Budgeting, Credit Cards, Personal Finance, Relationships, Shopping

How Does Your Spending Stack Up Against Your Neighbors?

I lost a good couple of hours of my life this week to a website that a friend directed me to called Bundle.com. This site lets you look at the aggregated monthly spending habits of people in any city, county, or state in the U.S. You can further break it down by age groups, family types (kids, no kids, single, married, etc.) and income brackets. It’s pretty interesting stuff and as I wandered my way through all of the information, I found that a few hours had disappeared.

In my county and demographic bracket, the average total monthly spending is $5,565, broken down as follows:

  • Shopping: $1,637
  • Travel/Leisure: $386
  • Food/Drink: $1,095
  • Health/Family: $926
  • House/Home: $762
  • Getting Around: $759

Note that nowhere in this total monthly spending does Bundle account for your rent/mortgage. So, in my county, I probably need to tack on about another $1,300 per month for average rent/mortgage payments. Even without that, Bundle has the average person in my county with my demographics spending $66,780 per year ($82,380 if you count rent/mortgage). I about fell off my chair. According to Quicken, my average yearly spending, including the mortgage and all other spending (no matter how frivolous) is $42,000 per year ($3,500 per month), or slightly more than half of Bundle’s average. Granted, we live in a fairly affluent county where a lot of people seem to have money, but those numbers still seemed high to me. I checked with the census and the average yearly income in my county is $66,000. So if Bundle’s data is correct, people in my county are, on average, living above their means by about $16,000. Yikes.

You can break each large category down and see the individual items that comprise the larger category. For example, shopping is broken down into Clothes and General Shopping. People in my county are doing a lot of shopping. They spend $283 on clothes and $1,149 on “general shopping” per month. Their average purchase is $74. I can’t even imagine coming anywhere close to those numbers. They also dine out a lot, spending $534 per month on eating out and $561 on groceries. We consider it a bad month if we spend $100 eating out or more than $300 on groceries. The other sub-categories seemed just as outrageous. My county spends $183 monthly on phone service, $107 on cable TV, and $287 on home improvement. At least they are charitable, giving $117 to charity each month. If these numbers are the true average for my county, then it’s a little bit scary.

For giggles, I searched the neighboring county. We live right on the border, so I thought maybe we would come in closer to the average there, since it is a much less affluent county. The monthly spending average there is $3,511. Aha! I belong with the people in the other county. Broken down by category, my expenses mirror theirs more closely. Granted, our income is higher than the average in that county so our savings average is likely to be higher than most in that county, but at least I found some people with similar spending habits.

Where does all this data come from? Bundle says that they get it from government sources, third party data providers and, interestingly, from transaction information from Citi. If you bank with Citi or do any transactions through any of their networks, I guess you’ve contributed to the Bundle database.

I also took their quiz to determine my spending profile. This was disappointing to me because all of the profiles are based on pigeonholing you as some type of consumer. There are no categories for “super saver,” “charitable giver,” “retirement conscious,” or anything like that. Everything points back at how you consume and what you like to buy. It’s not really a full picture of how you act financially. It’s fun to take the quiz, but don’t believe that you’re only about the spending you do. You know you have a fuller financial life than the shallow picture Bundle paints.

The site is still in Beta and some things don’t seem to be working. There is a “Saving” tab which, presumably, would show you how much others are saving each month and where. That would be really interesting. Given the spending amounts in my county, I can’t see how anyone would have anything left to save. And maybe they don’t. There is also a feature in the “Go Deep” portion of each expense category that looks set up to eventually show the top merchants in each category. Soon you’ll be able to see just where your neighbors buy their stuff.

Is this a life changing site? For most people, no. Most people will just find it amusing to see how their spending stacks up when compared to others. You’ll spend an hour and then move on. Since the site is hooked into Facebook, you may spend some more time looking at what your friends have done on Bundle. However, some people may find real value in the data. If you were to look at your city and your demographics on Bundle and discover that you were spending vastly more than the average, that might be something you want to examine more closely. Why are you spending so much more? If you’re spending significantly more in one category, but significantly less in another, do they average out? If you’re spending significantly less, pat yourself on the back for your frugal efforts.

As with any sort of “average” data profiling, you have to take Bundle’s results with a grain of salt. No two situations are alike and comparisons between your family and the “average” may not be valid. However, it can’t hurt to hold your budget up to Bundle’s data and see where you stand. In my case I got a good, long laugh out of it. You may find room for improvement. At any rate, it’s a fun way to get a peek at what others in your area are spending.

4 thoughts on “How Does Your Spending Stack Up Against Your Neighbors?

  1. I don’t really care how my neighbors spend their money. I’ve never had any interest in keeping up with the Jones and I know my lifestyle is different than most people’s so my spending habits will be different as well.

  2. I don’t look at what I spend per month except when I am doing my taxes. Then I look at my utility expenses and gas and oil. I don’t worry too much about it. I just try and save when ever I can!

  3. I dont see the same information you were looking at. Of course it is almost 3 years after original post. I just see ratings for local places and some of them I have never heard of and I know some major spenders.

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