How The Average U.S. Consumer Spends Their Paycheck

Here’s an interesting graphic of the spending breakdown for the average U.S. consumer. It’s based a theoretical household “unit” consisting of 2.5 people, not individuals. Looks like such a household unit spends approximately $50,000 per year. Click on image for larger version.

I guess taxes are not considered an expense by the government. 🙂 I’m not sure where leisure travel or vacation spending falls under, perhaps split as transportation and housing?

The image was created by Visual Economics, using information taken from the Consumer Expenditure Survey by the U.S. Department of Labor.


  1. Interesting chart but I think it would be more interesting to see how the allocation percentages have changed over time. maybe in 5 yr increments.

  2. It would be more interesting if they included tax as part of the wheel also. Especially if they broke it out to sales tax, fed, state, housing, ect.

  3. I agree that the graphic could be better, but the red text to the right of the stack of bills in the middle of the picture, and the white-on-black text to the left of the bills do state that income before taxes is $63,091, and the expenses discussed are $49,683 – it looks like the average dwelling unit spends $13,408 on taxes.

    It’s interesting that this is above the portion of the ~$5k contributed to social security and pensions, and the portion of the ~$3k contributed to “public services”.

    Basically, the graphic should be labeled as after-tax expenses, I guess.

  4. Yea, I improved the graphic for readability in this post:

    That makes it a bit easier to read

  5. Very interesting graphic. I don’t know where you find all this stuff, but thanks for sharing it with the rest of us.

  6. my take is that whenever you try to get an estimate of the “average” consumer, you end up getting a description of something that does not typify any REAL individual and thus becomes hard to apply.

  7. @JC,

    It is not hard to apply. On an average, 2 out of 3 have understood the graphics. Get it!!!. But this one is based on survey of 3. How about for 100,000 people? .It will change, and give a good sense of data.

  8. JC is right that since this is the average figure it is skewed high by rich people. Better reflection of “typical” would be to look at the median figures. You can approximate that by looking at the BLS data for the middle quintile which is closer to most American households.

    Vacation spending is broken up and included under different categories like transportation, eating out and entertainment.

    The before tax income less expenditures is not exactly equal to the taxes. The full data on the BLS site has the income before and after taxes so subtracting after tax income from before tax income gives you the rough figure for taxes which is much lower. The difference between before tax income and expenditures includes other things like credit card interest, cash savings and business expenses.

  9. funny how the graphics for tobacco and healthcare look similar. thank you for sharing.

  10. Thank You says:

    Thanks for writing. How ironic…. I had about 7 overdraft fees hit my BOA. I called yesterday and it was denied. Since it was my fault I didnt think about escalating. I am a BOA advantage member. I have been with them for several years, have three accounts and a mortgage with them. I will surely call back and write a letter.

  11. I guess “entertainment” is so high as an escape for the misery of only earning $60k per year. Perhaps if this average family cut out their smoking and drinking while reducing their entertainment expenses, they’d have some money left over to apply it to say … reading and education. Then, they could get a better job and earn more money. Then, they could go back to smoking and drinking if they wanted to, but they probably wouldn’t because not they’d be more educated about those subjects and realize all it’s doing is raising their insurance rates.

  12. Of course, this chart must ignore the fact that the average household carries credit card debt. I didn’t see that listed as an expense.

    It is kinda of scary that transportation costs 1/2 of what housing does. Proof positive that driving an older used car and living closer to work would really help your bottom line.

  13. This is interesting because it looks like it is based on more income than the national median, which is $50K (the mean is about 87K but is dragged up by small numbers of very high earners; see the Fed Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances:, so it must include money not earned (i.e., debt)!

  14. Whoah CK. I’ll take my drinking, thank you. It reduces my entertainment budget.

  15. I must be overspending on food like crazy or I’m missing something in this analyis… $6133 / year on food for 2.5 people = $6.72 /day /person on average. Is that realistic figure? seems way off compare to my spending even though we cook and eat at home 90% of the time.

  16. I don’t think this is correct at all.
    I spend way more on food, and utilities.
    Entertainment = 5.4%
    utilities = 7%
    No way
    utilities = phone, cable, gas, electricity, water, garbage.
    This is not correct at all.

  17. CK – love the comment.

    I will keep drinking though, as it lowers my health care expenses later:
    Drunk Sarah = Dancing Sarah = Healthier, Fit Sarah 🙂

  18. @ Dave re: “This is interesting because it looks like it is based on more income than the national median, ”

    The figures are the average or arithmetic mean, so yes it is higher than the median.

    @Kirk ” Of course, this chart must ignore the fact that the average household carries credit card debt. I didn’t see that listed as an expense”

    The cost paid for goods is included in the chart but interest payments are not. Credit card interest payments are some of the money missing between the difference in income and expenditures.

    So for example if you go to the movies and put the $18 bill on your CC then the data would reflect you spending $18 on entertainment. However you pay that money back over time and the chart does not directly reflect the 25% interest that you pay the bank.

    Tobacco and alcohol figures are spread around the entire population. The amount spent on tobacco is the average including all smoking and nonsmoking households. So you’ve got 1/5 people spending about $1615 a year and 4/5 people spending $0 so that averages out to $323 a year. It works in a similar way for everything really since not every family spends money on all these categories.

  19. CK – best comment I’ve read today. Totally true!

  20. evilrabbit says:

    So savings isn’t considered an expense? 😉

  21. Interesting that healthcare is only 5.7% when it is 15-16% of total GDP. Shows that employers & government are taking large amounts of your salary to pay for health costs.

  22. I often wonder when I see charts like this how accurate the data really is. Regardless its interesting to see how you compare.


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