Actually, Avocado Toast Is Not That Expensive

May 16, 2017

Yesterday, 35-year-old Australian millionaire and tycoon Tim Gurner appeared on 60 Minutes to give advice on how to own property at a young age. The interview quickly devolved into a precious ego display, and the recipients of his scorn were two usual suspects: millennials and avocado toast. “When I was trying to buy my first home, I wasn't buying smashed avocado for $19 and four coffees at $4 each,” he said on the program.

It was an easily-mockable quote, and Gurner was pilloried widely for it, critiques swallowing my Twitter feed for a good portion of my afternoon. Numerous outlets have fact-checked his claims rather rigorously, quashing the particular fiction that he’s peddling. They’ve all reached the same conclusion: No matter how much avocado toast you consume, that spending still won’t amount to the cost of a literal house.

If there’s half a point buried in Gurner’s quip somewhere—that restaurant prices for this dish have become a bit too high to justify—his ire is misplaced, making lazy, sweeping claims about a generation's spending habits. He punches down at a generation who's become a rather easy target of derision. But I'll entertain his claims for a second: Making your own avocado toast isn’t expensive, regardless of rapidly-metastasizing avocado prices (they go for $2 a piece at my nearby grocery store, which I don't love). All you need to do:

  1. Toast some bread.
  2. Take a fork and crush your avocado. (Don't slice your hand open.)
  3. Garnish it with whatever you’d like: chili flakes, pepper, salt.

See? It’s easy. And it won't set you back a ton of money.

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So eat all the avocado toast you want. It's very good. And I'm sure you’ll have enough leftover funds to buy a house. Take that, Timothy.

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  • 702551
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  • The Principal Cook
    The Principal Cook
Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.


702551 May 16, 2017
Personally, I think parents should be more on the hook than teachers in educating kids about responsible financial behavior.

After all, kids are under the responsibility of their parents for far more hours of the day than under teachers. Also, the basic concepts of sensible money use should start long before a high school civics/economics class.

For those of you who shove this responsibility on teachers, I think you should pull your heads out of the sand and take some ownership of what your kids do. Waiting until junior year of high school for proper financial schooling is not conducive to success. The earlier these lessons are learned is better.

Parents need to take some ownership of their children's education. Reading some of the responses here, it's no wonder that Gurner ridiculed Millennials; he's also ridiculing their parents who are Gen Xs.

As a 35-year-old in 2017, Gurner himself is on the threshold of the Gen X-Millennial border.

ktr May 17, 2017
I agree with you, cv. I am very thankful my parents taught me about finances, having a budget, etc. It wasn't something we ever sat down and learned, but we were exposed to it frequently - my dad had a notepad on his desk that we had to write down every expense we made, even if we bought a pack of gum, so he could record it into the budget. I went to college and was the only kid I knew who recorded every expense and had a budget. But, I left college with no debt and am now able to do my own bookkeeping for my business.
I think the other thing parents need to teach their kids is that sometimes you have to sacrifice and not get every thing you want in order to benefit in the end.
I do think that schools should provide some instruction in finances as well though. There are too many adults with kids that don't have a budget or take an active role in managing their own finances so they are will likely not be able to teach their kids about those things. In an ideal world, the parents would take the initiative to learn themselves and then pass the knowledge on, but that's not going to happen in a lot of cases.
Whiteantlers May 16, 2017
When I was young, "hippies" we're the group who got blamed for the downfall of American society and values. I suppose you could have classified me as a hippie. We didn't have access to $4 coffee and $19 avocado toast, just marijuana and LSD. Both were a helluva lot more expensive than those innocuous breakfast items, which probably explains why I don't own a house. : )
702551 May 16, 2017
Gurner does have valid reasoning, even if it wasn't artfully communicated.

Rather than you blowing your wad on drugs, let's say you bought one Class A share of Berkshire Hathaway at $260 in March 1980 (about $1100 in today's dollars); note that an Apple II computer in 1980 was about $1300. Ten years later (March 1990), that share was worth $6,725. Today, that same share is worth $245,000.

I think Gurner was trying to make the point that some Millennials make foolish choices about what to do with their money. He's not addressing the young folks who are wise about economizing and making avocado toast at home.

Just for giggles, let's run through the numbers. Let's say Millennial Couple #1 met a year ago and each have a $4 espresso drink 300 days of the past year. That's $1200 apiece. Now let's say they go out and *share* a $15 avocado toast (or similarly priced dish) at some trendy brunch place 40 weekends at year. That's another $600. Let's also say they go out another 40 times, spend $25 combined each time (burgers, tacos, beer, wine), nothing extravagant.

Thus, combined, they've spent $4000.

Over five years, that's $16,000 that could be used toward the downpayment of a house.

We're not even factoring other restaurant meals, concerts, events, etc.

Throw in a couple of destination weddings to Bali, Thailand, Tuscany, wherever and wave goodbye to a few more thousands of dollars.

His point wasn't that avocado or toast are inherently expensive. The real point is that some Millennials should think more carefully about feeling that pricey brunch restaurants, espresso drinks, and $4 scones should be a part of their daily lives.

Now let's take hypothetical Millennial Couple #2. Let's say they pooled together $4000 and invested $1000 each in their beloved FANG companies (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google) a year ago.

Here are the values of those investments today.
FB $1270
AMZN $1390
NFLX $1800
GOOG $1330
Total value: $5790 (+44%)

Or let's say they were more conservative investors, just put the four grand into "Cubes" (symbol QQQ) which tracks the Nasdaq-100 index. Still they would end up with $5280 (+33%).

Gurner got flack from people on social media who didn't get it. With social media, everyone can see what they are doing and it's easy for someone like Gurner to ridicule Millennials since the latter put so much of their lives online, in plain view of others.

Anyhow, people value different things in their lives. Run the numbers yourselves and decide what works best for your lifestyle and life objectives. There's no single solution for everyone and people make mistakes. But as adults, we are responsible for our own decisions.

If you blow four grand on a destination wedding in Greece next week, then ten years hence wonder why you are still renting, you'll need to think back on your decisions.
702551 May 16, 2017
Oops, bad math, over five years, Millennial Couple #1 would have saved $20K, not sixteen.
702551 May 16, 2017
Okay, a little more fun with math with a more realistic scenario.

Let's say Millennial Couple #2 continues to fund their house downpayment fund and contribute $4000 each year. Let's say they buy boring "Cubes" (QQQ) and the annual return on investment is a more realistic 14%. Thus their original $4000 would be worth $6755. Subsequent contributions would be less since they spent less time appreciating. Still the five $4K contributions would end up being nearly $26.5K in Year 5.

Millennial Couple #1 spent $20,000, authored five years of much-liked cappuccino and avocado toast Instagram posts, and have nothing in a house buying account.
dana May 16, 2017
It's interesting to read your comments, cv. I also wish we were putting the type of education into American schools to prepare them for any kind of financial investing. So many people (including me) have no idea what to do with their money or how to do it.... Hoping that I can start making smarter financial choices for my future!
The P. May 16, 2017
Weighing in with much trepidation: I am a retired public-school teacher and principal with over 30 years of experience. In my state, that information is indeed part of the curriculum in Civics and Economics, which is a requirement for graduation. Additionally, in many communities, mine included, volunteers from the business community carry out "Mad Money" games in which students must make ends meet with a simulated month of planned and unplanned income expenses. Our schools have been scapegoats for many things, while in fact we do a much better job than people acknowledge.

Thanks for letting me rant. I'm stepping down off my soapbox now. Let's get back to talking about cooking!
dana May 16, 2017
Thanks for this input- valuable to hear! Maybe after 16 years my memory is too foggy to remember that class but I'm excited as an adult to seek out more info!
The P. May 16, 2017
You're welcome! And I see I made a typo. Obviously, that should read "unplanned income AND expenses."
tamater S. May 16, 2017
White Antlers, I've paid off the small house I live in, and a small house I rent out. But our acid was only two bucks a hit... Loving this whole thread here!
ktr May 16, 2017
I am glad to hear, the principal cook, that this information is being taught in your school, but in my school district, kids graduate without being shown how to balance a checkbook or even simply write a check. i sincerely hope more schools start teaching the curriculum you say yours is.