A Survey Shows That This Is Americans' Top Spending Category -- and the Result May Surprise You

by Maurie Backman | Published on Aug. 25, 2021

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A person unpacking fruits from a grocery bag into a bowl on the dining room table.

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Here's what Americans spend the most on each month -- and how to lower your costs.

When we think about the things that tend to cost us a lot of money, certain expenses come to mind -- maybe housing, transportation, or healthcare. But surprisingly, in a recent Personal Capital survey of respondents with salaries over $20,000, Americans' top spending category isn't any of those. Rather, it's groceries. This holds true across adults of all age groups.

If your grocery bills eat up a huge chunk of your budget, there are steps you can take to lower your costs. Here are a few to start with.

1. Always make a list

It's easy to lose focus in a grocery store when you let yourself wander the aisles aimlessly rather than go in with a plan. A better bet is to make a shopping list beforehand and pledge to stick to it. Before you make your list, take inventory of which items you have plenty of at home and what you're running low on. That way, you won't have to guess what you need while in the store. Your list should also include ingredients for the meals you plan to make in the coming week.

2. Buy in bulk strategically

It's generally not a good idea to buy most of your food in bulk. If you do, you'll run the risk of things expiring before you get a chance to use them. But if you buy select items in bulk -- those that you use most often -- you could shrink your bills substantially. Before you buy any item in a large quantity, though, make sure you have enough storage space. This especially applies to perishable items.

3. Get the right credit cards

Charging your groceries on a credit card is a good way to score rewards for the items you need to buy. But how generous is your credit card when it comes to grocery purchases? If you're only receiving 1% cash back on your purchases, there may be a better rewards program for you. It pays to look into credit cards that offer a higher rate of cash back on groceries if that's what you spend the most on each month.

4. Look outside of supermarkets

Supermarkets are a convenient way to buy groceries, but if your family eats a lot of fruits and vegetables, your bills can get expensive. A better bet may be to visit local farms or farmers markets, as their prices may be a lot more competitive. And the produce you buy may also be a lot fresher than what you'll find in the grocery store, which means you'll be less likely to fall victim to food waste.

The fact that many people are spending more to feed themselves and their families than to put a roof over their heads is surprising. And part of that may be due to the fact that grocery prices have risen exponentially due to the general impact of inflation. If you're spending more than ever on groceries, use these tips to slash your costs -- and reserve more of your hard-earned money for other important purposes.

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