If you’re like most people, you may answer “Too much!” or “A truck-load!” without knowing an actual number.

But, thanks to a yearly survey by the Department of Labor, we can now account for each category of spending for the whole year, both in real dollars and as a percent of the overall budget.

In fact, it’s estimated that the average U.S. consumer spent a total of $49,638 last year, or $4,136.50 monthly and approximately $138 per day!

As you can see, we’re spending a whole lot of money every year – and not always on the things that you may expect.

But before we delve into where our hard-earned duckets are ending up, it’s important to note that the Department of Labor survey pegs the annual income for a “consumer unit” – ostensibly a household – is $63,091 before taxes.

That’s a fairly hefty number that is higher than I would have guessed since we’re talking about projecting these numbers across the entire U.S. and all working-age adults, including numbers accounting for unemployment and unable to work because of disability, etc.

Based on their survey, the average U.S. consumer is also 48.8 years old and owns 1.9 vehicles.

Here is a list of expenditures, starting with the largest portion of our budget and dwindling down to the smallest:



$16,920 per year

34.1% of total expenditures

Interestingly, spending for shelter only comes to $10,023, or 20.2% of the total budget, while presumably taxes, maintenance, loan servicing, and other costs add up to the whole $16,920.



$8,758 per year

17.6% of total expenditures

(Gasoline adds up to $2,384 every year, or 4.8% of our overall spending, while vehicle purchases averaged $3,244 or 6.5% of the total.)



$6,133 per year

12.4% of total expenditures

Nourishment is the next largest item on our list, accounting for about 1/8thof our total budget and more than $500 per month. It’s notable that food we buy to prepare at home (groceries) accounts for only $3,465 per year, or 7% of the budget, while the other 5+ % is eating out.


Insurance, Pension, and Social Security Contributions

$5,336 per year

10.8% of total expenditures



$3,477 per year

7% of total expenditures



$2,853 per year

5.7% of total expenditures

(That comes to just a little more than $200 per month per household, which sounds way too low to be accurate!)



$2,698 per year

5.4% of total expenditures

(Netflix is probably at least $144 of that!)


Apparel and Services

$1,881 per year

3.8% of total expenditures


Household Furnishings and Equipment

$1,797 per year

3.6% of total expenditures


Cash Contributions

$1,821 per year

3.7% of total expenditures

(I’m not sure if this means contributions to charity or just the small cash purchases we make for sundries and other everyday items?)


Household Operations

$984 per year

2% of total expenditures



$945 per year

1.9% of total expenditures

(I’m assuming that doesn’t include payments for private schools or college for the kids!)



$808 per year

1.6% of total expenditures


Housekeeping and Supplies

$639 per year

1.3% of total expenditures

(Someone needs to shop at Costco or the Dollar Store for their cleaning supplies and household goods!)


Personal Care

$588 per year

1.2% of total expenditures

(The brunt of these costs are for personal products and services for grooming, etc.)


Alcoholic Beverages

$457 per year

0.9% of total expenditures

($38 per month is spent on booze? That’s not too bad – I thought it would be more since even one bottle of wine will cost you that.)



$323 per year

0.7% of total expenditures

(That’s pretty darn high when you consider that only 15.5% of U.S. adults smoke regularly and this is just an average. Imagine how high that expenditure is for smokers!)



$118 per year

0.2% of total expenditures

(That means we spend more than 3x as much on tobacco as we do buying books every year!)


Some things I don’t see on here that I’d be interested to know include paying for credit cards and other debt, gifts and holidays, as well as how much we spend on vacations and travel.

Likewise, how much do we spend on taxes? (The IRS definitely gets a big piece of the pie!)

Either way, this acts a great starting point for you when you calculate your total expenditures for last year – and formulate ways to save more of your hard-earned cash for the next 365 days!