Are You a Spender or a Saver?

Pop quiz: How much do you spend each month on dining out? Gas? How much do you give to charity? Well, if you’re living in New York City (zip code 10016 to be exact), you spend $869 eating out, $67 on gas (you likely don’t own a car, and if you do, it’s garaged much of the time) and give $148 to charity. If you’re in San Francisco (94117), you spend $522 dining out, $114 on gas and give $74 to charity. And if you’re in Houston (77036), just $147 eating out, but $146 on gas and you give $62 to charity.

Personally, I find this sort of data fascinating. I spend time wondering why folks in Houston spend so much less on auto expenses than in the other zips. (Is it because a) cars hold up better in Texas, b) they know how to perform routine maintenance themselves or c) they all have leased cars covered by warranty?) I want to know how it is that people in Chicagoland (60643) can spend so much less on eating out and groceries. (Shouldn’t one go up as the other goes down? Or did we – in choosing zips popular with wOw readers – happen upon one full of single women or empty nesters?)

Whether or not you enjoy this sort of comparative analysis, Bundle.com CEO Jaidev Shergill hopes you find the data useful. The idea for the site, he said, came to him two years ago – before the financial crisis – when he got a small raise at Citi where he was working at the time. “A month or two later, it hit me that more money was coming in but I was just spending it all,” he said. “My house was the same. My other basic expenses were the same. I didn’t know where it was going.” Most frightening: He hadn’t saved an extra dime. “In my 20s that wouldn’t have been a problem, but I was in my 30s. I knew I should be saving more for retirement, but the behavior wasn’t there. And I started to wonder – is it just my problem or across the country?”

The new site, funded by Citi (which provides aggregated anonymous data from its credit card accounts that is used to build the comparisons), Microsoft and Morningstar, allows you to compare with other people your age, at your income level and, again, by zip code. U.S. government data, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is also used.

Shergill says the thing that gets him isn’t the average numbers, but the ranges. To see that some people in the same age, income and zip are spending $3,000 a month eating out but others are spending $250, he notes, “That’s the thing that completely kills me.” He’s also paying attention to how much his spending is likely to increase as he heads into his 40s and even 50s. As a result, Shergill says, he has changed his own behavior. “I’ve started to look at how much I’m going to spend on my vacations, for instance, and put the money away beforehand so I don’t have to pay it off later.”

Here is the spending of some popular wOw zips. Where do you fit in?

New York City: 10016
$631 on travel
$869 on dining out
$431 on groceries
$67 on gas
$124 on auto expenses
$271 on insurance
$148 on charity
$281 on school and child care

San Francisco: 94117
$385 on travel
$522 on dining out
$415 on groceries
$114 on gas
$284 on auto expenses
$247 on insurance
$74 on charity
$104 on school and child care

Los Angeles: 90004
$131 on travel
$327 on dining out
$436 on groceries
$165 on gas
$193 on auto expenses
$235 on insurance
$94 on charity
$152 on school and child care

Chicago: 60643
$108 on travel
$158 on dining out
$182 on groceries
$113 on gas
$238 on auto expenses
$333 on insurance
$50 on charity
$150 on school and child care

Houston: 77036
$84 on travel
$137 on dining out
$222 on groceries
$146 on gas
$123 on auto expenses
$288 on insurance
$62 on charity
$88 on school and child care

Miami: 33155
$147 on travel
$165 on dining out
$301 on groceries
$191 on gas
$206 on auto expenses
$193 on insurance
$47 on charity
$115 on school and child care

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