How Americans Spent Their Money In The Last 75 Years (In 1 Simple Chart)

Tyler Durden's picture

Consumer spending makes up 70% of the United States economy. We all have bills to pay and mouths to feed, but where do Americans spend their money? Here is a breakdown of how Americans spent their money in the last 75 years...

In the chart above, spending is broken into 12 categories: Reading, alcohol, tobacco, education, personal care, miscellaneous, recreation & entertainment, healthcare, clothing, food, transportation and housing. Each category is further broken down into spending by year, from 1941 to 2014, and each category is given a unique color. The data were collected from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The data is adjusted for inflation and measures median spending of all Americans.

Unsurprisingly, housing expenses have almost always been the largest area of spending in America for over 70 years. The only exception is 1941, when spending on food averaged $8,311, whereas spending on housing came to $7,537. However, in 1941 the government included alcohol in the food spending category, which inflates the food spending data for that year. In the other years, alcohol was given its own category. In every other year measured, spending on housing outpaced every other category.

Another interesting trend is the downward slope of spending on clothing. Americans spent the most on clothing in 1961 for an average of $4,157. In every year measured since 1961, spending on clothing fell, even when accounting for inflation.

At the same time, Americans began spending more on education, transportation and healthcare. Spending on education has increased far more than any other category, jumping from $242 in 1941 to $1,236 in 2014. Education spending increased at a particularly fast rate between 1984 and 1994 and onward. While spending on healthcare increased between 1941 and 2014, overall spending dipped between 1973 and 1984, but then began rising rapidly thereafter.

Between 1941 and 2014 Americans spent money on most of the same things, with a few changes. Housing has persisted as a large area of spending for Americans, as has the food category. However, spending on food and clothing has fallen when adjusting for inflation while spending on education and healthcare has risen quickly.


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VonPumperDic's picture



Where is the money spent on Fake News?

AlaricBalth's picture

I don't see a listing for hookers and blow. Would have spiked in the 80's.

observer2017's picture

"I don't see a listing for hookers and blow. Would have spiked in the 80's."



toady's picture

Where is the skyrocketing healthcare? This is ZH after all...

MsCreant's picture

Comminications. Cell phones are considered necessary now, and plans, lots of family members to get phoned up, too. What category?

gatorengineer's picture

Whole thing is a farce, housing from 16k in 1994 to 18 k today. LOLz....

JackT's picture

So most things have stayed the same or are now less but everyone feels more broke?

CheapBastard's picture

We dont knead maff or reeding, jus direckshuns to the neerest ebt orifice.

Kirk2NCC1701's picture

Great point, Ms. Creant.

If you add up the Electronic Media costs (Landline, Cell Phone, DSL, Cable/Satellite, Streaming Services), you get a bill in the Hundreds each month.

People should simplify and reduce in this category as follows:

No traditional landline. High speed DSL.  Use DSL for streaming, TV, movies, Youtube, News, Research, Distance Learning, Video conferencing, etc.  Use a high quality antenna for HD local TV channels.

(FWIW, I pay $20/mo. for DSL with 25 Mb/s download speed. More than good enough. It's our cell phone company and the satellite that are total rip offs. Alas I get out voted on this line item. I relent under constant protest.)

Get a simple, dumb cell phone with texting.

HedgeJunkie's picture

"Get a simple, dumb cell phone with texting."

Have one.  I call it my Taliphone. It's a prepaid phone that, apparently, has limited text capability.

I carry it in case I need to make a phone call for a tow.

I like technology but I don't want to be one of those idiots that are always glued to their phone.  Two years ago my 36 years wife demanded a smartphone so she could be a cool kid.  I relented and got her a prepaid one.  No contract.  I have to admit that 'Wayz' is handy as is google maps for areas we've never been to before.

Now she's one to those idiots that are always glued to their phone.

It's like an old horror movie.

cherokeepilot's picture

Fuck "texting" ! If someone has something to say or tell me, they can CALL and speak to me. "texting shows me that you don't really want to communicate with me.

TnAndy's picture

I live in the sticks....DSL here is a 512k (on a good day) connection for 60/mo.  I built a tower so a local wireless company could broadcast the area, now I get mine for free, plus 100/mo tower rents....

Changed landline which was basic phone service at another 50/mo  (same wonderful provider as DSL....LastCenturyLink) to Verizon home phone box for 25/mo.

Cell is a 13 buck flip phone with 15/mo plan for 300 minutes....of which we use maybe 50.

11kw solar system pays us about 1,000/yr in back feeding to the power company in addition to no bill.

Water is gravity fed spring and septic to get rid of it.

I've got those "monthlies" about as low as possible......

Rabbi Chaim Cohen's picture

"Where is the skyrocketing healthcare? This is ZH after all..."

Well, something is missing because there's no way most people are only paying $4000 for Healthcare in 2014. Maybe $4000/ person. I payed over $8000 in premiums to my employer for myself and my family and we had a cheaper high deductable plan. We also payed co-pays and portions of our deductables.

At any rate, for the average cost to rise 33% AFTER implementing "free healthcare" is a vivid illustration of the EPIC FAIL that is Obamacare, so your point is seems to not be so concerned with the stats as it is to simply attempt to SorosTroll this fine website.

ejmoosa's picture

It's there.  Because of the low starting point relative to housing, the increase seems smaller.  But it is not.

The author needs to adjust the scales so that all catergories have the same starting point and them show the increase in percentages.

DaveyJones's picture


some treat their bitches like entertainment

and some entertainment is a bitch

JRobby's picture

Fed bubbles


AlaricBalth's picture

Where is the money spent on Fake News?

Government sponsored Fake News is listed under (Re)Education.

aeslong's picture

4k health care? complete wrong. obamacare costs more than housing rental

BeanusCountus's picture

Big time. Premiums alone (employee contributions) are more than 4k. Thats before deductibles and coinsurance. Love to see how that's calculated.

Chris Dakota's picture
Chris Dakota (not verified) aeslong Dec 26, 2016 12:10 AM

Don't buy insurance.

I lost mine in the early 90s, still don't have it.

I don't go to the doctor for bullshit stuff. I doctor myself, I doctored my child.

People I talk to are addicted to doctors, they actually fucking like going to appointments with them.

We have something here now called "heal" $99 bucks they come to your house or office. The guy my husband had

did a little surgery on an infected cyst, for $99 in the back of our shop. 45 min and out.

I would have cut it for him but he wouldn't allow me to do it.

Get creative people...;)

Sunny2's picture

problem that antibiotics and other stuff is not prescription free

Chris Dakota's picture
Chris Dakota (not verified) Sunny2 Dec 27, 2016 12:52 AM

I only go to docs for scripts, which is why I use heal now.

I know what i need.

bloofer's picture

I've done that kind of minor surgery on myself, after first bringing the cyst to a head with castor oil/baking soda, making the procedure painless. But I don't know if you could take the time for that with an infected cyst.

Pejorative Requiem's picture

True - in particular if you have to pay for your own health care insurance.

aeslong's picture

1k on education? what a joke? what kind of education cost 1k a year?

MsCreant's picture

Averages out with folks who ain't buying at all.

Jethro's picture

How about taxes?

brooklynlou's picture

So the two things you need a bank to help purchase, houses and cars, shot up through the roof, while everything else stayed about the same. Almost makes you wonder. Has to be a coincidence.

observer2017's picture

At the same time interest rates drop..even more of a coincidence.

MsCreant's picture

Things with government subsidy went up.

Moral Hazard.

SchlitzTallboy's picture

I spent mine on Beer.

amadeus39's picture

Which means you'll be spending more for healthcare in the future. I'm tired of reading posts from boastfull beer if drinking beer is a serious accomplishment. Leave it at the frat house.


cat-foodcafe's picture

This whole thing is giving me gas, bad gas.  I'm spending my healthcare allottment on DiGel.

Kokulakai's picture

Fully one third of the cost to build a home is insurance.

Interest will double that cost over the life of a thirty year mortgage.

Add another $75 to $150K for property tax over thirty years, and the chart becomes clear.

Stay away from McMansions, and avoid outlandish vigorish to banks, and insurers.

brushhog's picture

I dont do home insurance, IMO its not worth it.

Swamidon's picture

Less and less money spent on "reading."  IQ's keep going down and the price of books keeps going up, and is outrageous these days in fact.  Go figure.

are we there yet's picture

Reading is reduced as the internet (and TV) increase.

TruthBeforeAll's picture

They forgot lottery tickets.

Stormtrooper's picture

Gold, ammunition and survival supplies doesn't even make the chart.  That is one of my largest costs.  Certainly comes before buying .gov mandated healthcare.

blargg's picture

Ammo is a form of health care, and gold is basically a savings account without the usual counterparty risk of a bank.

pparalegal's picture

Ammo bought without state permission in California is called an investment that matures in 2018

indygo55's picture

Lets hope we don't have to wait that long!

rareddy's picture

It's a bullshit chart because it doesn't include taxes.   Let's prorate all of the federal, state, and local spending of tax payer dollars and see the real chart.