Young generation digs the challenge of beating inflation

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Young generation digs the challenge of beating inflation

Inflation is the sudden scourge of our time, a totally new phenomenon to the so-called MZ generation.  
But it's the youngsters who are showing everyone else how to survive with tricks they learned online and off.  
“They've come up with new strategies to save money little-by-little in their everyday lives,” says sociology professor Choi Saet-byeol of Ewha Women’s University.
Of course, online is home to the MZ generation, a term that combines Millennials born between 1980 and 1995 and Generation Z, born between 1996 and 2010. That's why they're called digital natives.    
Second-hand stores were the first online destination for the MZ generation when prices started to shoot through the roof. They are sources of thrift, because things are cheaper; they are sources of revenue because things no longer needed can be sold on them; and there's even an arbitrage aspect in the trading of gift coupons.  
Mr. Choi, 23, is still trying to land his first job. He's managing to get by thanks to second-hand online stores.  
“I started selling K-pop merchandise through second-hand stores,” says Choi.
“It’s heartbreaking to see my favorite K-pop albums and photos and posters of K-pop idols in someone else’s hands, but I need to survive.”
On social media and other online communities, it’s become a trend to share — or just brag -- about different money-saving strategies.  
Mr. Cho, 27, takes advantage of the trading of gift coupons on second-hand online stores.  
If you buy gift coupons offline, it's dollar-for dollar. Online, you can find discounted coupons. Usually, people are trying to sell coupons they have bought before they expire, with the discount growing as the expiration date nears. Thus, Cho can buy a 5,000 won coupon from a fast food chain for 4,700 won. This is how Cho saves 300 won (30¢) on lunches.  

“Starbucks gives you a small coupon for each purchase. I’ve been selling those online for about 500 (39 cents) to 1500 won ($1.20).”  
Cho also has an affordable way to binge-watch movies and television shows. Instead of subscribing to OTT services like Netflix or HBO, he uses other subscribers’ IDs online and pays them 100 won (8 cents) an hour. Without paying the full subscription fee, he manages to watch his favorite TV dramas.  
OTT subscription fees cost around 10,000 won a month. That's too much for many young people. Many use other subscribers' IDs, which they can find on websites.  
Food delivery is one area that can rack up lots of savings.
“I used to order food in almost every day," says Cho. "Now I feel like the delivery fee was a waste.”
Cho is cooking at home or picks food up from restaurants himself. In a way, he's de-digitalizing his eating. 
The number of delivery app users has declined in recent weeks.  
According to an analysis by Mobile Index, the number of users of Baedal Minjok, one of the most popular delivery applications, fell from 20,720,000 in January to 19,930,000 last month, or by 3.8 percent.  
“The MZ generation doesn’t see inflation as a mere negative,” says professor Choi of Ewha Women’s University, “It's become sort of an intense and thrilling journey for them, and that’s how they resist the current high-inflation environment.
“Anything unprecedented is exciting for them.”  
Moon Seo-yeon, 30, lives in an apartment near her job in Jongno. But her rent is rising, and when her lease expires next month, she plans to move back in with her parents in Hanam, Gyeonggi Province.
“Until last year, I could get a decent place for monthly rent of 500,000 won ($386)," she says. "If I worked enough side hustles, that was manageable. But now, the minimum rent is 700,000 won ($540), and I don’t think I can afford it.”
A term for people moving back to their parents' place has emerged: “kangaroos.”
The ranks of kangaroos are growing.  
“I have a lot of friends who are going back to Gyeonggi,” Moon says.  
Young people also discovering how expensive some of their hobbies are.    
Kim Min-Sun, 30, has decided to give up surfing.  
Surfing is one of the most expensive hobbies, especially for people who don't live on the coast. Each surfing trip can cost 400,000 won.
“I loved surfing so much that I traveled to Donghae, on the east coast of Korea, at least once a month," says Kim. "But I realized it was a luxury I couldn’t afford anymore. Living expenses were enough of a burden.  
“My boyfriend quit golf too. We just couldn’t afford all our hobbies.”
Summer vacation season is approaching, and a sharp decline in overseas and domestic trips is estimated.  
The MZ generation is looking for cheap and cheerful alternatives.
Freelancer Mr. Jeong, 30, says, “I think I’ll go to a free exhibition near my house for this summer’s vacation.”  
“The fact that they use this economic downturn as an opportunity for personal growth and a new experience aligns with the characteristics of their generation,” says Professor Choi. “They value fun and growth, so even though the current inflation situation is difficult, they overcome it by taking it lightly like a game.”

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