My Expense Categories
My Expense Categories

I try not to obsess too much over my finances (check out Well Heeled Blog’s article about personal finance bloggers. That’s not me, I swear!). However, because I’m paying off debt, trying to save for a house, and live frugally, I do run reports from my Quickbooks program from time to time. Being self-employed / part-time employed, also causes me to be diligent with keeping track of my funds. The Quickbook’s reports show my expenses versus my income in many graphic forms: bar chart, pie chart, and percentage list. After reading many articles about how your rent or mortgage should be somewhere in the ball park of 30 – 35%, I felt relieved when my latest report showed my rent was holding steady at just under 34% (a little on the high side, but hey! I live in Los Angeles!) Then I started obsessing researching my other expenses and what the “norm” was supposed to be. According to a  Yahoo answers poll, the results were a little varied, but not enough to make me throw out their data. Here is where their answers stood on percentage of living expenses:

  • Housing: 24%
  • Utilities: included in housing (this seems a little low to me)
  • Food: 14%
  • Transportation: 17%
  • Medical: 6%
  • Clothing: 6%
  • Invest/Savings: 13%
  • Debt Payments: 13%
  • Misc. (Personal,Recreation,Life Ins.): 5%

Yahoo answers also listed Dave Ramsey’s guidelines, which were similar:

  • Charitable Giving: 10-15%
  • Housing: 25-35%
  • Utilities: 5-10%
  • Food: 5-15%
  • Transportation: 10-15%
  • Medical: 5-10%
  • Clothing: 2-7%
  • Invest/Savings: 5-10%
  • Debt Payments: 5-10%
  • Misc. (Personal,Recreation,Life Ins.): 5-10%

I tend to lean toward Dave Ramsey’s guidelines in a few areas such as utilities not being counted in with housing and Misc. expenses averaging more around the 10 percent range. In comparison, my expenses pretty much match these except in a couple of areas (Green = Savings, Red = Over Consumption):

  • Transportation (which I’ve coded as AUTO in my pie): 4% …whoo hoo! I’m quite a bit lower than average, even with a car payment to boot.
  • Misc. (including meals eaten out, etc.) 18%...Red Flag Alert…this is too high!  I’m including my Starbucks in this overall percentage and that is less than 2% of the 18%, need to talk to my hubby 😉
  • Clothing (I have it coded as Personal which also covers medical co-pays) 4%…this is all good.
  • Food (I’ve coded my category as Groceries) 6%…again, this is lower than the average.
  • Savings (I don’t have a category for this and I should) I’m guessing I’m below 6% on this one…not so good.
  • Debt (Again, I don’t have a specific category for this) After figuring out my monthly debt payments, my percent is close to 10% not counting the car, as that is already being counted in AUTO. I’m breaking even compared to the data above, however I think I need to completely eliminate all of my debt so that I can save more of my income and increase my savings percentage.

Some of my categories are slightly different than the data sets I’ve listed, and because I also co-own a business with my husband I’m not including business expenses here, just personal. I could definitely do better in a few categories like my miscellaneous and savings, one needs to be reduced and the other needs to increase. Yet, researching these facts helps remind me I need to continue down the road towards financial independence.

I need to go socialize now and stop computing!

Do your figures fall within the “norm”? Are you doing better than average, or a little worse? Are their areas you need to improve on? Am I just obsessing too much?


  1. Thanks for compiling these for us! I’m overly analytical with respect to the stats on my spending. I’ve been wondering some of the number, but I never did the research to find the averages like you did!


  2. Little House – What all is included under “web hosting”. That category seems much higher than it needs to be ~ $103/mo?
    .-= FinEngr´s last blog ..Don’t Be Fooled by Sneaky Labeling! =-.

    • @Fin Engr – Much of the web hosting is part of our business (so it’s really not personal). We have a dedicated server that hosts FROG and a few of our client’s accounts are on that server as well. So we do make some of our money back through our clients. But FROG is a hog (we had anticipated a huge surge of traffic…..we’re still waiting…..)

  3. Great article. I have often wondered, are these percentages based on before or after taxes?

    Ryan, how do you have 0 transportation and clothing expenses? I need to learn your tricks!

    My house is around 20 percent after taxes.
    .-= Everyday Tips´s last blog ..Tips for Traveling With Kids =-.

    • @Everyday Tips – My percentages are after taxes, but I’m not sure about the “average” percentages I found on Yahoo. That’s a great question for Ryan. I know he bikes everywhere, hence the 0% transportation expense. Yet for clothing, I’m not sure how he’s pulling this one off (hee, hee), unless of course he’s a nudist! 😉

  4. Barb Friedberg Reply

    Hi- I like the post. It’s really good to see the break down and comparison. I’m including this in my lilnk round up tomorrow! Best regards, Barb

    • @Barb – Thanks for including it in your post! I always like to see where I am in terms of percentages and averages. It helps me decide what I need to do next!

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