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?

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  • Ok, I'm gonna do mine.  I have a lot of categories, and many are old YNAB3/4 throwbacks that I keep for posterity as they're still so familiar to me.  I somehow find a need to tweak something a few times a year even though in my mind, my categories are very simple compared to others'.  Yesterday I split up the "Doctor/Dentist" category to two separate line items, plus added a Vision category as I now have an HSA and LPFSA and want to know for next year how much more I'm spending out of pocket on the LPFSA expenses.

    I never did the "True Expense" type breakdown, but I later added an I or T tag to some categories to help prioritize, but I really rarely look at it.  I don't break anything out by time.  If I made a category for every single recurring transaction my budget would be a mess.  I schedule them all on mostly one credit card, and just "budget for upcoming."  If it's something annual and big, like HOA dues, I use a goal by date.  

    I have 11 CC Payment categories showing, and 7 hidden, so I'll just skip those.  Wish I could hide them from the account view!!

    I use the yellow and blue (toolkit) warnings to initially fill out the budget.  My eyes are well-trained on how to jump around priorizing after 10+ years of this.  I use a lot of goals, upcoming, and category notes to help guide me.  

    Business - not major businesses, just for tracking

    • Business Expense (husband's reimbursables)
    • eBay Biz
    • Italian Ice
    • Thirty-One


    • Adults
    • Kids
    • Shoes & Accessories


    • Tithing (I'm not Mormon, but it sounds cooler than Church)
    • Other


    • Tuition
    • School
    • Tutoring


    • Coffee
    • Groceries
    • Restaurants
    • Diet
    • Supplements
    • Gum (throwback from nicotine-gum days, now keep for Orbit :))


    • Rent/Mortgage (never paid rent while using YNAB, but it's an old YNAB category I keep)
    • Property Taxes (self-escrow, always!)
    • Services (house cleaners, lawn guy, snow removal, etc.)
    • Household Needs (mostly consumables, and small items)
    • Association Dues
    • Furniture & Appliances (big stuff)
    • Improvements & Repairs
    • Pest Control (used to have a subscription, now just keep an amount for emergencies)

    Kids  (Allowances)

    • Kid 1
    • Kid 2
    • Kid 3


    • Doctor
    • Prescriptions
    • Dental
    • Vision
    • Other
    • HSA Funds (ONLY category that matches to an account. I budget for upcoming medical expenses normally, then cover with this category when I make a charge or withdrawal. Auto deposits with each paycheck), and I reconcile monthly, interest goes straight to category.) 


    • Personal Care (toiletries, beauty, haircuts, etc.)
    • Gifts
    • Holidays & Celebrations
    • Subscriptions & Dues (YNAB, Prime, Costco, newspaper, magazines, etc. All scheduled in future on a card)
    • Mom Stuff (she just passed away so this will be retired soon, after I finish closing out her trust)
    • Legal (thanks, mom :))
    • Loans (I use to track money I am owed by others, rare occurrence)
    • Child Care (babysitting, seldom now, yay!)

    Pet Care

    • Food
    • Supplies (treats, other items, grooming)
    • Vet

    Recreation (These are the ones that get raided constantly)

    • Computer & Technology
    • Entertainment (family fun stuff, movies, etc.)
    • Hers
    • His
    • Kids
    • Vacation

    Savings (general financial categories, not always in service)

    • RSU (release fixed amount monthly for income smoothing)
    • ESPP (same as above)
    • Future Income (currently used for next month buffer, even though oddly named :))
    • Taxes & Fees
    • Retirement (was for Roth transfers, but not used right now, maybe in future)
    • Investments (used once to exercise stock options, maybe in future when I get there)
    • Buffer (catch-all for money I haven't quite figured out yet but will soon)
    • Emergency Fund (truly Income Replacement, but not renaming yet)

    Spending Money (any small ATM withdrawal that probably won't be tracked)

    • Annie
    • [Husband]


    • Gas & Oil
    • Insurance
    • Repairs & Tires (really a catch-all for most car expenses, including licenses & registration)
    • Parking & Rides


    • Cable TV (monthly bundled Comcast bill, separate pay tv subscriptions, tivo charges - these are all scheduled on a single credit card. Much easier when a CC inevitably gets compromised and closed)
    • Cellular Phone
    • Life Insurance
    • Gas & Electricity
    • Water
    • Trash Collection

    Rental Property (this is new)

    • Property Tax
    • Water
    • Landlord Insurance
    Reply Like 2
    • eloquentz
    • Numbers Wizard (Accountant), Acoustic Artist (Musician) and Jill of all Trades (Wife & Mother)
    • eloquentz
    • 4 mths ago
    • Reported - view

    Monthly Expenses: Mortgage, Home/car insurance, Charitable donations, YMCA, Life insurance, Cell phones, Hydro (electric for other people), Groceries, Gas, Interest/Fees, Internet & Phone, Melaleuca Order.


    Debt Payments: Details not relevant to anyone but me


    Less Frequent expenses: Personal care, Car maintenance, Home maintenance, CPA Membership, website registration, YNAB subscription, Clothing & School Supplies, Gifts, Christmas Gifts, Birthday Gifts, Vacation


    Fun Stuff: Netflix, Family fun & dining out, Rebecca misc money, André misc money


    Wish list: Currently only active thing is remote starters for our vehicles, but it won't be funded for ages I don't think.

    Reply Like
  • Always interesting to see these. Mine have changed over time, from dealing-with-debt to stop living paycheck-to-paycheck, to FIRE (although i'm more FI than RE), so I'd really agree with the comment about what you want your budget to tell you. That changes, and so do the categories.

    For me, i'm looking at the FI part of FIRE at the moment, so want to know how much I need to have coming in to meet the essentials. So my categories are setup from must do and should do through to can live without or nice to have. Strictly i've hit FI if I can fill the essentials, but in reality I need to hit most of the nice to have's as well for it to be sustainable long-term. So master categories are

    • MUST - Bills (Monthly). Mortgage, utility bills, council tax ... any bill I must pay each month
    • MUST - Bills (Annual). Similar, but budgeting for bills that are annual (car insurance, road tax, etc.)
    • MUST - Food and Supplies. We need to eat, and fill up various things round the house :)
    • SHOULD - Credit Card Payments. Obviously cards are best paid in full each month, but could slip to next month in an emergency so not quite a MUST
    • SHOULD - Savings (Emergency Funds). These should always be topped up in full, whenever possible.
    • SHOULD - Healthcare. Again, a little flex here if I have to, e.g. postpone a routine dentist check-up a month or two. But should be fully budgeted whenever possible.
    • MEDIUM - Savings (Monthly). Long term savings, which are important for FI(RE) but could be reduced or paused if needed
    • MEDIUM - Transportation. Includes petrol and maintenance, but could cycle to work if I had to!
    • LOW - Birthdays and Christmas. Nice to do, but can always write a card if I was broke.
    • LOW - Clothing. Have enough in the wardrobe to get me by for a long while
    • LOW - Giving. Always want to each month. Don't have to.
    • LOW - Household. Maintenance work, gardening, furnishing. Nothing major needs doing at the moment, so could be deferred if needed. Emergency fund will cover emergencies.
    • LOW - Miscellaneous. The bucket'o'stuff that doesn't fit elsewhere.
    • NICE TO HAVE - Recreation and Holidays. Again, would like to, don't need to. A 'staycation' isn't terrible where I live

    So I budget from top to bottom, based on what's available. My salary is predictable, so everything is usually covered in full each month, but any major outlay (e.g. household repairs) means the LOW categories may be paused for a bit.

    Reply Like 1
  • Mine is pretty simple and each item under the category heading is arranged by it's due date with the fixed amount that's due. Makes it easy to know exactly when each is due and for how much. I do have a bunch of hidden categories that I've either combined or eliminated as I tweak the budget.


    • Rent
    • T Mobile
    • USAA Insurance
    • iTunes
    • Direct TV Now
    • HP Instant Ink
    • NY Times
    • Hulu
    • Fax.com
    • iTunes-Robo Killer


    • Electricity
    • Cleaning Service
    • Cash/Spending Money
    • Uber/Lyft
    • Household Misc Items
    • Ventra Card Reload
    • Gifts
    • Giving
    • Stuff I Forgot to Budget For
    • Extra Money for Hannah


    • Week 1-7
    • Week 8-15
    • Week 16-23
    • Week 24-31
    • Groceries When Having Guests


    • Express Scripts
    • Medicare Plan G
    • Prescription Drugs
    • Unanticipated Health Expenses
    • Doctor/Dentist Visits


    • Gas
    • Lease Payment
    • Illinois Tollway
    • Chicago Parking App
    • Auto Maintenance & Repairs


    • Food
    • Vet
    • Equipment/Supplies
    • Cat Sitter


    • Toiletries
    • Contact Lens Supplies
    • Clothing
    • Manicures/Pedicures
    • Cosmetics
    • Dry Cleaning
    • Hair
    • Splurging


    • Books
    • Movies
    • Knitting
    • Restaurants


    • Michelle's Wedding
    • Attorney Fee for Divorce


    • Life Happens
    • Retirement/General Savings


    • Jack's Birthday
    • Hannah's Birthday
    • Danny's Birthday
    • VPN
    • Costco
    • YNAB
    • Skidmore Donation
    • Amex Yearly Membership
    • 1Password
    • Amazon Prime
    • Dropbox
    • Lyrics
    • City of Chicago Auto Sticker
    • Car Registration Renewal
    • Magazine Subscriptions
    • Christmas
    • Professional Fees
    • Taxes
    • New Scleral Lenses


    • Thanksgiving
    • Christmas
    • Plucky Pop Up
    • Montreal
    • Iceland


    • Desk & Chair
    • Living Room Shelf
    • New LR Sectional
    • Entry Hallway Mirror
    • Outdoor Furniture for Balcony
    • Car Lease Buyout
    • New Cell Phone
    • New Laptop
    • New Eyeglasses
    Reply Like
  • This is mine! Really new to YNAB so any feedback appreciated... context: single, no kids, one dog, in a room in a shared so all Bill's included in rent. Three credit cards, but 2 will be gone by New Year. I do "weekly spends" instead of "groceries, clothes, take out, coffee" but I am thinking of mixing that up once I've adjusted to YNAB. Weekly Spends was my beginner budget when I was first trying to teach myself to ration money.

    Reply Like 1
      • Mx Emmin
      • Orchid_Banjo.5
      • 2 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Mx Emmin  I've since added red, orange, yellow and green emojis to the categories to see if I can pilfer from then if I overspend...

      Reply Like 1
  • Immediate Obligations:
    HOA dues 01
    Recurring Child Care 01
    Electric 14
    Storage Unit 18
    this continues, listing recurring bills by due date, and at the bottom is:
    Stuff I Forgot To Budget For

    Credit Card Payments:
    Old Medical Bill Payment Plan 25
    Credit Card #1 26
    CREDIT CARD #2 26
    other debts listed by due date. the one in all caps is the target card to pay off first.

    Future Obligations:
    Diwali October
    Dashlane January
    Car Insurance January
    Property Taxes March
    YNAB September
    and so on, again in order of when they are going to be due.

    Quality of Life:
    General Fund
    Wish List

    Fun Stuff:
    Eating Out
    Going Out
    Buying Stuff

    Wish List:
    Back Patio
    Window Treatments
    Couches (living room)
    Skylight repair
    New Bike for the Child
    various other things...you get the picture.

    General Fund Items:
    Home Maintenance and Furnishings
    Interest and Fees
    Auto Maintenance
    Occasional Child Care


    When I'm going to spend on something on the Wish List or in the General Fund, I fund it by deducting from the Wish List or General Fund category.

    Within each category, subcategories are in order either by date or by priority.

    When I have money in TBB, I assign in it from the top down.

    When I need to WAM, I divert funds from the bottom up.

    I'm new-ish (less than 3 months) but this is working really, really well for me.

    Reply Like 1
    •  Should add - the first 3 items on the Wish List are numbered 1-3, in order of priority, and that is my Wish Farm.

      Reply Like
  • Mine are split into Monthly fixed and variable which I fund with my checking account (I buy everything on my rewards card and pay it off each month) and Sinking fixed and variable that I fund with my savings account.

    Reply Like 1
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