When we first started using budgets we failed. The main reason? We were missing important budget categories, and we often had additional expenses we hadn’t planned for.
Not only did this mess up our allocations, it was also incredibly discouraging.
Does this sound familiar? Well, then you have come to the right place friend.
I have put together the ultimate list of budget categories so you can avoid this common mistake.
I’ve created some main categories and then listed individual budget items within each category. You won’t use all of these categories all the time.
I recommend keeping this list handy as you sit down to work on your budget for the month.
- It’s helpful to write out your expenses from the previous month to see how much money goes into each budget category.
- Don’t forget to keep your calendar handy too, so you’re reminded of the birthday parties or other events that will require a budget category.
- You may also consider saving a little each month for some of these budget categories, so when the payment is due you aren’t scrambling to find the money.
- Use this Budget Printable to easily keep track of all your expenses.
Side note: If you’re just getting started with budgeting and are looking to learn more about how to create a solid financial plan, you can check out this free Personal & Family Financial Planning course from Coursera.
It is important to break out all of your income individually rather than just including a lump sum. Include your take home income after taxes, health insurance, etc. If you have an irregular income, list the least amount you expect to earn. Anything extra can be used for savings or to pay off debt.
- Predictable Bonus
- Investment income:
- Rental property
- Earned interest
Housing is typically the largest budget item in most budgets.This category includes everything related to owning or renting your home, not just your rent or your mortgage.
- Household repairs
- HOA Dues
- Renters Insurance
- Property Taxes
- Household repairs
- Large Appliances (washer, refrigerator etc)
This can also be another big category for many families. Beyond any tuition or daycare costs, don’t forget to include any required registration fees for the upcoming school year.
- Private School Tuition
- College Tuition
- Before/After School Care
- Summer Camp
- Registration Fees
- School Supplies
- School Lunch
- Private lessons – dance class, sports
- School Field Trips
These are typically what we consider essential budget items, so don’t leave them off your list. If you are behind on utility payments, this should be one of the first late bills (after housing) you should work towards getting current on.
- Natural Gas
- Cell phone bill
Beyond just paying for gas for your car, there are additional transportation costs you may need to consider. A few of these include:
- Toll payments
- Public transportation fare (subway, bus or train)
- Car maintenance- oil changes, tires etc/
- Parking Fees
- Registration/DMV Fees
We love them and treat them as another member of our families. But there are unique costs our pets incur that you will need to include in your budget.
- Pet Food
- Pet accessories – kitty litter etc
- Veterinary Visits
We all need food and this tends to be a budget category that many people struggle with. To make sure you properly allocate enough funds in this category break out what food you realistically will need to purchase.
- Eating Out
- Coffee/Quick bites
This can be a scary category to tackle. Include the monthly minimum payment for all debts, unless you are able to pay more than the minimum.
- Student loan
- Credit Card Payments
- Car Payment
- Miscellaneous Debt (furniture, electronics etc)
This is the time to look at your calendar and see what, if any, gifts you’ll need to purchase this month. From birthday presents to end of the year gifts for teachers, you won’t have to stress about the costs if you plan ahead and include it in your budget.
- Birthday Gifts
- Anniversary Gifts
- Holiday Gifts
- Teacher Gifts
This category includes both personal care necessities as well as the extras.
- Hair Color
- Gym Membership
Any regularly used household item goes into this category.
- Laundry Detergent
- Dishwasher Detergent
- Cleaning Supplies
- Napkins/paper towels/toilet paper
- Small appliances (toaster, microwave etc)
- Emergency Kits/Hurricane Preparedness etc
We all need some kind of insurance. If you find this to be an expensive category, reach out to your insurance company to see if you can re-negotiate your rates.
- Homeowners Insurance/Renters Insurance
- Car Insurance
- Life Insurance
- Health Insurance
- Dental Insurance
- Medical Devices
- First Aid Items
- Doctor’s Visits
- Senior Care
Anything you do for fun can be included in this category.
- Movie Theater Tickets
Make savings a priority by including this in your budget. It’s easy to say you’ll just save whatever is left over. This is a recipe to failure. Don’t leave this important budget category off!
- Emergency fund
- Kids college savings
- Vacation fund
This category is for anything else that doesn’t fit into the above categories.
- Bank fees
- Credit Card Fees
- Professional Dues
- State and Federal Taxes(if you are self employed)
- Anything else!