139 Better Budget Categories You Need to Avoid Surprises

Congratulations on starting a budget.  That’s fantastic news!  And as your Financial Coach, I am really proud of you.  Don’t forget the budget categories you need to avoid any surprises.

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Creating a budget for the first time can be overwhelming and confusing. 

And there are many times when a budget is made, and you feel good about your efforts only to run into an unexpected expense.  Some bills that came up or an event that you never even thought about.

This list is extensive, and many categories may not even apply to you.  For example, if your children are grown, you won’t need to budget for kids clothes.  

If you live in a rural area, there is no need to budget for Uber.

But, its better to be over-prepared instead of underprepared.  So take what you need and leave the rest.

Budget Basics

Everyone who has a budget has a favorite technique.  You can go old school and use a notebook and pencil. 

You can create your budget binder and printables if you’re creative, you can use spreadsheets or an app.  There are also techniques and people to follow. 

Millions of people praise Dave Ramsey’s budget theories. 

And then there’s about a trillion other money guru’s who have a different way to budget, including living on half your income and the 50/30/20 method.

The important thing is to have one.  Know how much is coming in and how much is going out during a specific amount of time.  Easy peasy, right?

This is not a bare-bones budget strategy, although you could quickly transform it into one.  This is a list of all the things you MIGHT want to budget for. 

Please don’t think you have to have all these budget categories.

If you are looking for more information on Budgeting, you can check out this article: 25 Best Budget Hacks for Beginners

Simple Budget Catagories

I understand designing a budget can be overwhelming.  I get that.  I walk around, overwhelmed most of the time. 

But to make sense out of your money, reduce debt, increase savings, and financial freedom, it’s the BEST place to start.

While I am going to give you every single category I can think of that you might need, you do not need to have a line in your budget for all of them unless you want to.  Most people will just make sure all of these categories are included as the headings. 

This creates simple budget categories for those who are not so detail-oriented and just want to have money for things when they need them. 

Here are the five easy budget categories that you need to minimize your finances outgoing expenses.

 

  • Housing
  • Transportation
  • Living Expenses
  • Debt Payoff
  • Savings

 

Income

Before you even get started on outgoing, let’s make sure all the incoming has been accounted for.  This is every single penny that comes into your house.

  • Your paycheck
  • Spouse/Partner’s paycheck
  • Side hustle
  • Bonuses
  • Tips
  • Rental Property
  • Alimony 
  • Child support 
  • Investment income (from 401K’s or IRA’s)
  • Social Security or SSI
  • Gifts
  • Government monetary funds (tax return or stimulus checks)
  • Miscellaneous (sale of items, change jar, bottle returns)

Housing

Let’s talk about home.  The housing category is everything about your four walls and roof. These are the things that keep your home functioning.

It’s essential to have a roof over your head, heat for your comfort, and lights to see.  

  • Mortgage or rent
  • Property taxes
  • Household repairs
  • Home improvements
  • HOA dues
  • Insurance
  • Landscaping and lawn care
  • Home security
  • Snow removal

 

Utilities

We all have essential budget categories, but let’s also remember the nonessential payments that keep our home a happy one.

  • Natural gas or propane
  • Trash
  • Internet
  • Water
  • Home phone
  • Electricity
  • Cable or Satellite
  • Cell phone
  • Sewer
  • Streaming services (Netflix, Hulu, Disney+)
  • Music Services (Amazon Music, Spotify, Sirius XM)

 

Food

Not only is eating a necessity but its also a form of entertainment for many.  I grew up in an Italian family, and food was love.  Make sure you budget for all that love.

  • Groceries
  • Restaurants
  • Takeout
  • Lunches for work or school
  • Coffee

Clothing

Keeping our bodies safe from the elements is our priority.  Looking cute and stylish may run a close second, so let’s make sure we include all the things to make that happen.

  • Adult clothing
  • Children’s clothing
  • Shoes
  • Accessories (jewelry, purses, belts, scarves)
  • Special occasion clothing
  • Dry cleaning services
  • Laundromat expenses

 

Transportation

We need to get to work to make that money so we can pay those bills.  That makes transportation pretty important.

  • Car payment
  • Gas
  • Car insurance
  • Tires
  • Vehicle inspections
  • Registration fees 
  • Public transportation (bus, taxi, Uber)
  • Parking
  • Tolls and EZ Pass
  • Oils Change
  • Car Washes
  • Car replacement fund
  • Roadside assistance

 

Pets

Loving our pets comes at a price, so don’t forget a budget category just for them.   Making sure there are no surprises gives us less stress and more room to love our fur babies.  Because we know they are not cheap.

  • Food and treats
  • Routine Vet visits
  • Emergencies
  • Toys
  • Licensing
  • Medications
  • Insurance

Household supplies

Household supplies are everything that has to do with the home, including some nonnecessities like electronics.  

  • Paper products
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Small appliance replacement
  • Cookware
  • Detergents and soaps
  • Tools
  • Computer and supplies (ink, paper, and replacement)
  • Shipping and postage
  • New technology (phone, tablet, TV)

 

Personal care

All of the needs and services that a person requires will fall under the personal care budget category.  From hair cuts to eyebrow waxing – it’s all right here.

  • Hair cuts and color
  • Haircare supplies
  • Personal Hygiene
  • Toiletries
  • Manicure/pedicure
  • Spa services (facials, massages, eyebrow waxing)
  • Feminine products
  • Gym/exercise memberships and subscriptions

 

Education

Whether it’s your education or the education of your children, this category has everyone covered from preschool to certification courses for your job.

  • Tuition (preschool, college, private school)
  • After school child care
  • School supplies
  • Books
  • Sports & extracurricular activities
  • Field trips
  • Uniforms
  • Parking
  • Continuing Ed classes and refresher

 

Entertainment

This might be everyone’s favorite.  Having a budget category for entertainment is important for our well being.  Even if you are trying to get out of debt, having a small amount set aside for fun is good for the soul.

  • Personal blow money (adult allowances)
  • Date night
  • Babysitters
  • Day trips
  • Hobbies
  • Movies
  • Concerts
  • Subscriptions
  • Sports
  • Video gaming
  • Crafts
  • Books
  • Alcohol
  • Hunting camp dues

 

Gifts & giving

In our house, this category always seems to be the last to get funded.  We never set aside an amount to spend on girl scout cookies or the peewee football team selling pizza. 

Christmas is the same day every year – you know its coming.  Setting up a pre-decided amount is proper adulting.

  • Birthdays
  • Anniversaries
  • Christmas
  • Other holidays
  • Weddings
  • Charitable donations
  • Fundraisers
  • Tithing
  • Other special occasions

Work

Many people have a certain amount of reimbursement on work clothes.  My husband gets reimbursed when he purchases work boots. 

But he has to come up with the money first.  His company supplies shirts and pants.  But some don’t have those perks.  Make sure a separate fund is set up just for this purpose if it applies.

  • Work clothes
  • Work Boots or shoes
  • Training
  • Union Dues
  • Networking clubs

 

Medical

Our health really should come before all other categories.  Make sure all health-related expenses are covered.

  • Insurance (medical, dental, vision)
  • Supplemental insurance
  • Disability insurance
  • Copays
  • Non covered medical bills
  • Prescriptions
  • Over the counter medications (band-aids, cough drops, headache medicine)
  • Mental health & counseling 

 

Children

Our children are costly.  Everything they do require a fee, and they grow so fast.  Be prepared financially for all the money you will need with kids.

  • Child support
  • Babysitting & daycare
  • Baby supplies
  • Allowance
  • Toys
  • Extracurricular activities and clubs (Little League, Boy Scouts, piano lessons)
  • Yearly photos
  • Summer camp

Debt

Getting to of debt is one of the most important things to me.  We find it most important for our family not to have most of the items on this list. 

But if you do and you need help navigating this, I am here to help.

  • Credit cards
  • Student loans
  • Family loans
  • Medical bills
  • Personal loans
  • Car loans
  • Recreational loans (camper, motorcycle, boat)
  • HELOC

 

Saving

I have become addicted to saving.  In this season of my life, I find it to be the most fun. 

Remember, if saving is vital to you, pay yourself first. If you are trying to get out of debt, make sure you have at least $1,000 emergency fund before you get started. 

Consider being in charge of how much you are saving and not rely on government as you age.

  • Emergency Fund
  • Retirement 
  • Children’s college
  • Family Vacation
  • Investing
  • Short term savings (new furniture, pool, Christmas)

 

I understand this is so much to process, and you do not have to do all of them.  As I said, many will not apply to you, or you might have something unique.

You can also just use the basics and lump all items needed into those categories, but this will help you come up with a decent list of all the things you spend money on so you know how much to put in that specific general category.

Living with a budget means living with intention.  Putting yourself in the driver’s seat and anticipating all the needs and expenses before they come along is a smart move.

It’s living a proactive life instead of a reactive life.

Your income will decide your budget and how many categories you will use.

The first step in financial freedom is making a budget.