Cash is King for Gen Z as Cash Stuffing Trend Catches On 

  • Cash usage is on the rise with 69% of Gen Z using cash more now compared to 12 months ago
  • Nearly a quarter of Gen Z (23%) use cash for the majority of their purchases 
  • TikTok money trends, such as “cash stuffing”, could be influencing Gen Z to use cash to budget and save money

Consumers emerged from the depths of the pandemic into a period of sustained inflation, rising interest rates and market volatility, likely making it more difficult for many Americans to make ends meet. In particular, those with limited income streams, like some Gen Z adults (born between 1997 and 2005). Perhaps as a result, many consumers adopted new habits to better manage their money including using cash instead of credit and testing out new online personal finance trends, like cash stuffing, which includes setting aside physical cash for different spending categories at the beginning of each month.

According to a new study conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Credit Karma among 2,118 US adults ages 18+, 69% of Gen Z report using cash more now compared to 12 months ago – more so than Gen X (47%, born between 1965 and 1980)  and Boomers (37%, born between 1946 and 1964) – and they’re using it for a large portion of their purchases. Nearly a quarter of Gen Z (23%) say they use cash for the majority of their purchases. Groceries (50%), clothing (46%), nonessentials, like coffee and other one-off purchases (40%) and takeout (40%) are the top categories in which Gen Z use cash as payment. Of Gen Z who use cash to pay for purchases, 59% say they do so as a way to budget their money, and 64% say they spend less money when they pay with cash. 

Some of the top factors driving increased cash utilization over the past 12 months among Gen Z include the feeling of having more control of spending when using cash (18%) and being more thoughtful about spending when paying for purchases with cash (19%). More concerning, however, one-in-five (20%) say they are using cash more often now because paying with cash feels like free money because there is no digital trace of the transaction. This line of thinking could result in excessive spending among young consumers, which could make it difficult to make ends meet or save for the future. 

Cash Stuffing is all the rage and, for some, it works  

Many consumers looking to spend wisely and save money have resorted to social media influencers and online trends to learn new ways to enhance their financial lives. Among such trends is “cash stuffing”, a concept that involves setting aside physical cash for different spending categories at the beginning of each month to be used throughout the month. Then, once cash runs out for a given category, it halts spending in that category for the rest of the month. Cash stuffing is on the radar of 72% of Gen Z adults and used by 30% of them. 

Of Gen Z who use cash stuffing, many say they do so to save (55%) and budget (47%) and, results look promising. Since starting, 89% of Gen Z who use the cash stuffing trend have been able to put more money into savings and another 70% say they’ve been able to decrease their overall monthly spend.  

And, while the trend may have been born on TikTok, the concept isn’t new. Previous generations may recognize this as the envelope method of putting cash aside in envelopes for necessities or savings.

“Cash can be a great tool for budgeting and saving money, especially if you’re someone who tends to overspend when swiping using debit or credit,” says Courtney Alev, consumer financial advocate at Credit Karma. “It’s no secret that Gen Z has developed somewhat of a reputation as the nostalgic generation, taking fashion cues from the 90s and Y2K and turning in their smartphones for “dumbphones”. It’s no surprise they would bring back cash, too – and it could prove to be a good thing for their bank accounts. However, whether using the cash stuffing method or simply pulling out a set dollar amount each paycheck to ensure you’re not overspending, make sure you’re still doing the work to build your credit. That can be as simple as setting up monthly subscriptions on one credit card and paying it off at the end of each month or using one card to pay for gas expenses. It’s important to build credit so that you’re able to gain access to better priced financial products, like auto loans and mortgages, down the line.”  


This survey was conducted online within the United States and the UK by The Harris Poll on behalf of Credit Karma from among 2,118 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, among whom 331 are Gen Z adults ages 18-26. The sampling precision of Harris online polls is measured by using a Bayesian credible interval. For this study, the sample data is accurate to within +/-2.7 percentage points using a 95% confidence level. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact