So, here’s Bundle: How Americans spend money on food, gas, travel and almost everything else

For the past seven months I’ve been holed up in a tiny, musty room with a bunch of incredibly smart people. I’m the lucky one who got to show up and ask stupid questions.

Our site, Bundle, launched late last night. It features a vast database with millions of spending trends across the U.S. Let’s say you want to see how much people are spending on groceries in my old neighborhood: Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. Check the zip code (11201) and there it is. You can then break it down by age, household status, and income level. Then see top merchants in the area. (No surprise, Trader Joe’s is on there.) Go now and check your doppelganger’s spending habits.

The goal here is to provide new clarity and context around money decisions, through data that reflects people’s individual, specific situations. (For instance, it would have been helpful to note that my recent move from Brooklyn to the Upper East Side—a rare reverse migration for a new parent—came with an average $200 bump in monthly grocery bills. Hey, thanks Manhattan!)

The tool is pretty robust, and it’s still expanding. We’re going to add Savings data next (I may be spending less than other people like me, but am I saving more?), and we hope to throw in mortgage and rent data very soon.

As the guy heading up content, I’m also ridiculously excited to show off what we built on top of the data:

Community storytelling.

Money remains one of those things that people obsess over, both privately and publicly these days. Personally, I realize how little I’ve been saving during my still (relatively) young adult life. This is a big topic at Bundle HQ: this concept of “personal inflation,” that no matter how much money you make, you always feel broke. You make more, you spend more. (U.S. personal savings rates have improved during the recession, sitting just under 5 percent, but they just dipped again and they’re still way off what our parents and grandparents managed.) This lack of control feels very American right now.

Few “personal finance” sites ever examine the emotional and behavioral nuances of money in our lives, let alone the curiosity we feel about this oh-so-private part of other people’s lives. We think everyone would be better off if we all talked a little more openly about financial successes and struggles. So in order to capture these wide-ranging conversations, we built a publishing platform on top of the data. Whenever a person finds something interesting in Bundle’s data, they can write a comment in that specific location and share it with others.

Also exciting: On Bundle, users’ voices are featured just as prominently as our own in-house editorial team. We think this will raise the level of the conversation on the site, and push our own in-house editorial so it gives users truly helpful information.

Anyway, go check out the site. We’re proud of it, and excited to keep improving it. Major thank you’s go to the big boss, Jaidev Shergill, who has serious vision, Janet Paskin, our brilliant managing editor, the rest of the Bundle squad here in NYC and the community editors finding great stories all over the U.S.

We’ll also be tracking other money conversations on Twitter, Facebook, and (obviously!) on Tumblr with help from the supremely talented Logan Sachon and Michael Cohn.

They’re also now accepting anonymous money confessions. Do tell.

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