Personal Budget Categories List:  The Ultimate Guide

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Are you looking for a budget categories list for your household or personal budget?  Look no further because I’ve got you covered.  

A household budget can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. For example, you can put together a simple budget binder or create an elaborate budgeting spreadsheet.

Creating a household budget can be tricky because there is a mind-boggling number of ways to do it.  But making a budget doesn’t have to be head-spinning.  

The key to making a budget that you can stick to is determining a budgeting system that works for you.  

If you are a beginner at budgeting, keeping it simple is best.  Finding a simple budget template is ideal when just starting.  

If you need a simple budgeting system, I have free downloadable printables you can use to create a budget binder.  

Here is a preview:

Free budget binder template with categories

It has everything you need to get started with budgeting.  Here is what it includes:

  • Budget binder cover sheet
  • Financial goals worksheet
  • Worksheet to organize your budget categories and subcategories
  • Monthly budget template
  • List of typical budget categories

 If you would like to download it for free, you can find it here.  

Budget Categories List

Household Budget Categories List

I will give you an extensive list of possible budget categories and subcategories.   There are over 100 budget categories and subcategories listed below.  

Don’t worry. You won’t need to use all of these categories!  My goal with this list is to help you brainstorm your ideal budget categories to help you get organized to make a budget that works for you.  

Keep reading below to find out how you can use these categories and subcategories to create a budgeting system.

Income

When creating your budget, you will want to know exactly how much money you have coming in.  If your paycheck varies from month to month, use the minimum amount, to avoid overestimating your income.  

Also, only include income that you can count on.  Don’t include money you are not guaranteed to make when estimating your income for budgeting. Here are examples of income:

  • Income from salary
  • Bonuses
  • Side hustle income (only guaranteed income)
  • Child Support
  • Alimony
  • Investment income

Housing

Your housing expenses will make up the largest portion of your budget.  Housing expenses are considered essential expenses.  Here are some possible subcategories for the housing category portion of a budget:

  • Mortgage/Rent
  • Homeowners Insurance/Renters Insurance
  • Property taxes
  • School taxes
  • Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC)
  • Homeowner’s Association Fees (HOA)
  • Home repairs/maintenance (use a sinking fund-see below)
  • Pest control
  • Yard services

Utilities

Utilities are also considered an essential expense when budgeting.  Utility expenses can get out of hand if you aren’t careful.  Saving money on utilities and other expenses can take effort, but your efforts will be rewarded with more money in your bank account.  Here are subcategories for utilities:

  • Gas/Oil
  • Electric
  • Water
  • Sewer 
  • Trash/recycling
  • Phone
  • Alarm system
  • Internet
  • TV (cable, satellite, streaming)

Food Budget

The food budget is another expense category that can grow exponentially without realizing it.  If you are trying to find extra cash each month to pay down debt or save for other financial goals, the food budget is a great place to start.    

  • Groceries
  • Restaurants
  • Holiday meals
  • Alcoholic beverages

Debt 

Paying down your debt is one of the best ways to live below your means.  Here are a few subcategories that are considered consumer debt.

  • Student loans
  • Credit card debt
  • Personal loans
  • Medical bills
  • Car loans

Savings

“Pay yourself first” is an important phrase to remember.  You want to save money from your paycheck every month before paying your bills.  This ensures you are setting money aside for your future.  

  • Retirement accounts
  • Emergency funds
  • College savings accounts 
  • Investments
  • Other savings funds (vacation, down payments, etc.)
  • Sinking funds

Insurance

Buying insurance coverage is an essential part of a budget because you want to be prepared if something unthinkable happens.  Here are a few different insurance types you may need to include in your budget:

  • Health insurance 
  • Dental insurance
  • Vision insurance
  • Life insurance
  • Umbrella insurance
  • Disability insurance
  • Liability insurance
  • Long term care insurance
  • Malpractice insurance

Car/Transportation

Transportation costs (besides car payments) are important to consider when creating your budget.  Here are possible transportation expenses you could have:

  • Gas
  • Car maintenance/repairs
  • Tolls
  • Parking fees
  • Public transit costs (train, subway, bus)
  • Car inspections
  • EZ pass

Child-related expenses can add up.  For example, if you have to pay for childcare to work outside of the home, these expenses can be as much as your mortgage depending on where you live.  So don’t forget to take advantage of a Dependent Care FSA to offset childcare costs if your employer offers one.  

  • Daycare/babysitters
  • Preschool
  • Summer Camp
  • Lunch money
  • Sports fees
  • Private lessons/extracurricular activities
  • Orthodontics
  • Glasses
  • Diapers
  • Formula
  • Haircuts
  • Allowances

Pets are like part of the family and will need to be accounted for in your budget.  Vet bills are expensive.  If you know your pet will need to see the vet, try saving money in a sinking fund, so you are prepared to pay the bill when the time comes.  

  • Veterinary bills
  • Medications
  • Grooming
  • Boarding
  • Pet sitter/walker
  • Pet training
  • Food

Education

College and private school tuition are steep.  But those aren’t the only education expenses to think about when budgeting.

  • College tuition
  • Private school tuition
  • Books
  • Room and board
  • School supplies
  • School uniforms

Entertainment and Recreation

The entertainment budget is the first area to look at when you need to cut back on expenses.  Even though it is important to designate some money as “fun money” in your budget, these expenses are considered non-essential.

  • Dining out (could go under food or entertainment)
  • Subscriptions
  • Memberships
  • Concerts
  • Movies
  • Toy purchases
  • Gambling
  • Bars/clubs
  • Hobbies
  • Vacations
  • Spending money

Health and Personal Care

Personal care is one of those categories that could contain both essential and non-essential expenses.  For example, getting your nails done at the nail salon would be considered non-essential, but going for a scheduled therapeutic massage to relieve pain could be an essential expense.

  • Prescriptions
  • Doctor visits
  • Salon visits
  • Spa visits
  • Makeup
  • Haircare
  • Toiletries
  • Clothing and shoes
  • Gym memberships or fitness classes

Giving

Donating to charities or giving to your religious organization are sometimes forgotten when establishing a budget. Be sure to incorporate giving into your budget.

  • Gifts
  • Charitable donations
  • Tithes

Miscellaneous

Use this category as a catch-all for expenses that don’t fit anywhere else or aren’t consistent monthly expenses.  You may want to assign your miscellaneous category to a sinking fund line item in your budget.  

A sinking fund is used to set aside small amounts of money every month to pay for other expenses that aren’t in your monthly budget.  For example, some people use sinking funds to save up for planned upcoming expenses, such as a home repair or a vacation.  

But you could also use sinking fund money for unexpected or forgotten budget items or expenses, like school pictures, parking or speeding tickets, or a new dress to wear to a wedding.  

personal budget categories list: person making spreadsheet on laptop

Forgotten Budget Items

Forgotten budget items happen.  It’s called life.  So there is no way you can budget for every single purchase you will have to make, even if you are the most detail-oriented person.  There will be expenses you forget about.  

Here are some examples of budget items that are frequently forgotten about:

  • Special occasion clothing/shoes/accessories
  • Gifts 
  • Printer ink
  • Doctor co-pays and deductibles
  • HVAC yearly maintenance visits
  • Vitamins/cold medicines
  • Postage
  • Party expenses/decoration/cakes/food

Simple Budget Categories Methods

If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed by all of the personal expense budget categories and subcategories I just gave you, it’s okay.  However, the best thing to do when feeling like that is to keep things simple.  

Use Budgeting Percentages

Don’t worry too much about all the subcategories if your head is spinning.  Keep it simple by organizing your budget by main categories.  So your main categories might be:

  • Housing
  • Transportation
  • Utilities
  • Food
  • Debt
  • Saving
  • Medical/Insurance
  • Entertainment/Leisure
  • Personal spending
  • Miscellaneous

After deciding on your main budget categories, you’ll want to assign each category a percentage of your paycheck.  So here is an example of categories with typical budget percentages:

  • Housing 25-35%
  • Transportation 10-15%
  • Utilities 5-10%
  • Food 10-15%
  • Debt/Saving 10-20%
  • Medical/Insurance 10-20%
  • Entertainment/Leisure 5-10%
  • Personal spending 5-10%
  • Miscellaneous 5-10%

Again this is just an example.  The range is there to give you an idea of a typical percentage to spend on the individual categories.  Go ahead and tweak the numbers to fit your needs.  

For example, if you are in the process of paying down debts, you may want to spend less on your entertainment category to allocate a higher percentage of your pay to your debts/savings category.  

50/30/20 Budgeting Rule

Another option for using simple budget categories is to use the 50/30/20 budgeting rule.  The 50/30/20 rule is a simplified way to assign budget category percentages.  

Using this rule, you would spend no more than 50% of your take-home pay on necessary expenses, 30% of your paycheck would go toward things you want, and you would save 20%. 

Rules are made to be broken, right?  So if you have a debt to pay down, you could decrease the 30% for wants to 20% (or lower) and use the 10% difference to pay down your debt.   

Alternatively, if you don’t have debt, you could increase your savings rate percentage and lower the percentage allocated for wants.  

Budget Categories and Subcategories Methods

When using categories and subcategories for budgeting, creating your budget can get more involved.  However, you may not need to use subcategories for every category in your budget. 

But suppose you are noticing you are spending more in one particular category.  In that case, you may want to break that category down into subcategories to better track where your money is going.  

Zero-Based Budgeting 

If you intend to use categories and subcategories in your budget, you may want to assign every dollar of your income to a category.  This is called zero-based budgeting.  

With zero-based budgeting, every dollar you earn has a distinct purpose.  Therefore, after completing your budget for the month, the amount of money you should have leftover is zero dollars.  

If you subtracted all of your expenses from your income and you have money left over, awesome!  Go ahead and assign that extra money to a category that will benefit you or someone else.  

For example, you could put that extra money into your savings category.  Or you could put extra money into your giving category.  

Remember, with this zero-based budgeting, you are giving every dollar from your income a job, so you shouldn’t have any money left over at the end of the month.  

Household Budget Categories List:  Things to remember

  1. Create your budget before the month starts.  You’ll want to make sure you have a working budget in place before the month begins.  Make a budgeting date with your partner to get it done. 
  1. Be prepared to modify your budget.  Budgets don’t always work the way we want them to.  Keep this in mind and keep an eye on your budget so you can make changes if you need to.
  1. Budgeting takes practice.  If you are just starting with budgeting, it may take a few months to figure out what budgeting method works best for your lifestyle.  Be patient with yourself as you learn the ropes.
  1. You can get my free budgeting template printables here if you need some help getting organized when creating your budget.  It includes everything you need to make a budget binder, including a list of categories and subcategories.  

Final Thoughts on Personal Budget Categories List

This list of spending categories is not exhaustive of every budget category out there.  However, it includes the major expense categories present in a typical personal budget.  

Whether you are looking for budget categories for young adults or budgeting categories for a family, these categories will help you make a successful budget.

budget categories list: woman writing in a notebook
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