Happy with your budget categories? Please share!
I'm curious to know how people organize their budget categories. Thinking of making some changes for 2018 and would love to see what people use (and don't use).
What are your budget categories?
Hey Ryan ,
I went ahead and moved this over to the Discussion section to hopefully pick up more activity! :)
I'm planning an overhaul for the new year as well, so I'm curious to see what other's have to say! Currently, my budget has category groups for things I pay every month, things I pay intermittently (like Vet bills), things I'm saving up for and things I'm paying off.
I have mine separated out into Monthly Bills (rent, electric, cable, savings, student loans, cell phone, credit cards since I am paying them down, not using them- it works for me), Monthly Spending (groceries, eating out, gas, entertainment, kitkats, health, cash, personal type stuff, holidays/birthdays, defies categorization), Car Stuff (maintenance, inspection, registration, insurance, AAA, new tire fund), Upcoming (yearly expenses, like Amazon Prime or YNAB), and At Some Point (vacation fund, new laptop fund). What are yours?
I could use some reorganization here, as well! I do have a "Yearly's" category group which is where I budget for family members' birthdays and annual fees/subscriptions/etc. I realized I am more successful budgeting for individual birthdays than throwing everything into one "gifts" category -- otherwise I spend it all too quickly and then don't have enough for the next birthday in the family! :)
Do you have a Wish Farm yet?
Here's roughly how I split mine up. I initially started with fewer categories, but have expanded the list as my financial stability has grown and as I found there were certain areas I wanted to track more closely, like food-related spending. For my savings categories, I like the Wish Farm approach https://www.youneedabudget.com/wish-lists/
- Car/renters insurance
- Activities (usually for stuff with friends, or small in-town activities)
- Date Nights (once a week)
- Eating Out - Both (minimal)
- Eating Out - Me (minimal)
- Eating Out - Her (minimal)
- Long Term Expenses (subscriptions, mostly)
- Car Maintenance
- Larger Purchases (mostly larger household items, like vacuums, a new microwave, that sort of thing)
- Gifts (sometimes I'll use a couple categories, separating out things like gifts just between my wife and I, with friends or family, or for specific events like Christmas)
- Cash, Fees & MIsc (somewhat of a slush fund for misc things)
- Activities and Events (in-town activities or events, mostly stuff with friends)
- Date nights
- Spending (somewhat general)
- My Spending (small monthly allowance, that we can spend or save guilt free)
- Her Spending (her small monthly allowance)
- Travel Expenses
- [Other Specific Travel Goals]
- [Various investment categories]
- Emergency Fund
- Computer / Tech replacement fund
- [Various savings categories]
- College Loans
- Car Loan
My current version reads:
- 8 subcategories: Rent-Utilities; Car Gas; Sundries; Groceries; Pantry-Freezer; Gracious Living; Loony Fund; Pocket Money
Sometimes & Eventually (aka Irregular)
- 14 subcategories: Grooming; Social Fund; Entertainment; Apparel; Gifts-Events; Christmas; Charity-Donations; Fundraisers-Raffles; Tenant Insurance; Home Office; Big Brother; Professional Services; Car Maintenance; Car Annual Fees
I laugh in the face of disaster! (aka Emergency Fund)
- 5 subcategories: Car Insurance Deductible; Medical-Dental; Get out of Dodge!; Circle of Life; Cri$i$ Fund
Want it! (aka Savings)
- 5 subcategories: Next Car Purchase; Dignity in Retirement; Big Shiny Things; Furnishings; Adventures
I keep the tax man category hidden until I need it because it makes me frown.
Thank you for the opportunity to share. Not sure mine will work for anyone but me and here are my category groups. In total, I have 165 categories, all under one or another of the category groups. I have variable income and when funding a month, I fund the top with my "living expenses" first, then the bottom savings goals, starting with "Annual expenses" and ending with "Emergency funds." Then comes "Apt. Maint exp." Last to get funding is "Mo. Fixed Expenses" and I'm always working to the absolute end of the month to fill this one, which isn't due until the 1st of next month. The "Wish Farm" is my reward for funding everything else. If everything else is funded, I put $30 here.
Honestly, mine are pretty much the default ones. They were in YNAB 4, too. I like the KISS method, and the default categories cover almost everything for me. I have a category for my faculty union, two categories for reimbursables, and a wish farm, but other than that most of my categories are very close to the standard ones.
When you say "organize their budget categories," do you mean spend every other minute thinking of new, and creative ways to re-do their budget categories for the hundredth time this week?! Then, yes. Currently, we're going with the breakout that Dave Ramsey has listed. I tried really hard to aim at simple, at specifically use one word for each category. See attached:
I used to have a lot of categories, but it was too much work. Now I've simplified quite a bit and it's been a lot easier to deal with.
1. Fixed expenses - all my bills, daycare, & subscriptions (Netflix, etc) go here. I don't break it down into subcategories. I know what my fixed expenses are each month so it's no surprise how much I need to budget here.
2. Savings - I break this down a little into Property Tax, Experiences, Short Term Expenses (professional dues, annual furnace maintenance, gifts), and Investments.
3. Discretionary - food, dining out, clothes, pretty much everything else goes here. Again, I don't break it down into sub categories. Pretty much whatever I have left in my budget goes here. I don't really care how much I spend on groceries vs dining out vs other discretionary expenses. This is money I can do whatever I want with and it's a nice feeling.
Such a great topic! I worked and reworked my categories in YNAB 3, then 4, for years. Then with the new YNAB, our team got a little more method-y with the default categories. They start with the most necessary at the top, and gradually become more, well, Rule 3-able toward the bottom.
I like that order because when I'm budgeting (Rule 1-ing, if I may!), I can start at the top and budget those really essential categories first. Or when I'm adjusting for overspending (Rule 3-ing), I can work from the bottom up, pulling money from the lower categories first.
Here are my category groups:
I opened up Unbudgeted to explain what it is.
I'd love to see more folks' categories, so educational! I remember when I was first budgeting, that's what I wanted to see most: how are other folks doing this? 😂
I want to preface this by explaining that we are in the last decade of our working lives and are in our peak earning years... our only remaining debts are a mortgage and car payment - both of which will be paid out in full in early 2020. YNAB helped us get here! Our mortgage and car payment are in in the 'debt' section, not the housing or transportation sections. We separated our wish list categories because so many of the items were Home Improvement/Decor we felt they deserved their own acreage! The dollar amounts are 'about' what we wind up budgeting in total each month, in each area. The 'retirement' totals in brackets are amounts that reflect our employer/employee pension contributions - so they actually 'disappear' off our paycheques before ever hitting YNAB. Housing includes savings for major repairs, appliance replacements, property taxes, and utilities. Yes, we spend a lot on groceries and dining out. Health and fitness includes saving for hearing aid replacements (expensive!), other medical expenses, and our gym/trainer expenses. "Allowances" covers our separate spending for fun money categories as well as clothing and hair cutting expenses. "Fun and travel" covers date nights, fancon expenses (if you have to ask, you'll never understand) and trips we make on a regular basis (i.e. to visit his family or my family or our children who moved to other cities instead of staying close to home!). The vacations category with the tractor/plan emojis is vacations harvested from the wish farm.
I appreciate this topic! We've been using YNAB for around 6 years and have arrived at a category framework that I think is simple yet also detailed and informative.
We have 3 main categories - NEEDS, WANTS and SAVINGS. I picked up this idea many years ago from a book called "All your worth" ( https://www.amazon.com/dp/0743269888/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_awdb_t1_4KCnAbSF0JRSK ) by Elizabeth Warren and her daughter when she was *just* a scholar and financial guru. She recommended keeping your Needs at 50% or less of total take home pay, Wants at 30% and Savings/Debt Payoff at 20%.
I love this as a benchmark but we are stuck at about 70% for Needs due to a high mortgage, leaving only a sliver for Wants and 20% for our debt paydown.
Here are the subcategories that we use:
Mortgage, Groceries, Utils, Ins, Auto, Haircuts, Household Supplies, Home - Maint, Medical, Dry Cleaning
Tithe, Spending - (Dad, Mom, Kids), Home - Renovation, Utils - Net/Phone/Cable, Vaca, Dining Out, Hlth & Fit, Books, Gifts - (Birthday/Babies/Weddings), Gifts - Christmas, Entertainment
Oh me oh my! I change mine every once in a while (I'm a Gemini, change is imperative) but my current listing is
- Credit Card Payments
I wish I could hide this... someday 😜 - 3 separate cards
- Monthly Bills & Expenses
gas/tolls/parking, cell phone, six flags membership (don't judge), lexington law (I have had a rough go), student loans, walt disney world annual pass (on FL resident payment plan....switching that to full annual expense in May), car insurance, storage unit, & entertainment subscriptions (netflix & spotify).
- As Needed/Allowed
auto repair/maintenance, business expenses, medical-related, DMV costs, education/job training, friends & family debt, FEES, gifts, charity, groceries (food), groceries (household), pet care & expenses, uber/lyft
- Annual Expenses
aaa, amazon prime, CLIA, irs (quarterly taxes-self employed), NRA, YNAB, TurboTax (I'll never not pay the bajillion dollars for this)
buffer, emergency savings, misc savings (small amounts that I allow myself to take from in time of need), investing, retirement
- Travel Expenses (again...don't judge, this is priority haha)
airfare, car rental, hotel/lodging, disney vacations, misc travel costs & items
alcohol (so I can try to spend less each month), caffeine, clothes/accessories, concerts/band merch/music downloads, fast food & snacks, electronics/tech/media, gambling (rarely touched), pamper myself, restaurants, tattoo fund, "movies, conventions, theme park spending, sports, etc.", and miscellaneous spending (is that possible with my amount/selection of categories?)
- Wish Farm
(insert whichever wishes are currently growing)
- Wish List
(insert 6,000,000,000 random wishes)
- Credit Card Payments
I've reorganized mine for 2018, grouping things like this:
- Financial Freedom! contains two subcategories: Debt Snowball and Emergency Fund. I've realized that paying attention to the specifics of each of my debt accounts is complicating and distracting things for me, and at this stage in the debt paydown game (i.e. early on!), I want to focus mainly on the TOTAL $$ I am throwing at debt paydown each month. I'm including Emergency Fund in the same group since I'm just aiming to maintain a $1000 mini fund at this point, while focusing on reducing debt.
- Fixed Monthly is for necessary expenses that are the same each month, which are surprisingly few (Rent, Car Insurance, Cell service).
- Lumpy Essentials are necessary expenses that are either non-monthly or vary each month.
- Happy Things are discretionary expenses :)
- Trying out Wish Farm & Wish List per recommendations in this thread!
- Oops! contains a single category, Fees & Sh*t :( where I record any could-have-been-avoided fees, fines, etc (late fees, parking tickets, etc etc)
Here's my full category list (the emojis have been so fun and really help keep things upbeat for me!😄):
I keep mine pretty straightforward.
Just for Fun
Quality of Life Goals
Instead of getting too granular with the categories, I use the "Notes" section as a reference of what's included in that category. For example my "Home Needs" notes says "home maintenance, technology, upgrades, household purchases, exterminator, lawn maintenance."
This works well for us!
Does anyone have a tip for reorganizing past transactions into new categories? I want to further divide my categories to track them separately.
- Old: Food
- New: Restaurants, Groceries
I created a new category and tried to assign past transactions to the new category, but when I do, it completely screws up my budget. I would like to organize my budget differently but I don't want to make any changes to my beautiful budget until I figure out how to get around this quirk.