The purpose of this paper is to explore consumption habits of the young adult market, as they leave home and enter into a world of personal fiscal responsibility. Prior research in this area is limited; however those studies, which have focused on young adult consumption have found increasing impulsive consumption and use of credit amongst this generation. This study seeks to extend research in this area by exploring further how young consumers are spending, their motivations for impulsive consumption choices and their attitudes towards debt.
The study in the paper is exploratory, and takes a qualitative approach to data collection and analysis. A two‐stage design is employed, consisting of focus groups with first and second‐year university students and in‐depth interviews with selected cases from these focus groups. The data collected are content‐analysed, with an emphasis on enlightening quotation from participants.
The paper finds that the young consumers studied show a relaxed attitude to debt and consumer purchasing, with non‐essential consumption seen as “deserved” and a “reward” for behaviour such as studying or working. Social pressure is found to be the key driver of consumption choices in this group, with the majority of spending decisions made impulsively.
The paper considers the influence of peers and society pressures as a whole in encouraging young adults develop particular consumption habits and attitudes to money and debt. It highlights key aspects of the “culture of consumption” that young consumers are part of today and indicates an attitude to debt that is quite different to generations before.
The paper shows that where consumption habits are the focus of numerous consumer behaviour studies, far fewer studies concentrate on how these consumption habits are developed. The study adds to existing knowledge on the development of consumption norms by considering the practises of the youth market as they leave home and begin making purchasing decisions away from parental influence.
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