10 Things Boomers Used To Do To Save Money That Younger Generations Ignore

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Oh, How Times Have Changed

Times have indeed changed, and with the relentless march of inflation, it has become more and more difficult for millennials and subsequent generations to enjoy the financial stability that baby boomers once had. To be fair, this era's strong economy and relatively low cost of living also allowed for more straightforward paths to wealth. This includes the ability to afford property and build stronger savings — things that seem increasingly elusive for younger generations today.


To put things into perspective, Gen Z dollars have 86% less purchasing power compared to what baby boomers had in their 20s. But boomers also adhered to stricter lifestyle choices that made it possible for them to capitalize on their economic environment. 

Here are 10 habits that boomers have maintained that differentiate from millennials, Gen Z, and other generations. 

An older couple cooking a healthy vegan meal with vegetables together

1. Eating at Home

If your boomer parents snapped back with "we've got plenty of food at home" every time you asked for McDonald's, then you know the drill. Eating out was reserved for luxury or special occasions like birthdays or anniversaries. But as much as I hated having to always eat at home, it did significantly cut down on monthly living expenses, which were then put into savings. 

In comparison, millennials and Gen Z tend to spend a larger portion of their income on eating out or ordering in. This is driven in part by busier lifestyles and greater social engagement, which diminishes our ability to consistently save. 

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2. Saving a Portion of Each Paycheck

Back in the day, it was common for boomers to adhere to the discipline of saving a set percentage of every paycheck — a practice that was strongly advocated by personal finance advice of the time. This consistent savings habit helped them capitalize on compound interest over the decades to accrue more disposable income and financial freedom. Of course, things were also a LOT cheaper back then. 

But today's younger generations often find themselves having to prioritize more immediate bills like student loans or sky-high rent prices. These hefty financial burdens then end up squeezing or completely obliterating their ability to save.

Senior friends talking in the subway train
FG Trade/istockphoto

3. Using Public Transportation

Instead of relying on personal vehicles all the time, boomers often used public transportation to commute to work or for other daily needs. It also wasn't uncommon for a family to just have one car instead of owning multiple. This helped them cut down on expenses like fuel, maintenance, and insurance, which can add up quickly over time. (Who else remembers when gas was $10 a gallon? Times sure were wild.) 

On the flip side, millennials and Gen Z often place a greater emphasis on convenience and flexibility. This is why you're more likely to see younger generations using rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft, or opting to buy a car despite the increased costs. 

When debt becomes a reality

4. Avoiding Debt

Boomers generally tried to avoid debt, except for mortgages or other strategic investments like education and real estate. Credit cards were used sparingly — if at all — and were typically fully paid off to avoid interest. Boomers with family members who lived through the Great Depression were also told to be wary of banks, resulting in many opting to pay with cash whenever possible. 

In comparison, younger generations are more comfortable carrying debt as a part of their financial strategy, whether due to necessity or a different approach to credit. However, this often leads to higher interest fees over time.

Related: Where Should Boomers Put Their Money Now?

Grandmother and child gardening outdoors
Anna Frank/istockphoto

5. Home Gardening

Many boomers took up gardening, not just as a hobby but also as a way to supplement their grocery needs by growing vegetables and fruits in their backyards. This saved money and ensured a bountiful supply of fresh produce that could be enjoyed year round. 

Today, due to a lack of space in urban environments and modern apartments, it can be much harder to grow one's own produce. This results in a greater dependency on store-bought goods, which adds to weekly or monthly expenses. That being said, gardening is slowly starting to catch up in popularity among millennials.

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Mature business woman inserting cash into piggy bank

6. Living Below Their Means

Boomers often embraced the principle of living below their means as a cornerstone of financial stability. This means they prioritized saving and investing over spending, and carefully managed their budgets to ensure expenses never exceeded their income. This approach enabled boomers to accumulate wealth over time to achieve financial security in later years. 

By comparison, younger generations often face higher costs of living relative to their incomes, which makes it more difficult to adopt this practice. Other factors like societal pressure and social media also encourage spending beyond one's means, making it harder to save money consistently. 

Senior Black Couple Walking Off the Tennis Court

7. Having a Minimalist Lifestyle

Boomers often lived more minimalist lifestyles compared to today's culture of mass consumption. Instead of buying electronics and other questionable products from the TikTok shop (surely I can't be the only one), they bought fewer, higher-quality items that would last longer. This helped them avoid frequent replacements or upgrades. 

By comparison, younger generations are more likely to be influenced by rapid technological advancements and fashion trends that they see on social media. This means they tend to purchase more frequently and are more disposed to consumerism, which further impacts their ability to save.

Senior Black Man Home Repairs

8. DIY Repairs and Maintenance

Unlike young generations who value convenience and speed (instant gratification, anyone?), boomers often embraced a strong DIY (do-it-yourself) ethos. This reflected a cultural trend of self-reliance and practical skill-building of the time. After all, many boomers grew up in households where money was carefully managed and frugality was valued — especially for those who grew up with family members who endured the economic hardships of the Great Depression and World War II. 

As such, it was common for boomers to learn and perform their own home or vehicle repairs to avoid having to spend money on professional help. This DIY approach extended to everything from painting and carpentry to general maintenance.

Mom and daughter making shopping list and cutting coupons

9. Shopping Sales and Using Coupons

Boomers are adept at hunting for deals, often shopping during sales or using coupons to stretch their budgets. This careful spending habit helped them save on everyday items. A common activity for housewives in the '50s and '60s was clipping coupons from newspapers and magazines — a habit that could significantly reduce grocery bills and other household expenses. 

While younger generations also look for deals, the prevalence of online shopping and impulse buying can often lead to greater spending overall, despite the apparent savings.

Hispanic seniors having fun in secondhand clothing shop

10. Buying Secondhand

Driven by the need to save, buying used or secondhand items was another common practice among boomers. This not only included clothes but also furniture and other household items. Baby boomers also prioritized purchasing high-quality, durable clothing by opting for pieces that would withstand the test of time rather than succumbing to fleeting and ever-changing fashion trends. 

Though thrift shopping remains popular among many younger generations today, practicing sustainability is another key factor behind the trend as opposed to purely saving money.