The 50/30/20 rule.
That’s 50% towards needs, 30% towards wants, and 20% towards savings.
This is the typical breakdown that gurus give for budget categories and percentages.
The only problem? Read the comments on those blog posts and you’ll see that it doesn’t work for everyone.
And if you try to follow a budget that isn’t realistic for your situation, all it does is make you fail and give up.
In this post, you will find:

  • The wise way to use a budget
  • A mega list of budget categories
  • Free budget categories worksheet printable and spreadsheet


  • Download our free budget categories worksheet (look for the green box)
  • Record your expenses to get a sense of your actual spending
  • Find ways to reduce your budget and save money

This post may contain affiliate links. See disclosure for more details.

budget categories with free pdf and spreadsheet


The right way to use a budget

Instead of following some arbitrary numbers thrown out by Googling “What percentage of my income should go into various budget categories?”, the smarter approach is to track expenses first, then incrementally decrease your spending month after month.

That way, you aren’t setting yourself up to fail because you’ll be setting your budgeting goals based on your actual spending habits.

To figure out the right goals for you, you need to know how you’re exactly spending on the big categories like housing, food, healthcare, and so on. To make you’re allotting enough money for that component, having a list of budget categories to refer to will help make sure you’re accounting for everything.

two page budget tracker list of categories worksheet

Categories of budget

When you first set your target budget, you’ll want to account for everything you expect yourself to spend on!

The good news is, you only need to use our comprehensive list of budget categories to figure out what bills you tend to have, and set your target budget for that overall category. After that, you can probably get away using with a pretty simple budget sheet that lists the major categories only, without all the detailed line items.

We have a free 2-page budget worksheet, for example, which groups your needs into 7 simple budget categories.

Of course, if you’re one of those people who loves to see everything laid out, feel free to make your spreadsheet as detailed as you want. Use a spreadsheet program like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets to make it easier to record and add everything.

Budget categories list

To set a realistic budget for yourself, you’ll need your budget to include enough money for all the expenses you can reasonably expect to incur.

We also have a convenient worksheet, available as either a printable PDF or as a digital Google Sheet spreadsheet at the end of this post. It has all these budget categories built in (and is set up to automatically add, if you download the spreadsheet version) so you won’t miss a thing.
Ready? Let’s get on with our mega list of budget categories!
house with red roof blue windows icon


  • Mortgage or rent
  • Property taxes (if you own your property)
  • Association dues (if you own your property)
  • Homeowner’s or renter’s insurance
  • Maintenance & basic repairs


  • Electric
  • Gas
  • Water
  • Sewer
  • Garbage
  • Internet
  • Cable/TV
  • Heating
  • Phone (landline)
  • Cell phone
save money on groceries icon with produce, milkn

Groceries & household goods

  • (from grocery stores)
  • (from bulk/club warehouses like Costco or Sam’s Club)
  • (include toiletries & household supplies)
  • Soaps/detergents
  • Grooming products
  • Sanitary products
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Paper goods


  • Car payment
  • Car insurance
  • Vehicle registration
  • Gas
  • Tolls
  • Parking
  • Public transportation
  • Maintenance
save money on travel airplane icon


  • Airfare
  • Ground transportation
  • Lodging
  • Eating
  • Excursions/activities
  • Spending money

Child care

  • Schooling
  • Daycare/babysitting
  • School supplies
  • After-school activities
  • Child support
  • College savings

Pet care

  • Pet food
  • Personal hygiene products
  • Medications and treatments
  • Vet visits
  • Pet insurance
female doctor icon - save money on healthcare


  • Health insurance premiums
  • Doctors visits
  • Specialists visits
  • Dentist
  • Optometrist
  • Medications
  • Medical, first aid supplies & devices
  • Long term care insurance
  • Gym membership
  • Disability insurance
  • Life insurance
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Minimum debt payments

  • Credit card debt
  • Student loan debt
  • Personal loan debt
  • Alimony


  • Business supplies
  • Retirement
  • Emergency fund
  • Savings
sacks of gold to make more money


  • Dining out
  • Clothing/shoes
  • Make-up & skincare
  • TV & movies
  • Music
  • Sports
  • Other activities
  • Donations/tithing
  • Tools/small appliances
  • Gifts
  • Birthdays
  • Anniversaries
  • Weddings
  • Holidays & other special occasions
  • Miscellaneous supplies

Free Budget Categories Worksheet

If your head is spinning, let us help you out with our free printables that are already populated with these budget categories. You have two versions to choose from.

two page budget tracker list of categories worksheet
The first is a pretty printable pdf, which will open in a new tab when you click the button. The second is a functional Google Sheet that will automatically download in Excel format. It’s already set up to automagically add the numbers up for you in each main category.
We love sharing our free printables with people, so please help us spread the word by clicking the link below.

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Click Button to Download Files:


Get a hold of all your expenses with our detailed list of budget categories. Download our free budget categories worksheet templates in PDF or Excel spreadsheet format so that you aren’t missing any expenses when you set your budget.


  • Download our free budget categories worksheet (look for the green box)
  • Record your expenses to get a sense of your actual spending
  • Find ways to reduce your budget and save money


sylvia wu aka mama chang headshot


Sylvia, aka Mama Chang, is a personal finance blogger out to prove the possibility of navigating high-cost living on a low-cost budget. Paid off college and condo in her 20's on under $55k salary. She wants to teach others how optimize money to maximize quality of life. Dual income with kids, based in Hawaii.

Hangs out on Keeping Up with the Changs: Pinterest