Although the amount families spend on monthly household expenses differs, knowing what other families pay out each month may help you create a practical budget based on your take-home pay. In general, urban households have higher gross incomes and more expenses than the average rural family. Where the money goes depends on a family’s needs and priorities. Your family’s lifestyle and where you live in the country can affect how much you spend.
Rent or mortgage payments usually account for about 34 percent of a household's income. Yet in 2007, Americans spent more of their incomes on housing and transportation costs, reports North Dakota State University Agriculture and University Extension. Housing costs for homeowners include monthly mortgage payments, real estate taxes, homeowner's insurance, utilities and heating fuel. The cost for renters includes monthly rent, fire insurance, utilities and heating fuel.
The average American family spends 12.5 percent of its income on food, according to 2008 estimates by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Because family size and preferences differ, how much a family spends on food can actually range from 5 to 15 percent of the household income. Unlike some of your other monthly expenses, how much you spend on food fluctuates based on prices and what you can afford. You can shop more frugally by comparing store prices, watching for advertised sales and using coupons, especially for sale items.
How much your family spends on transportation costs is another monthly expense that can vary. Rural families are likely to own more vehicles than a family living in an area where public transportation is accessible. In most households, transportation expenses take nearly 18 percent of a family’s income, according to a report published by North Dakota State University. Transportation costs associated with owning a vehicle include the monthly car loan payment, in addition to the costs for gas, auto maintenance and car insurance. The use of public transportation and carpooling can help cut transportation costs.
The average cost of family health insurance was $13,375 in 2009, reports a Kaiser Family Foundation survey. The cost is based on group policies offered by employers, although workers are paying higher premium costs, annual deductibles, higher copayments and more out-of-pocket expenses. Families that rely on income from self-employment spend more of their household income on medical care because they do not receive health care as an employee benefit. HealthReform.gov estimates that insurance premiums and out-of-pocket medical expenses cost these families 22 percent or more of their household incomes.
For many working families, child care is the second-largest monthly expense following home mortgage payments. Child care expenses account for nearly 25 percent of a family’s income. On average, a family with two young children spends $14,000 a year for child care, reports the U.S. Census Bureau. There are resources available to help finance the cost of child care if you work or go to school. Contact the Department of Public Welfare in your state and ask if you qualify for child care subsidies. Another option is to find out if you are eligible to claim the child care tax credit on your federal income tax return. Depending on your income, you can receive a 20 to 35 percent credit on some of the money you spend on child care costs.