Category Names

I find myself wishing I had better names for my categories. Right now I have Bills (things due on a certain date with a set amount), Necessary Expenses (things I need every month but doesn't have a set amount. like groceries and gas), Planned Expenses (things happening in the future that should be budgeted for like a new car and christmas gifts), and Self Care (anything that I don't NEED to live, but gives me piece of mind or makes me happy) are my biggest ones. 

What category names do you have? Did you keep the "True Expenses" group? I found that I didn't really understand what that meant, so I broke it up into groups that made sense to me. 

I want to hear why you've organized yours the way you have!

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  • Master categories are:

    Flexi(ble) includes groceries, personal care, pet care, takeout, sales tax., etc. Things that occur regularly but that can vary. I don't own a car, so car-related categories don't exist, but would be in here if I did.

    Fixed are those regular bills that occur monthly and are mostly the same every month.

    Future are what YNAB calls "True Expenses," a term that doesn't make sense to me, either.  These are things I'm "saving up for," or better put, planning for. Annual fees, various savings targets, holiday and gift expenses, subscriptions and renewal fees. Fun money is in here, as are my Emergency Funds.

    I also have Income for Next Month (INM) which is where I park this month's income, until it will be applied to future months.

    Like 1
      • Emma Catherine
      • Civil engineer getting back on track
      • emmacatherine
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      JoeDid Why do you park your income for next month in a category instead of budgeting it in the next month? I have never had enought to budget for the next month (yet), but I have seen others do this and was wondering why that way instead of budgeting into next month?

      • JoeDid
      • Remember: It is To Laugh
      • Purple_rain
      • 4 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Emma Catherine I'm leery of the Stealing From the Future problem, which has been discussed at length here. It's a situation where, if you're not careful and very mindful, a change in the current month can result in a shortage in the future, something that can catch you off-guard and short funded.

      I'm now six weeks ahead, but I'd rather see what I've got for future months in a safe envelope.

      Like 1
  • My Category Groupings are:

    • Monthly Bills (Checking): Bills we have every month
    • Irregular Bills (Checking): These are like Amz Prime, Pool Pass. Aka things that are sinking funds to save for but bills overall are on the smaller size
    • Life (Checking): Things like haircut, fun money, splurge, Income For Next Month, etc
    • Insurance Bills (Savings): Prop Tax, Car Ins, Identity Theft Ins, Life Ins, etc. These are larger bills and irregular so they remain in savings to accrue more interest. Move the funds sometime before the bill is paid.
    • Sinking Funds (Savings): Scoped Sinking Funds. Eg Birthdays, Summer Vacation, Winter Vacation, XMas Vacation, XMas Presents, Extra Curricular Activities, etc. These are funds where the month is basically known where the funds will be used.
    • Bucket Savings (Savings): These are open ended Sinking Funds where the month of usage is not really known. EG: Clothing category for each fam member, Emergency Savings, Kids School Activities, Medical, Maintenance, Benevolence, Wish Farm categories, etc.

    Total categories is around 115.

    Like 2
  • I'm only on month 3 but I think I like where we've landed with our groupings and categories.  

    • Giving:  To our church and then other charities
    • Everyday Expenses:  Dining out, groceries, gas, etc.
    • Bills - Monthly:  These are sorted by the date they are due.  I originally had debt (student and car loans) in a separate category but because it is a monthly bill, we treat it as such.  When paying those off more aggressively becomes a priority, I'll move them out. 
    • True Expenses: Hair cuts, auto maintenance, household necessities, gifts, etc.  These are categories that we are building up regularly so that when the random expenses come up, we already have money there. 
    • Just for Fun: My husband and my fun money!  We also have "cash" we got from our wedding that we want to be intentional with.  We have that accounted for here. 
    • Bills - Annual: Amazon, YNAB, car registrations, insurance, etc.  These are sorted by date and I move them to the bottom of the list once they past, reset the goal, and start saving again. 
    • Savings: Down payment on our first house, the millions of weddings we have this year, trips, Christmas, and job loss
    • Hidden Categories: This is where I hide not only irrelevant categories but also ideas I have for future categories, like a wish farm!  I want to try that but it won't happen till we finish saving for the house.  

    53 not including hidden categories. 

    Like 1
    • Vibrant
    • No more counting dollars, we'll be counting stars
    • vibrant
    • 4 mths ago
    • 1
    • Reported - view

    My category groups are Monthly Obligations, Kids, True Expenses, Personal.

    As my budget has evolved, I ended up I grouping less-than-monthly bills (quarterly trash bill, Amazon Prime, etc. - technically "True Expenses") under Monthly Obligations because they HAVE to get funded a certain amount each month in order to make sure there are funds available when the bill comes due. My "True Expenses" is really more like lumpy expenses/sinking funds - for those "I know I'm going to need this category eventually but I don't know when or how much" events. I just haven't bothered to update the category group name. "Kids" and "Personal" are self explanatory, I think?

    Like 1
  • Here are mine:

    Income for Next Month

    Dream Farm: aka wish farm 

    Housing: bills like rent, renters insurance, utilities, household supplies (eg toilet paper, cleaning supplies)

    Transportation: gas, car insurance, maintenance, car registration, and future car (was auto loan but paid that off in December)

    Food: groceries, convenience dining (used mainly for when I get take out instead of cooking for me and the kids), dining out

    Subscriptions: life insurance, YNAB, Amazon Prime, etc.

    Kids: Allowance, grade money, clothing, school lunches, school expenses, music instrument, haircuts, savings account. I will be adding a category for expenses I am anticipating for my son’s Senior year of high school and to start saving for car insurance/gas for my daughter when she starts driving in November.

    Self Care/Personal Development: massage, health and beauty supplies, clothing for me, hair (cuts, coloring and salon products), craft retreats (2x per year), books, hobbies, classes/workshops/seminars

    Other Discretionary: household upgrades and maintenance; technology upgrades and maintenance; giving; theater; concerts; random fun, spending money

    One-Time Expenses: kids first car, 401k loan payoff, divorce (my divorce was final at end of 2019 but there are some residual expenses)

    I also have a separate category for Vacation. I use a separate budget while we are on vacation to manage our spending but categorize the actual transactions after the vacation is over here. I put a #vacation description in the memo if I ever want to see what we spent on a specific vacation.

    i also have a category for moving but nothing is in this one right now as I just moved in this place and plan on being here til my daughter graduates from high school.

    Like 1
  • I just started within the last month so still tuning what works for me (and still learning how it all works). A main consideration is that I have multiple savings accounts for different purposes (high interest ones, etc) at different banks in addition to the one i use for bills. I don't want to "mix" the pots of money where I don't understand how much i should have in each account.

    So I have:

    Monthly Fixed Expenses: Anything and everything where the cost is fixed and will be spent monthly regardless of the "kind" of expense (e.g. my mortgage, netflix, and even 529 savings for kids are under here). These are one and done expenses for which I've created monthly goals and scheduled transactions. I've also suffixed each subcategory with the day of the month that the bill generally gets paid, and ordered within the main group based on this).

    Monthly Flexible Expenses: Anything where I spend in that category monthly where there is some discretion in how much i actually spend (gas, groceries, entertainment, etc). I've created monthly budgeting goals for these.

    Build Up Intermittent: Anything where I don't pay monthly, but  small enough total amount that don't want to bother storing in one of my high interest savings accounts or may need access to money sooner than an ACH transfer might take. This includes amazon prime membership,  medical, etc. I've set up various types of goals for these (target balance,  by date, etc) based on whether I pay them yearly or more frequently.

    * Savings Group: I have multiple of these - one for each saving account and named based on the bank in which the funds are held. Each has the associated subcategories for which the money for them are held in that savings account. This includes emergency fund, house insurance, property taxes, etc (stuff where i want the higher interest and i won't need to move money out often).  The advantage of this for me is that the Savings Group totals should reflect the  balance of the accounts at the bank. When they don't, it indicates I need to move money (e.g. end of the month i'll "sweep" the funds I set aside for the categories up to the appropriate account).

    I started out with more main categories to try and classify the "purpose" of the expense (fun, keep the lights on, etc) but ultimately decided the top level goal for me was to track the "flexibility" of the expense (e.g. - i have wiggle room on all the flexible, but i sure as heck better have the fixed funded by the date).  I wish YNAB allowed me to add keywords  or something to each sub category to have more flexible reporting (e.g. so I could mark netflix as a fixed entertainment expense, while my mortgage is a fixed keep the lights on expense).

    Like 1
      • Emma Catherine
      • Civil engineer getting back on track
      • emmacatherine
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Gold Robot I love the idea of having different categories for each savings account! I’m in the process of moving my emergency fund from my savings account to my checking account (because it’s not really an EF if I don’t have quick access to it 🙄) and that would help me keep everything in order, so thank you for sharing!

      • RIP_MSMoney
      • FinTech Programmer
      • rip_ms_money
      • 4 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Emma Catherine depending on the amount of that category, can could result in a big loss of interest earned.

      Like 1
  • I don't like the default YNAB categories, and prefer to group mine by function for the head categories/groups:


    Home - mortgage maintenance etc.

    Household - groceries, school. etc.

    Utilities - electricty etc.

    Technology - computers, subscriptions etc

    Car - fuel, maintenance, etc.

    Work - expenses, university, etc.

    Like 1
  • Mango Box said:
    A little money is better than no money, but you can have too much in savings; a large chunk would be better served in longer-term investments.

     Then that would be bad for an Emergency Fund. My point is that an Emergency Fund should be accessible. So investing is not a good idea. Next best is savings. Better to get something over nothing. I mean if your Emergency Fund is massive than you could argue half investment and save liquid but this conv was keeping the Emergency fund in savings vs checking. For us that is 100 a month of interest...

      • Emma Catherine
      • Civil engineer getting back on track
      • emmacatherine
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      RIP_MSMoney this has gotten a little off topic, as I was only asking for how people categorize their groups lol. My EF currently is $1000 as I am working on paying off debts. And I feel most comfortable keeping that in my checking account. You may feel more comfortable keeping it elsewhere and that’s perfectly fine! I was only asking for categories ❤️

  • I have a bills category which is the monthly bills (Hulu, cell phone, mortgage, etc). I have another group called Freedom Accounts based on a book I read 10-15 years ago called Debt Proof Living by Mary Hunt.  Its called a Freedom Account because it gives you freedom from debt, because you plan ahead for larger expenses such as yearly homeowners insurance, property tax, vacations, Christmas, renovations, etc. 

    If you look at vacation, you see a large balance there.  We cancelled our upcoming cruise since we were still within the full refund phase to allow time to see what happens with this virus. We are both nurses and could not take extra time off if ship is delayed or if we have to quarantine. Maybe things will improve and we can rebook. I will leave the money in this category until I’m ready to use it again for vacation.  I was wondering how bad all of these refunds from several companies would mess up my YNAB, but it was very simple.  

    Like 1
  • I've also just started in YNAB.  Started trial in November and played around then did a Fresh Start recently once I (think) figured out I was doing.  Here are my categories

    Home Bills - are all those mandatory fixed payments every month - mortgage, internet, phones, etc

    Home Expenses - are the other required monthly expenses to live - groceries, gas, pets, health

    Living Life - is the fun - Eating Out, Gifts, Entertainment, Clothing, Christmas

    Periodic Expenses - are the "saving for" or "Sinking funds" - yearly software subscriptions, auto maintenance & licenssing, vet fund, home maintenance

    Wish Farm - what we are specifically saving for right now - New pots & pans, trip to Florida

    Wish List - all those other things we think we might want

    Savings Account - this is a specific category that reflects my bank saving Account - has two sub categories - Emergency Fund ($1000) and Property Taxes - the rest of the balance.  ( I move it over here so I won't "accidently spend it before it's due :) )

    Savings - General - basically it's an extra checking account that we haven't closed and only has a little bit of money.  At one time was considering moving cash monthly over to it and puting all of the Periodic Expenses there - but I think I've decided I'm going to close it.

      • Emma Catherine
      • Civil engineer getting back on track
      • emmacatherine
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Jill McDevitt Love it! Seems like you have a good system and I love the emojis lol

    • Emma Catherine Thanks!  Don't the emojis make it so much more fun?

      Like 1
  • I started with just a few categories but over time have found that having more categories has helped me see more detail in the reports. I have these categories now:



    Investment Properties: prop 1, prop 2

    Credit Card Payments: Credit card, Redraw

    Savings: Emergency Fund, Buffer, Retirement

    Utilities: Electricity, Gas

    Health: Insurance, Medical, Chemist, Optometrist

    House: Rates, Insurance


    Professional: Registration, Insurance, Education, Supervision

    Cars: Registration, Insurance, Green Slip, Repairs, Petrol

    Personal/Fun: Clothing, Holidays, Gifts, Spending, Dining Out

    Entertainment: Netflix, Stan, Austar,Internet

    House/Yard/Repairs: a list of house projects, repairs that need doing

    Like 2
  • I am also a YNAB noob. (That's fun to say out loud, huh? 😉) I have: 

    Monthly Fixed: rent, phone, car payment, Audible, etc.

    Monthly Variable: electric, clothing, groceries, etc. 

    Irregular Repeating: haircuts, yearly subscriptions, etc. 

    Just for Fun: dining out, entertainment, etc.

    Long Term: new computer, travel, etc. 

    After reading this thread, I'm going to re-evaluate! 

    Like 1
  • 1st Pay, 2nd Pay, Day-to-day, Debt Prevention, Savings (for Income Replacement and Emergency fund only), and Credit Card Payments (YNAB generated). I wanted clarity on my cashflow while looking at both the budget and reports and I needed headers that resonated with my goals.

    Per pay groups cover monthly bills like rent, phone, and life insurance. Day-to-day is the umbrella for groceries, transportation, etc. Debt Prevention monitors funding of new mattresses, vacation, and electronics, anything that one would typically incur or risk debt for. 

      • dangerosity
      • Aquamarine_Piranha.9
      • 3 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      After reading through this thread, I was driven to change my categories...again 🤣

  • Not a big fan the default groupings, I divide my into functional areas.

    Like 2
  • My category groups are:

    Food and Gas

    Monthly Bills

    Annual Bills

    and then I have all my discretionary spending/long term savings in categories by topic below that:

    Family + Pets ....... clothes, babysitter, pet food, vet, kid stuff, etc. 

    Fun + Occasions ....... fun money, gifts, Xmas saving, Upcoming (planned) trips/vacations, etc

    Home + Car + Tech ...... household stuff, appliance repairs, car repairs/replacement, tech repair/replacement, tech accessories, etc. 

    Medical ...... copays, pharmacy, dental, saving for braces, etc. 

    Financials ...... E-fund, work reimbursements, charges/fees, and next month rollover


    I used to have those lower groups just broken down as Spending and Saving, but that wasn’t satisfying and I tried some other variations of need vs want but I always ended up frustrated that I couldn’t find a category quickly when I was scrolling looking for it. Having them sorted by topics makes that a breeze now.

    I’ll also note that I broke the paycheck to paycheck cycle finally so I am able to build enough in my “next month” fund so that when the new month rolls over I have enough to fully budget the new month, including all the goals for those discretionary funds.  When I was paycheck to paycheck I preferred sorting those discretionary as highest priority to lowest so I could fund them in order as I received more income, but since I’m not in that position anymore it doesn’t matter if funding my work expense reimbursement category is a priority so it doesn’t need to be higher up and I now have those groups sorted by more commonly used higher up and less often used lower down. 

    Like 1
  • I am working on %-age budgeting to Giving, Debt/Savings, Housing, Transportation, Food, and Fun+Life.  Currently my %ages are 5,35,30,5,10,5%, respectively.  I like seeing it broken down like that for now, but I may change it again at some point.  Right now I'm working on killing my debt and building my Emergency fund, after that I can loosing up on that category and have some more money for fun.

    Like 2
  • I'm fairly new to actively using YNAB (had YNAB4 for years but never could really get into it).  I'm feeling much more confident with it this time! Despite my failings with 4, I had adjusted to the income for next month, so I'm in the process of figuring out which of the myriad methods shared on the forums works for me.

    Anyway, I'm also still feeling out the categories, but I have a long-standing method of bill payment, that is a joint-to-sign bank account, where ALL automatic regular bills (insurance, loans, phone, internet, power, etc.) come out of.  This is from my early days as a reckless youth who would spend everything the day I got it. So, the main customisation to categories i have implemented is that all of these auto-pay bills are in one category. At all times, this category will match the balance of that account and will be the first to be budgeted each pay-cycle.

    I only implemented this change a day or two ago, when I realised I was budgeting money YNAB said I have, but I actually can't (easily) get access to.  I had to adjust everything and reduce a lot of my categories to $0.00, but now I'm confident in being able to manage the money I CAN access to build up that one month buffer!

  • I set mine up in such a way that I can see what I can quickly get rid of in case of a job loss, and I need to slim down quickly. My main category groups  and example categories are: 

    Anything with the word immediate has a set monthly payment: 


    Savings (Income replacement, emergency fund, vacations)

    Immediate Obligations (set monthly bills--or near set--) mortgage, HOA, car payment, utilities)

    Immediate Essentials (I keep these set and carry over if I don't spend it all) groceries, auto fuel, sundries) 

    Immediate Non-Essentials (Netflix, cable, cell phone, gym, Sirius, and what I call crazy cash--cash that I withdrawal to just do whatever I want with. Dining, gambling, going out money etc)

    Sinking Funds: Bills that accumulate for future payment (YNAB, amazon prime, self care -- haircuts, self-help books etc--, clothing, medical, home improvement etc)

    Gifting: This is a sinking fund but I wanted to keep it separate for clarity. I have everyone I buy gifts for with a budged amount. I set aside money monthly according to when their birthday is, and Christmas is always the same) 

    Wish List: just a list of things I think I want with no budget for them

    Wish Farm: I move wish list items to wish farm when I'm ready to save for it. 1 small, 1 medium, and 1 large just like in the blog post. 

    Like 1
  • I'm still new, but the top-level categories I have set up are Autopay, Needs, Wants, and Savings. 


    Usually I only have Needs (Buffer, Car, Gas, Health & Wellness, Princess [my cat, who needs prescription food because she's so special she pees crystals] and Work Food) and Wants (Books, Dining Out & ordering In, Fancy Coffee & Cheap Booze, Giving, Hobbies, and Miscellaneous Entertainments) visible.

  • It’s fun seeing others’ category ideas. Great topic!

    I have 138 categories broken into master categories according to function and reporting. This is a lot compared to some, but it has worked great for us for the 7 years we’ve been YNABbers. Our master categories are:


    Contingencies — Easy access for WAMing


    Household expenses — mostly monthly expense categories like health & beauty, consumables, durables, and the like.

    Clothing and accessories

    Recreation — child’s activities, family outings, movies, etc.

    Fun money — For the wife and I  I used to our this in the Recreation master, but these accumulate over time  in recreation, I like to know at a glance what we can spend for the rest of the month  the fun money categories always made me feel we had more to spend than we did.

    Child allowance

    Entertainment Subs & Passes — annual memberships 


    Home & property — mortgage, insurance, home repair, home improvement, etc.


    Health & medical

    Utilities & bills

    Celebration & giving — Christmas, birthdays, tithing, misc giving, etc.

    Vacation & travel

    Education & Student Loan


    Reserves — our emergency funds.

    Misc Financial — refunds, disputed transactions, etc.


    Deferred Income — we keep next month’s income in a separate category due to the problem with allocating it directly to next month’s budget. 

    I also operate an LLC that has 109 budget categories broken down into tax reporting master categories. 

  • So I have two budgets, the first is the flat account which I share with my partner (we rent at the moment, and we are building a house (I've collapsed that category seeing as its pretty location specific). The second is my personal budget. On both budgets, I tend to list the fixed/obligatory costs first and by date, as we both get paid in the middle of the month, so that if we are running short I can at least fund the first half of the next month. I also tend to list whether the bills will come out automatically or need manual input. Groceries on the flat account are budgeted weekly because over the years I've found that if I set a monthly budget then I tend to overspend the first couple of weeks. While I know I could set goals for some of the capped costs, I simply find it's easier to write the cap in the description. While my personal budget is sort of all-encompassing, the flat account is mostly instrumental, no savings going on there, and any un- or underspent categories are collapsed into the buffer after their due date.  Oh and btw I live in Norway, hence the funny money :D 

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