When I first published the example of a family budget based on the Consumer Expenditure Survey data, I knew there would be questions, requests to dig into various parts of the data more, and the need for clarifications. Here are the questions I’ve been asked most often about the average family budget breakdown, and the answers as available from the Consumer Expenditure Survey data and category definitions.
Your Frequently Asked Questions about the Average Family Budget
While the Consumer Expenditure Survey breaks out many sub-categories, it’s not perfect, and some things we would all like more insights on just isn’t called out in the data. But, I’ve taken your most frequently asked questions and done my best to extract the answers from what the data does provide, as well as provide additional explanations, where available.
If I haven’t covered a question you have below, please leave me a comment at the end of this post, and I will do my very best to get you an answer. For reference, I’ve included the average family budget breakdown by household type again below.
AVERAGE FAMILY BUDGET BREAKDOWN
Where are the student loan payments?
The Consumer Expenditure Survey data doesn’t explicitly report loan payments. It does, however, report Net Changes in Liabilities, to account for all increase or decrease in all debts. This includes any principal payments on your mortgage (the interest is included in housing expenditures), as well as “money owed on purchases of cars, trucks, and other vehicles; and money owed to other creditors, such as department stores, banks, credit unions, finance companies, insurance companies, doctors, dentists, and other medical practitioners.”
OTHER FINANCIAL DATA FROM CES
Where are the childcare costs?
Childcare costs are also not explicitly called out in the Consumer Expenditure Survey data. This is a bit frustrating given how large a part of the average family budget they can be.
Childcare costs appear in two locations, depending on type. Baby-sitting, day care, nursery school and preschool tuition appear as Personal Services under Household Operations.
Education, which is called out separately, “includes tuition; fees; and textbooks, supplies, and equipment for public and private nursery schools, elementary and high schools, colleges and universities, and other schools.”
What is the difference between average and median?
These are statistical terms. An average is when you add up all the responses and divide by the total number of responses. The pros of an average are that it weighs all responses in the calculation. The cons are outliers can have a big impact on the result.
The median is the center data point. If you had 25 responses and ordered them from lowest to highest, the median would be the 13th response. The pro of the median is that it is less impacted by extreme outliers, and half of all responses are higher, while the other half are lower. The cons is it may not fully reflect the range of responses.
Does it show how much people put into 401k or IRAs?
Yes, the Pensions and Social Security line item includes “all Social Security contributions paid by employees; employee contributions to railroad retirement, government retirement, and private pension programs; and retirement programs for the self-employed.”
How should you adjust the grocery budget for a family that doesn’t eat out?
If you don’t eat out, your grocery bill WILL likely be higher than the average given for Food at Home. However, it is not likely to increase by the FULL amount of Food Away from Home, given food eaten out typically is 2-3x the cost of food prepared at home. For more insights, check out the Save on Groceries section of 25+ Best Ways to Save Money.
Ready to Build a Budget You Can LIVE With?
If you’d like to take control of your family finances, the Busy Moms Budget Workbook is here to help you be successful. Whether you just want to find some breathing room in your budget and stop living paycheck to paycheck, or you want to accelerate achieving your family’s financial goals, it will guide you through setting your goals, analyzing your ACTUAL expenditures, and help you build a budget that sets you up to succeed.
Also, all workbook customers get lifetime membership to the private Busy Moms Budget group, where I can address all your budgeting questions as they arise.
Have a question about the average family budget breakdown I didn’t answer??? Please leave it in the comments below and I will add it to the FAQs above.