3 Shocking Charts Showing Where Americans Spend Their Money

The average American family spends more than $51,000 a year -- but you won't believe where it all goes.

The average household in America consists of 2.5 people who in 2012 -- the latest year the data is available -- earned $65,600 and spent $51,500. Even with the latest financial crisis, the average income is up more than $5,000 since 2006, whereas spending has only risen by $3,000. This is encouraging because it means Americans are saving more than they were in 2006, but the total amount saved is actually down from what was seen in 2010. So there's always room to save more.

Where the money goes
The survey breaks down household spending in 10 main categories, and as you would expect, housing is the biggest portion of that. Yet what comes next may surprise you:

Since 2006, what the average American family spends on food has risen 8%, or almost $500, from $6,111 to $6,599. Interestingly, this is exclusively from higher spending on food at home, which is up 15%. Spending on food away from home has fallen -- albeit slightly -- since then.

The biggest single source of this increase for more spending at home has been from higher total spending on fruits and vegetables, which is up 23%, from $592 to $731. Curiously, apart from the miscellaneous spending, the biggest single expenditure for Americans in one particular category remains as nonalcoholic beverages:

No conversation on spending would be complete without a discussion on the much debated, deliberated, and contested health care space. Since 2006, spending on health care is up nearly $800 -- well ahead of growth seen in every other category:

The biggest reason for this increase in health care spending is a heightened cost of health insurance, which has risen from $1,465 in 2006 to $2,061 in 2012, an increase of 41%. This growth of nearly $600 represents 20% of the total growth in spending, and is also the highest rise in cost seen across each and every spending category -- both the major and minor ones. By comparison, the total cost of housing rose by $521, which represented an increase of just 3%.

With such a staggering rise in health care costs, it is no surprise the topic has drawn so much attention from the public and the politicians alike.

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Patrick Morris

After a few stints in banking and corporate finance, Patrick joined the Motley Fool as a writer covering the financial sector. He's scaled back his everyday writing a bit, but he's always happy to opine on the latest headline news surrounding Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffett and all things personal finance.

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