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Budgeting is a great way to plan and track spending, as long as you accurately account for all the bills you need to pay. So before you start plugging numbers into a spreadsheet or app, take a minute to list out each of your monthly expenses.
Sorting those expenses into needs and wants can help you and prioritize spending, especially if you need to trim costs to make room for savings or debt repayment.
These are the expenses you cannot avoid. If you use the , these should account for 50% of your spending. Necessities often include the following:
Budget tip: If you find your budget is way out of whack, look closely at those items you’ve classified as needs and consider negotiating, refinancing or downgrading.
These expenses are harder to account for in a budget, as they don’t always come with a set monthly fee. If you use the 50/30/20 budget, wants should account for up to 30% of your spending.
Budget tip: Scan your spending for the past few months to get a sense of what your wants are and how much you tend to spend on them. Have each adult in your household do the same if you're creating a . This exercise gives you a realistic baseline. You can use what you’ve learned to make small changes in your spending over time.
This is the money you’re putting toward your retirement, and other savings, and using to pay down credit card and other like payday loans. It also includes anything over the minimum payment on your "good debts" such as your student loans and mortgage. In the 50/30/20 budget, this should account for 20% of your income.
Budget tip: If you pay off your credit cards in full each month, classify the expenses according to what you buy — groceries under needs, for example. However, if you maintain a balance and are accruing interest and fees, list payments beyond the minimum under debt repayment.
Add up your expenses for each category of needs, wants and savings/debts, then plug in your monthly below.
Every few months, revisit your budget and adjust as necessary. Use a to track your expenditures, saving time as you build momentum with your new budgeting habit.
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