Expenses went up in 2013 for families

Pittsburgh Post-GazetteJune 7, 2014 

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Piggybank family at the bank

ANDRES RODRIGUEZ — Getty Images/Hemera

PITTSBURGH — Kids and cars are soaking up more family money than they used to.

A survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the average income for families of all sorts decreased from 2012 to 2013 by $103 to $65,069 before taxes, but their expenses went up by $777 a year to $51,408.

To gather the data, the Bureau of Labor Statistics surveyed "consumer units," which they classified as families; two or more people living together who share expenses; single people living alone; and single people who live with others but are financially independent.

The biggest share of the increased expenses of the average American household went to transportation, which cost a total of $8,999 a year, or $494 more than the previous year, as a result of purchase prices going up.

Americans who bought new vehicles spent $92 more, or 6.4 percent, than they did the previous year. The average cost of a used car went up even more, nearly 20 percent, or $361. That brought the total annual expense for a used car to $1,588, or $48 more than the annual cost of a new car.

Gasoline and motor oil made up just about a third of the total annual transportation costs and did not change year to year.

The most recent survey covered July 2012 to June 2013. That was compared to July 2011 to June 2012.

American families also spent more on a category called "cash contributions," which includes alimony, child support, sending money to college students who are away from home, and charitable contributions. That took an additional $120 a year, bringing the average contributions up to $1,949 a year.

Housing remained the biggest expense. During the 12 months that ended June 2013, the typical American consumer unit spent $17,041 on housing, an increase of $101. That hike was not as big as it would have been if mortgage interest had not fallen by $78 annually to $3,075, giving homeowners a slight break.

The survey also showed how far behind people in low-wage jobs are falling. Families in the lowest 20th percentile earned $10,174, but their average expenses were $22,336.

Housing made up nearly 40 percent of their expenses, or an average of almost $9,000 a year, which accounted for nearly all of their income. Food expenses added an additional $3,573, and transportation $3,596.

Those three items came to about $6,000 more than the average annual earnings in the low-income segment, even before expenses such as health care or clothing were included.

Those who earned a bit more and ranked in the second quintile, with an average income of $27,094, also ended the year in the red with expenses of $33,075.

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