The American consumer seems to be on a bit of a frugal streak. At least, that’s what a survey of 2013 spending habits suggests.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has been conducting an annual survey of consumer spending since 1980, the results of which provide detailed insight into where Americans’ money goes. Part of the data comes from spending diaries kept by about 7,000 households for two periods of one week each. Other data comes from interviews, and in 2013, the data was based on a total of 125,670 consumer units (i.e. households) averaging 2.5 people each.
Consumer spending in 2013 decreased 0.7% from 2012, following two years of increased annual spending. On average, consumer units spent $51,100 in 2013. The distribution of that money hasn’t changed too drastically, but even small shifts show a bit of a trend toward reducing frivolous expenses. Here are five categories where consumer spending went down from 2012 to 2013.
1. Dining Out
In 2013, eating food away from home made up 5.1% of consumers’ expenses, down from 5.2% in 2012. Even though food spending increased overall, the bump up was a result of allocating more resources for meals at home.
Consumers seem to have cut back on shopping sprees, with only 3.1% of spending going towards apparel. In 2012, apparel made up 3.4% of expenses.
3. Gasoline & Motor Oil
Despite a jump in auto and transport spending overall, the share of that money going toward fuel expenses decreased from 5.4% in 2012 to 5.1% in 2013.
In addition to dining out, entertainment is one of the most popular places people go when trying to trim their budgets. In 2013, entertainment spending made up 4.9% of consumer expenses, down from 5.1% in 2012.
The little extras — whatever they may be — can add up quickly and hurt your bottom line. Miscellaneous expenses soaked up less of consumers’ cash in 2013, falling from 1.6% of expenses in 2012 to 1.3% in 2013.
Keeping expenses in line with your income and savings goals is crucial to staying out of expensive, credit-damaging debt in the long run, even though it’s sometimes very difficult to determine what to cut. Needs and wants vary by person and household, but no matter how your expenses break down, the most important thing is to focus on living within your means.
If overspending has landed you in credit card debt, it helps to get a pay-off plan in place (you can see how long it could take you to pay off your credit cards using this calculator). In addition to potentially creating financial hardship, carrying a high credit card balance in relation to your limit can have a negative impact on your credit scores. You can see how your credit card debt is affecting your credit by seeing your scores for free on Credit.com, and they’re updated every 14 days.
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