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Post: The Margin: Budget shows NYC couple spent almost $30K on food last year, including $19K at restaurants — and Reddit is eating it up

Talk about putting your money where your mouth is…

The latest budget raising eyebrows on Reddit comes from a New York City married couple earning $170,066 after taxes (their gross income amounts to $310,042.) The original poster says his wife is a data analyst at a big tech company (“think Google, Netflix, Facebook,” he teases), while he works as a political consultant. 

They’re both 30, and they don’t have kids or a car.

So where does most of their money go after sinking $88,318 into their condo, which includes the mortgage, insurance, property taxes and utilities?

Restaurants, apparently.

The couple’s Sankey diagram charting their 2021 cash flow claims that “food” took a $29,607 bite out of their budget last year. This includes $19,071 for restaurants, $7,936 for groceries and $2,600 for “Home Chef,” which likely refers to the meal-kit delivery service. 

“In our defense, we live right next to some really good restaurants.”

They also spent $17,500 on travel, according to the chart. And they put $16,526 into savings.

Check it out on the original post.

But many people in the almost 7,000 comments posted within 24 hours were struck by the food budget. A lot of them wrote something along the lines of how this couple is chewing up more money than many readers earn in an entire year. 

“Your food budget is my salary guys,” wrote the most upvoted comment. “Your food and travel budgets is [sic] my annual income,” added another, who also added a sad-face emoji for emphasis.

Indeed, the Social Security Administration put the average U.S. annual wage last year at $53,383, and the median wage at $34,612. (Most Americans do not, in fact, earn over six figures — as a misguided class of Wharton students thought.) 

Now, Americans across the country have been spending more and more money on food. Obviously, high inflation caused grocery prices to jump 6.5% in 2021, marking the biggest increase in 13 years. So traditional staples such as beef, pork, chicken, dairy, eggs, sugar and coffee are all costing Americans a lot more now when they go to the grocery store. Everyone’s food bill has gone up.

Related: High inflation is eating up the budgets of American households

And these high food prices can also be passed on to customers when they order takeout or dine in restaurants.

Before the pandemic, many people were going to restaurants or ordering takeout more often. Food and drink sales in the U.S. restaurant industry had steadily increased in the decade leading up to 2019, and reached over $773 billion in 2019, according to Statista. And the average U.S. household was spending $3,526 on food away from home in 2019.

Those numbers took a dip in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic forced many businesses to temporarily close while people sheltered in place to slow the spread of the virus. But as the country has reopened and more people have gotten vaccinated against the virus, people are going back out again. 

Americans spent 23.1% more at restaurants and takeout places in January 2021 than they did at the beginning of the pandemic in April 2020, according to a LendingTree analysis of Census Bureau data. “The data suggests that Americans are reaching into their wallets to treat themselves (and support local businesses) about a year into the pandemic,” the report said.

So this NYC couple trending on Reddit isn’t alone in their desire to dine out, even if they are spending more than five times what the average household was dropping on this in 2019. In fact, several analysts recently told The Wall Street Journal that they expect consumers to have a bigger appetite for dining, travel and other services this year — and pivot away from buying products as they did in the earlier, stockpiling phases of the pandemic. 

Several readers noted in the Reddit thread that since this couple isn’t spending thousands of dollars on child care, gas or car payments (instead taking advantage of NYC’s subway system), then they have the extra cash to put toward restaurants … and the $6,084 marked for spin classes and Brazilian jiu jitsu. Or the $1,350 spent on books. And then there’s the $5,600 for political contributions.

“They have no kids,” wrote one commenter. This person mused that if the couple did have children, then “all that savings, spin class, political contributions go bye bye and are replaced with ‘daycare.’”

Indeed, the average cost of raising a child to age 18 was $233,610, or about $12,980 per year as of 2015 — which was the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s most recent “cost of raising a child” report. And the cost of child care has certainly risen since then. A July 2021 Center for American Progress report found that “families with infants would need to pay nearly $16,000 per year on average to cover the true cost of child care.”

The original poster also explained that he didn’t list miscellaneous expenditures because the pair prioritizes spending their disposable income on going out. “We also have an agreement to save anything we can for eating out at new restaurants and for travel, which both give us a lot of joy,” he wrote in the comments.

“And in our defense, we live right next to some really good restaurants,” he added. 

This popular post brings to mind previous viral budget charts on Reddit. Take the Seattle couple who raised eyebrows for giving $13,000 a year to a church — and putting just $3,000 into savings. And this one that claims to show how a $350,000 salary barely qualifies as middle class.

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