Half of 16-34-year-olds are in debt after buying designer items (2023)

Samantha Boyes's most prized possession is her Chanel handbag. It set her back £5,500.

It’s not the only piece of designer gear that she boasts. A pair of glossy Jimmy Choo heels, with bejewelled straps, are still in the box in her wardrobe. Delicate Dior jewellery sits in pristine white boxes on her dressing table, embellished with gold.

‘My mum was a shopaholic, and she passed the gene on to me,’ she explains.

At one point, Samantha recalls, she had around £20,000 worth of designer goods languishing in her flat. She had a wardrobe that even the most shimmering members of the glitterati would envy; but in reality, Samantha was so broke, she couldn’t even afford a train ticket.

Samantha is not alone in her extravagant spending habits. A recent survey found that people aged between 16-34 are hooked on buying designer goods, to the extent that they will risk financial ruin to satiate their desire for drip.

The study, commissioned by Claro Wellbeing, found that 62 percent of 16 to 34-year-olds have spent money on designer clothes in the last six months, even if they couldn’t afford it: 46% of 16-34-year-olds are in debt due to purchasing luxury items.

Our desire to be decked out in designer wares is seeing us turn to increasingly worrying avenues to try and acquire it: more than one in five 16 to 34-year-olds are taking out credit or using buy now pay later schemes monthly to buy drip, with morethan 10% in debt of more than £1000.

The cultural obsession with looking rich without having the bank balance to back it up is being explored in new Channel 4 documentary Addicted to Drip: Untold, with David ‘Sideman’ Whitely digging deep to see just what is fuelling our desire for drip.

It’s a worrying state of affairs, explains Claro Wellbeing’s financial manager Stacey Lowman.

‘I was stunned to learn that this age group just has little to no savings at all, but were leveraging debt of £1000 plus,’ she tells Metro.co.uk.

‘I want to stress that I don’t think it’s the fault of the individual. It’s human nature to want to fit in. In that age bracket, we’re still trying to find our identity and find our tribe. Part of that may be looking a certain way, living a certain lifestyle. That’s human nature.’

(Video) 33-Year-Old With More Debt Than Anyone Should Ever Have | Financial Audit

Stacey also points towards the bleak financial outlook which may be why people are wanting to put their purchasing power towards more fun, frivolous items.

‘Your rent is through the roof, the cost of living is soaring,’ she explains. ‘Investment markets are volatile and risky, savings interest is low relative to inflation, the jobs market is really competitive and your salary is not going to keep up with the cost of living.

‘It’s little wonder that young people are looking around and thinking, “What’s the point?” You’re fighting a losing battle even if you’re only spending money on the right things.

‘Then you look at this drip culture, which suggest you can still live that luxury lifestyle or be seen to be living that lifestyle, faking it until you make it. People are always going to buy into hope when other things seem hopeless.’

In Samantha’s case, her spending stemmed from a deeply wounding, emotional loss, leaving a gaping hole in her heart. Losing her mother, grandmother and aunt in just a few years left her feeling empty, with spending something that seemingly helped ease the pain.

She spent the inheritance she received from her loved ones, a figure she places between £50,000 to £100,000, in just over 18 months, with the vast bulk going on designer gear.

‘I lost control,’ Samantha reflects. ‘I was so mentally distraught and lost and anxious, I just didn’t care.’

‘If buying this one thing is going to give me some sort of joy in a really sad time, I’m just going to do it. I was trying to fill some kind of void.’

Purchasing frivolous items does have a psychological impact on the buyer, with the dopamine hit leading to an addictive ‘treat brain’ mentality – constantly seeing us buying us a little something to perk us up.

‘When we buy something that we want, it gives us pleasure, therefore the brain releases those neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, also known as our pleasure and happiness hormones,’ clinical hypnotherapist and psychotherapist Jacqueline Carson explains. ‘It is said that this lights up the reward centre in the brain, however, what really happens is that the neurotransmitters spread around various parts of the brain including deep into the cerebral hemisphere.

‘When these transmitters are released together, the euphoric and pleasurable sensations are remembered by the brain and recorded as a reward for the action. The brain would like to experience this pleasure again so it notes that the action which caused those feelings should be repeated.

(Video) 34-Year-Old Has The Most Insane Debt Imaginable | Financial Audit

‘Our brain then becomes conditioned as it learns to recreate those feelings and sensations of euphoria and pleasure by making us crave the very thing that brings us those feelings.’

However, Jacqueline adds there’s a difference between a shopping addiction and a compulsive spender.

‘People who are addicted to shopping will often buy things they don’t even need,’ she says.‘However, some people are compelled to buy all of the latest fashions. These people are not necessarily addicted to shopping but may have other underlying issues related to their self-esteem. This type of shopping can be attributed to emotional reward, which also releases feelings of pleasure.

Young people are fighting a losing battle even if you’re only spending money on the right things

‘Such purchases help this person to feel more confident, to look good or to even attract attention to themselves, seeking approval from others. This almost always comes from a place of not feeling good enough, needing to prove oneself to others, almost like a validation or acceptance.’

Stacey also argues that a significant purchase in the current economic climate almost serves as a middle finger to stresses and strife that has hampered our bank account.

‘It’s almost like a rebellious act,’ she says. ‘It’s often that feeling of resentment can trigger those financial behaviours. When young people are being faced with crazy rent, unfair landlords, bills going up, all this stuff, people are going to think, what’s the point? I need some way and some outlet to enjoy myself.’

The impact of the pandemic, and our increased reliance on social media, may have exacerbated the demand for drip amongst 16 to 34 year olds.

‘They weren’t able to spend money going out socialising, but people could still connect over social media,’ Stacey argues. ‘A lot of this drip culture plays out on their phone. It’s something you can splurge on whilst they’re sat at home. And it does give you a physiological impact. While you couldn’t go out and feel good because you’re socialising with mates, you can get that dopamine hit via looking on social media, making a few clicks and something is on your doorstep the next day.’

A lack of financial literacy, and the convenient nature of buy now, pay later schemes such as Klarna, may only be fuelling our bank balance blues.

The Financial Capability Survey found nearly 2/5 UK adults don’t feel confident in managing their money, with nearly 11.5 million of us having less than £100 in savings. Meanwhile, nearly nine million of us are in serious debt.

(Video) 31-Year-Old With More Debt Than Anyone Should Ever Have | Financial Audit

‘So many young people are unaware that buy now, pay later is a form of debt,’ Stacey says. ‘They might think it’s a different way to buy an item, but that is debt and you are now a debt product. Information on what buy now pay later is, and then education on potential charges, interest pay, late charge fees, and the impact of not being able to keep up with your payments needs to be taught. For example, buy now pay later schemes are sharing their information with credit agencies so it ca now impact your credit score. Buy now pay later schemes need to take responsibility in educating vulnerable people using their products to truly understand what they’re getting in to.’

Thankfully, things are set to change around the easy access of buy now pay later schemes. From the end of July, new rules from the Financial Credit Authority come into effect, where buy now pay later schemes and credit card companies need to indicate and ensure customers have a proper understanding of credit before it’s taken out.

For young people who find themselves on the precipice of financial ruin, things can seem bleak. It’s little wonder that 81% of young people in the UK feel anxious about money, according to the London Institute of Banking and Finance.

However, Stacey wants to reassure those uncertain about how to clear their debts that there is help and advice out there.

‘Organisations like Stepchange and National Debt Line can provide free, confidential advice on how to manage debt,’ she explains. ‘There’s behavioural measures people can take, too. It’s best to remove temptation, unfollowing profiles, stopping advertising on your shared social media feed, unsubscribing from newsletters which ask you for money.

‘We need to be more transparent with friends about what we present on social media really costs us. Having accountability buddies, where you can support each other is always a positive thing.

‘And it’s really important that we educate ourselves. There are so many personal finance profiles and influencers who can be out there to help teach us on the importance of financial resilience.’

A cursory glance on anyone’s Instagram feed shows that drip culture, and the need to have luxury goods, isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. With that in mind, Stacey argues that our entire mindset towards finance, and what our lifestyles truly cost us, needs a radical overhaul.

‘We have a really flippant attitude towards money in the UK,’ she explains. ‘We’re coy about finance and our language about our purchasing power - referring to having “retail therapy” – needs to be challenged and discussed more openly. We only tend to learn about financial resilience by learning about it the hard way.

‘The pandemic saw many of us take a step back and consider what found important and what we valued. As individuals, we need to tap back into that. We need to think about what it is that really matters, what it is we really value, and set some financial goals and what you want to achieve in the future.

‘We really need to start weighing up the short-term instant gratification we get from drip culture and putting it against what we may really want for ourselves long-term.’

(Video) He Can’t Even Afford His Minimum Monthly Payments | Financial Audit

Would you ever get into debt to buy designer goods? Have your say in the comments belowComment Now

For Samantha, who has since recovered from her significant spending habits, she has adopted a far healthier mind-set.

‘It was obscene and ridiculous,’ she recalls. ‘But I had to make my own mistakes.

‘I’ve learned to be much more sensible. If I had that money again, I’d still allow myself a third to go wild with, but I’d put the rest with a professional finance manager.

‘I still think of the money I blew every single day. It’s like torture.’

Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing Kimberley.Bond@metro.co.uk

Share your views in the comments below.

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What age group has the most debt? ›

While Americans 75 and older have the highest average credit card debt, it's likely due to outliers with especially large balances. Their median credit card debt is $2,700, tied for second-lowest with several other age groups. It's Americans from 45 to 54 who have the highest median credit card debt at $3,200.

How much debt is the average 34 year old in? ›

25—34 year olds = $78,396

Credit card debt is one of the worst types of debt to have. Credit cards often have high interest rates that can cause debt to snowball. Younger millennials carry an average debt of $78,396, primarily due to credit card balances, according to Experian.

What percentage of people are in debt? ›

The average American debt (per U.S. adult) is $58,604 and 77% of American households have at least some type of debt. Let's pause a second to define debt.

How much debt does a 30 year old have? ›

The average credit card debt for 30 year olds is roughly $4,200, according to the Experian data report. Compared to people in their 50s, this debt is not so high. According to Experian, the people in their 50s have the highest average credit card debt, at around $8,360.

Who is most likely to be in debt? ›

High income households are most likely to hold debt, particularly property debt, because taking out large loans like mortgages requires a high income and savings. However, low income households are more likely to be over-indebted.

What group of people has the most debt? ›

The youngest consumers, Gen Z, have the lowest overall debt balance on average, but they struggle the most to make payments. About 12.24% of Gen Z's credit card accounts were 30 days or more past due in 2019. Gen X has the highest average debt balance in all categories, except for personal loans.

How much should a 34 year old have saved? ›

You might come across various guidelines when researching how much you should have saved for your retirement in your 30s. Two popular ones are: About ½ to 1 ½ times your income by age 30. 1 to 2 times your income by age 35.

How can I be debt free at 35? ›

10 Steps to Become Debt Free by 35
  1. Set financial goals. ...
  2. Tackle the debt with the highest interest rate first. ...
  3. Research student loan repayment options. ...
  4. Limit credit card usage to 30% of available credit limit. ...
  5. Housing should be less than 30% of your income. ...
  6. Avoid additional credit. ...
  7. Make your own meals and limit eating out.
Dec 3, 2021

Which generation is most in debt? ›

Credit Karma members closest to midlife carry the most average total debt. Generation X averages $61,036 in debt, followed by baby boomer members, who have an average total debt of $52,401.

How many people are 100% debt free? ›

Fewer than one quarter of American households live debt-free. Learning ways to tackle debt can help you get a handle on your finances.

What causes the most debt in America? ›

Mortgage balances, the largest source of debt for most Americans, rose 5.9 percent between 2020 and 2021. The average mortgage balance is $220,380, according to Experian. Auto loan balances reportedly rose 6.5 percent year-over-year in 2021, and the average auto loan balance is $20,987.

How much debt is normal? ›

The average American debt totals $59,580, including mortgages, auto loans, student loans, and credit card debt. Debt peaks between ages 40 and 49, and the average amount varies widely across the country. If you're holding too much debt, consider a debt consolidation loan or seeing a credit counselor.

What age is good for debt free? ›

The Standard Route. The Standard Route is what credit companies and lenders recommend. If this is the graduate's choice, he or she will be debt free around the age of 58.

Is it good to be debt free at 40? ›

Being debt-free — including paying off your mortgage — by your mid-40s puts you on the early path toward success, O'Leary argued. It helps you free yourself from financial obligations at a time when your income is presumably stable and potentially even growing.

Why are so many people in debt? ›

Americans are sinking into debt after hunkering down and building their financial savings during the pandemic. The sharp rise in credit card debt has been a long time coming, with Americans increasingly relying on plastic to make purchases.

Who owns most of Americans debt? ›

Domestic Holders of Federal Debt

The Federal Reserve, which purchases and sells Treasury securities as a means to influence federal interest rates and the nation's money supply, is the largest holder of such debt.

Which gender has more debt? ›

Borrowing. Experian compared debt balances among men and women and found that, on average: Men have 2% more credit card debt than women. Men have 20% more personal loan debt than women.

What race has the most credit card debt? ›

Credit card debt by race and ethnicity
Race or ethnicityPercentage with credit card debt
White, non-Hispanic43%
Black, non-Hispanic41%
2 more rows
2 days ago

Which generation carries the most debt? ›

Credit Karma members closest to midlife carry the most average total debt. Generation X averages $61,036 in debt, followed by baby boomer members, who have an average total debt of $52,401.

What generation has the highest total debt? ›

Here's how to get those balances down.

Are most millennials in debt? ›

A staggering 73% of U.S. millennials are scraping by paycheck-to-paycheck, according to new data from finance and commerce research hub PYMNTS.com. Survey respondents in that age group cited debt payments and supporting dependent family members as the main drivers behind living that way.

At what age should you be debt free? ›

The Standard Route. The Standard Route is what credit companies and lenders recommend. If this is the graduate's choice, he or she will be debt free around the age of 58.

What generation is wealth lost at? ›

A groundbreaking 20-year study conducted by wealth consultancy, The Williams Group, involved over 3,200 families and found that seven in 10 families tend to lose their fortune by the second generation, while nine in 10 lose it by the third generation. However, there are ways to be at the odds.

What types of debt are most common for millennials? ›

Most Millennials Have Credit Card Debt

“Millennials are using credit cards to pay for everyday living expenses.

What percent of Americans are debt free? ›

Fewer than one quarter of American households live debt-free. Learning ways to tackle debt can help you get a handle on your finances.

Why are millennials so in debt? ›

Millennials are racking up debt due to soaring inflation, Fujita noted. Consumer prices have skyrocketed in the last year, particularly for gas, child care and food.

How is Gen Z financially? ›

Increasing income was the most completed financial goal in 2022. 45.1% of Gen Zers have a homeownership-related goal for 2023. 42.6% of Gen Zers have spent more than they earned. 69.1% are currently saving money.

Can debt be inherited? ›

You generally don't inherit debts belonging to someone else the way you might inherit property or other assets from them. So even if a debt collector attempts to request payment from you, there'd be no legal obligation to pay. The catch is that any debts left outstanding would be deducted from the estate's assets.

What age is the Z generation? ›

Researchers and popular media loosely use the mid-to-late 1990s as starting birth years and the early 2010s as ending birth years for defining Generation Z. The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines Generation Z as "the generation of people born in the late 1990s and early 2000s."

Are millennials struggling financially? ›

According to The Journal's analysis, people who are 30 to 39 years old — currently the bulk of the millennial generation — have about $3.8 trillion in debt as of the fourth quarter of 2022, or about a $140 billion increase from the third quarter of 2022.

How old are millennials? ›

Gen Y: Gen Y, or Millennials, were born between 1981 and 1994/6. They are currently between 25 and 40 years old (72.1 million in the U.S.) Gen Y.1 = 25-29 years old (around 31 million people in the U.S.)

How many Americans have a credit score over 800? ›

Your 800 FICO® Score falls in the range of scores, from 800 to 850, that is categorized as Exceptional. Your FICO® Score is well above the average credit score, and you are likely to receive easy approvals when applying for new credit. 21% of all consumers have FICO® Scores in the Exceptional range.

Can you be debt free your whole life? ›

It might appear impossible, but many consumers succeed in living their entire lives without any debt. People of a variety of ages and income levels have made this choice. It's not an easy feat, but if it's something you truly want, don't let naysayers talk you out of it.


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