How the Average American Spends Their Paycheck

This is first in a new series called Knowledge Fridays. While this info might not be directly related to kids, parenting, or cooking, I think it’s interesting food-for-thought for the weekend.


Of course, being married to a European, I’m curious to know how these numbers line up against the typical consumer in Scandinavia.

Beyond that, I’m surprised that we spend so much on transportation: nearly half of what we spend on housing and more than what we spend on food! From my recent days of playing Tropico 4, I’d guess that higher taxes and better government funding for solid public transportation would help on that.

I’m also very interested in that food number. (Yes, me and food. Again.) The cost of labor in Europe raises the prices of food in restaurants, which mean that more people cook at home and save eating out for special occasions. By comparison, our “eating out” precent is about 4%, next to “home cooking” at 5.8%.

Realistically, the restaurant industry, which produces nothing of significant value to export, does not, by itself, help to reduce our national or international debts: all it really does is to redistribute dollars within our own failing economy. There thus is no persuasive argument for mindlessly supporting it.

On economics and the waste of eating out

Which reminds me of what a tricky issue it is to tell everyone to eat out less and cook at home more. Some families genuinely have little time to cook at home, and honestly, the cost can vary greatly. If you’re eating McDonalds and processed foods, you’re probably spending less than you would on all the fresh foods and ingredients required to cook an equivalent meal. If you’re eating out at the Capitale Grill, then you likely could have cooked a similar meal at home for less.

Of course, cost is only one element that goes into our decisions about food. Others include: finding/taking the time to shop and prepare meals; time with family preparing and sharing meals; teaching yourself and your family the skill of cooking; frequent trips to restaurant versus a weekly trip to grocery store; local production versus having your food transported from many miles away; taste, freshness and nutritional value of ingredients; supporting your local farmer/processor versus the global market

Home economics — Fast food vs. homemade

Book Cover If you’re like me and slept through U.S. Economics in high school, or have just spaced out since and want a refresher, I highly recommend Charles Wheelan’s Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science. I’m about halfway through and am actually fascinated by how simple the underlying concepts are.

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