Learning how to create a budget for your household can be complicated. You need to cover basic needs such as food, shelter and clothing, but your average monthly expenses could also include debt payments, retirement contributions, child care, private school and more.
Student Loan Hero researchers analyzed data from several sources to get an idea of how the average American household budget shapes up. Keep in mind that your expenses can vary depending on where you live in the U.S.
The median U.S. household income in 2018 was $61,937. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. households within that income level spend an average of $53,104 on annual expenditures. Here’s how those earnings were used to pay off the following monthly expenses:
- Housing: $1,523
- Transportation: $763
- Food: $597
- Personal insurance and pensions: $430
- Health care: $395
- Entertainment: $199
- Apparel and services: $126
- Cash contributions (including alimony, child support and donations to religious, political and other organizations): $114
Here are some additional highlights:
- Food at home: $352
- Utilities, fuels and public services: $334
- Vehicle purchases (purchase price minus trade-in value): $301
- Health insurance: $270
- Food away from home: $245
- Gasoline, other fuels and motor oil: $179
- Cellphone services: $105
- Medical services: $69
- Public and other transportation: $49
- Life and personal insurance: $26
But those budget categories don’t tell the whole story for all Americans when it comes to average monthly expenses and how they fit into an annual budget.
Consumers spend — on average — $1,233 a month paying down debt. For consumers holding each type of debt, here’s what the breakdown looks like:
The median home price for an existing home was $287,200 in the second quarter of 2020. In contrast, new homes sold for $315,500 during that time.
Assuming a 3.5% interest rate on a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage, a down payment of 20% and a property tax percentage of 1.3%, we’ve calculated the average monthly cost for principal and interest on a mortgage to be:
- $1,343 for existing homes
- $1,501 for new-construction homes
A separate LendingTree analysis of more than 585,000 My LendingTree users showed an average monthly mortgage payment of $1,255.
The average monthly car payment is $493. However, this varies depending on the type of car you choose and if/how you finance the vehicle.
In the first quarter of 2020, 59% of used cars were financed, compared with 41% of new cars. Loans made up 73% of new cars being financed as of April 2020 (the rest were leases). The difference between monthly loan payments for a new car versus a used car is significant:
- Average monthly payment for a new-car loan: $569
- Average monthly payment on a used-car loan: $397
That’s a payment difference of $172 a month.
The average student loan payment is $300. Meanwhile, the Class of 2019 graduated with an average debt of $29,900.
U.S. student debt hit $1.67 trillion in 2020, but it’s expected to reach $1.75 trillion by the end of the year as more people depend on public and private student loans.
The average credit card balance in the U.S. is $6,194. Your monthly expense will depend on your credit card company’s minimum monthly payment and whether you’re paying off your entire balance, but the average monthly credit card payment is $244.
For people who don’t own a home, rent can be just as expensive. As of 2018, tenants pay an estimated average monthly rent total of $1,023.
Americans with a defined contribution plan, such as a 401(k) or 403(b), contribute — on average — 7% of their annual salary to retirement.
Based on the average gross household income of $78,635, that percentage comes out to $459 a month.
Experts typically recommend saving at least 10% of your income for your retirement goals.
For parents, child care costs can vary wildly depending on the type of care you choose. Here are the average monthly costs for different types of child care:
|Care Type||Average Monthly Cost|
|Child care center||$932|
|Family care center||$871|
You don’t have to pay tuition to send your child to a public school. Comparatively, private schools can cost on average from $300 to more than $2,000 a month depending on where you live.
The average monthly expense for private elementary schools across the U.S. is $829.
For private high schools, the cost goes up to $1,235 a month.
Whether your child goes to a public or private school, you likely won’t escape back-to-school costs.
Between supplies, technology and mandatory school fees, you’ll spend the following — on average — each year:
- $1,017 for elementary school students, or $85 a month
- $1,277 for middle school students, or $106 a month
- $1,668 for high school students, or $139 a month
Budgeting is an essential step toward getting your financial life in order and reaching your money goals. But it can be hard to know whether you’re spending too much or not enough in some areas.
Comparing monthly expenses with national averages can provide reference points to show where you stand. For example, if you’re not saving enough, it can encourage you to find areas where you can cut back to save more.
As you consider the average monthly expenses for your top spending categories, consider how you can use the information to improve your own household budget.