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You’re not imagining it—your monthly bills are bigger

February 3, 2022, 10:00 AM UTC

Americans’ bills are so high that the average person could buy a new car with how much is shelled out every year on basic expenses.

Bill costs jumped by nearly 6% last year, with the average household spending $24,032 per year on the most common expenses like housing, utilities, and auto loans, as well as internet and cable connections. With the real median U.S. household income hovering at $67,521, that means more than a third of the yearly paycheck for the average American is being spent on the bare basics.

That’s according to a report from Doxo, a bill pay service, released Thursday, that looks at the top 10 most common bill categories. Overall, U.S. households spend about $4.6 trillion per year on bills.

Doxo found that the two big drivers of the overall cost increases were rent and mortgages. Housing expenses shot up substantially more than other bill categories tracked by Doxo, by almost 10% in both those areas. Utilities—which includes electric, gas, water and sewer, as well as waste and recycling—also saw a significant rise. 

“It's the big bills that are the ones that are creeping up on users, unfortunately—your housing costs and your utilities,” Jim Kreyenhagen, vice president of marketing and consumer services at Doxo, tells Fortune

While the current high inflation is certainly playing a role in bill categories like housing and auto-related costs, household expenses have increased annually for the past three years that Doxo has tracked these expenses, before inflation really took off in 2021. And that squares with the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure survey, which finds Americans have steadily spent more from 2013 to 2020—the most recent data available. 

Still, inflation is eating into Americans’ purchasing power. Workers’ wages rose 3.3% at the end of last year, according to Payscale, a compensation software and data company. While that’s the biggest annual jump in pay since Payscale started tracking compensation in 2007, once the effect of inflation is factored in, workers actually took a 1.3% year-over-year pay cut.

“For people living right at that edge, it’s hard for them to swallow these increases,” Kreyenhagen says. 

Looking ahead, Kreyenhagen says, it’s difficult to tell how rising costs will impact household bills in 2022. Utility costs, for example, are largely regulated. But auto-related expenses such as loan payments and insurance will likely reflect the continued increases in car and truck costs—and those rises likely won’t abate until the semiconductor chip shortage and supply-chain bottlenecks fade. 

“We think [bill expenses] increase along with the rate of inflation in consumer spending, but it probably doesn't go out of control,” Kreyenhagen says.

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