Nearly half of millennials and Gen Z say weddings and social events are getting in the way of their money goals

Bride receiving gift from bridesmaids
Getty | Wavebreakmedia

If you've been a guest at one or a few weddings this year, you know it can cost a pretty penny to celebrate the happy couple. It's no secret that hosting your own wedding requires its own financial planning, but just attending a nuptial ceremony — not to mention pre-ceremony festivities — is cutting into personal budgets.

In fact, 46% of millennials and 48% of Gen Z say spending on friends' and family members' weddings, baby showers or other celebrations is getting in the way of their personal goals, according to a recent survey from Prudential.

The younger generations were far more likely than Gen X and baby boomers to say weddings or other events are affecting their personal money goals, which include owning a home or having kids.

A few factors outside of their control may be making it harder for young people to keep their finances on track, but many of these consumers could be doing more to avoid stressing about money.

Age isn't necessarily helping

The current millennial age range — 26 to 41 — might be one of the reasons wedding spending is such a burden. Much of the generation is in their late 20s and 30s, right around the time many people get married.

Event frequency can certainly impact millennials, but younger people may also be behind on saving because they haven't been working — and therefore saving — for as long as the older generations. The economic downturn caused by the pandemic also hurt millennials more than other generations.

Even young people who have been able to build up some savings report using that money more frequently than other generations.

A quarter of millennials are tapping into their emergency funds at least once a month, and 23% say they've done so to pay for a gift or attend an event celebrating a friend or family member's milestone, Prudential's survey found.

"I think it's a combination of everything coming at us with Covid, especially the last couple of years, that might be why you're seeing a higher number [of millennials] dipping into savings because of these events, versus other generations," says Brandon Goldstein, a financial planner at Prudential who is a millennial himself and says he's been to 10 weddings so far this year.

The survey also found 39% of millennials report having no emergency savings, and half say they regularly run out of money and have to rely on credit cards or family for financial support.

Millennials lose sleep over money troubles, but aren't turning to budgeting

However, money issues aren't just a problem during wedding season. Half of millennials report losing sleep over financial stress, but 70% say they do not use a formal budget to manage their money.

Goldstein has all of his clients fill out a budget sheet before he can offer any advice on how to meet financial goals. Knowing where your money is going is the first step, but a lot of people avoid it, he says.

"I think people might be scared to see the actual numbers," he says. "Once it's on paper, it almost becomes a reality. It is reality, but once you put it on paper, it's an eye opener."

It can be daunting to sit down and see just how much you've shelled out on Ubers, take-out or other small splurges in a month. But it's important to know where your money is going and how much you can reasonably spend on wants — including those weddings and parties — after you've covered your essentials, Goldstein says.

Instead, aim to plan ahead and decide which weddings and events you absolutely need to attend. Then make a plan far enough in advance that you're not putting yourself into debt to celebrate, Goldstein advises. Once you've added up all the costs for each event, he says to check in with your budget.

"If you don't have that in your savings right now, you've got to look at your variable [expenses] and say, 'OK, I only travel once a year and I'm gonna have to cut that out this year and spend that money on this wedding instead,'" Goldstein says.

Finding areas to make adjustments to your budget may not sound like fun, but it's a major step toward reaching your short and long-term financial goals.

Want to earn more and work less? Register for the free CNBC Make It: Your Money virtual event on Dec. 13 at 12 p.m. ET to learn from money masters like Kevin O'Leary how you can increase your earning power.

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