How We Spend Our Money, a Breakdown

We know spending changes when you have more money. Here's by how much per year.
By Nathan Yau  /  Posted to Data Underload  /  Tags:

In college, I was a library assistant for ten hours a week at $7 per hour. This was my spending money, and I stretched my dollars pretty far. These days, my wife and I work full-time, there’s more than $70 a week for the household, and the spending breakdown is different. There’s a mortgage to pay and a kid to support. There’s a retirement to plan for.

Spending changes a lot depending on your situation. (Yeah.) It’s a good indicator for what people care about and what they need. It’s also a good indicator of where the economy is at.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (using data collected by the Census Bureau) estimates spending patterns over time and across demographics, through the Consumer Expenditure Survey.

BLS released midyear estimates today. Spending on food, housing, and healthcare is up from the same time period last year. Spending on clothes, personal insurance, and everything else is down.

Annual averages won’t come out until later so let’s look at the most recent annual estimates for 2013 and look back through 1984 — for income groups and household composition.

The most obvious change comes when you switch between the lowest 20 percent in income and the highest 20 percent, regardless of year. In 2013, the personal insurance and pensions category goes from 2 percent to 16 percent. Spending on rent shifts to mortgage.

low-high

Not surprising, you see a similar shift between single-person households and married couples with children.

As you move through the years, you see less spent on apparel and more on healthcare. Are clothes getting cheaper or are people spending less? Opposite question for healthcare. I don’t know the answer, but there that is.

In 2013, about 2 percent of expenditures go to cell phone service, but in 2010, it’s not even an available data point. Spending data on pets and toys disappears during the same switch. Update: The data for cell phone service and pets and toys for earlier years is available only by request and not published in the BLS public database. So the disappearance here is more of an indictor of public interest.

Here’s how spending has changed over the years for the main expenditure categories, split up by increase, decrease, and about the same.

Spending categories over time

What do you notice?

Favorites

Best Data Visualization Projects of 2016

Here are my favorites for the year.

Interactive: When Do Americans Leave For Work?

We don’t all start our work days at the same time, despite what morning rush hour might have you think.

19 Maps That Will Blow Your Mind and Change the Way You See the World. Top All-time. You Won’t Believe Your Eyes. Watch.

Many lists of maps promise to change the way you see the world, but this one actually does.

Famous Movie Quotes as Charts

In celebration of their 100-year anniversary, the American Film Institute selected the 100 most memorable quotes from American cinema, and …