Recommended Budget Category Percentages

We all know how beneficial a budget can be. 

For starters: A budget outlines your spending plan so you know exactly how much money goes toward each expense. Budgets are also extremely helpful when trying to decide how much you have available to save and how much money you can put toward paying off your debt. 

At the same time, there are many different ways to budget. One of the most common budgeting strategies I recommend is to set up budget category percentages. For example, a common rule of thumb is that housing costs shouldn’t exceed 30% of your income. What about the rest of your budget categories? Luckily, they can be broken down by percentages as well. 

Read on to learn more about creating percentage categories for your budget. 

Start with the Basics

If you’re new to budgeting, using the 50/30/20 approach is a great starting point. 

With the 50/30/20 budget, you allocate 50% of your income toward living expenses and necessities, 30% toward wants, and 20% toward debt and savings. 

Here’s how this would look. Say you bring home $3,000 each month. Under the 50/30/20 budgeting method, you’d put $1,500 toward living expenses and necessities, $900 to wants and variable expenses, and $600 toward debt and savings. 

While this method is super easy to use, it may not fit in with your particular goals. For example, you may want more wiggle room for your savings account

Get a Little More Specific

If you want to venture beyond the 50/30/20 budgeting method, you can get more specific and add additional percentages while breaking up your spending into more categories. 

Think about your goals and lifestyle. What do you value spending money on? How much are your core necessities? Do you have debt? What are your savings goals? 

Start tracking your spending to see what your current budget categories are. It can be eye-opening to see the percentage of your income that you spend on things like dining out, transportation, and even bills and insurance. 

So, think about setting your own budget percentages based on your preferred spending patterns and goals. With that in mind, here are our recommended budget category percentages that can help you get ahead. 

Basic Recommended Budget Category Percentages

Housing (mortgage and rent costs): 25% 

Utilities: 5%

Food: 10%

Transportation: 5%

Insurance (includes medical, auto, renter’s etc.): 15%

Personal (+ household expenses): 5%

Entertainment/Recreation: 10%

Charitable Giving: 10%

Savings/Debt: 15%

Here’s how this budget would break down if you bring home $3,000 each month:

Housing (mortgage and rent costs): $750

Utilities: $150

Food: $300

Transportation: $150

Insurance (includes medical, auto, renter’s etc.): $450

Personal (+ household expenses): $150

Entertainment/Recreation: $300

Charitable Giving: $300

Savings/Debt: $450

Keep in mind that these are pretty standard budget percentages if you want to have enough money to afford your needs and wants. As you can see from the example above, you still can’t afford to splurge on housing costs, but you’ll have plenty of money for groceries, dining out, giving, savings, and debt payments. 

Once you have your ideal budget in place, you can start allocating money to different expenses when you get paid

Aggressive Recommended Budget Category Percentages

While the basic recommended budget category percentages may work well, you may want to take it up a notch if you have some aggressive savings goals and are willing to live frugally. 

If you are looking to pay off debt quickly or save to meet an important goal, here are some budget category percentages you can try.

Housing (mortgage and rent costs): 20% 

Utilities: 5%

Food: 7%

Transportation: 3%

Insurance (includes medical, auto, renter’s etc.): 10%

Personal (+ household expenses): 5%

Entertainment/Recreation: 5%

Charitable Giving: 5-10%

Savings/Debt: 40%

Here’s how this budget would break down if you bring home $3,000 each month:

Housing: $600

For this amount, you’d likely have a roommate or rent a smaller apartment to keep housing costs low. If you own a home, you may also rent out a few rooms to offset your mortgage costs. 

Utilities: $150

If you have roommates, you can split the cost of utilities to save money. Perhaps you can use Chime’s Pay Friends to send fee-free mobile payments if you’re splitting bills. You can also limit your use of electricity during the day by turning off lights as well as reducing heating and cooling costs by using a programmable thermostat.

Food: $210

Although the amount is quite low, this may be enough for one or two people. If you cook most meals at home, take advantage of sales, and buy ingredients and whole foods instead of packaged food, you can make this budget work. 

Transportation: $90

While this amount is also low, perhaps you work close to home and can keep your fuel costs down. Or, maybe you can use alternative transportation like walking or cycling. 

Insurance: $300

For this amount, you likely shop around for the best insurance rates and drive an older car that doesn’t cost much to insure. You also receive benefits from your job which helps keep this category low.

Personal (+ household expenses): $150

This amount is just enough to buy basic needs and supplies for the house as well as some affordable personal care once or twice a month. 

Entertainment/Recreation: $150

Your dollars can be stretched with free local activities and experiences along with using coupons and deal sites to dine out. 

Charitable Giving: $150-$300

Although you’re determined to save and/or pay off more debt, this budget still allows for you give back to others in need. 

Savings/Debt: $1,200

Accelerated debt payments and savings contributions will allow you to hit your financial goals faster, even if you don’t have a large income. 

The Power of Budgeting

It’s quite possible to save more than $14,000 annually on a $40,000 salary with the aggressive recommended budget percentages above. 

Yet, regardless of whether you prefer an aggressive, basic or other type of budget, breaking up your spending categories by percentages is powerful. It shows you exactly where your money is going and how much of your income is used for certain expenses.  

Feel free to use this new perspective and play around with your own budget category percentages. This will help you determine where you spend and how much you can save. Are you ready to give it a try?

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