General Question

haygar's avatar

Percentage of Americans that have disposable income?

Asked by haygar (17 points ) August 16th, 2012

About how many of Americans have extra money to spend on frivolity, movies, night life, vacations, herbal vaporizer, etc..?

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11 Answers

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Judi's avatar

I can tell you that most of those that DO don’t have a clue how many DON’T.
I am so sick of my right wing friends equating lower income with being lazy. I have lived in both worlds and I can say I worked a heck of a lot harder when I earned 20k a year than I do at over 100k.
I don’t know how to debunk that myth but it’s pissing me off!
Oh, and welcome to fluther!

tedd's avatar

I spend around $950/month on student loans.

Several times a week I ponder what I would do with that money if I didn’t have to pay even just half of that.

Judi's avatar

@haygar asked me to post how many of my friends have disposable income. Currently all of my real life friends do.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@Judi I don’t even know a single person who makes over $100K. Not even my boss’s boss makes that much. Go you. :)

As for my friends – maybe 50% have disposable income. Keep in mind I’m 22 and a college student. Not many of us have disposable income, unless it’s mommy and daddy’s disposable income. I don’t get that either.

jca's avatar

It depends on how much disposable income you mean. I have disposable income to shop and buy myself things within reason. I don’t have disposable income to pick any destination in the world and go there for unlimited amounts of time.

I know people on public assistance (aka welfare) that get manicures, pedicures and have the latest phones. Yet they can’t pay their rent or buy a car. So the OP’s question is a bit vague in that regard.

Many people can go into a store and buy a bottle of water or can of soda, or go to McDonalds and buy a meal for $5. That’s not a large amount of disposable income by any means, but yet, it still qualifies as disposable income. Again, the question being vague leaves room for disparity.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@jca Very good point. My husband and I will go out to dinner once or twice a month and if I need new clothes, I’ll get them. We pay all of our bills and our budget is tight, but there’s a little wiggle room. I don’t really consider that “disposable” – I can’t go shopping or to an expensive dinner without thinking about it and doing some math first.

If the OP means disposable as in having ANY extra money after bills are paid, I’d say 100% of my friends have that. If you can’t afford a meal at McDonald’s, you may need to consider revamping your budget.

Nullo's avatar

Most or all of them. The quantity varies, but even $10 unclaimed by your bills is “disposable.”

tedd's avatar

Yah @jca and @Nullo Have a good point, what amount are you considering to be “disposable?” I have enough money that I can get fast food for lunch, maybe buy a book or a game or two a month or go out sometime… but not enough that I could take a nice vacation or buy an expensive item on a whim or what have you. But technically I still have some disposable income.

Jeruba's avatar

I think you’d better define “disposable income.” I thought it meant whatever you have left to spend after what’s automatically taken out (i.e., taxes). It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have more than enough to meet your basic obligations. You might have $3000 a month in disposable income and $4000 in basic expenses—food, housing, etc. You are still in control of the spending (disposal) of it.

Here’s Wikipedia’s definition: link.

I think what you’re talking about here is actually discretionary income—the amount you’re free to spend (or save) as you please after the bills are paid.

wundayatta's avatar

According to Wikipedia, about 1.4 billion movie tickets were sold in 2009.

Film industry (1995–2010)[13]
All values in billions
Year Tickets Revenue
1995 1.22 $5.29
1996 1.26 $5.59
1997 1.42 $6.51
1998 1.44 $6.77
1999 1.44 $7.30
2000 1.39 $7.48
2001 1.44 $8.13
2002 1.58 $9.19
2003 1.55 $9.35
2004 1.49 $9.27
2005 1.40 $8.95
2006 1.41 $9.25
2007 1.40 $9.63
2008 1.39 $9.95
2009 1.42 $10.65
2010[N 1] 1.37 $10.89

According to the General Social Survey, about 70% of Americans saw a movie in the last year (2010). So that’s about 210 million Americans who had enough disposable income to see a movie in 2010.

By contrast, only 21% attended a dance event.
15.4% attended an auto race.
41% went camping.
17% went to classical music or opera.
23% played a musical instrument.

Make of that what you will.

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