Most people don’t hang around the trendy coffee shop just for the skinny vanilla latte.  The under-30 crowd in particular, is there for the social experience, a fact shops are starting to recognize and contribute to, with mood music, comfy couches and a no-hassle-if –you-sit-there-for-three-hours policy.

Photo Courtesy of Devyn Rafols-Nunez

“We wouldn’t pay five bucks for a high end coffee shop, but I’m not paying for coffee,” said millennial Patrick Evans, who writes for the MediaPost.com blog, “Engage:Gen Y.” . “I’m paying for the community aspect with the cool atmosphere and being part of a society and a movement.”

In a 2009 study, psychologists at San Francisco University found that people were happier after they spent money on experiences rather than objects. This wasn’t the first time that a study has showed that buying tickets to a concert seemed to yield more lasting value than buying a new pair of shoes, but this idea has become increasingly prevalent with Generation Y.

Millenials have oft been described as “too materialistic” because they devour expensive products, such as all things Apple brand or because they choose to spend money on travel as opposed to savings. While these observations are valid, what they really prove is not that millennial don’t value the dollar, but rather that they value money in different ways than previous generations. . “Gen Y is a generation that values value,” writes Evans.  He first noted this when working at STA Travel, a global travel agency geared toward students and young adults, In a recent MediaPost.com article, he noted that he found that the Gen Y consumer is looking for  “value, clarity and the potential for happiness.” “They were looking more flexibility, more options and more transparent transactions. Not just hostels, but hostels with cool community spaces,” Evans said. “There’s a sense of sensibility and value authenticity.”

These were characteristics that he noticed not only from his job at STA, but through his own saving and spending habits.  “There’s’ a clear difference between what I was saving for after college and what I wanted versus what my parents saved for,” he said. “If I was saving money I wanted to travel or see something, where as my parents wanted to be able to put a down payment on a car or buy a house.”

As of last year both the number of millennial car owners and the number with a driver’s license had dropped, as has been recently reported in The Atlantic.  Megan Winter, a 22-year-old nursing student at Phillips Beth Israel School of Nursing, lives in Brooklyn and attends nursing school in Chelsea, and does not see herself learning to drive or owning an apartment, let alone a house, anytime soon.

“The thought of owning something as permanent as a car or a house just seems way too big and not ‘me,’”Winter explained. “If I wanted to spend a huge amount of money, I’d travel.”

Winter much prefers spending money on dining out or having drinks with friends, or other activities that involve people. The point? Winter, like other millennials, enjoys spending money on experiences that involve friends and or create long-lasting memories.

Part of the reason that millennials prefer spending money on experiences is because they are the first exemplifiers of a larger trend in a society that is less interested in buying “stuff.” In “Why Millennials Don’t Want to Buy Stuff.” Josh Dykstra, a member of the Young Entrepreneur Council, points to the generation’s “evolution in consciousness,” and the changing attitude toward ownership.

Technology is one of the first observable results of the change, something largely exemplified in the notion of the “cloud,” an entity brought up by Dykstra The days of photo albums, music albums and a Rolodex have been replaced by the cloud, where one can store and access everything important to their life, electronically.

Dykstra, in the article, explains that the large societal shift of de-materialization is a result of increased globalization and sharing of ideas leading to changing attitudes toward what is really valuable in a person’s life. “The trend is pretty clearly going towards people wanting more meaning from their worth and what we do with our money and with our time. Gen Y in particular is saying ‘no I’m not willing to make that trade,”” he said. “Why we’re seeing it in Gen Y is because they’re early adaptors who lead the innovation of ideas.”