Lately, I have been having a good amount of people ask me for help with their budget and creating a budget. This includes family, friends, and readers.
It seems like a lot of people aren’t sure what to put in their budget, or how to even start their budget. How to budget is such an important question though!
I know that not everyone has a budget, and some personal finance bloggers don’t even believe in a budget. However, I think budgets are important because it can help you reach your financial goals. Learning how to budget correctly can change a person’s life.
Some people think that budgets are only for people who are living paycheck to paycheck or people who have no money. WRONG.
Budgets help people manage their money better, it’s that plain and simple. A budget can help you realize where you might be going wrong with your finances and how to fix the financial issue that you may be having. Budgets also help you designate a certain amount of money that you feel comfortable with to certain areas, such as investments.
Different people spend different amounts in their budgeting categories. A lot of this depends on what is important to you (some hate to spend a penny on their cars, whereas others love having cars). Some people live in high cost of living areas such as New York City.
How much do you spend on your budgeting categories? It would be awesome if you all would share what percentage housing, car and food is in your budget. I would love to compare!
Whether you are looking for tips on how to create a family budget, how to create a single person’s budget, and so on, read my tips below for budgeting help and tips on how to budget correctly. The below is pretty much a budget calculator and is really all you need. A budget does not need to be fancy and you don’t need a fancy budget calculator in order for it to work.
Related post: The Complete Budgeting Guide: How To Create A Budget That Works
150+ Budget Categories For A Successful Budget
Income can be from various sources. If your income varies from month to month, I would take an average of what you are used to making. I’ve heard of some people using their income before taxes, but I don’t recommend this unless you also have a budget category expense for taxes.
A recurring theme that you will find in this budget post is that you should be realistic about everything. Be realistic about what you make and what you spend. If your income or expenses fluctuate every month, or week-to-week, be sure to find a comfortable average for your budget and what you are looking for in your budget.
- W2 Income
- Spousal support
- Child support
- Social security benefits
- Side hustle income
- Investment income
- Reimbursed job expenses
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“Pay yourself first” is an often repeated bit of advice in the finance world, and for good reason! Saving for current and future needs is important. It includes money set aside in an emergency fund, retirement accounts, and college savings accounts.
- Emergency fund
- Investing fund
- Home fund (down payment, improvements, large repairs)
- College savings
- Fun savings
- Gift savings
Keeping a roof over your head is a necessary expense. This will include not only rent or mortgage payments, but other items as well. You will want to budget for maintenance and repairs, fees, furnishings, and taxes.
- Home insurance
- Property tax
- Home Maintenance
- Home Improvement
- Home Security
Unless your only mode of transportation is your feet, you will have transportation costs to track. Even a bike needs tires and maintenance. For cars, you want to remember there are more costs involved other than just gas and an occasional oil change.
- Auto loan
- Road/Bridge toll
- Auto maintenance
- Oil changes
- Larger service (brakes, fluids, etc.)
- Auto repair (estimate based on make/model/year of car)
- Public transportation
- Roadside assistance (onstar)
- Other forms of transportation and associated maintenance (bike, motorcycle, recreation vehicles)
If you are self-employed then taxes will most likely consist of a large part of your budget.
- Federal income
- Accountant fees
- Filing fees
You have to eat, so food is another one of the essential budget categories you will want to track. Food will include not only your groceries but the food your order at restaurants, alcohol, coffee shop expenses, and even your kids’ school lunches.
Breaking down this category helps you track expenses so you can see if you are spending too much dining out.
- Fast food
- Work meals (cafeteria/eating out because you don’t have a lunch or choose to not eat it)
- Meal service
- Children’s hot school lunches
- Coffee shops
Related post: 10 Simple Ways to Keep Your Monthly Grocery Budget At $125 Per Person
If you have a young child in daycare, you know how expensive it is. In some areas, it is more expensive than college. Even as your child gets older there are expenses such as camps or the occasional babysitter. If you pay child support, you would list this here as well.
- School tuition
- After school activities
- Gear and clothing
- Sign up
- Summer camps
- Baby expenses
- School supplies
- Child support
I have yet to come across someone that has never been injured or sick. You most likely at least go in for the occasional check-up and dental cleaning.
Health care is expensive and is something that you really do need to budget for. There are co-pays, deductibles, prescriptions, and lab tests that would fit in the healthcare budget category.
- Doctor’s office visits
- Specialty care
- Mental health visits
- Dental care
- Vision care
- Over the counter medications
- Vitamins/ supplements
Insurance helps pay for expenses you need to cover but can’t afford. Sometimes, having insurance is even required by law (auto insurance, perhaps health insurance) or by your lender, such as homeowner’s insurance.
- Health Savings Account (HSA)
- Flexible Spending Account (FSA) for health or childcare
- Private mortgage insurance
- Personal property (valuables)
- Long-term care
Having running water and electricity certainly makes life much more enjoyable. And yes, you have to pay for it.
- Yard waste
Not paying your debts can create financial problems, so set up this category to break down each debt payment as a separate line item. Debt payments here would include student loan payments, credit card payments, outstanding medical bills, and personal loans. Normally a mortgage payment would be listed under the Housing category, but you could have it listed here, instead.
- Interest payments
- Additional payments beyond minimum due
- (Include all expenses in every category as you spend it, whether it was paid by cash, debit or credit, therefore I don’t include monthly credit card payments as you already accounted for the purchases in your expenses. Your expenses should no longer be greater than your income)
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This is another catch-all category for personal expenditures. If you have a family costs for haircuts, sports fees, makeup, and clothes can get expensive. Keep track of these expenses by creating a separate budget line item.
- Hair color
- Nail salon
- Beauty products
Pets are a wonderful addition to any family. They do, however, have their own set of associated expenses. Rover will want to eat, play with toys, and will need to see the vet.
- Veterinary care
- Pet sitter/dog walking
If you regularly donate to charity, then this should definitely be a budget category.
- GoFundMe Pages
We actually do not break clothing down in our budget, and just throw it into miscellaneous. However, we should change this. If you regularly spend money on clothes, then you should be realistic and make this a budget category.
- New clothes
- School clothes
- Professional clothes
- Dry cleaning
This is a bit of a catch-all for those household items that don’t really fall into other budget categories.
- Cleaning supplies
- General household supplies
- Office products
- Pool/yard care
Gifting seems to be one of the forgotten budget categories. When that birthday or the holidays roll around, you might be scrambling for money to buy a gift.
- Service worker gifts (teacher, admin, coach)
Are entertainment and fun the same thing? Different? I’ll let you decide. We all need a bit of downtime whether it is playing games, watching a movie, knitting or going on vacation.
You should budget your fun money. There are so many things that fall into this category that costs can balloon if you are not careful. Enjoy yourself without overspending.
- Going out
- New technology
Whether it’s college tuition or your child’s tutor fees, there are costs associated with education.
- Field trips
- Extracurricular activities (music lessons, school sports)
Don’t forget about those monthly services and memberships! Ten bucks here and there for streaming services doesn’t sound like much, but it really adds up if you have too many.
- Yard care
- House cleaning service
- Meal delivery services
- Professional society dues
- Music (spotify/pandora etc.)
- TV streaming services (HULU, Netflix, etc.)
- Amazon Prime
- Software subscriptions
- Identity theft
- Subscription boxes (cosmetics, pet supplies, etc.)
There will always be something that doesn’t seem to quite fit in anywhere. Thus, the ultimate catch-all category of Miscellaneous.
- Anything that doesn’t quite fit into any category
- Unusual, non-recurring expenses
Do you have a budget? What tips do you have for someone who is learning how to budget?