When I was younger I was told I should track every penny that I spend for an entire month. The results were supposed to shock me so badly that I wouldn't ever spend frivolously again. Unfortunately when I was younger I never followed through on anything. Fortunately, I never spent that frivolously to begin with. None the less, it is a good exercise and we should all try it at least once.
Did you know that the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics tracks this same thing on a nationwide level?
Each year they conduct the Consumer Expenditure Survey. It's long, it's boring and I don't expect you to read it, but if you can't sleep tonight, here's the link to the 75 page (1.2MB) report.
Let me summarize for you:
The Top 10 Trends of the report:
- APPAREL: Casual dressing - Average household spending on apparel plummeted 17 percent between 2000 and 2003, after adjusting for inflation. Down 28% on men's suits and down 48% on women's dresses. Who needs a $500 suit when you can buy pants at Old Navy for $20?
- ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES: Wine drinking - Beer buying went down 8% while wine buying went up 4%. Big buyers of wine are 45-64 years old. Baby boomers are behind this one.
- ENTERTAINMENT: Cocooning - Cable TV went up 23%; TV sets up 32%. Cable or Satellite TV makes up 21% of the average household entertainment budget while most out-of-home spending went down.
- GROCERIES: No cooking - Fresh prepared foods went up 20%. So did frozen dinners by 14%; prepared deserts by 12%; prepared salads 3%. My grandma Rachel's chocolate cake from scratch is a thing of the past I guess.
- HEALTH CARE: Biting the bullet - Out of pocket expenses up 19%
- HOME FURNISHINGS: Lawn mowing - Thank HGTV for a rise in 11% in lawn and garden equipment as well as decorating and furniture rising of 14%.
- INFORMATION: Cell phoning - Spending on cell phone service doubled. If you're under 25 years old, you spent more on cell service than you did land lines.
- PETS: Empty-nesting - Baby boomer's kids leave home, they spend less on kids, more on pets. So when your mom and dad kick it and leave you with $4.38 as your inheritance, might I suggest looking under Rover's dog house for the remainder of your money.
- RESTAURANTS: Sitting down - Again Baby Boomers without kids are eating out at full service restaurants, while us kids of Baby Boomers are taking our kids to cheaper fast food establishments. My thought - take your parent's beloved Rover to the restaurant, chop it up and drop it in the food. Then sue the restaurant for serving you dog meat. You'll get revenge on both of the people taking your inheritance.
- TRANSPORTATION: Shifting gears - Trucks, Minivans and SUV's up 51%.
So there you have it, and no I didn't read it either. I just summarized the summary of Anita Campbell