Our Spending Breakdown For The Last 12 Months

Several readers shared their own spending breakdowns in the comments of my previous post, so that inspired me to dig up the numbers for ourselves. I don’t have exact stats, and our income varies each month, but I did the best I could by averaging everything over the last 12 months. The percentages are taken from after-tax, or “take home”, income.

altext

Quick explanations for each category:

Food is both eating out and groceries. Car means gas, maintenance, and insurance. Insurance means everything but car insurance: Health, Dental, Disability, Renter’s, and Umbrella. Utilities are all monthly recurring expenses like natural gas, electricity, trash, cell phone, VoIP, and water. Travel includes both visiting family and sightseeing. Savings includes both short-term savings for a house downpayment and putting away for retirement. Other is everything else – pet-related, clothes, gifts, donations, etc.

Things look pretty manageable for us right now, but soon our housing slice will probably double or more in size, and we have no kids right now, so the pie will definitely evolve over time. Of course, hopefully we’ll be earning more too. I also want to add life insurance and maybe better disability insurance to the mix soon.

This was an interesting exercise, perhaps just as illuminating as tracking your expenses for a month. Even if you guesstimate, you’ll likely end up with something that may inspire some change or simply reinforce your efforts so far.

Just like with my net worth tracking, I’m not here to compete with anyone else, I think we all have our own goals to work towards. However, feel free to comment with your own numbers.

Comments

  1. Joseph Sangl says:

    It is great to see how little of your money is going out to service debt! You are making our common friend, compound interest, work on your behalf!

  2. sfmoneymusings says:

    I’m amazed rent is only 19% of your income! That’s got to feel pretty powerful and incredible at the same time. I always wondered if people were able to make their expenses less than 20% and it’s nice to know all things are possible.

    In SF, most people’s rent are 40% of their budgets. I heard one person say it was 50% at one point yesterday. One girl I talked to yesterday brought it down to 35% of her income.

  3. Interesting breakout. At your income level I would expect to see donations make up a larger part of the spending.

  4. It’s definitely nice not to have any real car, student, or credit card debt.

    I agree, we should be doing more on the donation front. Right now we primarily give to organizations we have been previously involved with in the past. I’m still stressing about this upcoming house purchase, but I definitely have some new ideas for new local institutions that I want to help out after the move. I like the idea of seeing one’s impact. We are also helping to sponsor a relief effort trip to Haiti later this year.

  5. pretty cool pie chart :)

  6. Saving 43% of ur income is awesome. Good job!

    Question:

    If I have $100,000 in a CD thats making 5.3% and I am getting a mortgage loan for $100,000 amount for 5.3%….is that a wash?

  7. Let me rephrase the question above.

    Assume that my annual returns on $100K is guaranteed 5.3% and my fixed mortage for $100K is also 5.3%. Is this a wash?

  8. In order to be comparable, the accounting methods would need to be the same, which they clearly aren’t — “savings” isn’t an expense, and you don’t account for taxes — but Microsoft Money makes this easy, and I came up with:

    41%: Taxes
    17%: Automobile
    10%: Household
    8%: Utilities
    6%: Leisure
    5%: Computers
    3%: Miscellaneous
    3%: Food (note that groceries are accounted under Household)
    1.8%: Travel
    1.8%: Clothing
    1.7%: Insurance
    1.6%: Interest

    With a few other things down in the noise levels. This is percentages of expenses, not of income.

  9. I think it’s absolutely ridiculous and rude when people criticize the way other people handle their donations to charity. Just because someone makes a certain amount of money does not mean he or she SHOULD donate a certain percentage. “Donations” to charity can be summed up in other ways than just a monetary value, such as giving one’s time or possessions (rather than selling them on ebay or craigslist). It’s no wonder the average person is uncomfortable with talking about personal finance, because there are people out there who will criticize their every move. Who are we to judge the way other people handle their own money?

  10. Sri – If you are asking if it’s better to pay off your mortgage, remember that the mortgage interest is tax deductible and without it you may fall into a different bracket.

  11. Sri – The interest you make on your CD is also taxes – yet another consideration. In Oregon, its taxed twice – once by the feds and again by the State at 9%.

  12. SF – Note that I don’t live in SF ;)

    Sri – Your question depends on all the tax consequences – taxation of bank interest, and tax-deductibility of mortgage interest – which are all things that only you would know and we don’t.

    Kaoru – Very well put, everyone’s got to do their own thing. People are definitely more critical when they think they are anonymous.

  13. I think starting this blog is one of the best donations you could make to society – thanks for helping us all out!

  14. My percentage breakdown:

    Savings (retirement & short term) – 51.16%
    Rent – 12.58%
    Utilities – 3.45%
    Food (just groceries) – 2.59%
    Other (I don’t break it down further – this budgeted amount I spend without worry or tracking) – 28.79%

    Doesn’t add up to 100%; rounding error.

    This is on an income probably comparable to the blog author’s, in a fairly major metro area. I don’t consider myself particularly frugal (though I don’t consume excessively).

    My biggest savings: No car or insurance (well, the insurance is employer-provided). And I share some living expenses with my fiancee.

  15. hayhehes says:

    I second Kelli – this blog has personally helped me and my financial situation a LOT.

  16. Kaoru,

    Well said buddy…well said.

    When i saw that comment, i asked a friend of mine whether most americans donate their salaries to charity….I felt bad coz I dont donate money at all. Perhaps I have donated around $500 in my lifetime. But on the other hand, I have painted orphanages, fed them, took time of to go and play with them etc.

    By the way, since I am an aetheist, …donations to a religious based charity does not count ;)

  17. lol….what i meant to say was painted the orphanage homes*

  18. isnt 20% of your income going to rent considered high? Maybe since I have lived in the midwest all my life…

    And this is joined income right?

  19. I’m a longtime San Franciso resident and my housing slice is at ~13%. While I have a decade+ of salary bumps to increase the total income pie, the idea is the same no matter what location or time in life — live below your means, don’t compare yourself to others. Almost all my peers I went to school with own houses and pay a good $4000+ in monthly housing costs. (And even at this number, they’ll still declare they’re lucky they bought in ’02 for ~$600K versus now for $900K/$6K per month.)

    By comparison, my wife and I rent in a 800 sq foot apartment close to both our work places. We just don’t feel the urgency for a larger place. Perhaps in a few years, we’ll give my son his own room and that’ll bump us up to an 1100 sq ft place. But until then, it’s not like a baby needs 6 different rooms to play around in. Meanwhile, the psychotic difference between buy and rent in SF goes into our savings and investments.

  20. goldnsilver says:

    Charity donation (decision to give and the amount) is a personal choice. There’s no right amount and we cannot “tell” or “make” others to give.

  21. I, for one, am very impressed with your significant time donation to charity, that is, THIS BLOG. Keep up the good work. You help more people than you know.

  22. Ok, I don’t begrudge the man for not donating money since it’s his money and his conscience, but to try to claim that writing a blog (for profit) that chronicles an already well-to-do person’s quest to become even more well-to-do is some sort of charity is just plain silly. Would you say Donald Trump is donating to charity by writing and selling “How to Get Rich Like Me” books?

  23. God I dislike the “holier than thou” people.

  24. Rick, you obviously have no idea how much time and effort it takes to run a blog of this quality.

  25. You really should include taxes (federal and state income taxes) paid. They are definitely an expense and they are usually one of the top expenses of Americans along with housing and insurance.

    One of my measures of wealth is the amount of taxes paid compared to the increase in net worth for the same period. I pay about $0.10 in taxes (28% fed, 9.3% state) for every $1 increase in net worth each year. I do this mostly through Roth accounts, tax-free interest, qualified dividends, deferring compensation, deducting capital losses against ordinary income, etc. And I don’t include any unrealized real estate gains (a home is NOT an investment!).

    I’d estimate 90% of the population pays more in state and federal income taxes (let’s not even talk about payroll, sales and property taxes) than they increase their after-tax net worth each year.

  26. Tex,
    The author gets paid accordingly. Let me be clear…I read this blog so it’s pretty obvious I have nothing against making money. I just don’t call the things I do for a living charity.

  27. Sri,

    Suppose your home (100k) was paid for — Would you take out a mortgage on it to invest in a CD?

  28. Come on fellas, let’s bring the comments back on-topic here to spending breakdowns.

    Is 20% too much for rent? I don’t know, but it’s definitely the norm in many urban high-cost areas. I do know that for large loans some banks let you spending close to 50% of your gross income on housing. The rational I’ve heard is that your food/utilities are pretty much constant. So if you make more money, most of that extra income can be put towards housing. Good idea/Bad idea? It’s hard – people want the loans, and banks want to give the loans.

  29. J.C,

    The answer is no. Reason for that question? Does that mean i should pay the mortgage off or not? I am in a huge tax bracket right now.
    ********************
    Jonathan,
    Banks love to lend out money coz its not really their money too right?
    And are all these marketing hype.

    2 months salary for diamond ring by the debeers
    friendship day, lovers day, bla bla bla day by Hallmark
    you can afford X amount home coz ur making Y dollars.
    Condoms can only be used once by Trojan (ok maybe this one is true)

  30. sri – paying off a mortgage is a foolish move unless you are extremely wealthy or you can’t qualify for a decent loan.

    Here’s 10 good reasons why you shouldn’t ever give a bank your money when you can invest instead.

    http://www.ricedelman.com/planning/home/BLTmortgage.asp

    Think of it this way, if someone offered to take your money for 3% interest (mortgage rate adjusted for government subsidizing) and not give it back to you unless you sell your house, would you do it? If that was offered in your 401K, would you put 100K into it?

    That kind of strategy is not going to help you get to retirement… instead of doing that, it’s better to get the money into a pre-tax or tax-deferred investment vehicle, or into a taxible diversified portfolio if you plan to hold on to your house for a long period of time.

    The only time it makes sense to pre-pay is if you can’t afford to service the debt each month, or you are ultra conservative and afraid to invest, or you spend everything that come in (Suze Orman’s target audience). If any of those are true, you are in a heap of trouble long term…

  31. spitfire says:

    Money is not the only way to give to charity.

    Good for you Jonathan, for helping out with Haiti relief. It’s nice to see people going to Haiti or a favorite organization and volunteering. It’s much harder to actually do something, than to just give money to an organization.

  32. Jonathon, does the savings category include pre-tax retirement savings (e.g. 401k)? I know you said you were stashing cash for a house purchase but can’t remember if you had eliminated pre-tax savings.

  33. Yes, the savings category does include pre-tax retirement savings. I am currently only putting away $500 a month in my 401k. Gotta put at least a little bit away for the tax benefits :)

    I just wanted to add that I am grateful for the kinds words and messages of appreciation. I initially wasn’t sure how to respond.

    As I’ve said, this blog was started out as a selfish endeavor as an outlet for my interest in money. Would I still do it if I had a fraction of the money and a fraction of the visitors? Sure, as long as there were at least a few people around that I could toss ideas around with. Would I update it as much and spend as much time on it? Definitely not.

    I don’t view this blog as charity, as I have gotten a ton of out if it – money from ads, indirect money from learning about new financial topics myself (and peer pressure to live frugally ;)), and also lots of enjoyment and new acquaintances.

    On the other hand, I don’t view it as my job. It can’t and doesn’t feel like a job, because if it did I would stop doing it.

    If anything, I think of it as a hobby that takes up a lot time but is also profitable – talk about a great combo! And I love doing it. Thanks everyone for reading!

  34. Jonathan, how did you count that gross/pre-tax $500/mo for 401K since your other categories (and the percentages) are net/post-tax?

    Awesome blog, BTW.

  35. $500 pre-tax ~= $315 post-tax

    (28% fed, 9% state taxes)

  36. I put together a similar pie chart (In Excel, same colors!) last year, covering one month at that point and 6 years prior. It looks a lot like yours, but I failed to break Travel out of the Cash (a.k.a. miscellaneous) category.

    I’m glad to find someone else who saves the same ridiculously high amount as me.

  37. njones4213 says:

    I’m really jealous. I don’t have a large house, small actually approx 900 sqft. I make a decent living for my age, 28 and 45K. My house payment, including escrow, is about 36%. I don’t live above my means at all, but having rent at less than 25% would be amazing.

    Same with vehicle, that is my fault though (my present to myself for finishing grad school, and one I’m rethinking when the lease is up. Its expensive but no where high enough to think if I didn’t need it, I couldn’t come up with anywhere near enough to save 43% a month of my income. Not to be nosy, but what kind of income do you have? I mean percentages are great, but the comes a point when its not meaningful. I’m really trying to start saving real amounts myself, and its tough, but saving 40% of my income would be damn near impossible and it sounds that you have a much higher CoL area than I do.

  38. My family’s spending breakdown is approximated by our budget, a target we are *usually* succesful at hitting. It isn’t always easy with a family of 4, two kids under 3 and 1 on the way.

    Post-tax income breakdown:

    40% Housing (inc. utilities& taxes, own our home, 15-yr mortgage)
    30% Savings/Investments (post-tax)
    10% Tithe
    10% Food
    5% Health/life insurance
    5% Auto insurance/gas/repair

    About 40% of our housing payment is building equity in our home, in a stable and appreciating market, so the housing bills aren’t a total loss. Life is cheaper in the Mid-West, where a brand-new construction 4-bedroom home with 1700+ sq ft. is easily obtainable for under $200,000.

  39. Oddly, I found an interesting stat in this USA today article about the cost of food: “U.S. consumers on average spend 15% of their budgets on food and beverages, vs. 4% on gasoline.”

    I wonder if it says something about myself and the other readers there, that our food as percentage of income is WAY less than 15% – the numbers I’ve seen look more like 3-5%. Savvy shoppers, or making more than the average Joe? I lean toward option 2.

  40. This article is several years old and yet the information on it is as current as tomorrow.

    I want to thank the author for taking the time to take his interest in personal finance to the web as it has positively impacted many. I consider myself to be pretty savvy and so it becomes increasing difficult to find new tips, strategies and insight to a topic that I have covered for so long.

    I have gathered much information from your blog; if nothing else your pie charts have motivated me to create my own. I have always had a pretty detailed budget but it was your blog that influenced me to figure the percentage break downs of expenses and savings/investments. Not to mention I would never have created a visual of the expenses/savings/investments (this makes it so much cooler!).

    My percentage break-down is as follows:

    3% Auto/life insurance
    28% Mortgage
    1% Home security system
    1% Pest control
    1% Cell phone
    1% Gym Membership
    1% Furniture ($1300 remaining balance @ 0% interest)
    2% Vehicle maintenance
    5% Gas
    57% Savings

    My wife and I have separate accounts and we each pay our set of bills. The above outlines my own expenses. This has worked out extremely well for us of the many years we have been together.

    My weekly fun money allowance is $25 and comes out of the “savings” column.

    These are ALL of my expenses but does not include 401k contributions… All other expenses are paid by my wife; both of us are rather frugal (I am easily more so that she, but this keeps us well balanced).

Speak Your Mind

*