Have your avocado toast and eat it too

Financial Responsibility
Illustration by Kendra Yee

Written by Frankie Barnet

Does the term “Financial Responsibility” make your eyes glaze over? The sad reality is that for many of us, when we finally get the dream job or make that big promotion, whatever excitement we feel is soon muted by all the homework involved: loan payments, mutual funds, APIs, REITS. It can start to feel like the adult equivalent of eating your broccoli. 

But what if being financially responsible meant actually spending your money sometimes? This might be the most repulsive idea of all. 

17,421 avocado toasts

Ever since the word “millennial” arrived in the lexicon, it's been dripping with connotations of laziness, entitlement, and irresponsibility. 

In 2017, Australian developer Tim Gurner went viral for suggesting that the reason millennials couldn’t afford real estate was that they spent all their money on brunch. Gurner’s takedown of so-called financial recklessness was universally mocked, and rightfully so. The BBC’s Worklife column broke down the rising costs of housing around the world and determined that the average down payment in London is roughly equivalent to 24,499 avocado toasts. That’s one a day for almost 70 years. In Vancouver, it’ll cost you 17,4211.

But while Gurner’s analysis is glib, factually untrue, and hypocritical (Gurner himself received a $34,000 loan from his grandfather when he entered the real estate market), it taps into a larger cultural myth about the under-40 set that resists logical rebuttals.  

What Goes Bump in the Night

Many of us are insecure about the way we spend money. Not necessarily because we’re reckless with it, but because it’s been reckless with us. Young people have been raised on horror stories about financial mismanagement on both the individual and corporate scale. Maybe you still viscerally remember the mood between your parents when the Visa bill arrived. Most likely you or someone you love was affected by the financial crisis of 2007. And we’ve seen the costs of living and tuition reach record highs while jobs markets shrink.

It’s no wonder so many of us suffer from toxic relationships with money—and might even be reluctant to spend it. 

Wealth: What Is It Good For? 

Lawyers Financial Advisor, Dustin Serviss, discourages scarcity mindsets among his clients. 

Many of us may have adopted what he calls a “save, save, save mentality” from our parents, orienting our financial planning towards a distant retirement that rarely comes to pass in exactly the same way we might expect. “You don’t know what’ll happen twenty, thirty years down the line,” says Serviss, recommending instead that we use more of our money now to enjoy what we love in our lives, whether it be our hobbies, travel, or even cutting back on hours at work. 

In fact, for clients who have a strong financial foundation, Serviss sees a correlation among those who spend and the opportunities they attract. 

Many of us have adopted a save, save, save mentality from our parents

It's not about racking up your credit card bill or otherwise worshipping at the altar of consumerism. This is about recognizing that when you have the opportunity to enjoy the income you’ve worked for—with that first job out of college or a big promotion—your money belongs to you and not the other way around. 

So why can’t the occasional personal luxury be included as an aspect of your financial wellbeing? A date night out, for example, costs roughly 0.00007% of a down payment in Vancouver. Or a quality cast iron pot, which’ll set you back around 0.00021% of a down payment in Toronto. Splurge on new sneakers for 0.00024% of a down payment in Calgary or a Reformation dress for 0.00048% of a down payment in Halifax.

But if the thought of letting go of some of your hang-ups about “unnecessary spending” still makes your stomach churn, you aren’t alone. It’s part of what Serviss calls “the belief gristle in your head.” You pick it up over time from your parents and your friends and what you see on TV about all the various ways money can ruin you. And while it’s true that there are times when thriftiness can be crucial—when you were a student, for example—once these periods are over, it's not necessary to hold onto the same mindsets, especially if they’re causing considerable stress and anxiety. 

Think about it as micro-investing, only in this case the mutual fund is your own well-being. After all, though you’ve had your ups and downs, you're the one who got yourself this far.  Risks lie ahead. In all likelihood, failures too. But your future is not some flimsy thing, one avocado toast away from crumbling into oblivion. 

We can help

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Frankie Barnet lives in Montreal and is the author of An Indoor Kind of Girl

1 https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20170530-the-avocado-toast-index-how-many-breakfasts-to-buy-a-house

April 12, 2022