What item in your family’s budget is causing you the most distress?

A new poll says two-thirds of Americans complain that rising gas prices have caused them financial hardship. But as Bob Collins points out on the NewsCut blog, other price increases may be taking a bigger bite out of our wallets. Today’s Question: What item in your family’s budget is causing you the most distress?

  • Diana
  • Bill A.

    Even with insurance it would be medical bills.

  • Nancy Waller

    Groceries in general.

    It is difficult to meet my grocery budget monthly because the prices go up constantly, so we go without some of our ‘fun’ eating things, and just settle for the basics. Which is fine, we can handle it, and we aren’t starving…. yet.

  • Rich in Duluth

    We track our spending, so we can stay on budget.

    Our medical bills typically take 20% of our income, not including the cost of insurance.

    Food is 9%

    Fuel oil is 7%

    Gasoline is 3%

    If the cost of oil goes up, then the cost of everything else goes up, but, medical bills are the greatest concern to us.

  • Steve the Cynic

    Having learned to be content with what I have, not resentful about what I don’t have, I’m not distressed by finances.

  • jackie

    We had many years that the only plan offered by our employer was a high deductible plan, and my husband has health issues, so medical expenses are huge for us, at one point, my husbands medications alone were $400 per month, now with a more reasonable plan, they were just $30 for three months. It has taken us years to pay off the debt incurred in those years. After that it is gas, as we live in a rural area and have to drive for our jobs.

  • Brad

    I think health insurance cost has had the most impact, even though we don’t have co-pays, just due to the fact that we haven’t seen a rise in take-home pay for a number of years because the premiums have been eating up income.

    Food, especially meat, have really gone up. Shopping generic, sale and Walmart more. A McDonalds trip can be easily $7 now if you don’t order off the dollar menu.

    Insurance and home property taxes have really hit the house payment. Car insurance is ugly also.

    I don’t notice the gas prices so much, probably because I ride the bus and bike more when it costs more to fill the tank.

    and I hope I’m saving enough for retirement after paying for the kids college.

  • Jim G

    The wife said she’s planning on retiring in 10 years and we need to pay off the mortgage before her retirement. What’s distressing about that? There goes my “extras fund” and when she retires, I probably won’t have enough free time to answer Today’s Question.

  • Brad

    We contribute 23% of our income to both our Roth-IRA accounts. We also contribute 600.00 per/mo for each of our three children into a 529 college savings plan. We also take family vacations in both the winter and summer.

    Our cup is half full. We choose to live our lives as fiscally responsible as possible. So that we can enjoy our savings on the things that matter most to us, family, education and friends.

  • Mark in Freeborn

    Since I drive 75 miles one way to work, fuel prices really hurt. For personal reasons, I don’t choose to live closer to my job, but I only have about five more years until I can retire, so I’m going to try to hang on.

  • Larry M.


  • Kari

    I do worry about gas, but to take the edge off of the high prices, I try to bus more to work and anywhere else I can.

    The biggest worry that keeps me awake at night I haven’t even had to deal with yet- student loans. I’d been paying them just fine and then went back to grad school. While I think it was a well thought out and good choice I still worry a lot about being able to make ends meet once I have to start paying them back. Things l like getting married, buying a house, all those rites of passage for people in their late 20’s/30’s? I don’t know when those will happen, since I’ll be worrying about paying bills (which are all fairly low and the credit card is paid off every month), paying for groceries and on top of that student loans. I just wish I had a better paying job while I’ve been in grad school- then I could be paying it off as I go.

  • Lawrence

    Gas prices certainly attribute to financial strain, but for me its a conglomerate of things: the price for both healthy and less healthy food items is very surprising. Keeping the car maintained, i.e. oil, tire, and any other mechanical problems is high; telecommunication prices, inspite of numerous cheap price plans, is still more expensive than the wall phone. Heat and water and trash keeps going up, and student loans just adds more complexities to the issue. Property taxes also haven’t helped. I think it actually might be way cheaper now to rent an apartment than to own a home. Ten years ago, the opposite was true.

  • Jennifer

    Groceries. Especially good healthy groceries. It seems the less added stuff food has in it, the more it costs. I’m not even talking about organic here (though I would like to feed my family more of that) but things like Milk, eggs, meat, vegetables and fruit. Prices are out of control.

  • Peggy Sannerud

    Healthcare. Even with a plan, there’s dentist and glasses, and the deductibles from Paul’s frightening car accident last fall are beginning to roll in, and the cable/internet/phone bill just got raised again – which one do we do without first? and oh yeah, it looks like my contract will be frozen again – no raise in 5 years. Sings – “…..under pressure….”

  • Annie H.

    It’s definitely healthcare costs. I recently had to switch from a healthcare plan with a $100 deductible and lots of perks to a plan with a $3000 deductible and no perks. It’s going to be a burden, especially since I have ongoing healthcare needs.

  • Mary

    It’s a tie between groceries and gas.

  • GregX

    Health Care… by far is the most expensive and least controllable cost – accidents and illness happen!

    and now that the GOP/Conservatives are shooting to allow for individual employers to selectively eliminate certain coverages from their plans … could we please … FINALLY … establlish government managed single-payer health care. the Government doesn’t need to provide the health care services ( private providers can) …its just that the pool of money is managed by the government. This will eliminate the bias of employers in all aspects of health care – including the ability of big employers to offer it at all and small employers abandoned the private or , coming soon, the idiotically psuedo-private regulated market – which hasn’t figured out how to drop costs in 60 years.

  • Jennifer

    My house! We’re upside-down AND behind/catching up on payments. We don’t qualify for any of the various programs that have been offered. And our need to dig out of the hole affects our ability to maintain the place. Every major appliance is on its last leg, there’s never enough weather-proofing done to banish the drafts, and don’t even get me started on the plumbing! It’s going to feel so good to have gotten back to normal once we’re finally there (especially since we will have done so with no help from anyone!). I just hope we don’t have anything catastrophic happen to the house before then!

  • Esther

    The desire to have a child. We can just cover all our student loans, rent, food, and other bills with my and my husband’s salaries. And I’m lucky enough to have decent health care for us. But we cannot afford to have a child because we would either need to find a lot more money for childcare, or my husband (the lower income earner) would have to quit work to stay home… reducing our income by even more money than child care costs, causing us not to be able to afford all of our bills… mostly we wouldn’t be able to afford food because we have run out of deferments on our student loans and barely pay for any extravagant utilities – no cable, low heat, etc. And no, even with a kid we wouldn’t qualify for food stamps because I make just over $40k… most of which goes to bills and loans. We’re in our mid/late-30s… o there you have it, we’re not allowed to breed.

  • Peter T

    Healthcare expenses due to illnesses. The insurance through my job was changed: annual check-ups and catastrophic bills are paid, but if someone gets ill, the cost is on us and can be quite high, before insurance kicks in.

  • The economic system itself causes me the most distress. Watching economic systems force us to pursue, hoard and use money instead of receive and give unconditional love saddens me. Its like imagining, but not experiencing the promised land (Utopia) before I die. Have we given up on forming a more perfect union?

  • Craig Huber

    I wouldn’t say it’s a “distressing” per se, being one of the luckier ones with no major health issues and solid income streams, but in terms of most expense for least apparent value, definitely health insurance.

  • Deb

    Property taxes! Between property taxes and homeowners/auto insurance, it takes 123% of our household income.

  • Clark

    Taxes, mostly the uncertain future of tax rates. The mortgage is paid, the kids well educated and retirement income stream is secure. Taxes are my single largest fixed expense and I assume these will only get worse in future years. Searching my crystal ball for answers before 12/31/12 to avoid big hit by increasing marginal tax rates.

  • Sue de Nim

    Putting kids through college.

  • Alison

    Student loan payments. I lose over 40% of my disposible income paying student loans.

  • Steve the Cynic

    If your income is so high and your health so good that the most “distressing” part of your budget is taxes, Clark, don’t expect any sympathy. Financial anxiety ceases to be a problem once you give up the illusion that you actually own anything, or that money is anything more than a socially constructed score-keeping device.

  • Käri

    Student Federal Loans. Two Bacherlor’s, Two Master’s, and a minimun wage are just about to make me homeless.

  • GregX

    if your house is paid for, your kids college expenses are behind you and retirement income is secure …. you shouldn’t be posting anything on this issue… seriously … nothing. You are in the 1%. And darn sure acting like it. What else do you complain about … is the tan not perfect ? time for another week in the Bahama’s?? Give us all a break.

  • Definitely health care. In 2010 our gross income was 37,000 and medical costs were 12,500, which is 33.8% of income. What happened to the idea that no one should pay more than 10% of income for health care? I haven’t done 2011 taxes yet, but our health care costs were higher last year. Clark, our taxes were probably lower than yours. Do you want to trade places with me?


  • Clark

    Greg X. Just want to unsure you understand who is supporting the moochers or democrats, take your pick.

  • Clark

    Susan. No life is great but I wish you well on these serious issues.

  • Clark II

    My wife’s Mercedes is off warranty, so that’s an issue.

    Oceanaire raised their prices again.

    I’m not Platinum on Delta anymore, so my SkyClub membership will cost more this year.

    I’m really worried that the Vikings will have seat licenses to pay for the new stadium.

    The list goes on and on.

  • KevinVC

    The item in my family budget causing me the most distress it the income part. Its zero.

    So…. Zero minus anything is not good.

  • Tom


  • Jennifer

    Ganja (Cannabis sativa), food, and gas, probably in that order. Legalize it and allow the people to prosper and heal and become powerfully peaceful.

  • Leif

    I think Tom has it about right. Taxes. I would like to think that my taxes could be lowered with tax reform.

    Then I remember, didn’t we have Tax Reform in 1986?

    Just another “Leave No Lobbyist Behind” Act.

  • Steve the Cynic

    Yes, Leif, we did have tax reform in ’86. It lasted about a year before Congress started inventing new loopholes at the behest of lobbyists.

  • Gene

    We have an artificial lack created by the 1%.

    If this we not so, budgets would not be causing distress.


    In 1619, America’s first marijuana law was enacted at Jamestown Colony, Virginia, “ordering” all farmers to “make tryal of “(grow) Indian hempseed. More mandatory (must-grow) hemp cultivation laws were enacted in Massachusetts in 1631, in Connecticut in 1632 and in the Chesapeake Colonies into the mid-1700s.

    Even in England, the much-sought-after prize of full British citizenship was bestowed by a decree of the crown on foreigners who would grow cannabis, and fines were often levied against those who refused.

    Cannabis hemp was legal tender (money) in most of the Americas from 1631 until the early 1800s. Why? To encourage American farmers to grow more.1

    You could pay your taxes with cannabis hemp throughout America for over 200 years.2

    You could even be jailed in America for not growing cannabis during several periods of shortage, e.g., in Virginia between 1763 and 1767.

    (Herndon, G.M., Hemp in Colonial Virginia, 1963; The Chesapeake Colonies, 1954; L.A. Times, August 12, 1981; et al.)

    Make the most of the Indian hemp seed, and sow it everywhere! – George Washington, First U.S. President

    We shall, by and by, want a world of hemp more for our own consumption. – John Adams, 2nd U.S. President

    “The best hemp and the best tobacco grown on the same kind of soil. The former article is of first necessity to the commerce and marine, in other words to the wealth and protection of the country. The latter, never useful and sometimes pernicious, derives its estimation from caprice.”

    -Thomas Jefferson, 3rd U.S. President, Jefferson’s journal entry / March 16, 1791

    Prohibition… goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man’s appetite by legislation and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes… A prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded. – Abraham Lincoln

    Why use up the forests which were centuries in the making and the mines which required ages to lay down, if we can get the equivalent of forest and mineral products in the annual growth of the hemp fields?

    – Henry Ford

    “However, the connection of hemp as a crop and marijuana seems to be exaggerated. The drug is usually produced from wild hemp or locoweed which can be found on vacant lots and along railroad tracks in every state. If federal regulations can be drawn to protect the public without preventing the legitimate culture of hemp, this new crop can add immeasurably to American agriculture and industry.” – Popular Mechanics, 1938

    The illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world. – Carl Sagan

    “Marijuana never kicks down your door in the middle of the night. Marijuana never locks up sick and dying people, does not suppress medical research, does not peek in bedroom windows. Even if one takes every reefer madness allegation of the prohibitionists at face value, marijuana prohibition has done far more harm to far more people than marijuana ever could.”—William F. Buckley, Jr. (1925-2008)

    The war on drugs has been an utter failure. We need to rethink and decriminalize our nation’s marijuana laws. – Barack Obama, January 21, 2004 debate

    “We can each resolve, every last one of us, to do the maximum that we can, in each of our given circumstances and by making opportunities, and this then becomes our personal contribution towards ending the worldwide prohibition of cannabis.” – Jayelle Farmer

    Genesis 1: 29 “And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.”

    Ezekiel 34:29 “And I will raise up for them a plant of renown, and they shall be no more consumed with hunger in the land, neither bear the shame of the ignorant any more.”

  • F

    College loans