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Without a budget — or come to think of it, even with one — you may wonder how your average monthly expenses compare with "what's normal."
The average monthly expenses reported here are from the 2019 Consumer Expenditure Survey conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and released in September 2020 — the latest data available. Family size doesn't necessarily mean two parents and children. A household might have any number of configurations among parents, grandparents, children and unrelated people living together.
Average monthly expenses by household size
The average monthly expenses among all households totaled $5,253, or $63,036 annually. That's up 3% from 2018.
Average monthly expenses for one person:
Average monthly expenses for one person totaled $3,189, or $38,266 annually.
Average monthly expenses for a family of 2:
$5,572, or $66,861 annually.
Average monthly expenses for a family of 3:
$6,178, or $74,134 annually.
Average monthly expenses for a family of 4:
$7,095, or $85,139 annually.
Average monthly expenses for a family of 5:
$6,780, or $81,361 annually. Yes, we do note that a family of five has lower monthly expenses than a family of four, according to the BLS. Such is the nature of statistical estimates.
» MORE: How to budget money
Average monthly expenses that increased year over year
Eight out of 10 of the largest categories of average monthly expenses rose in 2019, according to the BLS report. In order of percent increases, they included:
Vehicle purchases (+10.5%).
Cash contributions (+5.7%). The category includes gifts, donations, alimony and child support, among other cash expenses.
Health care (+4.5%). Health insurance accounted for much of this increase.
Housing expenses for rented dwellings (+4.3%).
Food at home (+4%).
» MORE: How to save money
Average monthly expenses that declined
Spending on entertainment declined across all household categories, except the highest-income quintile, the BLS says. A slight decrease in spending on personal insurance and pensions, including Social Security, was also reported.
Spending in the overarching "all other expenditures" category was also down by nearly 7%.
Your average may vary
With all of the variables, stacking your family's spending up to other similarly sized households in the U.S. will be a rough comparison at best.
Spending can be impacted by income, the cost of living in your area, your family's health care needs, transportation, debt and taxes.
But looking at averages can give you an indication of whether your household spending has sprung a significant leak. If so, look for ways to patch the holes draining your cash flow.
If you want to start getting a handle on your spending, NerdWallet has compiled the best expense tracking apps based on ratings and popularity among users.