Amid evolving news + uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, your financial needs are our top priority.
For individual financial information, click here.
For Small Businesses, including the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), click here.

Do You Spend More than Your Peers?

February 06, 2019 · 5 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

Do You Spend More than Your Peers?

Living in America? Consider how your average monthly expenses stand in comparison to your country-peeps:

Every year , the average American spends:

•  $18,886 on housing (including property taxes, if applicable)

•  $9,049 on transportation (including gas)

•  $7,203 on food (groceries and eating out)

•  $2,913 on entertainment

All that expense seems to be pretty standard, even before you start chasing the classic American Dream. For that, it’s easy to look to your peers to see how it’s done (even if they’re doing it wrong).

An old-school term for this is “keeping up with the Joneses,” trying to acquire as many things your neighbors next door. Even for the most competitive, that race gets tiresome very fast. Once you realize that the best person to compete against is not others but yourself, you can get more focused on your own financial goals.

Otherwise, comparing yourself with others will leave you in a constant state of distraction. Until then, you may be burning many wasted calories that could be put to better use focused on your own average monthly expenses, spending, budget and goals.

Let’s face it, though: some of this is a result of social media. Part of the need for keeping up with your friends comes from Facebook and Insta envy. Seeing your friends post photos and videos of their latest acquisitions (cars, houses, tech equipment) can light that competitive fire in you (or maybe it’s just plain envy). Sometimes, a message like that from an online friend can be even more powerful and influential than an advertisement from the actual brand.

How Do You Compare?

Data regarding average monthly expenses among peer groups is shown on a website called Status Money . It matches individuals to a peer group based on income, geography and age to compare how other people are doing in relation to your financial situation.

It also lets you compare your spending habits with like-minded people among your peer group. Average monthly expenses include transportation costs, shopping, eating out and other obligations.

How it came about: Status Money cofounder Majid Maksad was formerly a data analyst for Citi; he found
that
, even during the Great Recession, Americans were not becoming as frugal and financially careful as you might expect.

In fact, what he found was the complete opposite: continued spending, not by personal choice but mostly driven by writing off bad debts through foreclosures and personal bankruptcies.

What it boils down to: think differently. Train yourself to be more aware.

“It wasn’t a change in behavior that was occurring,” Maksad told Forbes about the stats he discovered. “And that raised the question: ‘How do you get people to change behavior?’”

Perhaps the answer lies in knowing — not assuming — exactly what your peers average monthly expenses are. The results seem to support this. A study on the early users of Status Money found that comparing yourself to those in your peer group (a minimum of 5,000 people) could strongly influence your spending habits (this can also be called FOMO spending). Between September 2017 and April 2018, spending among those surveyed by Status Money declined by about $600 a month.

“People need to know what others are doing with money,” Maksad told CNN Money, “but in a completely secure and anonymous way.”

Comparing Finances To Your Peers

When comparing finances online, completely secure and anonymous is how most people want to roll, particularly Millennials. If you are a part of this largest living generation, here are some broad strokes to give you a general idea of where you stand when compared to your peeps. It’s all according to a survey from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants:

•  Over three-quarters of Millennials want to have the same clothes, cars and tech gadgets as their friends.

•  Around half of have used a credit card to pay for daily necessities.

•  Over 25 percent of them had late payments or are dealing with bill collectors.

•  Seven out of 10 of those surveyed define financial stability as being able to pay off of their bills each month.

•  Gender difference are also a thing. The study reveals that men are more inclined to keep up with their friends when it comes to material goods. Women, however, tend to be more frugal and consider saving money important.

According to the apartment rental site RentCafe, younger adults may have spent as much as $93,000 by age 30 on rent. During their first decade in the workforce, rent can take up about 45 percent of their income, which can leave next to nothing for savings, investments, and paying off debt. Compare that to GenX adults, who spent only 41 percent of their income on rent per year by age 30 (adjusted for inflation); Baby Boomers spent only 36 percent of their income on rent back in the day.

Are you paying more than 30 percent of your income on housing? The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development considers you “cost-burdened.” If you’re spending 50 percent or more on housing, you maybe put in to the category of “severely cost burdened.”

Tips on How To Combat Peer Pressure Spending

Here are a few ways to put blinders on when that peer pressure spending urge comes on:

Get Real

Make a deal with yourself to be honest about your overspending. Don’t try to fool yourself or rationalize away unnecessary purchases. Ask yourself — constantly — “Do I really need this, or am I just trying to keep up with my friends?”

Get Stubborn

Once you have a budget in place, be rigid about sticking to it. If you can’t afford something, don’t let the devil on your shoulder sweet talk the angel on your other shoulder. Step in and take charge. With time, the compulsion to give into your spending impulses will start to weaken and listen to you.

Treat Yourself

If you’re doing a good job of sticking to your budget and not overspending, allow yourself a periodic reward that you promise yourself in advance (once a month, every six weeks, etc.). Go have a meal with friends or buy that pair of shoes you really like. Be sure not to treat yourself so well that you overspend and wind up taking giant steps backward.

Get Help With SoFi Relay

Often, it helps when you can keep tabs on your spending and have access to someone to talk through your expenses without fear or embarrassment. With SoFi Relay you’ll have access to both of these, and more, at no cost!

SoFi Relay gives you insight into your cash flow and spending habits so you can see the full picture of your finances. Additionally, you can connect all of your accounts on one dashboard to get a bird’s-eye view of your balances on the go.

What’s more? You can talk with a financial planner about your spending habits & take a serious look at your expenses to create an action plan to help achieve your financial goals.

Keep track of your spending with SoFi Relay!


The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. Advisory services offered through `SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member
FINRA / SIPC .
SOAD18100

TLS 1.2 Encrypted
Equal Housing Lender