Do Millennials really buy too much avocado toast?

Even if Generation Y are not all narcissists, the optimism of millennial spending habits is a cause for concern. The avocado-toast lifestyle may not be sustainable.

What is a Millennial? When Tim Gurner, an Australian millionaire and real estate developer, criticized Generation Y, the so-called “Millennials”, for buying $19 avocado on toast instead of saving for a house, it’s safe to say the outrage was well aired across social media, the pen and paper of the millennial generation.

Avocado toast, Starbucks Frappé coffee and €8 salads from Sprout; perhaps we do buy too much of overpriced products which are directly marketed towards the “yuppies” of the moment, all of whom belong to Generation Y.

Typically, those in Generation Y were born anytime between the late 1980s and early 2000s. By this standard, the majority of undergraduates fall in this category, and most will not realise just how aware they are of their millennial identity and how it is portrayed in the media.

Gurner spoke of the millennial generation in the context of the housing crisis and the high expectations and “dangerous” optimism of the young generation. Describing the lifestyle and media changes shaping this generation, Gurner warned that these changes were dangerous for both the economy and ambitions of this generation.

It may be fair to say that millennials are narcissistic, feeding the consumerist society that earlier generations first cultivated, but to tar all millennials with the same brush is downright ignorant.

I can see that this generation, of which I am somewhat proudly a part of, does have its flaws. Recently visiting Germany, I watched teenage tourists lay their Starbucks cups in the pews of one of Germany’s most famous cathedrals. Might this have been symbolic of the consumerism and the short attention span that befalls the youth?

In social media, we see the rise of vloggers like Jake Paul, with his immature, disrespectful antics. This makes one consider whether this is in fact a lost, egotistical and overly ambitious generation, when someone like this is put on a pedestal. We can be sure that is not an isolated incident of such idolisation.

So where does avocado toast fit into the habits and personalities of the typically millennial? The rise of niche lunch and brunch spots, which tend to place emphasis on the how their food is natural, organic, and often vegan, are responsible for the avocado revolution, where guacamole and the green fruit, avocado itself, are familiar members of the food group, which haunt us as we enter every burrito bar and view every brunch menu.

For the most part however, I find myself unconvinced that we really buy too much avocado toast and similar fad foods. The presumption that all millennials have the cash to throw around on the allegedly unique sandwich and salad combinations which permeate every brunch offering, neglects the many millennials who are thrifty and are wise to exploitation of the young consumer.

Referring to millennials in blanket terms, upholding the notion the generation is spoiled, narcissistic and wealthy, is a naive mistake. Many of the generation have less than enough, and are therefore more likely to be humbled and sensible.

As a millennial myself, I know for sure that the avocado toast trend is not typical of all of us, despite the many other infuriating trends and characteristics which we commonly are seen to possess more widely.

However, the critique given by Gurner does cause one to wonder if whether we have been too lax with our spending habits. It is certainly easy to spend a decent amount of cash when eating out, particularly in Dublin’s City Centre, which naturally is where the majority of Dublin millennials will congregate and eat together, whether thriftily or on the luxurious side.

A question to ask, however, is whether the privileged millennials see the purchasing of these kinds of food as the start of a sustainable lifestyle? Is it possible that some millennials do have an expectation that being able to afford our “beloved” avocado toast will always go without saying?

Gurner called it dangerous, and perhaps he has a point, highlighting to us what could go wrong. While many will live it up and spend money frivolously in their younger years, Gurner’s stresses that we may suffer when it comes to making bigger decisions in our older years. Honestly, I’d consider that a valid point.

Can we proud to be part of the millennial generation? In some ways, we are living in the best and worst of times. It is frustrating to see how we can let our subconscious greed and sense of entitlement override our sense of value .

Avocado lover or not, Gurner’s argument should alert us all to the consequences of our spending habits, and what it really means to wave the millennial flag.

Suzanne Flynn

Suzanne Flynn is the current Deputy Life Editor for Trinity News, and a Senior Sophister Law and German student.