Consumer spending behaviors affect a range of public policy areas. Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Labor released 2014 estimates for its annual Consumer Expenditure Survey, providing a look at how Americans are spending their money.

Along with national totals, the updated data includes spending estimates for select metro areas. Consumer spending may vary from region to region for a number of reasons. Most notably, costs for items such as housing and transportation can vary greatly (the published data doesn’t reflect cost-of-living differences). Also, a region’s demographics further influence spending as households with more children have different needs than those with more unmarried young professionals.

Select one or more metro areas in the menu below to compare consumer spending habits to national totals. Note that the Labor Department publishes data for only a limited number of larger metro areas.

Average expenditures per consumer unit (similar to households) are shown both as total amounts and as a percentage of an area’s average annual income. Percentages tend to be lower in metro areas with higher incomes even if actual expenditure spending is higher than elsewhere. See notes below for a further explanation of the data.

Data notes

The Consumer Expenditure Survey estimates average annual expenses per consumer unit, a definition similar to a household or family. Not all consumer units purchase items in a given category. For this reason, averages for categories such as vehicle purchases and education are significantly higher for only consumer units that made purchases. Also, some spending may result from non-work-related income, such as gifts. Data is not adjusted for cost-of-living differences.

Refer to the BLS website for definitions describing each expenditure category.