Our Budgeting Around the World series is designed to provide snapshots of how people in different environments and situations respond to the challenge of managing their money. We all have our own ways to budget, but it’s always useful to look at what others are doing! Today we’ll look at the finances of a 26 year old couple from Modesto, California.

Modesto is situated at the heart of California’s fertile Central Valley, and the economy revolves largely around agriculture, food processing, and wineries. Healthcare is also a major employment generator. California has the third-highest cost of living in the USA, behind only Hawaii and the District of Columbia.[1] Modesto’s cost of living is about 9% higher than the national average[2] but close to the average for similarly sized cities in California.

🌎 This article is part of our Budgeting Around the World series, a comparative look at how people around the world manage their money.

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Did You Know

  • The median household income in Modesto, CA is $47,607/year, below the average salary in the US of $56,473/year.
  • The state income tax rate for Modesto is 9.3% and the sales tax rate is 7.3%.[3]
  • US Federal income tax brackets range from 10% to 37%, depending on income.[4]
  • The average cost of health insurance in California is $588/person.[5]
  • Modesto’s unemployment rate in Dec. 2020 was 9.9%[6], above the national average of 6.7%.[7]

What Does it Cost in Modesto?

  • 3-course meal for 2, mid-range restaurant: $95
  • Beef round, 1 kg: $10.20
  • Domestic beer, .5 liter: $5.00
  • Broadband Internet: $60.62
  • Cinema, 1 seat: $10
  • Monthly public transport pass: $35
  • 3 bedroom apartment, city center: $1,781.67 

On the “Big Mac Index” Modesto, along with the rest of the US, ranks 4th out of 56 countries surveyed, with the iconic burger costing US$5.66.

Getting to Know the Household

We started our interview with some basic questions about the household, their lifestyle, and their approach to managing their finances.

Introduce yourself – Tell us a couple of things about yourself so we get to know you better.

I am a female who loves animals, nature, and entertainment.

Location – Where do you live (city, country)? What kind of place is it? How do you like living there?

Modesto California. It’s ghetto af and I do not enjoy the area.

Household structure – How many adults, kids, what ages?

2 adult both 26, no children, 4 dogs, 1 cat and 1 rabbit.

Occupation – What do you and other adults in the household do for a living?

Food safety, QA, Sharpening, Art.

Net household income – What is the take-home pay of your household (income after taxes and other deductions)?

US$40,000/year ($3,333.33/Month)

Sources of additional income (monthly and annual) – List any sources of income other than your salary.

Hobby, negligible amounts.

How would you describe your standard of living? – Based on the place you live in, your income, compared to other people around you…

Middle class, fortunate for what I have, always working to have better.

What is your approach to managing your finances? – What is your general approach or personal philosophy on managing your finances? Do you use a budget and if you do do you generally stick to it? How do you make financial decisions in your household?

Financial decisions are made mutually. Our budgeting consists of what our starting monthly amount is, subtracting our monthly necessity bills. Take that amount and decide how much goes to savings and want lists, entertainment, etc. Keep the savings for when a monthly cost exceeds starting monthly amount.

Let’s Break Down the Expenses

Now we’ll break down our respondent’s monthly household expenses into different budget categories.

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🏠 Housing

Upkeep costs and bills.

🔌 Utilities


🍕 Food


🚗 Transportation


🏦 Debt & loans


👗 Clothing and personal care


🐶 Pets

Lots and lots of food.

🛡 Insurance

Renters insurance

🏥 Healthcare


🎮 Entertainment


💻 Subscriptions


* All figures are as reported by respondents. Totals may not add up to 100%.

📘 We only included the categories in which this particular household has any monthly expenses. View the full list of budget categories we used for this survey, along with what’s included in each of those categories: 110 Budget Categories.

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