Author Topic: Threshold Family Spending  (Read 10437 times)

Portland Man

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Threshold Family Spending
« on: June 03, 2012, 08:15:32 AM »
I'm curious what people feel is the lower bound of spending for a reasonably comfortable life.

I've seen studies where they show an increase with happiness and spending to a certain point and then no further increase, I don't remember the peak of the curve, but I think it was a little higher than my spending (and a little silly.)

The Family 'Stache feels great on $27k per year, but that is based on more than a decade of quite a bit higher spending, and essentially does not include housing.

JLF in ERE spends $7k per annum, but as he notes - that's $7k per person, a family of three would be around $21k.  There is economy of scale in some areas, especially living just with a significant other, which I believe he takes advantage of.  For example, 2 people can inhabit a small studio apartment comfortably, but a baby makes three eventually pretty much requires a 2nd bedroom.

What do the Mustachian Masses think is a reasonable lower bound on family spending in this day and age?

fiveoh

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Re: Threshold Family Spending
« Reply #1 on: June 03, 2012, 08:33:34 AM »
A "reasonably comfortable life"  I take as NOT the bare minimum but definately less than my peers. 

The way I see it, once you account for all the basic expenses(housing, food, utilities, gas, insurance, etc) you have a base expense amount that wont really increase that much more by adding more people but also it is hard to cut expenses and go below this base level on spending without cutting into your comfort level.   Someones base will be different depending on location and what living standards they have.   

For my family our "base" seems to be about 2700-3000 a month.  Although we spend a little more than that(charities, and other comforts we choose to spend our money on).  Having a child has not increased our expenses by that much.   I'd estimate an extra 150-200 a month of expenses(not including insurance). 
« Last Edit: June 03, 2012, 07:56:28 PM by fiveoh »

arebelspy

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Re: Threshold Family Spending
« Reply #2 on: June 03, 2012, 08:44:13 AM »
Assuming you aren't paying any interest beyond a mortgage (i.e. no car payments, no giant student loans, no credit card debt, etc.), A family of 3-4 should be able to comfortably live on 40k.  28k or so with a paid off house.

That should be quite cushy.  They could probably cut 1/3 of that if needed.
« Last Edit: June 03, 2012, 08:46:09 AM by arebelspy »
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gooki

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Re: Threshold Family Spending
« Reply #3 on: June 03, 2012, 02:06:42 PM »
We're spending $2000 a month on a family of three. I think our threshold would be around $1600 a month in our current home.

Portland Man

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Re: Threshold Family Spending
« Reply #4 on: June 03, 2012, 02:15:59 PM »
We're spending $2000 a month on a family of three. I think our threshold would be around $1600 a month in our current home.

That is impressive.  We're at about $3,200/month (similar to the two posters above) for a family of three.  Without much heart ache we could drop that down to $2,800 or so, but I don't know how we'd get it very far below that threshold.  That includes $700 P&I on our house, so if we had a paid off house we'd be around $2,500/month at our current spending level.

The kid doesn't add that much expense if you are already living in a space that fits a 3rd, but if you compare kid to no-kid I'd argue that the kid costs money in terms of storage and sleeping space (larger abode required) and as they grow food costs become a factor. 
« Last Edit: June 03, 2012, 02:17:52 PM by toolfan »

gooki

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Re: Threshold Family Spending
« Reply #5 on: June 03, 2012, 05:12:17 PM »
We're spending $2000 a month on a family of three. I think our threshold would be around $1600 a month in our current home.

That is impressive.

If you take into consideration exchange rate differences our current spending is $1600 a month and our minimum we would be happy on would be $1200 a month. I largely ignore exchange rate differences because it's fluctuating a lot, and the country I live in has some good benefits (low cost medical care), which is then often offset by higher cost of food, petrol, electricity and 15% sales tax.

And FWIW we're not minimalists, just debt free and have more than enough stuff.

menorman

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Re: Threshold Family Spending
« Reply #6 on: June 03, 2012, 07:04:38 PM »
Assuming you aren't paying any interest beyond a mortgage (i.e. no car payments, no giant student loans, no credit card debt, etc.), A family of 3-4 should be able to comfortably live on 40k.  28k or so with a paid off house.

That should be quite cushy.  They could probably cut 1/3 of that if needed.
Yep, you're right on target with that estimate. New graduates who are getting their first jobs would do themselves a world of good by following that idea as well, especially given the big ruckus being made as of late over student loans in the national conversation.

dancedancekj

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Re: Threshold Family Spending
« Reply #7 on: June 03, 2012, 08:54:25 PM »
Yep, you're right on target with that estimate. New graduates who are getting their first jobs would do themselves a world of good by following that idea as well, especially given the big ruckus being made as of late over student loans in the national conversation.

I am guessing even the more employable and Mustachian new graduates are finding the stone harder and harder to squeeze blood from due to the combination of the burden of hellacious student debt and increasingly difficult employment options (if they even have any). I got lucky with my job, but after loan payments there is very little wiggle room despite living a Mustachian life. Please don't paint all new graduates with the same brush.

menorman

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Re: Threshold Family Spending
« Reply #8 on: June 03, 2012, 11:25:55 PM »
Yep, you're right on target with that estimate. New graduates who are getting their first jobs would do themselves a world of good by following that idea as well, especially given the big ruckus being made as of late over student loans in the national conversation.

I am guessing even the more employable and Mustachian new graduates are finding the stone harder and harder to squeeze blood from due to the combination of the burden of hellacious student debt and increasingly difficult employment options (if they even have any). I got lucky with my job, but after loan payments there is very little wiggle room despite living a Mustachian life. Please don't paint all new graduates with the same brush.

I'm well aware that not everyone gets offered a job pulling six-figures right out of college because I myself am still working in the place I worked all throughout college due to lack of interest in being hired by anyone else and lack even of a graduate school interested in my studying with them. I am aware that there are plenty people who don't even have that. At the same time, we have news organizations and the general national conversation as of late profiling people in the mid-30s and even 40s who are still carrying student loan debt from 10-20 years earlier and who have been able to find decent jobs and are making more money annually than they have in total student loan debt and generally have had ample time and opportunity to at least make major headway against their balances. Yet, the media continues to lump all holders of student loans together with the same brush, so doesn't seem unreasonable if I use that brush as well.

Maddie

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Re: Threshold Family Spending
« Reply #9 on: June 04, 2012, 02:17:13 AM »
We've just started tracking expenses so may take a few months to work out real averages. May spending was not great (and not worth mentioning here) as we had to buy a few unexpected things. 

If we had to, I think we (2 adults, 1 cat) could cut spending to NZD2,200 (~USD1,660). Although having most of what we want when estimating costs comes in at almost NZD3000. These estimates include rent.

Gooki, great to see another Kiwi around here.  I would be really interested to hear more detail on how you keep your expenses at 2k per month - especially food. That seems to be what we spend most on.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2012, 02:19:05 AM by Maddie »

gooki

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Re: Threshold Family Spending
« Reply #10 on: June 04, 2012, 03:44:21 AM »
Hello Maddie. Food is our largest expense. We're currently running $800 a month for a family of three (two adults, one toddler). We could wipe $200 a month off that by eating out at cheaper places or not at all, and buying less quality food. But we've accepted that's part of the cost for the lifestyle we want to live.

Other than cooking most meals at home our budget is low because:

- One tank of petrol last a whole month. I cycle to work, we have a fuel efficient station wagon, and live in a city that is easy to get around outside peak hours and earthquake related traffic jams (Christchurch).

- Utilities (power, water, phone, cellphones, internet) are kept fairly low (less than 10% of expenses). $20 credit lasts me 6 months on my cellphone, and about 3 months for my wife. Power fluctuates with the seasons, but is never horrendous.

- Our weekly allowance/fun money that we give ourselves is peanuts. That's not to say we don't have fun or buy nice things for ourselves, we do. It's just we limit the fun stuff that costs money.

- We let our family spoil our child. Rather than spend a lot of our money on stuff for her.

- Insurance. Car is third party, fire and theft $100 a year. Something we are happy to do with a $4,000 car. We under insure our contents, enough to replace the essentials and a few luxuries, but not everything. Total loss is very rare, fire is about the only event I can think of that would destroy everything.

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http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/forum/journals/doing-it-slow-and-stead-journey/

grantmeaname

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Re: Threshold Family Spending
« Reply #11 on: June 04, 2012, 06:31:09 AM »
hellacious student debt ... Please don't paint all new graduates with the same brush.
The average graduate has $15k in student loan debt upon graduation. That's not hellacious. If that aid is all federal and at 3.4%, that's a less than $150 payment every month. (Don't believe me? Try this calculator.) If it's private and you borrowed it at 7%, that's a $174 payment instead. That's a reasonably large amount of money, but it's certainly not crushing even if you wait tables and only clear $12 an hour.

Don't paint all graduates as highly indebted, because it's simply not accurate.

tooqk4u22

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Re: Threshold Family Spending
« Reply #12 on: June 04, 2012, 06:59:34 AM »
hellacious student debt ... Please don't paint all new graduates with the same brush.
The average graduate has $15k in student loan debt upon graduation. That's not hellacious. If that aid is all federal and at 3.4%, that's a less than $150 payment every month. (Don't believe me? Try this calculator.) If it's private and you borrowed it at 7%, that's a $174 payment instead. That's a reasonably large amount of money, but it's certainly not crushing even if you wait tables and only clear $12 an hour.

Don't paint all graduates as highly indebted, because it's simply not accurate.


The fact that loans total $1 Trillion is what has everyone jumping on this bus...nevermind that more people than ever are going to school in addition to costs skyrocketing.  The article referenced $24k per borrower and the top 10% owe more than $54k and top 3% owe more than $100k. While there is a lot more student debt out there there is no talk about the bottom 25% and what they owe - could be tiny amounts.  Certainly in the higher debtor amounts it is hellacious but probably not so much at the lower levels. Even at $24k the debt could be reduced relatively quickly.

kdms

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Re: Threshold Family Spending
« Reply #13 on: June 04, 2012, 07:08:34 AM »
Without our mortgage P&I, we're at around $3000 a month for a family of three.  Of that, daycare is $800.  As the intent is for me to take an extended leave of absence in order to homeschool, the costs will drop to roughly $2200 a month.

We've recently had a meeting with our financial advisor, who we've asked to budget us $36000 a year to retire, or $3000 a month.  He was quite surprised at what he considers to be a small amount (I gather most of his clients are a little more extravagent, but it certainly made his task a little easier.)  We don't anticipate needing all of it, but it will allow us to save for the occasional non-camping trip or luxury (to us, anyways) purchase.

I would comment that having a kid doesn't necessarily mean needing more space....we're seriously wondering why we've got a four-bedroom home when all three of us are still using one bedroom - and he's 20 months old.  Totally depends on parenting style, I would say.  Food is definitely a factor.  We've just planted a garden to try and manage the appetite.

arebelspy

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Re: Threshold Family Spending
« Reply #14 on: June 04, 2012, 07:15:28 AM »
Gooki, great to see another Kiwi around here. 

I had thought Kiwi was a derogatory term, but you use it yourself apparently?
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kolorado

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Re: Threshold Family Spending
« Reply #15 on: June 04, 2012, 07:32:08 AM »
Last year, while we had a mortgage in NJ, we spent $2350 a month and were quite comfortable. My emergency budget(the base amount I use to calculate an Emergency Fund goal)was $1700 a month and that included the $450 mortgage. So our essential needs(food, housing, one car, clothes, medical and education)were a measly $1250 a month($15Kyr).
Here in CO we are renting($950 month) and will still spend about $28K this year(still $2350 month). If we owned here(paid off mortgage) instead of renting I'm confident that we could be quite comfortable at $1600 a month to spend(little less than $20K yr), not counting any medical insurance premiums through work.
We have a family of 5. We've never had any era of higher earning or spending. After 11.5 years of marriage, this will be the first year hubby will earn more that $40K.
"Comfortable" is a loaded term based on perspective and experience but I would say that a person or couple could live comfortably in a paid-for home on $1400 month, a small family on $1800 month and a large family on $2200-2600 month.
Kids in and of themselves aren't expensive when you lead a non-consumerist lifestyle. But the costs to educate them and keep them healthy can be very expensive and hard to predict.

AmbystomaOpacum

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Re: Threshold Family Spending
« Reply #16 on: June 04, 2012, 07:57:18 AM »
Ballpark?

$15k base, $5k for each additional person, $2.5k for each car.

Or expressed monthly:

$1250 base, $415 for each additional person, $200 for each car.

Situations vary far too much to provide a single guideline though.

grantmeaname

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Re: Threshold Family Spending
« Reply #17 on: June 04, 2012, 08:00:47 AM »
The article referenced $24k per borrower
The article referenced $23.3k per borrower, and about a third of graduates do not borrow at all in order to go to college. Which means that the average graduate borrows about 2/3*$23,300=$15,400.
Quote
and the top 10% owe more than $54k and top 3% owe more than $100k.
So the 93rd percentile of recent college graduates by indebtedness, the people way at the extreme, have a $627 monthly payment on their debt if they borrowed from expensive private lenders at 7%. So what? That is an extreme case, after all.

Even if you went to an expensive private school and majored in art history, and you managed to place yourself all the way at the 93rd percentile of all college graduates for indebtedness, you could do fine. Let's say half of the loans are public, borrowed at the standard 3.4% rate, that you wait tables with your art history degree, and you make $12/hr ($24,000/year). The calculator on studentaid.ed.gov estimates that even without any tax deductions or a spouse, you'd pay $90 a month for your federal loans. If you had $10k in tax deductions, and so you'd report $14k AGI to the IRS, your IBR payment would drop to $0. That leaves $313.49 a month, or $3,761.88 a year in payments if you borrowed the rest from a private lender at 7%. Even if you're exceptionally financially illiterate and manage to borrow more than 93% of college students do to go to school and you still only manage to make $12 an hour waiting tables (that is, you're only mediocre at it) , only 16% of your income goes towards your loans. That's hardly hellacious.

tooqk4u22

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Re: Threshold Family Spending
« Reply #18 on: June 04, 2012, 08:22:02 AM »
I am not sure what you are arguing about, but it seems to be your style - I think I was basically agreeing with you and saying it isn't hellacious except for maybe the top borrowers but in my view they did it to themselves. Media, polliticians, are incorrectly focusing on total amount owed, which does not accurately convey the situation and could likely lead to another bailout of somekind which would be BS. 

Portland Man

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Re: Threshold Family Spending
« Reply #19 on: June 04, 2012, 08:50:34 AM »
Hello Maddie. Food is our largest expense. We're currently running $800 a month for a family of three (two adults, one toddler). We could wipe $200 a month off that by eating out at cheaper places or not at all, and buying less quality food. But we've accepted that's part of the cost for the lifestyle we want to live.


That is crazy that your food budget is fully 40% of your budget.  We eat really well (albeit, almost entirely at home) and our food spending accounts for only about 8% of our total budget.

I would comment that having a kid doesn't necessarily mean needing more space....we're seriously wondering why we've got a four-bedroom home when all three of us are still using one bedroom - and he's 20 months old.  Totally depends on parenting style, I would say.  Food is definitely a factor.  We've just planted a garden to try and manage the appetite.
You'll note in the first post I'm talking about the difference between two people in a studio or 1 bedroom apartment and adding a bedroom...

grantmeaname

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Re: Threshold Family Spending
« Reply #20 on: June 04, 2012, 09:01:34 AM »
That is crazy that your food budget is fully 40% of your budget.  We eat really well (albeit, almost entirely at home) and our food spending accounts for only about 8% of our total budget.
Definitely! It makes me feel lucky to be an American... good food can be ungodly cheap here.

AJ

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Re: Threshold Family Spending
« Reply #21 on: June 04, 2012, 09:52:58 AM »
The article referenced $24k per borrower

Off the original topic, but if you read the cited study it says: "The average outstanding student loan balance per borrower is $23,300. Again, there is substantial heterogeneity in balances of individual borrowers. The median balance of $12,800 is roughly half the average level, which indicates that a small fraction of people have balances significantly higher than the median. About one-quarter of borrowers owe more than $28,000; about 10 percent of borrowers owe more than $54,000." (emphasis mine) I agree with grant that $12k (or $15k) is a reasonable debt burden for a new grad.

Back on the topic: Our "comfort" baseline right now for two people is $2400 a month. We could cut some stuff and get that down to about $1800 if we had to. In FI (with no mortgage or commuting expenses, but adding private medical ins) we expect to be comfortable with $2k a month, more if/when we have kids.

gooki

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Re: Threshold Family Spending
« Reply #22 on: June 04, 2012, 04:41:52 PM »
Gooki, great to see another Kiwi around here. 
I had thought Kiwi was a derogatory term, but you use it yourself apparently?

Nothing wrong with being identified as an endangered, plump, flightless bird with a huge beak. Seriously though it's not derogatory. I've no qualms about being called a Kiwi.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2012, 05:01:33 PM by gooki »

gooki

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Re: Threshold Family Spending
« Reply #23 on: June 04, 2012, 04:55:07 PM »
That is crazy that your food budget is fully 40% of your budget.  We eat really well (albeit, almost entirely at home) and our food spending accounts for only about 8% of our total budget.

Yip it sure is crazy. We're a heavy exporter of agriculture products to wealthier countries, so our local prices are often set at the export price. The most recent example being apples. Australia finally opened up importing of NZ apples this year. The price per kilo here has since increased 50%. Beef and lamb along with anything milk based (butter, yoghurt, cheese etc) are all effected in similar ways.

Then anything else that is out of season is imported from halfway across the world due to our geographical location. Avoiding this out of season buying is something I'm actively working on.

Having said that Europe isn't cheap for food. Both Germany, Holland, and England are all comparable to our costs, with the exception that their wages are likely to be higher.

Combine that with an effective 26.5% tax rate (vs 10% in the USA for a similar income level), and high costs of housing (7.5x the average wage) with high interest rates (think double the norm in the USA). Financial independence early in life takes a significant amount of dedication to achieve.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2012, 05:02:10 PM by gooki »

Fawn

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Re: Threshold Family Spending
« Reply #24 on: June 05, 2012, 10:36:38 PM »
We are a USA family of four (one middle-aged woman, three teenagers) who live quite luxuriously on $3,000/month. This includes the $627 mortgage payment, $270/month in music lessons and instrument repair and other non-essential spending.

Our food costs are quite reasonable, averaging $454/month. And this could be drastically reduced with a minimum of effort. Two teens bike to school and one teen runs competively. The middle-aged woman needs to exeercise more. (SIGH)

MooreBonds

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Re: Threshold Family Spending
« Reply #25 on: June 06, 2012, 08:11:23 PM »
Yip it sure is crazy. We're a heavy exporter of agriculture products to wealthier countries, so our local prices are often set at the export price. The most recent example being apples. Australia finally opened up importing of NZ apples this year. The price per kilo here has since increased 50%. Beef and lamb along with anything milk based (butter, yoghurt, cheese etc) are all effected in similar ways.

I had the very memorable opportunity to spend a month in NZ with a girl I was dating at the time, back in December 2006. Unbelievably beautiful country! One of the (many) memories I had was stopping by a roadside produce stand.

I still laugh when I think about discovering that the person in NZ was selling CALIFORNIA peaches for less than what I could buy them for in St. Louis, Missouri!

Granted, you can always find some sources for cheaper produce (like roadside stands, farmers markets, etc.), and I do remember chicken at like $10/lb in the grocery store in NZ, as many things were substantially higher than in the US...but I couldn't believe that they were able to ship peaches to the other side of the world and pass it through the wholesale chain and still beat a midwestern US grocery store!

gooki

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Re: Threshold Family Spending
« Reply #26 on: June 06, 2012, 09:20:28 PM »
Now I've got a hankering for peaches.

dancedancekj

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Re: Threshold Family Spending
« Reply #27 on: June 07, 2012, 07:53:59 AM »
Yep, you're right on target with that estimate. New graduates who are getting their first jobs would do themselves a world of good by following that idea as well, especially given the big ruckus being made as of late over student loans in the national conversation.

I am guessing even the more employable and Mustachian new graduates are finding the stone harder and harder to squeeze blood from due to the combination of the burden of hellacious student debt and increasingly difficult employment options (if they even have any). I got lucky with my job, but after loan payments there is very little wiggle room despite living a Mustachian life. Please don't paint all new graduates with the same brush.

I'm well aware that not everyone gets offered a job pulling six-figures right out of college because I myself am still working in the place I worked all throughout college due to lack of interest in being hired by anyone else and lack even of a graduate school interested in my studying with them. I am aware that there are plenty people who don't even have that. At the same time, we have news organizations and the general national conversation as of late profiling people in the mid-30s and even 40s who are still carrying student loan debt from 10-20 years earlier and who have been able to find decent jobs and are making more money annually than they have in total student loan debt and generally have had ample time and opportunity to at least make major headway against their balances. Yet, the media continues to lump all holders of student loans together with the same brush, so doesn't seem unreasonable if I use that brush as well.

Sorry, been trying to find this thread again for a couple days. You and the other Mustachians are quite correct on the topic of student loans and new graduates, I was getting defensive about my current situation. Please accept my apologies :)

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Re: Threshold Family Spending
« Reply #28 on: June 07, 2012, 03:51:49 PM »


I've seen studies where they show an increase with happiness and spending to a certain point and then no further increase, I don't remember the peak of the curve, but I think it was a little higher than my spending (and a little silly.)


I think I read the study you were talking about. The threshold is $75K ish.. So it is way higher than most of the folks here...
If no mortgage and child day care expenses, we can make $3000 a month really comfortably. Childcare is just way too high with young ones.. I can't wait for public school to kick in..