In the early 1990s, Dave Ramsey was the one to watch or listen to for advice on budgeting and debt relief. His solution sounded simple: Construct a budget, breaking down how much money is required for rent, utilities, credit card bills, groceries, entertainment, etc. When cash comes in, it is placed in labeled envelopes based on the previous budgeting. That way, different “account” amounts can easily be monitored, and spending can be adjusted to not exceed the funds allotted in the budget. Of course, Ramsey has done a lot more than that and is still a public figure. But how many people born between 1997 and 2012 (“Gen Z”) have even heard of him?
Regardless of Ramsey’s status with young people, many Gen Zers have taken up what they call “cash stuffing,” which is…well, read the first paragraph. Though they may or may not be aware of Ramsey, several factors have prompted many young adults to deal with their money differently than their predecessors. Instead of impulsive spending, lots of GenZers are practicing careful budgeting.
Ironically, this trend has spread like wildfire on TikTok, which has recently been under scrutiny for allowing posts about dangerous challenges that are targeted at Millennials and GenZ. Fortunately, this particular trend leans toward the positive.
Many young people have also learned a lot from watching what their parents, caregivers, and society, in general, have been through in the last few years. First, there was a recession, and then a pandemic, during which their household income may have been affected. So, a fear of something else happening or repeating parents’ mistakes, plus the popularity of the method, has triggered many to think outside the box.
An ample number of GenZers have entered, or are entering, the workforce, and may have experienced how tough it is these days to eat, pay rent and still have time for a social life.
According to CBS News, this is a big shift because these kids have grown up in digital, instant gratification times. Many would rather text their friends who are in the same room rather than speak to or interact with them. Thus, even their financial transactions have been primarily done online. After watching many people in their own homes, communities, states, and across the globe get ripped off or become homeless, while noticing that gas and grocery prices have skyrocketed, they may look at any income they receive differently. They know the money will not always be there and may even disappear in the blink of an eye. Some may even be fearful of repeating the economic collapse in the late 1920s and early 1930s.
While the concept of “cash stuffing” is nothing new, actually having cash in hand is novel to not only some young people but also to some older generations as well. Many adults do not carry cash, and conduct their transactions via credit or debit cards, as well as manage their finances online. During the pandemic, some stores would not even accept cash, as the fear of spreading the COVID virus on paper money grew.
Thus, the idea of taking a paycheck to the bank and actually cashing it is foreign to some and brings back financial procedures from the past to others. While transactions in the ether may be easier to ignore or to assume that they represent a bottomless pit of money (they're only numbers on a screen, right?), cash in hand gives a visual, visceral reminder that those numbers on the computer actually represent something and that when that something is gone, it’s gone.
Only time will tell if “cash stuffing” will be effective or not, but young people taking control of their own budgets and financial situations open up a positive channel for them to learn about the world, and most likely satisfies the hopes of some parents and caregivers.