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Looking for a comprehensive list of monthly expenses? You’ve come to the right place. Here I will share with you 60+ simple budget categories that you need to consider for your budget.
When building your budget, the key is to be specific. The more specific you are, the more success you will have in tracking your spending and ultimately gaining control over it.
Now, I would caution you that the below list of budget category ideas is by no means comprehensive. Why? Budgets are personal! That is, no two people have identical budgets.
So, while the below list is a great starting point, it may not cover every line item that makes sense to include in your budget. But it sure will cover quite a few.
With that out of the way, let’s get started!
What are the Categories of Expenses?
While I will get into very nitty-gritty budget categories, I want to start with the basic budget categories that appear in most budgets.
The main categories are:
- Food & Drink
- Personal Spending
- Recreation & Entertainment
- Personal Care
While these are the basic budget categories, these are not the result you’re looking to include in your budget. No, you want to get much more specific. But the above categories should be a guide to spur the creative juices in thinking about the detailed items that should be in your budget.
So, if the above are broad categories, you may be wondering, what categories should I include in a budget? Well, that’s where we’re going in just a minute!
One last thing I want to cover before we go there is the percentages you should assign to each broad category of your budget. While there are no hard and fast rules, generally think about creating a budget that is 50% needs, 30% wants, and 20% savings.
All budgets are personal, though, so this is just a guide to get you started.
Now, we’re going to dive into each budget area and cover some detailed budget categories you may consider including in your budget.
Home Budget Categories
Let’s start with the category that appears in nearly everyone’s budget – housing expenses. Not only is this the most common budget category, but for most people, it is also the biggest.
If you rent, your budget categories are probably pretty simple – just rent and renter’s insurance.
If you own your home, however, there are quite a few budget categories that may be relevant to you, including:
- Mortgage Payment
- Property Taxes
- HOA Dues
- Home Maintenance (don’t forget about long-term expenses like roofs, HVAC, etc.)
- Homeowner’s Insurance
- Home Security Service
- Lawn Care / Snow Removal
The most commonly forgotten category here is maintenance. Remember, even if maintenance doesn’t happen every month, you should be budgeting for it each month, so when you incur an expense, you have money set aside to fix the problem.
The next budget category that eats quite a bit of most people’s budgets is transportation. Common categories you may want to include related to having a car include:
- Car Payment
- Car Insurance
- Vehicle Registration / Car Property Tax
- Vehicle Maintenance
- Public Transportation
Food & Drink
While housing and transportation expenses are difficult to change in the short-run, food and drink costs are slightly easier to alter.
While some people choose to just food & drink expenses together, I suggest you break this category down further. People vary when it comes to their spending on these items, so it can make sense to get more granular. I like to use the following categories:
I like to break each of these categories out separately because this is a common area where people can look for savings in their budgets. In particular, it’s easy to overspend on restaurants, bars, and coffee, but if these items are all lumped into “food and drink,” you’ll never be able to identify the issue.
Next, you’ll want to break out your various utility bill categories. These can include:
While some utility bills are a bit out of your control, there are some ways you can look for savings on your phone, cable, and internet bills (more on that in a minute).
You’ll also want to budget for each type of insurance you carry. While the types of insurance you have are dependent on your financial situation, below are some of the typical line items you may want to include in your budget:
- Health Insurance
- Disability Insurance
- Life Insurance
- Long-Term Care Insurance
Next, it’s wise to plan for both the expected and unexpected when it comes to medical bills.
At a minimum, I like to set aside money for prescriptions and copays, including medical, dental, and vision visits.
Also, I typically put a bit of money into a medical line item in my budget to account for potential expenses that could not be reasonably foreseen. Of course, you can use your emergency fund for this purpose as well, but if you can dedicate some funds to medical expenses, that’s even better!
Onto some of the essential budget categories. Savings, investing, and debt are areas you’ll want to break down.
Starting with saving goals, I like to break down my budget into specific savings goals, such as an emergency fund, travel, etc.
I do something very similar for investing categories. For example, your investment categories might include:
- IRA Contributions
- Taxable Account Contributions
- Real Estate Investment Contributions
Finally, when it comes to debt, you’ll want to set aside money to pay down high-interest-rate debt. For most people, that tends to be credit cards, but if you have some other form of high-interest-rate debt, you’ll want to set aside a category for that as well.
Most of the above budgeting categories apply to everyone. But as you work to organize your budget, there are also countless other individualized categories you may want to consider. While the categories I’ll outline aren’t all-encompassing, hopefully, they give you some ideas on how you can tailor your budget for your personal needs.
First, let’s cover some personal spending categories you may wish to include:
- Gym Memberships
- Gifts (holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, etc.)
- Subscriptions (apps, magazines, etc.)
- Electronics (phones, iPads, laptops, etc.)
Personal spending categories should cover your wants. Remember, a reasonable budget allows you to prioritize the things that are important to you.
Recreation & Entertainment
Next, you’ll want to consider recreational and entertainment activities. Some potential items to include are:
- Sporting Events
- Streaming Services
This next set of categories to consider including is for travel.
I LOVE to travel, which means I have to budget for vacations, weekend getaways, etc. diligently. Essential items that I budget for all year long include:
- Rental Cars
Of course, I usually spend a lot more on food when I travel, too, so you may want to think about how that might apply to your budget.
If you have a child, you may want to consider budgeting for items such as:
- Extracurricular Activities
- School Supplies
As someone that does not currently have kids, admittedly, I cannot speak to all the costs of childcare. But if you have kids, I am willing to bet you can come up with a bunch more items to consider.
I also like to break out personal care. While this is a reasonably small item in my budget (just haircuts), for some people, they spend a lot of money here, so it can be helpful to break things down to see where the money is going. Categories include:
Next, if you have pets, you probably know that some of them (especially man’s best friend) are expensive. You’ll want to consider costs such as:
- Vet Visits
Miscellaneous Budget Categories
Finally, your budget can include just about anything else you want. For example, you may want to consider including things like charitable donations and bank fees.
Now, I’ve gone through 60+ budget categories above. You may be thinking this is a lot. And you’re right. But here’s the thing. Your budget isn’t going to have 60 categories.
Why? Budgets are personal. Some of these categories will apply to you, while others won’t. The key is determining which ones make sense for your spending patterns.
But, remember, a specific budget is an effective budget.
Wondering what the best way is to make sure you have all the right categories for your budget? Take out your last 12 months of bank statements and credit card bills, and skim through them to make sure you’ve got all your categories covered.
Yes, this approach is a little time-consuming, so the alternative is to improve your budget categories over time as you realize items you forgot to budget.
As you work on setting up your budget, you may be looking for places you can cut back. The whole point of a budget is to show you where you might be spending too much.
Well, I want to share with you a few other posts to help you trim your spending and live life on a budget.
- How to Live Below Your Means
- 17 Simple Ways to Save Money on a Tight Budget
- How to Stop Spending Money
Finally, I also want to share a tool that has helped me quite literally save hundreds on my cable, internet, home security, and other bills. It’s a service called Truebill, and they help negotiate your bills to ensure you’re always getting the best possible rate.
Truebill is a bill negotiation service that will help negotiate your regular bills, track your subscriptions, and help you save. You only pay when Truebill saves you money, so you have nothing to lose. Check out our review to learn more!
How Can I Track My Budget Categories?
Once you have a list of budget categories in mind, you’ll need a way to track them. While there are countless budgeting solutions, my personal favorite is an app called You Need a Budget (YNAB).
It functions off zero-based budgeting principles, meaning that every dollar you earn is assigned a job (i.e., a budget category).
You can start your FREE trial of YNAB, or, if you want to learn more, here are some great resources to get you going:
- How I Saved $1,500/month with You Need a Budget
- YNAB vs. Mint: Budgeting App Showdown
- Personal Capital vs. Mint: Which App is Best?
My YNAB Budget Categories
Finally, while I have shared with you many budget categories, I want to go a step further and share my budget categories.
Below, you will see an overview of each category in my budget.
You’ll note in looking at these categories that I haven’t organized them the same way as I have above. For example, I don’t have categories for home, transportation, etc.
Instead, I have organized my budget as follows:
- Recurring Expenses: Expenses that occur every month and are usually around the same cost each month (such as my mortgage, utility bills, etc.)
- Living Expenses: Similarly, these expenses occur every month, but they are variable (things like restaurants, coffee, etc.)
- Long-Term Expenses: These expenses are infrequent, but I set aside money for them every month using sinking funds (examples include property taxes, annual insurance bills, subscriptions, etc.)
- Fun Spending: Fairly self-explanatory – I set money aside and use it when I desire
- Savings Goals: This is where I track my progress towards big savings goals like a car, vacation, investments, etc.
I am not advocating that you have to organize your budget like this, but what I can share is that this approach has worked exceptionally well for me. It also works very well with a zero-based budgeting tool like YNAB.
As you will note, not every category in my list of 60+ shows up in my budget. Similarly, not every category in my budget shows up in my list of 60+.
Budgets are personal, and my budget works because I have covered all of the types of spending that I do. Your spending will be different, so I encourage you to customize YOUR budget to YOUR needs.
Budget Categories: A Summary
Everybody will have a budget that looks different. However, I hope you are now armed with the knowledge to set up your budget with the categories that make sense for you.
All that’s left is for you to get started! And if you need some help remembering the budget categories to include, I want to invite you to get your FREE budget category printable.
So, what are you waiting for? Get started with these budget categories today!