I bought a shiny because I could afford to.
For the first time in my life, most of my friends and I are living comfortably. We are no longer broke students, scraping together money for gas and beer, we are no longer in our entry level, grunt work positions where we worked full time and still had no cash, we are no longer buying frozen burritos simply because it's cheap food. We are doing OK.
Finances have become manageable as our positions have improved, and suddenly there's room in the budget for nicer dinners, nicer clothes, and nicer furnishings. Weekends don't revolve around what's cheap or free so much anymore, and we don't worry as much about spending a few dollars on an activity for entertainment. Vacations no longer have to be a visit to see the parents up the state simply because it means free food and a clothes shopping trip, if we're lucky. Vacations can mean actual plane tickets we bought ourselves to go to events we planned ourselves, even with our own friends. We can buy shiny things, things we've wanted for years but couldn't afford, things we needed but made do without, things that are the better versions of the things we currently have, and even things that are completely unnecessary.
Our homes have become a little less dorm-y and a little more comfortable. We've reduced the number of roommates we have or eliminated them completely. Some of my friends own homes and some are looking to own soon. We still keep our cars until they break but now we can afford to replace them, and with brand new vehicles that we love! We still look on craigslist.org for used furniture, but our maximum prices have gone up, our taste is a little more refined and we're slightly more choosy. In fact, instead of scouring the internet for used IKEA furniture, we go to IKEA to buy things new and buy far nicer things used online. When we see something we want we have the disposable cash (to a certain extent) to buy it, and don't have to save that long to buy the more expensive items.
A $4 burrito at a taco shop is no longer dinner out, but a lunch at work, while a $12 plate at a sit-down restaurant can happen during the week. We still shop at Target, but can buy name brand. We have leftover cash to support our favorite charities. We might even donate to our Universities. If our jobs offer health care we can buy into it, and even go to the doctor or dentist without incredible fear of the costs. We can contribute to a retirement plan, and even start to believe that might one day be a reality.
All in all, we still live pretty cheaply. We don't have the major expenses like the older members of our generation, such as kids or expensive hobbies, and our extravagant excursions are still done with cost savings in mind. But we're now able to look ahead and see that being broke won't last forever, that if we just keep making smart decisions and keep rising up in our careers we'll get to the point where we can afford the more expensive parts of adult life.
We're still in a recession or depression or recovering economy or whatever buzzword politicians are making up to make us feel better about the lack of jobs and social services, but us young adults are pulling through. Maybe it's because we happened to graduate college and earn a good year of work before the economy really tanked, making us a small group of successful young adults (far more so than the sorry kids who graduated after 2009) to be able to rise above, or maybe we've all just gotten lucky. Whatever the reason, we seem to be doing rather well for ourselves, and I think that even though we were all fine with our broke-student and post-college lives while we were living them, having a taste of disposable cash is going to be a great motivator to keep doing what we're doing. And we seem to be perfectly OK with that.