Guest Post By Stephanie Lynch – HowMuchIsIt.org
Whether you’re new to budgeting or you have been at it for quite some time, I wanted to share the budget categories I have created to make life much easier when it comes to managing money. When you’re able to categorize your income and expenses, it can show you exactly where your money is going and if there are any ways to potentially save some cash.
10 Easy Personal Budget Categories
While budgeting can be time-consuming, stressful and difficult at times, it doesn’t need to be if you have a good system in place that is easy to understand. Even if you have failed at budgeting before, don’t let it discourage you. You can get better if you have the right system in place, I promise!
To help you budget and prepare for the future, here are the categories every budget list should have:
#1 Your income
Your income can come from various resources, so break it down according to where you get your money. This could include your wages from work, including your primary job or a second job, interest from investments, and anything else that brings in money.
Since you most likely don’t want to work well into your retirement years, it is extremely important to save for the future, regardless of your current age. Even if you’re not saving or you think it’s too late to start, you need to drop that mindset right now! Every dollar you’re able to save now will grow over time thanks to accruing interest.
Your savings category should include your retirement funds, investments, emergency funds and short-term savings. Treat each one of these categories like a bill and always pay yourself each month. If your emergency fund doesn’t have six to nine times your monthly expenses, then you will want to work on that first. Once your emergency fund is fully funded, then you can focus more on your investments. Savings should always be a part of your budget no matter how much money you make. Again, even if it’s as little as 5%, small savings is a lot better than nothing.
If you rent an apartment or own a home, there’s a good chance a utility bill will show up in your mailbox. These bills will include electricity, gas, water, sewer, internet, phone, cable and a possibly a few others depending on your housing situation.
#4 Housing expenses
Owning a home can be pretty expensive and there are other items to consider if you are a homeowner. If you own a home, use this category to record your mortgage, HOA fees if applicable, repair fund, property taxes and a home improvement fund. For those who rent, record your renter’s insurance and monthly rent in this category.
Food, of course, is a necessity in life that we can’t live without it. Whether it’s eating out or shopping at the grocery store, record the average amount you spend in a month. Separate what you spend on groceries vs. restaurant visits. Groceries are definitely essential while eating out is more of a discretionary expense that can be limited.
Some of us ride the subway to work, while others may drive 25 miles one way to a job. Regardless of how you get there, transportation will come at a cost. With transportation, record your car payments, insurance, gas estimates, repairs, registration fees and if you take public transportation, include these costs in your budget.
#7 All insurance policies
Insurance can come in all shapes and forms. Whether it’s health insurance or a life insurance policy, it’s going to be paid at one point or another. Take the time to record any insurance policies you can think of aside from those already included in other categories like home or car insurance. This could include umbrella policies, disability insurance, life insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance or health insurance.
#8 Credit cards and debt
If you’re lucky enough to not have any debt, congratulations! However, most people have some sort of debt. Be sure to include all of these debts in your budget as well whether it’s your student loans, credit cards, medical bills or another loan you may owe money on.
We all love to have fun in life, and since most entertainment doesn’t come free, you should create a category for this as well. This could include anything from a vacation fund to a hobby or weekend activity you may enjoy. Eating out and clothes shopping can be considered entertainment since they aren’t essential expenses.
Having a child isn’t cheap, and if you work outside the home, you may have childcare needs or expenses. Use this category to record anything related to your child. This could include the daycare, babysitter or even the necessities you need to keep your child growing.
Budgeting is important in any household, no matter how much you make or how many bills you have. It’s a great way to see how much money you need to set aside and where cuts can be made to increase savings. Creating a budget is easy, but it requires effort and patience. By using the categories above, the process is started for you and you will be sure to account for every expense.