Here's What the Average American Is Spending on Housing Today

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  • Housing tends to be the typical American's largest monthly expense.
  • It's important not to overspend on housing so you don't fall behind on your remaining bills.

How do your housing costs compare?

When you think about the different expenses that monopolize your income, it's natural to point to housing as one of the largest. In fact, many Americans spend more money on housing than any other expense category, from food to transportation to healthcare.

But it's also important not to go overboard on housing costs. If you do, you could put yourself in a position where it's hard to keep up with your remaining bills or work toward your financial goals.

Now it may or may not help you to know the average American spent $1,161 a month on housing in December, as per recent data from Morning Consult. But regardless of what the typical American might spend on housing, it's important to run your own numbers and figure out what's affordable for you.

What should your housing costs look like?

As a general rule, you should aim to keep your housing costs to 30% of your take-home pay or less. If you're someone who rents a home, that means your rent shouldn't eat up more than 30% of your paycheck. If you're looking to buy a home, however, that calculation gets a little more complicated.

As a homeowner, that 30% threshold should really include all of your predictable monthly housing costs. These include your:

  • Mortgage payment
  • Property tax bill
  • Homeowners insurance premiums
  • HOA fees, if you buy a home that's part of a homeowners association

Furthermore, for added protection, you may want to lob home maintenance into that 30% limit. Home maintenance isn't always predictable, but there are certain costs you can anticipate, like having your gutters cleaned twice a year or having your lawn tended to every week (assuming you outsource that work and don't do it yourself).

Are your housing costs too high?

It may be the case that you've already signed an apartment lease or purchased a home but are struggling to keep up with your costs. If that's true, you may need to make changes to avoid a scenario where you fall behind on your rent or mortgage payments.

One option is to cut back on non-essential spending in your budget. If you spend a lot on entertainment and meals outside the home, reducing those expenses could free up more cash to cover your housing costs.

Otherwise, it may be time to look at getting a second job to boost your income and keep up with your housing expenses. The good news is the gig economy is loaded with opportunities to earn money on the side, so working a second job could be your ticket to staying on top of your bills.

While it may be interesting to see what the average American spends on housing, the reality is you should focus on your own income and bills when determining how much you can afford to spend in that category. With any luck, running your own numbers and sticking to the 30% rule will help you avoid getting in over your head and struggling as a result.

Our Research Expert

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