Many argue that financial literacy is one essential subject still missing from the school curriculum. Most kids leave secondary school with Pythagoras’ Theorem branded into their brains but are clueless about credit scores, mortgage applications and pension pots.  

It’s no surprise that those without financial education turn to the internet to supplement their lack of knowledge. But is social media filled with saving-savvy gurus or just the hunting ground of scammers? Perhaps it’s not that simple. 

For the generation that entered the workforce during a cost-of-living crisis, depressed housing market and post-Brexit economy, money is a sensitive subject. No wonder they’ve decided to inject some fun by coining new financial phrases and renaming age-old practices to suit the digital era. 

In no particular order, let’s take a look at some of the money trends taking Gen Z by storm with this (definitely not exhaustive) dictionary. 



Noun, verb| duːm ˈspɛndɪŋ

Evolving from ‘doomscrolling’, which referred to the constant content-consumption cycle many of us found ourselves in during the pandemic, doomspending refers to young people turning to material consumption for comfort.  

According to the logic of doomspending, Gen Z is so disillusioned by the rising cost of living –  which is putting milestone investments like homes and cars far out of reach – that they are turning to more frivolous purchasing to fill the gap. 

While older readers may take this as confirmation that Gen Z’s foolish lack of financial management is to blame for their struggles, it is much harder for today’s young people to get onto the housing ladder than those before them. Over the past fifty years, the price of the average UK home has increased almost twice as much as the wages of the average UK worker 1. According to a 2022 study by McKinsey, 25% of Gen Z respondents doubted they’d ever be able to afford to retire, and less than half believed they’d ever own a home 2. 

In contrast, a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Thailand, a designer handbag, or tickets to see your favourite band are all purchases that, while not entirely future-focused, are achievable – and add a little joy to life sooner rather than later. 


Loud budgeting 

Noun, verb | laʊd ˈbʌʤɪtɪŋ

At the other end of the spectrum, we have loud budgeting, which touts itself as a cure for doomspending tendencies. 

Online proponents of loud budgeting encourage their followers to be open and honest about their desire to not spend money, breaking the stigma of embarrassment around thriftiness. Rather than making excuses to opt out of plans that might make you seem anti-social or disengaged from friends, simply be honest and say ‘I don’t want to spend money on that’, or ‘Sorry, I’m saving up for X at the moment’.  

The logic goes: if you’re ‘loud’ about your budgeting aspirations with the people around you, you’ll be much more likely to stick to your saving goals. Essentially, it’s a repackaging of the lesson you’ve heard time and time again applied to other lifestyle goals like dieting or keeping up a fitness regime. 

Does it work? Well, it depends entirely on the reactions of your friends and family, as well as your self-control. Some may see your honesty as inspiring and take the opportunity to curb their own spending too, while others may simply continue with spending-heavy plans without you. It’s up to you to battle the FOMO. 


Girl math 

Noun | ɡɜːl mæθ

Ever found yourself struggling to justify a ‘treat’ purchase such as an expensive set of bed sheets, a trendy scented candle, or a high-end makeup product? Girl math has the solution for you. 

Beginning as a joke on a podcast, girl math was quickly adopted across TikTok and beyond by users trying to convince themselves and others of the real-life value of their premium purchases.  

The best way to understand girl math is through an example: 

Say you treat yourself to a pair of brand-new designer shoes, costing £500. This is far out of your usual budget for shoes but think about it this way – if you wear the shoes at least 100 times, that’s equivalent to just £5 a wear – a comparative bargain. Some girl-math enthusiasts might even go further and argue that the superior quality of the shoes means you won’t have to invest again for much longer than if you’d chosen a budget-friendly option, actually saving you money in the long run. 

There are obvious holes in this logic, but that’s not the spirit of girl-math. Many financial commentators criticise the trend as a delusional and dangerous mindset, which has escalated a light-hearted joke between girls into a hotly debated discussion about gender roles and spending. Many point out that men don’t feel the need to justify their non-essential purchases to strangers on the internet, so why should women have to discuss why they indulged in the latest Uggs, a new set of gel nails, or a gorgeous coffee table book?  

Gender theory aside, a lot of the reasoning behind girl math mirrors the psychological journey we all go through to rationalise a high-value purchase – what will the item contribute to my life? How long will it last? Will it prevent me from having to make other purchases? They’re all valid questions to ask yourself before splashing the cash. 



Adjective | buːʒiː-brəʊk

While girl math always seeks to justify purchases, the bougie-broke lifestyle transcends the need for justification. Bougie-broke living describes the financial state of always barely having adequate funds – in other words, as soon as you get it, you spend it.  

We all feel the urge to splurge when our wages hit our bank account. Those who follow the bougie-broke philosophy believe in giving in to that temptation, splashing out to keep up an appearance of affluence carefully crafted through fancy dinners, holidays and designer goods that leave their bank balance at zero, but their Instagram looking lavish. 

Closely linked to doomspending, this hedonistic attitude to consumerism is very much focused on the now, with no planning, saving, or provisions for the future. Bougie broke is basically a less existential version of living paycheck to paycheck. 

Some critics point out the risky nature of this behaviour, which could encourage those who participate to overspend or even borrow to ‘keep up with the Joneses’. Others point out that the trend reveals the reality behind the glamorous appearances we so often see on social media, breaking the illusion and encouraging tough conversations about money 3. 

That guy who’s always dressed to the nines with a luxury watch on his arm might not be as affluent as you thought – he might just be living the bougie-broke lifestyle. 


No-spend challenge 

Noun | nəʊ-spɛnd ˈʧælɪnʤ

The ‘no-spend challenge’ is a saving method that prompts users to make a sudden, drastic restriction to their outgoings to fast-track a short-term savings goal. This could be paying off debt or making a significant purchase like a car or holiday. 

The challenge is almost exactly what it sounds like – going as long as possible without spending a penny. But it’s not quite as strict as it sounds – essential bills and purchases are allowed, so the lights will still be on and dinner will still be on the table. In contrast, commonly forbidden items and activities include takeaway food, non-essential services like hair or nail appointments, and entertainment and social spending like video games, cinema trips and nights out.  

No-spend sounds unnecessarily thrifty, and it’s not intended to be a long-term fix. The challenge is all about altering your mindset of what a necessary purchase is so you can live frugally in the short-term, to quickly hit a savings target that would otherwise take months or years to achieve. 

It can be a useful learning experience too. Even if you only engage with the ‘no-spend’ doctrine temporarily, it can encourage you to be more critical and selective about your purchasing in the future. 


Cash stuffing 

Noun, verb | kæʃ ˈstʌfɪŋ

Cash may be on the decline, but this budgeting method is bringing it back. Cash-stuffing, which is also known as ‘the envelope method’ has been around for decades, and now TikTok is giving it a Gen Z revival with added accountability. 

This classic money management technique involves withdrawing your entire paycheque from the bank in cash, and then divvying it up into envelopes earmarked for different spending categories such as essential expenses, bills, social expenses, emergency savings and debt repayment.  

The idea is that having physical cash to manage is more tangible than numbers on a screen or buying with the tap of your phone. Watching your envelopes get thinner as the month goes on gives you a much better grasp of how to make your money go further. But the method still requires a level of self-control, which is where TikTok comes in. 

Financial influencers have revolutionised cash stuffing for the new generation by adding an extra step – filming yourself stating your budget commitments for the month. This way, your online friends can keep you accountable for sticking to your cash pots 4. 

Cash stuffing has been credited as an ingenious way to pay off credit card or loan debt, while simultaneously avoiding accumulating more – what’s not to love? 


Side hustle 

Noun | saɪd ˈhʌsᵊl 

You’re probably familiar with this one. Since the pandemic, side hustle culture has gone mainstream. From selling second-hand clothes on Vinted to setting up your own small business crafting flower arrangements, coasters, or just about anything you can think of – every man and his dog seems to have a second stream of income these days. 

Flexible working arrangements mean many are now able to take on extra responsibilities outside of their full-time 9-5 job, whether that’s creating social media content, freelance work, or an entirely difference part-time role. 

While some side hustles are born from a hobby or passion, others arise out of necessity as wages fail to keep up with the rising cost of living. For many, the added income from their second, fully remote job is essential. A September 2022 survey by insurance company Royal London, shows 16% of respondents had taken on an additional role to help pay for cost-of-living increases.

Side hustles are especially popular amongst the young. A February 2023 survey shows that 40% of Gen Z workers are combining at least two roles 6. As career paths become less linear and roles more temporary, Gen Z workers are keen to keep their options open and ensure they are invested in maintaining their long-term employability via multiple channels. 


Why do Gen Z’s social media money trends matter? 

There are obvious limits to the earnestness of social media slang. Some trends offer genuine advice to Gen Z spenders, while others are just a product of this generation’s signature irreverent humour. 

That being said, the frequency and evolution of spending and social trends paint a fascinating picture of Gen Z’s attitudes to spending and saving that no brand in the financial services industry can afford to ignore. 

What do you predict will be the next social media money trend? 


[1] Sky News

[2] McKinsey

[3] CNBC

[4] CNBC

[5] Royal London

[6] Kantar