Average Monthly Expenses: From a Single Person to a Family of 5

In 2021, average monthly expenses ranged from $3,405 for one person to $7,400 for a family of five or more.
Hal M. Bundrick, CFP®
By Hal M. Bundrick, CFP® 
Edited by Kathy Hinson

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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 2021 Consumer Expenditures Survey

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Consumer Expenditures 2021. Accessed Dec 9, 2022.
conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and released in September 2022 — the latest data available.

Note that "family size" doesn't necessarily mean two parents and children. A household might have any number of configurations of parents, grandparents, children and unrelated people living together.

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Average monthly expenses by household size

The average monthly expenses among all households totaled $5,577, or $66,928 annually. That's up 9.1% from 2020.

Average monthly expenses for one person:

Average monthly expenses for one person totaled $3,405, or $40,859 annually.

Average monthly expenses for a family of 2:

$5,782, or $69,382 annually.

Average monthly expenses for a family of 3:

$6,597, or $79,163 annually.

Average monthly expenses for a family of 4:

$7,749, or $92,989 annually.

Average monthly expenses for a family of 5 or more:

$7,400, or $88,797 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.

Average monthly expenses that increased year over year

All but one of the categories of average monthly expenses rose in 2021, according to the BLS report. In order of percentage increases, they included these costs:

  • Entertainment (+22.7%).

  • Apparel and services (+22.3%). However, even with the large increase, clothing expenditures were still below 2019 levels.

  • Alcoholic beverages (+15.9%). This is a reversal of a downward trend in 2020, when there was a 17.4% decline in alcohol purchases. Most of the year's gain in spending was away from home.

  • Food (+13.4%).

  • Transportation (+11.6%).

Average monthly expenses that declined

Only education spending declined in 2021, and just by 3.5%, the BLS says. Every other reported expenditure category rose, except for reading spending, which was unchanged from 2020.

Your average may vary

With all of the variables, stacking your family's spending up against 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 that may be 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.