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Everything The President Has To Personally Pay For

Updated December 3, 2019 23.6k votes 4.2k voters 287.1k views10 items

List RulesVote up the expenses you're surprised the president has to cover.

Assuming the highest office in the land is an American aspiration, but what the president has to pay for out of pocket may come as a shock. Sure, the White House is already paid off - and the presidential salary is hardly small - but the leader of the free world is technically on the hook for a surprising amount of presidential expenses. 

Some of the expenses are normal things you'd expect for any American household - such as buying groceries to make their favorite foods or picking up their own dry cleaning tab - but other expenses are highly specific. For example, though there may not be a law requiring the First Lady to dress to the nines, it would be uncouth for her to wander around the White House grounds in a Pokémon onesie. 

The commander-in-chief may have arguably more power than anybody in the country, but there are still a number of things the president cannot do without a little personal spending money.

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  • Photo: Shealah Craighead/Official White House Photo / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
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    Groceries

    Although the president's rent and utilities are entirely covered thanks to American taxpayers, their groceries absolutely are not. There's a longstanding idea the president is expected to pay for many of the same expenses the average American does. While the house is paid for, normal Americans have to buy their own groceries, and so does the president.

    The good news is there are extremely talented chefs on the White House staff who turn those groceries into incredible meals.

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  • Photo: Lauren Gerson / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
    2

    Dry Cleaning

    Dry cleaning may not be a regular budget expense for the average American, but for the president, it's essential. They're required to look sharp each and every single day; historically, that has meant wearing nice suits.

    But taxpayers aren't paying for the president to get their expensive suits meticulously cleaned. Over time, those dry cleaning visits add up - and the president has to foot the bill. 

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  • Photo: Andrea Hanks/The White House / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
    3

    Private Parties

    If the president hosts an official state dinner, it'll be covered by the government. But every other type of party is on the president's personal dime. Paying for your own party is one thing if you're hosting a little get-together with friends, but presidential parties are massive affairs, and the costs add up quickly. 

    Not only does the president pay for food and beverages for each private event, they're also expected to pay for servers and large crews to assist with setup and teardown.

    Presidents even pay for their own Thanksgiving meals - after pardoning a turkey, of course.

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  • Photo: Courtesy Reagan Library / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
    4

    Some Redecorating Costs

    If a president wishes, they're given a $100,000 stipend to redecorate segments of the White House. First Lady Jackie Kennedy famously did this in the 1960s, and gave one of the first televised tours of the White House afterwards.

    President Barack Obama, on the other hand, used his personal funds to help decorate the White House more to his liking. He also had the opportunity to choose from several historical items, such as desks and rugs, from past administrations.

    President Donald Trump reportedly paid approximately $1.75 million to redecorate the White House upon moving in, but it's not clear exactly how much was out of pocket.

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