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What are Living Expenses?

By G. Wiesen
Updated: May 16, 2024

Living expenses are typically those costs and expenses associated with the act of living and can consist of a number of different types of expenses. A living expense can include essential expenses such as payment of rent or mortgage to maintain a dwelling, costs of utilities such as electricity and water service, and expenses for food. There are also living expenses that may be considered non-essential, which may contribute to a person’s cost of living but that could be done without and still allow a person to survive, though with a different lifestyle.

Different people have different living expenses, and these are not fixed numerical values as much as they represent certain necessities. There can also be some difference of opinion as to what qualifies as a living expense, since some people may consider non-essential items to be required for continued comfort and living. A car, for example, is not strictly necessary for many people who could walk or ride a bicycle or public transportation to reach their work and other locations. Many people would, however, consider the costs of car payments and gas as basic living expenses that could not be easily done without.

Basic living expenses typically include those things essential to human survival: food and shelter. These two concepts are generally the most primal and important needs people have and so a person’s ability to live and function often depend on them. Shelter will usually consist of a payment for rent or on a mortgage, which is often required to continue living in a particular dwelling. Other amenities for shelter, such as electricity or gas for heating and cooking, water and sewer expenses for hygiene, and sanitation for disposal of garbage are also common expenses.

Food is the other basic living expense that most people consider essential. This can include the price of raw materials, such as food that is cooked and prepared by a person, as well as expenses for buying prepared foods. Other living expenses that may be considered with shelter, such as the cost of running a refrigerator and oven, may be related to the preparation and consumption of food as well. Most expenses beyond these two essential requirements could be considered non-essential in nature, though they will often contribute to a person’s realistic living expenses.

If someone has a car, for example, then he or she would likely need to pay for insurance, gas, and perhaps make ongoing payments for the car as well. While these costs may be non-essential, they are still important costs required for a person to continue living the way in which he or she is accustomed. As technology has changed, expenses such as mobile telephones, computers, and Internet service have also contributed to increased living expenses for many people.

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Discussion Comments
By anon359715 — On Dec 20, 2013

@jmiller2: Well, I think so, because back in the developing countries specifically in Sub Saharan Africa, it is quite a daunting task to handle such expenses.

By jmiller2 — On Dec 12, 2013
In today's world, should cell phones and internet access be considered basic living expenses?
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