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?
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
- Shoes & Accessories
- Tithing (I'm not Mormon, but it sounds cooler than Church)
- 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)
- Kid 1
- Kid 2
- Kid 3
- 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.)
- 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!)
- Supplies (treats, other items, grooming)
Recreation (These are the ones that get raided constantly)
- Computer & Technology
- Entertainment (family fun stuff, movies, etc.)
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)
- Gas & Oil
- 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
- Trash Collection
Rental Property (this is new)
- Property Tax
- Landlord Insurance
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.
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.
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.
FIXED MONTHLY EXPENSES
- T Mobile
- USAA Insurance
- Direct TV Now
- HP Instant Ink
- NY Times
- iTunes-Robo Killer
VARIABLE MONTHLY EXPENSES
- Cleaning Service
- Cash/Spending Money
- Household Misc Items
- Ventra Card Reload
- 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
- Lease Payment
- Illinois Tollway
- Chicago Parking App
- Auto Maintenance & Repairs
- Cat Sitter
- Contact Lens Supplies
- Dry Cleaning
ONE TIME EVENTS
- Michelle's Wedding
- Attorney Fee for Divorce
- Life Happens
- Retirement/General Savings
- Jack's Birthday
- Hannah's Birthday
- Danny's Birthday
- Skidmore Donation
- Amex Yearly Membership
- Amazon Prime
- City of Chicago Auto Sticker
- Car Registration Renewal
- Magazine Subscriptions
- Professional Fees
- New Scleral Lenses
- Plucky Pop Up
- 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
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.
HOA dues 01
Recurring Child Care 01
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.
Car Insurance January
Property Taxes March
and so on, again in order of when they are going to be due.
Quality of Life:
Couches (living room)
New Bike for the Child
various other things...you get the picture.
General Fund Items:
Home Maintenance and Furnishings
Interest and Fees
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.
Hi! Here are mine:
- Rent 1st
- Phone 10th
- Gas/Electric 13th
- Internet 21st
- Renters' Insurance
- Emergency Fund
Flex - Me 🧘♀️
- Fitness 6th
Flex - Others 💫
- Visiting Family
- Family Birthdays
- Hosting Visitors
- Other Gifts
Flex - Non-Monthly 🗓️
- Annual subscription categories
- Travel, food and gift categories
- Their share of the Basics, News and Entertainment categories, which they transfer to me monthly for me to pay
Extra Income (e.g., bonus, tax refund) 🌵
- 10% Charity
- 10% Fun
I try to roughly follow the 50% basics, 20% savings, 30% flex breakdown from Elizabeth Warren's "All Your Worth." I count my retirement savings toward the 20% (including my employer match, in both my income and savings, per AYW), but don't have my retirement account in YNAB, so calculating the breakdown requires doing a little bit of math in a spreadsheet outside of YNAB.
I'm able to be a month ahead now, so one month's "total inflows" should equal the following month's budgeted amount.
I keep my emergency fund in a high-yield savings account, and everything else in checking. I'm shooting for 6 months of after-tax pay—eek—have been working on it for a long time, and am on track to be done in 2020. 🎉
I set up goals and/or scheduled transactions for as many categories as possible (including scheduling estimated transactions, with an "estimate" note in the memo line, when that's the best I can do), so that the "underfunded" amount (under Quick Budget) gives me a good sense at a glance of how realistic my budget is.
I started using YNAB around June 2018 and it took me a long time to get the hang of it, and longer still to find a setup that I'm pretty happy with. Happy to try to answer questions!
Couple days ago, I went and redid my entire budget. Quite happy with how I have it now. Currently living with my parents for another year so don't have many expenses but I do pay rent to help them out.
- Transit Passes 1st
- Bank 9th
- Rent 25th
- Phone 26th
- Patreon 1st
- Spotify 15th
- Backblaze 19th
- Adobe 28th
- Netflix 30th
- Flickr 1st (January)
- Amazon 1st (January)
- YNAB 15th (January)
- Personal Spendings
- Transit & Rideshare
- TFSA / Emergency Funds
Overall I feel it to be quite simple and organized. Originally I grouped both bills and subscriptions under the same category group but decided to separate them to get a better look at how much I'm actually spending on just the subscriptions that are less important.
My variable expenses are expenses that will be different every month. I start each month with a starting amount in each category that I plan to aim for but will end up moving money around to cover overspending when it occurs.
My periodic expenses are the same as YNAB's "True Expenses". I put a bit of money each month into these categories so I'll be prepared when the time comes.
Saving Goals are where I keep my TFSA and RRSP contributions and any large purchase or vacation I plan to save up for.
When I started out, I used the suggested categories to keep track of when things were due, so I didn't miss any bills. I've done major category Group reorganizations since then about once per year, but I've settled out pretty much with Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs as my Group organization. Your mileage may vary.
Here are ours. We have 134 categories, varying depending on time of year.
Restaurant 2nd half (we split the month in half with the Restaurant category)
Arts & Crafts
Supp’tl Books & Materials
Health & Beauty
Tickets & Fines
CLOTHING & ACCESSORIES
Movies & Shows
Games, Media, & Apps
Arts & Crafts
Mrs. Fun Money
Mr. Fun Money
ENTERTAINMENT SUB’S & PASSES
HOME & PROPERTY
Law & Garden
Tools & Fixit Supplies
Tolls & Parking
HEALTH & MEDICAL
UTILITIES & BILLS
CELEBRATION & GIVING
Child Friends’ Birthday
VACATION & TRAVEL
EDUCATION & STUDENT LOAN
Student Loan Interest
Student Loan Snowball
[Misc. Investment Accounts]
Qtr 1 Taxes
Qtr 2 Taxes
Qtr 3 Taxes
Qtr 4 Taxes
Child Education Savings
Fun Money Savings
Other Emergency Fund
Here's my current setup.
- Auto Loan - 2018 Crosstrek Anniversary Edition
- Income for Next Month
- The Buffer
- Covered Medical
- Uncovered Medical
- Covered Medical Next Year
- Cell Phone
- Funding Subscriptions
- Giving - Monthly
- Streaming/Entertainment - Monthly
- Subscription Boxes
- Voip Services - Monthly
- VPS Hosting
- January - Auto Registration
- January - Mail Services
- January, August, October, November, December - Streaming Services
- January - Vestalink (2 Yr)
- April - Taxes
- July - Auto Insurance
- June, September, November - Software Subscriptions
- Backup Services
- VOIP Services
- Auto Maintenance - March, September
- Auto Insurance Deductible
- Personal Care
- Car Replacement Fund
- Purchases for Others
- Purchases for Clients
- Automated Investing/Retirement Funding
- Manual Investing/Retirement Funding
- Investing for Interest/Dividends
Quality of Life Goals
- Armory Supplies and Upgrades
- Family Trips
- Home Improvement
Just for Fun
Wish Farm: S(<$101), M(<$501), L(>$500)
- 0-Wish Buffer
- <a few S/M/L goals>
Wish List: S(<$101), M(<$501), L(>$500)
- <Bunch of goals>
Account Minimums to Keep
- CapOne Savings
- TFCU Checking
- TFCU Savings
- ST Checking
Completed/No Longer Used
- <Bunch of categories like the completed student loan and completed wish farm items>
Been using YNAB for on emonth now and probably futzed around with my categories every other day for the first two weeks. This has been stable for me since...
Fixed Monthly Bills (I enter the bills as recurring transactions so when I budget YNAB tells me what the upcoming transaction total is for each category)
Parking at work (1st)
Auto Insurance (3rd)
Auto Loans (4th, 24th)
Internet / Cable / Telephone (9th, 22nd)
Gym Membership (15th)
Monthly Expenses (Required expenses. Many small transactions. Each of these has monthly spending goals)
Fuel / Parking / Tolls
Uber / Lyft / Bus
Interest & Fees
Saved up Expenses (Required expenses but not monthly. Each of these has monthly contribution goals or target balance by date goals.)
Property Tax (Apr, Oct)
Home Insurance (Aug 2020)
Auto Maint. / Licensing
Emergency Fund / Loan Payoff
Discretionary (Optional spending. Many small transactions. Each of these has monthly spending goals)
Alcohol (this used to be part of groceries, we recently decided to break this out separately)
Person X (i.e. someone for whom we general pay for when we go out that I wish to track)
Saved up Purchases (Optional spending but not necessarily monthly. Each of these has monthly contribution goals)
Clothing / Shoes
Furniture / Appliances
Subscriptions / Memberships (things that are billed annually – YNAB, Amazon Prime, Time Magazine
Gifts (Monthly contribution goals)
Friends / Family
Temporary Loaned Out (this is when I loan money or buy something and person says they will pay me back. I consider it a gift until they actually pay me back.)
Category Group Category Income for Next Month Income for January Income for Next Month Income for February Income for Next Month Income for March Income for Next Month Income for April Giving Giving Giving Giving (tax deductible) Savings Cash 12% Savings Vacation Money 8% Savings Car Replacement Home Mortgage Home Excess Home Moving Costs Home Insurance Home Maintenance Home Yard Home Tools Home Deck Home Appliances Home Pool Utilities Rates Utilities Septic Utilities Gas Utilities Internet Utilities Phone Utilities Electric Utilities Water Household Tolls (deductible) Household YNAB Household Haircut Household Groceries Household School Fees Household Health Household Clothes - Kids Household Animals Household Bank Fees Household Postage Household Stamp Annual Household Kids dollar a day Household Youtube Household Microsoft Account Household Apple Account Household Google Account Household Budget Feeder Household Newspaper Household Netflix Household Stan Household Spotify Household Movies Household Gifts Household Christmas Household Birthdays Household Restaurant Toyota1 Purchasing Costs Toyota1 Insurance Toyota1 Services Toyota1 Tyres Toyota1 Rego Toyota1 Battery Toyota1 Fuel Toyota1 Excess Toyota2 Excess Toyota2 Fuel Toyota2 Battery Toyota2 Rego Toyota2 Tyres Toyota2 Services Toyota2 Insurance Work University Work Expenses Reimburseable Work Expenses (Deductible)
After many reorganizations, I think I'm happy with what I have - it's worked for about 3 months without a hiccup.
This Month's Obligations: Everything due this month, sorted by due date. Includes monthly as well as occasional items which are due this month; as well as a note about how they payment is made. Bills that are paid by mail are listed by the date they need to be mailed, not the date they are due. I end up with long category names, but all the information I need is right there. Examples: 10 HOA dues (mail for 15); 18 Storage unit (automatic); 26 Property taxes (mail for 1).
Credit cards and debt: Also arranged by due date. Includes 2 credit cards, 2 old debts which have target debts to pay them off; and 2 old medical bills which I'm on a payment plan for. Examples: 6 Old Hospital Bill (Mail for 11); 26 Credit Card #1 (Mail for 1); Old Vet Bill.
Future Obligations: Anything due in future months, with next month at the top and then continuing in chronological order. Each of these have goals attached, so that I am saving for each of them as I go. Every month, I move things to "This Month's Obligations" as needed, and change the category name to fit that format. So 04-12 Mobile will move to "This Month's Obligations" in April, and be renamed 12 Mobile (Automatic). Other examples in this group: 05 Summer Camp; 09 YNAB; 01 Dashlane.
Quality of Life: The stuff we need. Some have goals, especially the ones we're trying to reduce spending on. Gifts are here, and as I become aware of gifts that are going to be needed, I add a note and a goal, like Jimmy 04-10 $40, with a goal to save $40 by April. Other examples: Groceries, Clothing, Medical.
Eating Out: Gets its own section because it has historically been out of control in my family. This lets me track our total eating out spending, as well as track our family dinners out, my husband's breakfasts that he buys on the way to work, and the lunches I buy at work.
Fun Stuff: Some of these have goals, mainly the ones we're trying to reduce. Examples: Alcohol, Going Out, Buying Stuff.
Kid's Money: To track the child's money; she gets an allowance, but has to set some of it aside for savings and donations. What's left is hers to spend, but she usually wants us to hold it for her until she wants to use it. So: Donation fund; Savings; Spending.
General Fund: This includes a category just called General Fund, which has an undated target goal of $5,000. Then it has other categories, which get paid from the General Fund. Examples: Car repairs and maintenance; Child Care; Home repairs.
Wish List: Basically a wish farm, except none of the items are getting any funding yet because we don't have that money :( But we'll get there.
I feel like my categories may be a bit too specific. I made categories and then made "sub categories" that I fund for individually but will put the charge to the main category name. I think someone else mentioned that it is easier to budget for and spend for something specific than just the general category. Some sub categories are there so I can save for them specifically.
This thread is super interesting and has made me reflect a bit on my categories. I feel I organize them quite differently to most other people, but at least for now it's the way that makes most sense to me in this moment. There are some drawbacks in my system but it also helps me feel clear about my priorities.
Here are my category groups and categories (names translated from my own language):
🌖 Mandatory fixed expenses
- Building company fees 🏠
- Internet 💻
- Phone 📞
- Mortgage 🏠
- Electricity 🔌 (every 3 months)
- Insurance 👷♀️ (twice a year)
- Public transport season ticket 🚌 (every 2-3 months)
🌖 Mandatory flexible expenses
- Groceries 🍌
- Healthcare 🤕
- Medications 💊
- Public transport extra zone money 🚌
- Stuff I forgot to budget for 💸
🌗 Important fixed expenses
- Monthly charity donations 😇
- Monthly house cleaning 🧹
- Hair dresser 💇♀️ (every 3 months)
- Online services
- Association membership fees (once a year)
🌗 Important flexible expenses
- Hygiene & cosmetics 🧼
- Clothing 👕
- Exercise 🏃♀️
- Funds for a specific hobby
- Gifts 🎁
- Postage ✉️
- Home repairs 🛠️
🌘 Nice to have fixed expenses
- Streaming services
- Audible 🎧
- Newspaper 📰 (every 3 months)
- Magazines 📓 (1-2 times a year)
🌘 Nice to have flexible expenses
- Dining out / take away 🍴
- Treats (candy etc.) 🍫
- Cultural events 🎭
- Patreon 🎨
- Books, magazines (single issue), games 📚
- Other entertainment 📺
- Charity funds 😇
- Household goods 🧷
- Balcony garden 🌻
- Home decor 🛋️
- Travel 🚆
💬 Wish farm
💭 Wish list
- Appliance/tech replacement fund 💻
- Funds for upcoming renovations 🛠️
- Vacation fund 🌴
- Emergency fund 💣
- General savings 💰
📅 Next month
So my system is a hybrid of the fixed-flexi structure and needs-wants structure. I wanted it to clarify for myself the priority of different expenses so if I need to cut spending somewhere it's very clear for me. So I built this three tier system:
- Mandatory expenses - all the things I absolutely need to budget some money towards every months.
- Important expenses - things that are not absolutely mandatory but I personally would prioritize if I have to tighten by budget some but not to the minimum.
- Nice to have expenses - the first things to go if something has to go.
As you can see I have divided each of these three into two:
- Fixed expenses - regular (monthly/every couple of months/once a year) expenses that are usually the same amount of money every time. The things in the fixed groups are organized in due date order so first are the monthly expenses and under them the less frequent expenses.
- Flexible expenses - well, basically everything else.
This also clarifies to me what I need to keep more an eye on (the flexible expenses) to not break mu budget.
And after these three groups I have some of the more regular stuff:
Wish farm and Wish list are modeled after what Hannah explained on a Youtube video.
Savings I have tried to mostly earmark to different uses but I also find it useful to have a general savings category where I've set a smaller sum for some future bigger expense.
I use very little cash so I find it easier to use it as a category than as an account. My budget won't get wonky if I use 5€ cash to flowers without recording it in YNAB. (For some reason my preferred florist seems to be the last person in my world to only accept cash payments.)
Next month is income made this month I'm going to use to fund next month. I'm quite lucky as I'm quite safely a month ahead.