Data on how we spend money on everything from haircuts to cold cuts is included in the US Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Expenditure Survey, which reviews the spending habits of Americans every year. It shows us that the average American making anywhere from $10,000 to more than $70,000 in annual salary uses a large share of total take-home pay for housing, transportation, food, and health-care-related costs. Death and taxes are great equalizers ... and so is visiting a doctor.
Check out how your spending compares with the profile of the average income group using the interactive visualization below. Here's how the data is organized: The colored boxes represent expenditure types; the reported amounts of each category add up to the total average expenditure (plus gifts; see note below) for an income group. You can see that, accounting for specific dollars spent, Americans spend the most on housing and transportation overall.
A note on data used: First, the interactive is based on expanded data directly provided by BLS, which surveys reported expenditures for the full 2014 calendar year, January to December. Second, the total expenditures cited here include purchased gifts. Third, it's good to know that all expenditures are not necessarily made with work-related salary or income — money can be spent if it is borrowed money, a gift, collected interest, or other types of account receivables.
What surprised me the most — besides the ongoing consumption of tobacco products across all income groups — was just how similar Americans really are across incomes when it comes to spending. There are many smaller points nestled within groups that provide insight into lifestyles, too. For example, consider a low-income person who spent more than her income, which the BLS attributes to a variety of scenarios in which borrowed money or savings becomes the primary sources of funding, like being a student or experiencing sudden job loss. Consider, too, the fact that lower-income earners tend to spend more of their income on housing and food, which you can read more about in our collection of charts about Americans' financial lives.