. It doesn’t sound fun, but believe me, credit card debt is even less exciting. And if you really want that pair of jeans, you’ll probably still want it next month when you can fit it in your budget.
Saving for travel and big purchases
If you haven’t been saving money during the pandemic, it’s never too late to start. Whether you’re planning a vacation or considering a big purchase, it’s best to save up enough money first. That way, you won’t have to worry about getting into debt.
Saving can require some patience. But haven’t you waited enough being stuck at home for over a year? That’s an understandable sentiment, and you deserve to treat yourself. But the treat is that much sweeter when you don’t have to pay interest on it.
Picking the right credit card
Yes, I’m suggesting you get a credit card, but hear me out. I’m not telling you to get it to put yourself in debt and lose money to interest.
What I’m saying is, credit cards can help fund your post-pandemic wants without making you worry about APR.
The first type of credit card I want to suggest are 0 percent APR credit cards. They offer a zero-interest promotional period (usually between 12 and 18 months), during which you can take your time paying off the balance without worrying about accruing interest. This is a good option for large purchases—just make sure you pay the card off in full before the promo period ends. Otherwise, you’ll be responsible for APR charges.
As for post-pandemic travel, a good travel credit card can be your best friend. A generous welcome bonus can pay for a big chunk of your vacation. For example, The Platinum Card® from American Express is currently offering a 100,000-point bonus for spending $6,000 in the first six months. That’s up to $1,000 when redeemed through American Express Travel, but you can stretch your points even further if you transfer them to one of Amex’s partners.
Or, if the $695 annual fee on the Amex Platinum seems too high, there’s even a more exciting welcome offer from Chase. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is currently offering a jaw-dropping 80,000-point bonus worth $1,000 toward travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. The spend requirement is $4,000 in the first three months, and the card has a much more reasonable annual fee of $95.
The bottom line
Many young people are ready to experience the post-pandemic world and aren’t afraid to get into credit card debt if that’s what it takes.
Returning to normalcy, however, doesn’t have to hurt your finances.
Be strategic about your discretionary spending. Make room for it in your budget, save as much as you can for big purchases and take advantage of credit cards that can help you save and avoid interest.