The Average American Woman: How Does Your Spending Stack Up?

Do you ever feel a pang of guilt when you hand over $4 for a fancy coffee? Or have an internal rule for how much is too much to spend on shoes?

True: There's no such thing as normal when it comes to spending—money is about choices, and if you create a healthy budget that allows for your financial goals, everyday costs and lifestyle expenses, you should spend on what you intend to and feel good about it.

But that doesn't mean we're not curious about how other people spend their money!

To wit, in our recent survey, conducted by LearnVest and Chase Blueprint, we asked women nationwide about their spending habits on a few of our favorite everyday things.

Here’s what they had to report. Which of the findings—if any—surprises you the most?

No matter how you stack up against the averages, the best way to get control of your budget is to have an honest picture of where you stand, which you can easily do in the Money Center.

Want more ways to save at home and around town? Try Take Control Bootcamp, which will walk you through every aspect of your financial life, and help you chart your course for the future.

  • A Nomadic Translator

    most of my discretionary budget is currently going into paying off my debt so I can get rid of it ASAP. So, when it comes to actual money to spend, I have a little over $90 per paycheck leftover, or less than $200 per month. I guess I’m doing well! 

    Yay, should be able to travel all over Southeast Asia & the world soon (and indefinitely) :D

  • Samantha James

    I, too, put most of my “discretionary” money towards my debt.  It’s slow, but I am making progress.  Giving up my Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks really saved me a lot! I pay $3 a week for Folgers instead of that much per cup!  Bring your coffee from home ladies!!!

  • Elissa Backas

    only $1250 for mortgage? And I thought my house was cheap.

    • Jainewayne

       Elissa, I live in the mid-west and $1,250 for a mortgage gets one a very nice house.  $1,000 for rent would get me a nice 2 bedroom apt with a garage.  As others have stated, averaging across the entire country does not get to very helpful numbers.  It would nice if LV had included an index number to be applied that would make the coasts higher and the mid-west smaller….

      • Hiddenmithril

         Yup, if we were to buy the house we are renting now ($900/month), we would probably have about a $500/month mortgage, here in GA.

      • JerzeyGirl86

        Yeah, about a $3200 mortgage gets one a pretty decent house in northern New Jersey. Decent rental is about $2500. It’s just amazing what New Yorkers and transferees to New York have done to the real estate market over the years. It’s a bit depressing.

      • Balbannock

        I also think there should be an index for age groups.  At 62 I’m pretty much settled into my $7 lipstick habit, but I want to know how others are investing.

  • Lauren Lever

    Haha it does not surprise me that LV readers spend  more, why else would they need to come to a financial counseling website if there spending wasn’t out of control. I spend way less on all of this stuff, just out of necessity. *shakes fist at student loans*

    • Laura

      It could also be that LearnVest is based in New York and originally built its subscriber base there, so numbers are skewed higher…

      • Lauren Lever

         Touché, I have the 100 rule, I rarely ever buy any single item, clothing, shoe, even furniture for over $100. I also buy super cheap drugstore makeup, too.

  • Kilmer7ent

    Interesting to see the average costs for smaller items, like coffee, lipstick and a gift for a friend, but the larger items don’t seem to take into account geography, which makes a HUGE difference when it comes to things like mortgage payments. The figure listed here isn’t realistic in most major cities. I’d like to see items like this as a percentage of income rather than a dollar amount. That way it’s closer to an apples-to-apples comparison.

    • Guest

      exactly.  these look like prices for Ohio.  not realistic for any large city in the US.

  • Lisaella

    and this also might be a regional thing. are learn vest spenders distributed across metropolitan, suburban, and rural areas in similar proportions to the general public? probably not. 

    • Mrs Smith

      I would guess that there are more city dwellers than anything. The rent/mortgage number here shocks me! I’m in LA and I pay double that.

      • Hiddenmithril

         that would be because you’re in LA. ;) Just one of the many reasons I wouldn’t want to live there, as I could get a decent house with a lower mortgage than listed, here in the Atlanta metro area.

  • Schmidt Katrina

    Who has the money to spend $121 on a pair of shoes?  I would never spend more than $30. Then again, I also have no debt….

    • Brooklyner

      Where can you get a pair of shoes for $30???  Inquiring minds want to know. :)

      • Laura

        In New York, I buy most of my shoes at DSW, TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, etc. Or online when there are sales. I refuse to pay more than $40 for shoes (aside from boots).

    • Sheila

       I agree.  You find some great deals in the clearance section at DSW.  I got a great pair of boots one year at the end of the season for $30 and they originally sold for over $100.  I’ve found some good shoes at Kohl’s and JCPenney too.

      • JerzeyGirl86

        Yes, clearance section at DSW is great! I also find deals on Zappos occasionally.

  • Emma Carlson

    It’s unfortunate that the averages in the LearnVest articles don’t come anywhere close to what those of us living in major cities spend. I’m a New Yorker currently living in San Francisco and I don’t know anyone who can can even come close to these averages (or others previously listed) for housing, rent or mortgage. It’d be great if we could get city averages vs. suburban – or some breakdown geographically – that would put these in perspective for those of us in the most competitive housing markets in the country. 

  • melissapeddy

    Yep, this is spot on for me. BUT I live VERY modestly in SF so doubt this would hold true for many other women in big cities.

  • Lee

    This infographic made me feel really cheap. But I also need to realize that is ok because my income isn’t high enough to justify items in those price ranges.

  • liz

    I don’t buy most of those things – don’t drink coffee/alcohol (but I love diet soda!), don’t wear make-up, wouldn’t wear a wedding dress. I do spend a lot on rent, as I live in an expensive city. I mostly spend on health care and travel – just spent $3000 on a trip to Turkey for two weeks, plus I took two weeks unpaid from work, because I don’t get paid vacation. It was so worth it! But then, I don’t have cable, debt, student loans, kids, etc.