What’s the Average Family Budget?

August 22, 2011

Even professional football players need to budget. There is no x-amount of dollars in income you can earn that will one day alleviate the task. The easy part is totaling how much money there is to spend. The inevitable question is: now what?

A good starting place is to see what other families are doing; leading me into another one of my trademark “average family articles” that are so popular with google. We can guess at the average family budget by looking at the 2009 Bureau of Labor Statistics report on household consumption. Cleaning up the mess of numbers for you (because I’m magnanimous like that), you’ll find the same report below, but expenses are arranged from largest percent of the family budget to smallest:


 Annual Amount

% of Budget

Income before taxes  $  62,857.00  
Total Expenses (i.e. likely after tax income)  $  49,068.00  
Housing  $  16,895.00


Transportation  $    7,658.00


Food  $    6,372.00


Personal Insurance and Pensions  $    5,471.00


Healthcare  $    3,126.00


Entertainment  $    2,693.00


Apparel  $    1,725.00


Cash Contributions  $    1,723.00


Education  $    1,068.00


Misc  $        816.00


Personal Care Products  $        596.00


Alcoholic Beverages  $        435.00


Tobacco Products  $        380.00


Reading  $        110.00



Note that housing, transportation and food make up roughly 65% of the average family budget. You can understand the new consumer crazes for renting, extreme coupon clipping and riding a bicycle to work. Clearly, people understand the weight of these expenses on their family budgets.

I find information like this indispensible in my own family budget planning. For example, I’ve already noted that my family spends more than an average amount on food expenses. Simply getting our grocery bill in line with the national average of $122/week would save over $1,400 a year in expenses.

Keep in mind that this is merely a look at the average family’s expenses. Geography plays a large role in the cost of living. As a result, your budget may not be comparable. Others may have very similar budgets.

The important thing to get out of this is what can you do better on? Could you beat the average with a little effort? And if you are below the average, how much lower can you go?

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4 Responses to What’s the Average Family Budget?

  1. [...] interest for four years). To give you some perspective, that’s roughly equal to the average amount Americans spend on food. Handicapping yourself with the equivalent of a second grocery bill is a recipe for financial [...]

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  3. Please Read These Personal Finance Blogs! on December 20, 2011 at 1:11 pm

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