Making The Math Easy With Model Spending Families (and Small Business Math)

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For calculating the benefits of credit cards when determining whether or not a particular card will be good for you, it can be helpful to consider how much you currently spend using credit cards, what types of items you tend to buy using credit cards, and how much you travel.

To help show you what factors to consider, here are some examples of different types of card users and what to consider when thinking about what credit card would be best for you.

While there’s inherently a ton of variation between these examples and your spending, having examples as reference points will hopefully allow you to see where you may find the most value.

Why Have These Model Families?

Having these “model families” makes it a bit easier for you to identify which credit cards will work well and which won’t work as well with your level of spending. Some cards work better with people who eat out more, and some work better with those who shop at supermarkets more.

Truth be told, there is an unlimited amount of differences between everyone’s spending habits, so understand these are just attempts to gather what much of the “average” data says about Americans to help put it close to your own spending habits.

In each case, you should evaluate which household you most closely identify with and make your decisions based off your spending.

The Average American Household

In 2013, the average spending for Americans was approximately $4,220 per month, totaling $50,640 per year. In the examples provided, the example family with the lowest amount of income will spend just below this average, and the other two families spend above this average.

There are a couple of assumptions that apply to the examples below:

  • Each family spends disposable income to travel
  • Each family saves approximately 25% and spends approximately 75% of their household income. Taxes were taken into account, and the example families file taxes jointly.

The Model Families

The names are fictitious and simply used to help distinguish between the example families. Without further ado, meet The Kennedys, The Jetsons, and The Hartnells.

Family 1: The Kennedys ($70,000)

Family SizeAnnual Income

The Kennedys go on four short trips each year. The husband and wife travel together and spend $300 per flight for a total of $2,400 in flights. They stay in hotels that cost $150 per night and stay three nights for each vacation totally $1,800 annually on hotels.

Since the Kennedys drive to work and get good gas mileage, they spend moderately on gas. They live in a nice apartment that costs $1,500 a month.

They like to cook at home, spending around $580 a month on groceries, but like to dine out on the weekends, which they budget at $7,000 per year. Below is a snapshot of the Kennedys’ monthly income and expenses:


Gross Income$70,000.00
Annual Taxes$9,577.50
Net Income$60,422.50
Savable Income

(25% of Net)

Spendable Income

(75% of Net)

$45,316.88 (rounded to $45,300)


Airfare (Travel)$2,400
Hotel (Travel)$1,800
Other Travel$800
Dining Out (Food)$8.000
Groceries (Food)$7,000
Gas and Gas Stations$2,600
Total Spending$45,300

Family 2: The Jetsons ($140,000)

Family SizeAnnual Income

The Jetsons take many short trips throughout the year and one longer international trip. They spend about $6,000 per year on flights between the two of them. This includes two tickets at $1,200 each for international economy tickets and the remaining $3,600 on holidays, weddings, and fun trips.

They stay in hotels that cost $150-300 per night and stay between two and six nights on each trip. This comes to an annual total of $6,000.

The Jetsons use their cars frequently, but don’t get great gas mileage from either of their cars so they spend around $300 per month in gas. They live in a four bedroom house and their mortgage costs them $1,700 per month.

Since their jobs keep them busy, they manage to cook at home sometimes, but they tend to dine out.  They like to grab drinks, see shows, and spend on entertainment. Below is a snapshot of the Jetsons’ monthly income and expenses:


Gross Income$140,000.00
Annual Taxes$26,587.50
Net Income$113,412.50
Savable Income

(25% of Net)

Spendable Income

(75% of Net)

$85,059.38 (rounded to $85,000)


Airfare (Travel)$6,000
Hotel (Travel)$6,000
Other (Travel)$1,000
Dining Out (Food)$12,800
Groceries (Food)$7,000
Gas and Gas Stations$3,600

Family 3: The Hartnells ($200,000)

Family SizeAnnual Income

The husband and wife go on two or three international trips each year just the two of them and go on longer North American retreats with their children. They tend to purchase economy class tickets when they travel, but use points and status to upgrade.

They spending $4,800 annually on international trips and $3,000 on trips with their children so they spending $7,800 annually on travel.

Since they prefer to stay at resorts and prefer to stay three to 10 nights each trip, they spend $150-$500 a night on each trip. This bring their annually spending on lodging to $10,500.

Both parents have SUVs that don’t get good gas mileage, they spend $400 per month on gas. Their mortgage them $2,500 per month. The Hartnells enjoy cooking at home and often host dinner parties. Below is a snapshot of the Jetsons’ monthly income and expenses:


Gross Income$200,000.00
Annual Taxes$43,051.50
Net Income$156,948.50
Savable Income

(25% of Net)

Spendable Income

(75% of Net)

$117,711.38 (rounded to $117,700)


Airfare (Travel)$7,800
Hotel (Travel)$10,500
Other (Travel)$2,000
Dining Out (Food)$5,000
Groceries (Food)$15,000
Gas and Gas Stations$4,800

Small Business Spending ($135,800)

Because many of our credit card reviews revolved around business credit cards, we wanted to develop some standardized math for those cards as well. Right now, we mainly use one fictitious small business example for our math.

Consider this small business a type of consulting business that requires some travel and works out of an office. The following expenses were based on this type of business:

Spending CategoriesAmountOtherAmount
Office Supply$12,000Conferences/Networking$2,000
Shipping$4,000Travel Expenses Related to Above$2,000
Cell Phone$2,400Legal Fees$10,000
Landline$  –Advertising/Marketing$10,000
Internet$1,800Web Expenses (Including Dev)$12,100
Cable$  –Other Transportation$500
Gas Station$5,200Accounting Fees$10,000
Total:$28,000 Office Rent$60,000
Grand Total:$135,800  

Hope This Helps! See Our Reviews and Other Resources

Photo Credits / Credit/Copyright Attribution:
Chalkboard Featured Image: ImageFlow/Shutterstock
Brian Graham

About Brian Graham

Brian's first ever airplane ride was in a private turbo-prop jet. He was merely an intern boy trying to make a good impression, but it turns out the plane made an impression on him. It wasn't until Brian relocated to Dallas, TX, and moved in with an American Airlines employee that he truly discovered how incredible travel could be.


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