The 50/30/20 rule.
That’s 50% towards needs, 30% towards wants, and 20% towards savings.
This is the typical breakdown that gurus give for budget categories and percentages.
The only problem? Read the comments on those blog posts and you’ll see that it doesn’t work for everyone.
And if you try to follow a budget that isn’t realistic for your situation, all it does is make you fail and give up.
In this post, you will find:
- The wise way to use a budget
- A mega list of budget categories
- Free budget categories worksheet printable and spreadsheet
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The right way to use a budget
Instead of following some arbitrary numbers thrown out by Googling “What percentage of my income should go into various budget categories?”, the smarter approach is to track expenses first, then incrementally decrease your spending month after month.
That way, you aren’t setting yourself up to fail because you’ll be setting your budgeting goals based on your actual spending habits.
To figure out the right goals for you, you need to know how you're exactly spending on the big categories like housing, food, healthcare, and so on.
To make you're allotting enough money for that component, having a list of budget categories to refer to will help make sure you're accounting for everything.
Categories of budget
When you first set your target budget, you'll want to account for everything you expect yourself to spend on!
The good news is, you only need to use our comprehensive list of budget categories to figure out what bills you tend to have, and set your target budget for that overall category.
After that, you can probably get away using with a pretty simple budget sheet that lists the major categories only, without all the detailed line items.
We have a free 2-page budget worksheet, for example, which groups your needs into 7 simple budget categories.
Of course, if you’re one of those people who loves to see everything laid out, feel free to make your spreadsheet as detailed as you want.
Use a spreadsheet program like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets to make it easier to record and add everything.
List of categories
To set a realistic budget for yourself, you’ll need your budget to include enough money for all the expenses you can reasonably expect to incur.
We also have a convenient worksheet, available as either a printable PDF or as a digital Google Sheet spreadsheet at the end of this post.
It has all of these budget categories built in (and is set up to automatically add, if you download the spreadsheet version) so you won’t miss a thing.
Ready? Let’s get on with our mega list of budget categories!
- Mortgage or rent
- Property taxes (if you own your property)
- Association dues (if you own your property)
- Homeowner’s or renter’s insurance
- Maintenance & basic repairs
- Phone (landline)
- Cell phone
Groceries & household goods
- (from grocery stores)
- (from bulk/club warehouses like Costco or Sam’s Club)
- (include toiletries & household supplies)
- Grooming products
- Sanitary products
- Cleaning supplies
- Paper goods
- Car payment
- Car insurance
- Vehicle registration
- Public transportation
- Ground transportation
- Spending money
- School supplies
- After-school activities
- Child support
- College savings
- Pet food
- Personal hygiene products
- Medications and treatments
- Vet visits
- Pet insurance
- Health insurance premiums
- Doctors visits
- Specialists visits
- Medical, first aid supplies & devices
- Long term care insurance
- Gym membership
- Disability insurance
- Life insurance
Minimum debt payments
- Credit card debt
- Student loan debt
- Personal loan debt
- Business supplies
- Emergency fund
- Dining out
- Make-up & skincare
- TV & movies
- Other activities
- Tools/small appliances
- Holidays & other special occasions
- Miscellaneous supplies
Free worksheet tracker
If your head is spinning, let us help you out with our free printables that are already populated with these budget categories. You have two versions to choose from.
The first is a pretty printable pdf, which will open in a new tab when you click the button.
The second is a functional Google Sheet that will automatically download in Excel format. It’s already set up to automagically add the numbers up for you in each main category.
Get a hold of all your expenses with our detailed list of budget categories. Download our free budget categories worksheet templates in PDF or Excel spreadsheet format so that you aren't missing any expenses when you set your budget.
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