Unemployment is up and household income is down. It's still hard to make ends meet for millions of people. So where does the money goes in a typical household in a typical month?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has released a report on consumer spending in 2011 that shows just where we're spending our money. Not surprisingly, a lot of it went into our gas tank.
Spending on transportation recorded the largest percentage increase last year, but it wasn't just for gasoline. That line item includes airline tickets and ground transportation too.
Food spending rises
Overall spending on food and cash contributions -- including payments for support of college students, alimony and child support, and giving to charities and religious organizations -- both increased by 5.4 percent.
Consumers increased healthcare spending by 4.9 percent but clothing expenses by only 2.4 percent and entertainment by just 2.7 percent. Insurance premiums and pension contributions rose by only 0.9 percent.
When government economists broke down transportation spending, they found spending on gasoline increased 33.7 percent during the period, on top of a 24.5-percent increase from 2010 to 2011.
More spending on healthcare
Healthcare spending rose from $3,126 in 2009 to $3,313 in 2011. The overall increase in healthcare spending was driven by a 7.7 percent increase in health insurance spending during the period. The level of spending for healthcare has increased every year starting in 1996, while the level of spending for health insurance has increased every year starting in 1997.
Spending on telephone services -- primarily mobile phone services -- was up four percent last year, suggesting that cell phones are taking an ever-larger bite out of household budgets.
Overall, the agency found annual spending was up 3.3 percent per consumer unit last year, following a decrease of two percent in 2010.