How Do You Compare to This “State of Spending” Report?

Hey guys, welcome to a fresh week of saving money!

Personal Capital just came out with their inaugural “State of Spending” report, and thought it would be fun to highlight some of their findings and see where we compare :) Because who doesn’t like doing that, right?

For those not familiar with Personal Capital, they’re a FinTech company that helps people manage their money/investments better and are often referred to as “ but on crack.” Or, maybe that’s just what we call them here ;) In either case, check out our full review of them if you’re interested. It’s totally free, and could be super helpful: Why I Use Personal Capital Almost Every Single Day

Back to the report – they analyzed over 148,225,107 transactions from 2015 to see how people saved and spent their money. The results are listed below in bold, accompanied by my own two cents, of course. I then tacked on another list of interesting stats at the end from a different poll they did late last year as well. Love this stuff!

Let’s get started… see how you compare as you read through!


Americans pay a whopping $725 per month to own, maintain, insure and gas up a car.

Ouch. Yet another reason to drive a beater! No car payments to worry about, no stressing when anyone hits, dings, keys your car, typically lower insurance rates, and just overall ease of both mind and wallet. Now maintenance costs can be more over time than a newer car, but so far I haven’t wanted to go back once in the past 8 years of beater ownership :) In fact, I dropped a healthy amount to keep the Caddy alive just this week that I’ll be sharing about in a few! All about them priorities, mang…

On average, people spend $17.73/mo @ Starbucks,Β  $6.20 @ Dunkin Donuts, $5.80 @ Caribou Coffee and $5.41 @ Peet’s.

Seems pretty low to me! I used to hit Starbucks almost every single day back during my 9-5 days, and every stop cost me at least $4 bucks. So if I factored in, say, 4 trips a week x 4 weeks we’d be looking at around $64 for the month. Still very much worth the trade off for that sweet sweet caffeine, but still. Now it’s a treat when I get to go out and spend some money at a coffee shop! I typically brew my coffee at home every day now, but only out of pure laziness and speed (I work from home) ;) #FrugalByAccident

Uber rides are requested 7x more than traditional cabs. Lyft rides are requested 5x more often. Average spend per user per transaction: $29.20 w/ cabs, $21.86 w/ Uber, $18.01 w/ Lyft.

So not only are more people using car sharing services than cabs these days, but cabs are significantly more expensive! Now I rarely use any of these just because I hardly ever need to (I took my first Uber ride late last year just to finally check it out) but regardless it’s clear what the people want for the future. And if you’re a hustler like fellow blogger Harry, you can be making bank driving for them too! Check out Side Hustle #52 here on how much you can make driving for Uber & Lyft.

20-30 Year olds spend more of their food budget on restaurants than any other age group.

Hah – I believe it. I did too, mainly out of laziness and just wanting to hang out with my friends more! I don’t think I’ve gone out to eat in at least 2-3 months now… Funny how things change when you get older/more conscious of your money :) Then again, all my friends are now online – womp womp.

The average amount of trips people take to the grocery store each year: Kroger – 26, Safeway – 18, Walmart – 16, Costco – 13, Whole Foods – 12, Trader Joe’s – 9.

I’m not sure if this means that all people take the above trips over the year or just one of the particular sections (we hit up grocery stores twice a week which would equal about 96 times total over the year!) but either way it’s kinda neat to see. I don’t see Giant or Food Lion, or even Aldi on the list at all though? Maybe Personal Capital lovers are too good for them? ;) Funny thing about Costco though – my kids are OBSESSED with going there on the weekends now ever since we showed them the magic of free samples… I’ve never heard of any toddlers yelling out “Costco” instead of the park or playground or any other place normal kids like to go, haha…

And speaking of Costco, I just read a great post by Jim over at Wallet Hacks on how to save some good money there. Check it out if you’re looking for some new ideas: How Costco Pays Me to Be a Member

The average breakdown of spending categories *per person*:

  • Travel: $475.79
  • Dining: $386.09
  • Education: $325.97
  • Children: $148.47
  • Pets: $111.38
  • Gas: $68.42

Travel for us: Nothing (sad face)

Dining: Haven’t checked it in a while, but we probably pay double that each month ever since having kids… But since the #’s above are for 1 person and we have 4 total in our family, maybe we’re doing alright? :) Still far from my man Dan who feeds his family of 8 on only $1.00/meal though! Crazy!

Education: Nothing anymore now that my wife’s graduated grad school after 7 years – woop!

Children: Haven’t tracked it ever since our epic Baby Costs Tracker circa 2014 – remember that one?! When we tracked almost every single penny spent from conception to age 1 and 1/2? Haha.. Oh man, good times, good times… I had to stop it once baby #2 came around just cuz I knew I’d have my hands full at that point, but I do kinda wish I’d had make it all the way up to 18 years to prove once and for all how much babies cost ;) You’ll have to click here to see what our total costs ended up being at that point – quite the project to take on! Both babies AND tracking their expenses!

Pets: Maybe spend $20 or less for our cat?

Gas: We fill up my wife’s Toyota once or twice a month (let’s call it 1 and 1/2 at $25 a tank making it $37/mo) and then I literally fill up FrankenCaddy once every THREE months. If that. So tack on another $10/mo’ish and we spend about $50 total a month on gas, or $25/mo per person… Not too bad!

Average spend on clothes/month: $83 @ Nordstrom, $77 @ Bloomingdale’s, $42 @ Macy’s.

No Target or Kohls?? Or T.J. Maxx? Come on! how many times have any of you reading this right now stepped foot inside a Nordstrom or even Bloomingdale’s this month? Not to mention spend any money there? I’d be interested to know why they pulled these guys out of alllllll the places in the country people shop for clothes. I bet you $1,000 it’s because the makers of the report live in a large city and are more familiar with them… Either that, or these are the *highest* amounts people spend in a store and thus is why they’re concentrating on them. Though even Target in that case would count cuz you can NEVER leave that store only buying a few items! Haha… I want a re-count!

42 out of 50 states prioritize retirement contributions over any other financial expense

Rock it!

More people save for retirement in Delaware on average per person each year ($28,248.12) than any other state. Followed by New Mexico ($27,930.49) and North Carolina ($27,143.74).

That sounds incredibly high, doesn’t it? I thought most people hardly have that much in their accounts in total, much less adding to it every year… Could be the fact most users of Personal Capital are probably more financially savvy than the average American though. Considering its whole purpose is to help people manage their wealth :)

Other state highs:

  • Idaho has the most *electronic* expenses per person in a year @ $12,490.91
  • Michigan pays the most in healthcare/medical expenses @ $21,962.25
  • Texas pays the most *mortgages* in a year @ $32,386.97
  • And South Dakota people stash the most in (non-retirement) *savings* @ a whopping $51,373.49 per person per year. Which is just insane, if you ask me. And has to be due to some people stashing hundreds of thousands and skewing the averages, right? Anyone from South Dakota reading this right now up an extra $50gs in their account from last year? :)

You can check out how your state ranks in retirement and other random gems here.

dollar bills animated gif


The State of Retirement Readiness Across America

Now here are those nuggets I was mentioning earlier from that Harris Poll Personal Capital conducted late last year as well… These go more into the *feelings* people have vs the spending stats. And we all know how big of a role emotions play with our finances!

60% of Americans report that they won’t be ready if an economic downturn strikes.

Doesn’t sound too surprising, eh? I always say just ignore everything and concentrate on what you actually have control over: YOUR MONEY. Get it situated now as best you can and set yourself up to weather any storm that lies ahead… Or better yet, be prepared to CAPITALIZE on them once they come! Which we all know will at some point as that’s the nature of life. And particularly with the stock market. I can also tell you this: when the $hit hits the fan, everyone reads financial blogs more :) So if you’ve ever been wanting to start your own, today’s as good of a day to get going as any!

The #1 reason Americans feel unprepared for retirement is they lack savings (reported by 25% of people).

That’s definitely an important one! Even just having a few thousand dollars saved can be all the difference in the world. If you’re just starting out, try hitting a milestone of $100 the first couple of months, then $1,000, then $5,000 and when you get to a $10,000 buffer go ahead and invoice me for a free beer or glass of wine on the house :) Then we’ll drink together in celebration across the ‘net!

The #2 reason Americans feel unprepared for retirement is they aren’t sure how much money they’ll need in retirement.

And the “experts” don’t help with that either, do they? I won’t harp on this again as we recently got into it all, but if you haven’t done it already, figure out how much *you spend every year* and let that be your guiding point in how much you may need in the future. The magic retirement number heavily relies on your expenses (as well as guestimated future expenses), so concentrate on THAT before all others. What you’ll need for retirement can be drastically different than what your neighbors or family or even Uncle Joe’s cat needs, so ignore the arbitrary number these gurus throw out!

For 28% of Americans, cost of living outweighs health care (14%), age (12%), and social security (4%) as the most important factor when planning for retirement.

Good!! People are starting to pay attention then! :) I should have read that stat before my little speech up there, haha… Only matters though if you start *taking action*! Knowing you spend too much and doing something about it are two completely different things. Start prepping now while you have time on your side!

Nearly 40% of Americans who have a retirement account are not aware of how much they pay each year in account fees.

I used to be one of those people!!! And was paying like 13x what I should have been – ugh… If this is you, check out and consider index funds… Super easy to follow, and a decent strategy too. As long as you’re okay with getting average returns and being “boring” :)

30% of Americans rely on family for financial advice, over advice from a professional financial advisor (sought by 27%). Only 8% of Americans get advice from a broker.

Personal connections are key, baby! Which is why blogs have taken off over the years too – much easier to relate to normal every day people trying to help, right? Who you get to know and trust over the years? Hopefully more businesses/advisors start taking notes in the future and quit hinging their “advice” on what fees they get in return, ugh. See: An Insider’s Warning About Financial Advisors


And there you have it! How does your spending compare? How many of those stats surprised you? Do you feel better or worse now about your finances? ;)

The big takeaway, of course, is to first KNOW at least roughly where all your money is going each month, and then to go and do something about it if you hate what you see… We’ve all been in these stages before, but best to brush that dirt off your shoulders and get right back to it! And while it’s fun to see what everyone else is doing in the country, what really only matters in the end is how YOU’RE doing with your finances. Keep on paying attention and all will be good in the end, I guarantee it.

See ya back here on Wednesday!

For more info on PC’s “State of Spending” report, click here.
For our review of Personal Capital, click here.

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  1. Brian @DebtDiscipline March 14, 2016 at 6:43 AM

    I’m feeling better about my money. We don’t carry car payments, even after adding a third car to the mix for our children. a gently used car paid for in cash. We don’t spend nearly the average on dining out, and we’ve never shopped at Nordstrom, or Bloomingdale’s.

    We are saving for retirement and have a good handle on the pile of cash we need. All about have a plan.

    1. J. Money March 14, 2016 at 4:58 PM

      Amen, brotha.

  2. Thias @It Pays Dividends March 14, 2016 at 7:03 AM

    I agree with you that the coffee averages seems too low! I wonder if it is because people who are probably more likely to use Personal Capital are more on top of their finances so maybe they understand the Latte Factor more?

  3. Aliyyah @RichAndHappyBlog March 14, 2016 at 7:26 AM

    I don’t own a car, so $0 for that category and tons of savings!

  4. Dr. Beard March 14, 2016 at 7:45 AM

    Many of the stats are surprising in a good way. However, this data comes from Personal Capital users, which is a self-selecting set of people who by definition are tracking their spending more closely than the average household. I think Personal Capital could make a good PR hook by comparing their users with the average on a couple of metrics like this.

    We’re pretty close to many of these, and way over on some. But we’re maintaining two households temporarily, which is pushing our monthly expenses higher than normal. (Although, I’m also temporarily earning more than double, so it’s worth it.) I can say that our beer spending is much lower. $1 for 2 L of decent Czech beer. God bless the land of 10,000 breweries.

    1. J. Money March 14, 2016 at 4:59 PM

      “Personal Capital could make a good PR hook by comparing their users with the average on a couple of metrics like this.” – HAH! Great idea, actually! (You reading this, Personal Capital??? :))

  5. Kalie @ Pretend to Be Poor March 14, 2016 at 7:59 AM

    Thanks for sharing this interesting report and even more interesting commentary! It’s concerning that people are still talking about the last recession, but not prepared for another one, and that cost of living is the biggest factor. But I’m glad so many personal finance blogs are trying to help with this situation. I know reading PF blogs have been very helpful and eye-opening for us!

  6. Penny @ She Picks Up Pennies March 14, 2016 at 8:10 AM

    This is fascinating. I grocery shop every week, and usually stop at two different stores. Both are on my way to and from work, so I really don’t mind. I find that it allows us to keep more fresh foods as dietary staples. Now that I think about it, though, this number probably changes dramatically once are gardens are up and running. The retirement statistics make me a little sad. Though I will say that I bet the numbers about not knowing would be even higher if you ask teachers. I pay into my pension every month (I see that 10% for sure!), but do I have any idea what the state is doing with my money? Not really. And so many of my coworkers picked up 403bs just because. It took me tons of digging, but the fees sheets are so long and outrageous, we’ve passed for the time being.

    1. J. Money March 14, 2016 at 5:01 PM

      So sad how confusing places make this :( Some times even on purpose – like from shady advisors!

    2. The Professor March 14, 2016 at 11:36 PM

      As a former teacher keep in mind what you put in the 403b reduces your current taxes. In my district I’ve invested the bulk in a Vanguard fund. I’ve maxed it out in the past decade and was able to up it to $24k a year with the 50 yr. old catch up contribution. It’s added up nicely.

  7. COD March 14, 2016 at 8:57 AM

    A Caddy? I drive a 2002 Park Ave. Want to go cruise the retirement home parking lots this weekend? :)

    1. J. Money March 14, 2016 at 5:02 PM

      Hah – let’s do it!

      Though your car is 10 years younger than mine, fancy pants…

  8. BeachMama March 14, 2016 at 9:08 AM

    I’ve spent a little time in the Dakota’s over the last 2 years and if I had to guess, I would say that the high retirement contributions in SD are due to the once booming oil economy. It was crazy easy money for a while – and it impacted everyone who lived there. Even McDonald’s employees were being paid over $20 an hour! But now that industry is tanking big time. It would be interesting to see those same stats next year, I would be willing to bet that they will be much lower.

    1. J. Money March 14, 2016 at 5:02 PM

      Ooooh… interesting call, indeed!

  9. Tonya@Budget and the Beach March 14, 2016 at 9:09 AM

    With the second half of the study, it sounds like many people are in denial about their financial situation. I used to be one of those people as well!

  10. Dee @ Color Me Frugal March 14, 2016 at 9:10 AM

    I was also amused by the fact that they looked at shopping at places like Bloomingdales and nordstroms. I don’t live anywhere near either of those- probably at least 4-5 hours from me. I feel like the “average” person probably does not shop much at those places. But, as others have pointed out, I guess most PC users are not exactly average.

  11. Guy March 14, 2016 at 9:19 AM

    $125 is the avg spent on children? Even if that’s per child that’s still incredible low.Daycare is at least $900 a month alone! Maybe the average personal capital users doesn’t have kid(s)?

    1. Mireille March 14, 2016 at 9:25 AM

      Either that or maybe they’re grown up, as the users are closer to retirement age?

      1. J. Money March 14, 2016 at 5:03 PM

        Hah – yeah, something strange going on there indeed… we used to pay almost $2,000 a month for our daycare before we pulled them out! That’s more than most peoples’ mortgages!

  12. Hannah March 14, 2016 at 9:54 AM

    The actual stats from Personal Capital are fascinating. I think the biggest conclusion I can see is that when you start to pay attention to your money, you probably start to earn more and save more. You may or may not spend less.

    The South Dakota thing is interesting, but as someone else pointed out its a bit of a phase. A lot of guys are out there living in their trucks making bank off of natural gas, and will have to move when the jobs go away.

  13. Fervent Finance March 14, 2016 at 10:05 AM

    I wonder how accurate all that data is because quite often PC botches the classification of my transactions. And something is wrong with that South Dakota retirement number for sure!

  14. Nick March 14, 2016 at 10:36 AM

    Retirement savings seems particularly high. If you multiply those #s by 2 for a married couple that means that many couples are saving in excess of $30-40k/yr. But as you called out it’s likely sampling bias as people most likely to track their expenses are more likely to prioritize retirement.

  15. Abigail @ipickuppennies March 14, 2016 at 10:53 AM

    Our food bills are atrocious, but it’s one of the things we’ve learned to live with because we’ve tried various things and it hasn’t worked out — and just distracts/deters us from making progress on other goals.

    Given my job security, I feel okay about an economic downturn. Alas, we’re nowhere near ready for retirement. Might never be at the rate we’re having to go.

    I’m hoping to put more money into retirement this year, but first we need to plump up savings a bit more since Tim’s dental implants will kill the savings account. But at least they’ll be done.

    1. J. Money March 14, 2016 at 5:05 PM

      Health first, then money! (Though easier for me to say on the outside, I know :() Hope the operation goes super smoothly for him!

  16. Tawcan March 14, 2016 at 12:48 PM

    Very interesting stuff, some numbers surprised me a bit. Too bad Personal Capital doesn’t work for us Canadians. Would love to see a Canadian version to compare.

  17. Harmony March 14, 2016 at 12:58 PM

    Really interesting figures. While we have too much debt and too little invested, at least we’re not spending like others. It’s encouraging to see that we should be able to make up a lot of lost time (and money) if we stick to our frugal lifestyle.

  18. Derek @ MoneyAhoy March 14, 2016 at 1:02 PM

    I think we’re saving a small fortune by avoiding eating out so often. The wife and I are on a healthier eating kick, so we try to plan out our menu ahead of time for the week and prepare meals at home. I think we will be able to retire a couple years earlier as a result and will end up several pounds lighter!

    1. J. Money March 14, 2016 at 5:06 PM

      Double whammy :)

  19. Mrs. Paradise March 14, 2016 at 3:27 PM

    Wow, the retirement savings per person are incredibly high! Something doesn’t seem quite right there…I wonder how they classify “retirement” savings? We’re probably skewing the Costco shopping…we go at least 3x / month, and I’m sure it looks like more like 5x on our account because we also get gas there.

  20. Chris @ Flipping A Dollar March 14, 2016 at 3:37 PM

    Lmao. I’m way too aware. I just called the Maryland 529 group to complain about the fees. I let them know that they basically force me to use a similar service to get the tax breaks but then make me pay more than I would at Vanguard!

    We have at least 6 years of funds put away right now. Makes me feel very comfortable.

    1. J. Money March 14, 2016 at 5:07 PM

      6 years is great, man! Nicely done!

  21. Heather @ Simply Save March 14, 2016 at 7:52 PM

    So interesting! The coffee numbers seemed low to me too. Thank god Target wasn’t on here because I used to go there for groceries and everything at least once a week! Although I recently fell in love with Aldi…love it so much!

  22. Tyler @ Oddball Wealth March 15, 2016 at 2:26 AM

    I currently feel pretty good about my money situation as I max out all of my retirement accounts every year, both my 401k and Roth IRA. I currently own two vehicles that are both fully paid for, which might change soon if I decide to buy a new vehicle soon.

    Also, I no longer stop at by the gas station every morning to buy a cup of coffee (Starbucks are in limited supply by me), and instead, I brew all my coffee at home, which I get a good deal on by buying it from Costco’s in 3 pound containers (really good coffee).

    The only debt I have is around $8,000 in student loan debt (down from around $20,000) and a balance of about $2,000 on my 0% interest credit card. I currently rent so I don’t have a mortgage, but this could change soon too, as I been browsing houses for the past couple of months.

    1. J. Money March 15, 2016 at 6:35 AM

      Rockin’ it with maxing out those retirement accounts – your future self is going to love you for that!

  23. Lady FruFru March 15, 2016 at 7:12 AM

    This was a lot of fun to read. I’m way below average in some areas but I’m actually above in others. Important thing is that I spend more on what’s important to me (travel!).

    Interesting thing about Delaware, since they save the most for retirement. Delaware is a sales-tax-free shopping state. In fact, those of us in surrounding states (I’m in Philadelphia, PA where tax on most items is 8%) often compare prices for larger-ticket items. Sometimes, it’s worth our while to drive 45 mins to Delaware to make the purchase, and also to stock up on other items that are cheaper across the state line (alcohol, gas, thrift store stops).

    1. J. Money March 15, 2016 at 7:50 AM

      Great idea! We’re only up in Delaware usually once a year for our annual beach vacation, and always get pleasantly surprised every time we go out and buy something :) Esp at all the outlet stores! Double win for your $$!

  24. Becky March 15, 2016 at 11:42 AM

    I live not too far from South Dakota (in western Iowa), and it seems that for the time being, businesses in South Dakota (as well as North Dakota) would pay more to have people work there. I heard of a WalMart offering a starting pay around $17/hour, when the ones in my area start around $8/hr. Also, my brother worked for a cable company that paid for him to travel up there and work for months at a time. They paid him extra for doing it as well as putting him up in a hotel while he was there. Not sure what it is about that state, but for the time being, that savings number might actually be closer to accurate than it seems.

    1. J. Money March 16, 2016 at 5:22 PM


  25. Richard March 15, 2016 at 2:33 PM

    Some very interesting insights here.

    A couple of points that might interest you…

    Here in the UK recently the BBC reported that “almost 50%” of UK households have less than Β£500 (~$700?) in savings. How scary is that?!

    Oh, and did you know that “T J Maxx” is known as “T K Maxx” in the UK? (I have no idea why!).

    Top article as always J :-)

    1. J. Money March 16, 2016 at 5:24 PM

      Haha… I’ll have to put T K Maxx on my list of places to hit the next time I’m out there :) After meeting you for a beer, of course (though drunk shopping can be a reallly bad idea! haha)

  26. Jonathan Hoover March 15, 2016 at 5:36 PM

    I have a possible reason for why the savings in South Dakota are so skewed. Farmers and ranchers work and budget on an annual or semi annual basis and get paid in HUGE chunks of cash often times when they harvest and sell their crops. Then naturally you have to keep all that money accessible to live off for the next harvest. Talk about serious budgeting though. I find monthly budgets challenging to stick by. :P

    1. J. Money March 16, 2016 at 5:26 PM

      I gotta say – all these theories on S. Dakota are incredibly fascinating! From oil to higher wages to now farming and budgeting. If only there was a way to find out what the answer was! Or maybe it’s a combo of all sorts of variables?

  27. Tonya March 15, 2016 at 10:26 PM

    I have a fairly secure job. I do not necessarily think we are prepared for an economic downturn after seeing my negative net worth, which I just started tracking this month. However, I try to focus on it too much because I know I’m working on some things to change that. Big things happening for our net worth before April! (It will still be in the negative but getting MUCH better)

    1. Tonya March 15, 2016 at 10:28 PM

      *NOT* I try NOT to focus on it too much.

      1. J. Money March 16, 2016 at 5:26 PM

        Congrats on starting to track it all :) That’s usually the hardest part – facing the facts! Now time to get the little wins each month as it ticks up and over into positive territory eventually!

  28. Elizabeth March 17, 2016 at 10:31 PM

    Love these kinds of stats! I’ve gotta admit, I spent $583 at Nordstrom last month (wince), but I certainly don’t every month. I bet they don’t include Target or stores like that in these stats because you could be buying anything form groceries to small appliances to books, clothing or gifts at those stores. So expenditures there don’t fit neatly into any of these “people spend X on Y” metrics.

    Also TX probably leads in mortgages because our property taxes are so high – since we have no state income tax here in the Lone Star State.

    1. J. Money March 21, 2016 at 11:21 AM

      Interesting on both accounts!

  29. Roy Largo @ Band of Savers March 23, 2016 at 9:13 AM

    I understand that it’s not good to compare ourselves to others but reading stuff like this makes me feel so much better about myself. I worry about our finances all the time and it drives my wife nuts but when I compare myself to the average American I can’t help but feel a huge stress relief. I needed this one right now.

    Keep making me look good America :)

    1. J. Money March 23, 2016 at 2:08 PM

      Hah! How sad, but how true :) There’s always people better – and worse – off than us! Good to keep things in perspective for sure.