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A comprehensive budget is the basis for financial success. However, if you forget to add the top budget categories to your list of expenses, your budget will likely fail.
It can be tough to remember all of the expenses you incur on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.
This list of budget categories will help you create a budget that actually works for you and your needs.
Table of Contents
Why You Need a Budget Categories List
Your budget will only be as effective if you make it. One reason budgets fail is because they don’t include important budget categories.
It can be easy to forget about annual or semiannual expenses such as auto insurance.
Or to forget that you’ve got gifts for three birthdays next month that you’ve got to budget in. And these little “forgotten” budget line items can really add up.
Making a list of your top budget categories before you create your budget can give you time to think about all of the annual expenses you encounter.
Bonus hint: If you’re looking for a simple app to make budgeting even easier, consider using Quicken’s Simplifi.
Simplifi makes it easy to track your money with automated budgets based on your income, bills, and savings. You can even uncover hidden subscriptions and fees that chip away your available funds.
Must-Have Budgeting Categories List
We’re covering every budget category we can think of to help you ensure that you have all of your budgeting bases covered.
This category contains line items for anything that has to do with the purchase or maintenance of the home you rent or own.
These expenses can include:
- Mortgages or rent payments
- Home equity loans or line of credit payments
- Annual property taxes (add extra each month for future special assessments)
- Annual homeowners insurance
- HOA dues
- Water/sewer bills
- Electric/natural gas bills
- Cable, streaming or other subscription costs
- Propane bills (for rural homes)
- A home repair fund (for the breakdown of equipment)
- Home maintenance (annual furnace tuneup, lawn care, gardening, etc.)
- A home upgrade/remodel fund (new appliances, painting needs, etc.)
- Additional mortgage payments (to help pay your mortgage off early)
- A new furniture fund
- Warehouse club membership dues
- Tax preparation and legal fees
It’s always a good idea to keep some savings aside for legal fees. You never know when legal expenses will arise.
A legal situation associated with your living arrangement could be as simple as a dispute with a neighbor over boundary lines or as complex as a family disagreement.
When you’re prepared financially for legal entanglements, the stress of having to deal with them is much lower.
An umbrella insurance policy added to your homeowners insurance may be a smart way to ensure some legal expenses are covered as well.
Additionally, if you don’t want to be as detailed with your household budget, you could combine categories.
For example, you could put all of your utilities in one category by adding up the monthly amounts for each bill. Or you may want to combine the home repair and home upgrade categories.
Regardless of how you set up your budget, do what works for you.
There are some line items you may want to add when you’re creating your transportation budget.
These can include:
- Vehicle purchase payments or lease payments
- Auto insurance premiums
- Insurance deductibles
- Fuel costs
- Public transportation
- Parking expenses
- A vehicle maintenance fund (oil changes, car washes, new tires, wiper fluid, etc.)
- Toll fees
- A vehicle repair fund (to fund future vehicle repair costs)
- Vehicle registration and DMV costs
- Vehicle storage costs
You may be wondering why we don’t mention a replacement vehicle category. Don’t worry. We’ll talk about that later.
It can be easy to forget about food expenses simply because they’re such an integral part of everyday life.
Here are some food budget categories you may want to consider using:
- Weekly menu planning grocery runs
- Impromptu grocery runs
- Eating out
- Drive-thru/coffee runs
- Take-out meals
- Social/family gatherings
- Holiday food funds
- Splurge groceries (i.e., expensive meats, caviar, store-bought desserts, etc.)
- Bulk grocery purchases
- Wine and alcohol at home
Remember to add in a line item for alcohol you consume at home. That’s one category that can be easily forgotten and can be very expensive.
If you find that your food budget is higher than you want it to be, there are numerous ways you can save money on groceries.
While your career does help you earn money, there are almost always costs associated with having a job.
Here are some expenses you may want to include in your career budget category:
- Transportation costs specific to your commute
- Parking fees
- Work clothing/uniforms
- Dry cleaning expenses
- Work and/or business lunches
- Client gifts and other client expenses
- Coffee and snacks
- Professional fees
- Licensing costs (if applicable)
- Side hustle expenses
- Continuing education costs
- Coworker gifts and celebration related expenses
- Work-related social gatherings
- Work travel expenses
As you can see, it really is true that it costs money to make money. Make sure you are keeping track of your career expenses in your budget.
Medical expenses have skyrocketed in the last several years. It’s critical not to overlook these costs when creating your budget.
Here are some medical expenses you should include in your budget:
- A clinic and hospital copay fund
- Prescription medicines
- Dental care costs
- Eye care costs
- Naturopathic, homeopathic and alternative health costs
- Medical equipment
- Non-prescription (over-the-counter) medicines
- First-aid supplies
- Orthodontic care
- Vitamins and other health supplements
- Out-of-pocket deductibles
- Health insurance premiums
- HSA and FSA contributions
- New baby/child medical expenses
If you don’t have a health savings account (HSA), now might be a good time to open one if you qualify. An HSA will allow you to make tax-deductible contributions to cover qualified medical expenses.
Budget tip: Do you want to be able to keep track of spending in personal use or other categories?
Simplifi has a Watchlist feature that lets you see at a glance how much you have left to spend in a particular category.
You’ll know what you’ve spent and what you have left, yet still have the option to go over in that category if you choose to.
6. Personal Use
The personal use budget category is a catch-all for any personal expenses you or your partner might have.
Some ideas for line items in this category can include:
- Clothing purchases
- Haircuts and other salon services
- Haircare products
- Beauty products such as makeup and fragrances
- Athletic gear like running shoes
- Health club membership fees
- Fun money (for friend and other miscellaneous gatherings)
- Self-care activity money (anything you do to rejuvenate and refresh)
- Hobby expenses
Add in any other personal costs you may have that fit into this catch-all category or that you spend money on for your personal growth and care.
According to Investopedia, the average cost to raise a child to age 18 these days is nearly $300,000. That works out to almost $16,000 per year, per child.
If you have kids, make sure to add the following categories to your budget:
- Child care expenses (daycare and babysitters/nannies)
- Haircuts and other grooming costs
- School supplies
- School lunches
- Sports and extracurricular activities
- Summer camps
- Toys and learning activities
- Miscellaneous social/friend outings
- Baby formula, diapers and other baby costs
Speaking of allowances, using a fintech chore app such as GoHenry can be an easy way for you to help your kids learn to earn and manage their money.
Bonus hint: To save on your childcare costs, look into ways to get free supplies like baby formula.
Birthdays, holidays and opportunities to give to others come around frequently. As a result, giving can be an important part of your budget.
Here are some line items you may want to include in your giving budget:
- Tithing to your local church other religious organization
- Charitable donations to causes you support
- Birthday gifts
- Anniversary gifts
- Wedding gifts
- Graduation gifts
- Holiday gifts such as Easter, Christmas or Hanukkah
- Bar Mitzvah, baptism or other religious celebration gifts
- Giving to your community
This last suggestion could include money to help when someone you know has an acute or chronic need due to circumstances beyond their control.
For instance, it could be that a community member has lost their home due to a natural disaster or another occurrence.
Or, maybe a friend or family member has experienced a job loss or other negative event.
When you have money set aside to help in these situations, you can assist without worrying about where you’ll fit the expense into your budget.
You may want to add a miscellaneous gift category as well. This could include “just because” gifts or gifts for other achievements and celebrations that randomly pop up.
Entertainment costs can add up as well. As a result, it’s important to include line items for any sources of entertainment you may spend money on.
Here are some categories you can add to this section of your budget:
- Theatre, opera and other shows
- Music concerts
- Day trips
- Museum and historical society membership dues
- Camping, hiking and other nature excursions
- Holiday events
- Family gatherings and events
- Summer gatherings such as BBQs
- Friend gatherings
- Sporting events (viewing)
- Participatory sporting events (marathons, fun runs)
- Weekend getaways
- Summer vacations
- Winter vacations
When planning for vacations, you could use a free vacation budget form to help ensure you do not forget any vacation expenses.
Additionally, since accommodations are often the most expensive part of any vacation, you may want to consider using a popular vacation rental site to save money.
Budget tip: Simplifi has a Reports feature that can help you create reports to analyze your spending over any specified time period.
You can create reports for specific budget categories, payees (such as Amazon) or for income sources such as side hustles.
We all love our pets. However, pet costs can really add up.
Use these pet budget categories to ensure Fido’s expenses are always covered:
- Pet purchase fund
- Pet food
- Annual vet costs (check-ups, vaccinations, dewormer, etc.)
- Emergency vet costs
- Pet insurance (if applicable)
- Training costs (if applicable)
- Pet boarding/pet care costs
- Grooming costs
- City/county pet license costs
- Other pet supplies (toys, leashes, litter supplies, etc.)
Including pet costs into your budget will help ensure you can always afford to care for your furbabies.
Also, be sure to include an emergency vet fund in your budget. Emergencies happen, and an unexpected trip to the vet can easily cost $1,000 or more depending on the care your pet needs.
11. Debt Payments
If you have debt you’re working to pay off, be sure to include those payments in your budget line items.
Include debt payments such as:
- Student loan payments
- Credit card payments
- Auto loan payments
- Other personal loan payments
- Repayment of loans from family
- Medical bill payments
- Loans for recreational vehicles
Debt is the archenemy of financial security, which is why it’s important to pay your debt off as fast as possible.
Finding ways to pay off debt quickly allows you to use the money you’re putting toward debt payments to help secure your financial future.
Once your debt is paid off, you can reallocate the money you have in your debt payment categories to other budget categories, like savings goals.
12. Savings Goals
Savings goals categories are extremely important for your budget. This category can help you work towards your short and long-term financial goals.
Here are some ideas for savings categories you can add to your budget:
- Emergency fund savings
- 401k savings
- IRA or other retirement savings
- Non-retirement investment funds
- Upgraded house fund
- Replacement car fund
- Vacation fund
- College savings (for yourself, your children or your grandchildren)
- Financial independence/retire early fund
- Other sinking fund purposes
When you’re planning what you’ll use your savings goal budget for, get creative and think big. Then use your budget to make it happen.
Include these savings goal line items in your budget so you can be sure to reach all of your savings goals on time.
Budget tip: Simplifi allows you to create as many savings goals as you want without having to open up separate savings accounts.
Just plug your savings goals into the app, and Simplifi will make sure the money you’ve targeted to go toward savings goals will show in a separate section on the app.
Using this budget categories list can help you lay a solid foundation for your financial future by allowing you to create a plan for your money.
Having a financial plan that meets your needs is crucial to staying on top of your money, avoiding debt and reaching your financial goals.
Customize your budget so that it works for you. Additionally, don’t forget to include all of your expenses and adjust your budget each month as needed.