Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
Welcome to Racked’s How Do You Shop? series, in which we ask a variety of people some deeply personal questions about how they earn, save, and especially spend their money. If you know or are someone with an interesting relationship to $$$, email email@example.com.
This week we talked with Bryan, 44, who lives in Jacksonville, Florida, with his wife and four kids. He’s a psychologist with his own practice and makes around $275,000 a year, and he’s saving up to send his young children (ages 8, 10, 12, and 13) to college.
How much do you spend on rent/housing?
About $5,000 a month for my mortgage.
What’s your biggest monthly expense besides rent or housing?
It would be private education. Combined, it’s $75,000 a year. Education is most important to us.
What’s your biggest discretionary spending category?
Traveling. It’s usually family vacation because there are four kids that we try to take with us. That is expensive. It ends up being very expensive to travel. We limit that usually to about two trips a year. Not more than two trips a year.
How much do you put toward savings each month?
Probably about 10 to 15 percent.
About how much of that is for future college expenses or things for the children?
Because of the cost of private education, private grade school and elementary school education, I’ve already had to set aside money for Florida Prepaid for three out of four of my kids, just because I wasn’t sure what the cost would eventually be for grade and elementary school.
We do 529s for them as well. But that’s so we have some leeway. The fourth child, we’re not doing Florida Prepaid for them. We’re just funding their 529, which is like a tax-deferred college fund where we can put money in. It’s after-tax money that we put into a fund, and we invest in it; you could invest it into a mutual fund or single stocks. As long as that money gets used for college — for housing during college, books, cars, things like that, anything related to college — we don’t have to pay tax on that money.
You can switch it from kid to kid also. If you don’t spend it on one kid, you can transfer it to the other kid.
How much would you say that you spend on clothing per month for yourself and for the whole family?
Oh my goodness. I really would not know. My wife typically does the shopping. It’s hard to say what she spends on shopping.
Do you buy your own clothes? Or is that something that she manages?
She typically does it. But I may shop with her one to three times a year. It’s usually part of a date. She gets me to the Town Center, then she will say, “We’re going shopping too.”
I do some clothes shopping online. But typically my wife will buy a bunch of things at the store and then I will try them on. Since I work by the hour, if I’m spending time shopping, it can be very costly. I could have been billing. My free time, I don’t want to spend that shopping. I want to be with the family or doing activities that I like to do.
Is there a different kind of shopping that you’re into?
I like to look at boats. I love shopping for a boat. I do like going to car dealerships and looking at cars. I’m not always buying, of course. I do love the electronics store. I’ve got to tell you that I probably go to Lowe’s or Home Depot once a weekend. I’m constantly doing home; I like to do a lot of projects and home repair myself.
I do shop on Amazon a lot, I will say that. I’ll be buying dog food on Amazon, or electronic devices like cameras. I get telephones, cellular phones on eBay. I’ll buy electronic devices for work, like TVs, on Amazon as well, and computers.
How long does it typically take you to make a decision to buy something?
Like a car or a boat? It takes months to decide. But if it’s just clothing or an electronic device, I’m usually an impulse shopper.
I actually keep cars for 10 years. But I am always looking. But then boats probably every five.
Is there ever anything in your life that makes you feel pressured to shop?
The pressure during the holiday season, because we have big families on both sides and lots of kids in different schools. There’s a lot of pressure. It’s not always positive pressure, but a lot of pressure to ensure that everybody has something. It’s not necessarily a season that I like. I don’t like to shop that way.
How does your approach to shopping compare to your family’s and friends’s approach to shopping? Do you think you spend more or less than them?
I probably spend more than my parents spent growing up. [One of my brothers] only has one child, and the other one does not have a wife or any kids. I definitely spend a lot more than they do.
I think I have similar shopping habits as most of my friends. Most of them avoid shopping and do most online. Unless there are certain large items that they’re very much into. But I have to tell you that I do not talk about shopping a lot with my friends or my colleagues.
This is shocking information.