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List These Monthly Expenses in Your Budget

Place every monthly expense in one of these buckets: needs, wants, or savings and debt repayment.
Sept. 6, 2019
Managing Money, Personal Finance
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There are some common expenses you should be prepared to spend money on each month.

We’ve organized our checklist according to the 50/30/20 budget. But even if you opt for a different budgeting approach, these lists are a solid way of organizing your income and expenses.

Need help starting your budget?

NerdWallet breaks down your spending and shows you ways to save.

List these monthly expenses

Figure out what you’re spending each month by organizing your monthly expenses into three groups: needs, wants and savings/debt repayment. These include costs such as rent, dining out and the money you contribute to retirement. Click through the three tabs below to see how these categories break down.


These are the expenses you cannot go without; they keep you safe, warm and alive. Using the 50/30/20 budget, these should account for 50% of your spending. See how your current expenditures stack up by adding the following things:

 √ Mortgage/rent
 √ Homeowners or renters insurance
 √ Property tax (if not already included in the mortgage payment)
 √ Auto insurance
 √ Health insurance
 √ Out-of-pocket medical costs
 √ Life insurance
 √ Electricity and natural gas
 √ Water
 √ Sanitation/garbage
 √ Groceries, toiletries and other essentials
 √ Car payment
 √ Gasoline
 √ Public transportation
 √ Basic telephone bill
 √ Student loan payments
 √ Other minimum loan payments
 √ Child support or alimony payments
 √ Child care
Budget tip: You may be overspending on needs. For example, you may need a car to get back and forth to work each day but might not be able to justify the luxury sedan you’re leasing. If you find your budget is way out of whack, look closely at those items you’ve classified as needs and consider downgrading.


These expenses can be anything you want them to be — items not included in your needs or savings/debt repayment. The checklist below is meant to get you started, as your “fun money” may go to entirely different items than the next person’s. In the 50/30/20 budget, wants should account for 30% of your spending.

 √ Clothing, jewelry, etc.
 √ Dining out
 √ Special meals in (steaks for the grill, etc.)
 √ Alcohol
 √ Movie, concert and event tickets
 √ Gym or club memberships
 √ Travel expenses (airline tickets, hotels, rental cars, etc.)
 √ Cable or streaming packages
 √ Wi-Fi (if you work from home, this can go in the needs category)
 √ Extra telephone features
 √ Home decor items

Savings and debt repayment

This is the money you’re putting toward your retirement, emergency fund and other savings, and using to pay down credit card and other “toxic” debt 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.

 √ Emergency fund
 √ Savings account
 √ 401(k)
 √ Individual retirement account
 √ Other investments
 √ Credit card payments (see budget tip below)
 √ Excess payments on mortgage
 √ Excess payments on student loans
Budget tip: Ideally, you pay off your credit cards each month, in which case you’ll classify the expenses according to what you buy — groceries under needs, for example. However, if you maintain a balance, you are accruing interest and fees, and payments should be listed under debt repayment.

» MORE: How to build your 50/30/20 budget

Now apply the 50/30/20 budget principles to your current spending

For each category of needs, wants and savings/debts, add up the expenses and divide by your net income to see how much you’re allocating where. Here’s how to determine your net income.

For each category of needs, wants and savings/debts, add up the expenses and divide by your net income to see how much you’re allocating where.

Don’t be discouraged if you’re spending more or less than you should in a certain category; this is your starting point. Use what you’ve learned to make small changes in your patterns over time.

Every few months, revisit your complete budget form to see how you’re progressing. Use a budgeting tool or app to track your expenditures, saving you time as you build momentum with your new budgeting habit.

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