Millennials vote with their wallets

But they don’t have much to spend

Ellie Daforge
May 11, 2018 · 5 min read
Photo by Petr Sevcovic on Unsplash

I can’t log on to a news site these days without seeing something that millennials “killed.” Millennials aren’t buying diamonds, they aren’t eating in chain restaurants, and they aren’t purchasing designer handbags.

First of all, it’s kind of short-sighted to group everyone of a certain generation and sum them up as if they were one entity. Second, those articles are always viewing us as negative. Rather than “Millennials are doing the best they can with the money they have,” it’s “Millennials are killing napkins.”

Millennials have a lot of financial obligations. They aren’t setting up a rifle to blast your business to smithereens; they’re voting with their wallets. Businesses are failing because they won’t adapt.

Rather than “Millennials are doing the best they can with the money they have,” it’s, “Millennials are killing napkins.”

“The customer is always right” is an adage that some take to mean You should always please the customer, but another thought behind it is that you should be selling what the customer wants.

If the customer says they want fresh, healthy food and good service, don’t keep the same business model of short-staffed restaurants and food that looks like it was thrown together and microwaved.

I don’t have a lot of money, so if I go to a restaurant, it’s usually because I have a family event to attend. I’ll often encounter a waiter who audibly sighs and rolls her eyes at us. Or he will drop off our food and disappear for an hour while we’re waiting for our check. And then when we get it, the restaurant has tacked on a mandatory 18% gratuity.

I went to one family-owned restaurant — not even a chain — and when I gave my sandwich order to the waitress, she made a face. “That’s what you want? Ugh. If I ate that, I’d throw up.”

That’s a great way to make sure I go looking for a different restaurant next time — if there is a next time.


I was in college during the Great Recession of 2008. I saw many people I know, some who were working for the same business for over a decade, get laid off. I switched to a more promising major.

Suddenly, gas was over $4/gallon. I lived in an area where public transportation wasn’t really available, so I had to work a lot of shifts just to fill up my tank and get to class. I cooked and served food, I did dishes, I scrubbed toilets, and then I came home and studied.

I graduated and sent out fifty applications and got a job. My major paid off; I was luckier than most. I worked my way up to an office job that offered health insurance. We got a cost of living raise every year, but it was just that: a tiny cost of living adjustment.

By the time I paid for my increase in housing costs, my utility rates and health insurance going up, and the cost of grocery increases, I was right back where I started, or worse off. Costs always seemed to go up, never down.

When I first started, my company started auditing my work and talking about budget shortfalls. I was almost laid off, but I was saved because a co-worker took the layoff for me and retired.

I started taking classes in the evenings for a master’s degree, so I could someday get a better job and have a little more security. A relative asked me how much my job paid in “tuition reimbursement,” and I said, “Nothing.”

She was astounded. “My job paid for all of my college!”

“And when was that?” I asked. “The early nineties?”

She sighed. “Yeah.”

My company bounced back, and we started getting more clients. I had plenty of work to do, and I applied the skills I was learning in my classes. I developed projects and took on extra work and did research.

After a couple years of that, I wrote a list of when I’d gone above and beyond, and decided to ask for a raise. I knew I was likely to be turned down; not because I hadn’t done great work, but because no matter what I did, how many times I finished projects early or helped others or found solutions, I heard co-workers say, “Millennials don’t want to work hard. They want everything handed to them.”

I put forth my request professionally, because I wanted to see what would happen. What I didn’t expect was pure anger.

“You can’t just ask for a raise,” said my manager. “Why did you think you could do this?”

I pointed out my accomplishments, and he cut me off. He didn’t care. I asked what I could do to earn a raise in the future.

“Nothing. We don’t give raises here.”

I started looking for a new job. I had plenty of skills, after all. I applied and interviewed, but none of the jobs seemed any better than what I had.

I started looking into side gigs (like Medium). While I was typing this article, my laptop crashed. It’s only seven years old. A new computer is too expensive for me, although I’ll have to get one eventually to finish my degree. For now, I restarted it and finished this article.

So, businesses, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I can’t spend my Friday nights running up a tab at your restaurant, or buying toys for my (nonexistent) children. My current project is trying to make enough money to pay my bills.

Do you want to keep your business alive? Reward your employees who work hard, so they can afford to buy what you’re selling. Research what people in their 20s and 30s want. I love supporting companies that are environmentally friendly. I like companies with good shipping policies — after all, I’m busy with my classes.

I don’t need to be treated like a queen when I go to a restaurant, but I would like some delicious food without an eye-roll or a nasty comment. Make me leave saying, “Wow, I can’t wait to go back,” and not, “I’m so sorry. It seemed like such a great place!”

My current project is trying to make enough money to pay my bills.

I wish I could end this article with, “And that was me, just a poor millennial. But I worked hard and now I live on an island with a private jet, and eat in the fanciest restaurants in Paris.”

Nope. I am still just another millennial with student loans and an aversion to shelling out $14 for a bad meal. I can’t buy toys for a kid, because I can’t afford my health insurance deductible for the childbirth.

I really would love to, but apparently I’m not working hard enough.

Ellie Daforge

Written by

Article writer, aspiring YA novelist.

Minimalist Thoughts

A publication about minimalism and sustainability, along with thoughts on modern living.

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