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SA’s Gen Z students spend R35bn per year – survey

But they are putting money away too.
Students say they want to find ways to make their money 'grow'. Picture: Moneyweb

A survey on the spending habits of students within the Generation Z age group – those born between the mid-1990s and the 2000s – reveals that South Africa’s students are savvy spenders who like to look good, and are using side ‘hustles’ to fund their activities. 

The report, released by Student Village on Thursday, shows that students spend R2 944 on average per month, totalling R35 328 per annum, which, it says, is higher than the average South African. 

Based on the findings, and with a national student population of around 985 000 recorded in 2017, at least R35 billion is spent by students on goods and services in the country each year. 

The study’s focus group comprised 3 175 students across 40 different campuses around South Africa, with a split among different residences and demographics.

The survey’s findings show that the lion’s share of student spend goes on toiletries and cosmetics, followed by food and groceries, then takeaways, mobile telephony, and hair and beauty.

Highly image conscious

Sechaba Sello, insights manager at Student Village, says students in the Gen Z age group are more focused on building their image and appeal. Those who make up Gen Z are native to the world of social media and are highly image conscious. 

The survey highlights that Gen Z is “woke and bespoke”, meaning the age group is looking for products that are tailormade to their specific needs. It shows that student spend is driven by brands that fit into creating their identity.

Retailers such as Rage, Sportscene and Markham have grown in this market, while other traditional retailers have lost market share. Capitec Bank has shown enormous growth in this market, at the expense of other banks.


While the students surveyed are spending a fair portion of their income on their appearance and food, they are making savvy choices by spending less, and only buying what suits their lifestyle. And they now make 64% of their purchases online.

Student Village’s previous student spend survey, completed in 2017, was focused on the millennial age group (those born between the late 1980s and mid-1990s) – and the difference in the retail and clothing branding choices between the two age groups is apparent, as is the significant decline in retail credit card usage, as shown below.

Source: Student Village

The data shows that Gen Zs are moving away from brands and stores like Truworths, and Edgars as it appeals to an “older market”, while stores such as The Fix, Sportscene and Rage are gaining more traction. 

The survey also shows that 39% of students save 20-30% of their monthly income, with one in five saving 40-60% of their funds. 

Those who participated in the survey were present at Thursday’s presentation and said they are most interested in finding ways to maximise their salaries.

Of the top five banks, Capitec ranks highest as far as student credit card holders are concerned. Nedbank came last.

Source: Student Village

Nedbank’s senior segment manager and co-creator of, Mduduzi Khambule told Moneyweb that “traditional banking just sells an account and that’s it – but that’s not enablement”. “Now they [students] are looking for what’s in it for them,” he added. 

The survey shows that 79% of students’ spending money comes from their parents, 31% from a side hustle, 29% from a bursary and 17% said they received income from their own business ventures.

With tough economic times at hand, students are becoming more resourceful. 

The report notes that “Gen Z is characterised by a tremendous entrepreneurial spirit, founded on hope and a sense of self-created liberation,” and adds that young business owners “no longer save to spend, but rather save to reinvest”. 

Sello says a number of the students are “becoming the CEOs of their own dreams”.

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Students with credit cards? The banks are definitely not credit risk adverse.

Meaningless title to this article. Name me any generation of students through history that did not “love to spend”. Where is the sub-editor? (as WTF commented of another article).

So is that where all the NFSL tax money goes-savvy toiletries. What a joke. And pray tell do they work for this money that they spent.

Savvy with credit cards. as a financial educator this leads to disaster!! Most South Africans leave the house they don’t own, get in the car they don’t own and put on clothes they don’t own. That’s why they are so miserable in the traffic

They need Financial Fitness!!!!!!!!!!!11

Times have changed.

My main budget items as a student were books and beer. Toiletries, cosmetics, hair & beauty ? I may have bought toothpaste from time to time.

Where are they saving ???? In a bank?? Banks have not beat inflation in over 20 years. So they are NOT SAVING. Another quality article with minimum effort. Dr. Debt

If these students have so much to spend why are they demanding free education? Let them pay their fees.

End of comments.





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