You might think that hotspots like New York City and Washington, D.C., would be places where people spent a disproportionate amount of their salary on alcohol, smoking and eating out. It turns out, however, these places tend to be relatively thrifty, with residents spending relatively little of their money on such libations.

Not so in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area, which leads the nation in percent of household expenditure spent on eating out and alcoholic beverage. Here, residents spend 6.10 percent of their total spending on eating out, and 1.21 percent on alcohol. That compares to national averages of 5.16 percent and 0.94 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Expenditure Survey. Boston, meanwhile, takes the lead on spending on tobacco, as residents spend 0.65 percent on smokes, compared to an average of 0.44 percent.

Like most survey data, there is room for error, but the survey provides the best picture of spending in major American cities.

New York and Washington come in way below average in these three metrics, while places like Cleveland and Dallas-Fort Worth are above average in all three. Larger incomes in some metropolitan areas may contribute to this pattern, as well as expenditures on other items such as expensive housing.

Geographically, Western metropolitan areas overspend on eating out and alcohol, while overspending on tobacco products is prevalent in the Northeast and parts of the Midwest. In Chicago, cigarettes are taxed at the city, county and state level, coming up to $6.16 a pack, the highest rate in the country.

The following map looks at places where spending exceeds the average among cities. Below, we look at the top five spenders in each category.


Dallas-Fort Worth is the booziest metropolitan area of those in the survey: An average household there spent 1.2 percent of its household spending on retail alcohol.

One possible explanation for this figure is Texas's on-premise excise tax on alcohol, which means establishments have mixed-beverage permits pay a 6.7 percent tax on gross receipts. That cost is passed on to the consumer, meaning more expensive drinks at bars, and incentive to buy alcohol at stores. Even so, Texas ranks in the bottom half for excise taxes on spirits, wine and beer.

Also high on the list are Cleveland and Philadelphia, which spent about 1.1 percent of their total expenditures on booze.


Boston households spent the most on tobacco, at $430, and led in percent of total expenditures, at 0.65 percent. Massachusetts has the nation's third highest tax on cigarettes, at $3.51 a pack. Detroit came in second spending $358 at 0.62 percent.

Eating out

An average Dallas household in the survey spent 6.1 percent of its total expenditure on food away from home. San Francisco and Los Angeles follow with 5.7 and 5.6 percent, respectively. In total, San Francisco and Washington spent more money, but less in relation to total spending.

This post has been updated to correct the mixed beverage gross receipts tax in Texas.