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Knowing what monthly expenses you have is the key to staying on budget. It’s important to know exactly what you’re spending money on. That’s why having a monthly expenses list can help you write a better budget.
The main reason people stop budgeting is that they aren’t creating realistic budgets for the things they’ll actually spend money on.
When it comes to budgeting, it’s important to be realistic and account for your actual expenses. That’s not to say it can’t be lowered one day, but the point of the budget is to create a plan and stick to it.
We’re going to break these monthly expenses list up into the following categories:
- Fixed Monthly Expenses
- Variable Monthly Expenses
- Savings Monthly Expenses
This monthly expenses list is comprehensive, therefore all of the expenses might not apply to you and that’s okay. It should help you determine which monthly expenses you have so you can add them to your budget. I believe personal finance is personal and you get to fit your budget to meet your family’s values, goals, and lifestyle.
Fixed Monthly Expenses List
Fixed monthly expenses are expenses that don’t change each month. You know exactly how much the bill will be every single month because it’s always the same.
Experts agree that your rent should be between 25%-30% of your take home pay. So if you get paid weekly, your rent should be equal to (or less than) one week of your pay.
Of course, there are exceptions and if you live in a place with a higher cost of living- this might not be as realistic for you.
Homeowners Association Dues can be due monthly in some neighborhoods (or condos) or even due annually. If they are annual, you can add it to the sinking fund category.
Homeowner’s or Renter’s Insurance
If you are a homeowner and have a mortgage, this one likely gets lumped into your mortgage payment. If you’re a renter you will have this as a monthly fee.
If you don’t have a cable bill, or you’re looking to downsize, you can save a ton of money by switching to streaming services like Hulu and Netflix. They’re under $10 a month and will save you a ton of money.
Your internet bill can actually save (& make) you money if you use streaming services in place of cable or start a side hustle.
If you’re looking to lower your phone bill, try Mint Mobile or Republic Wireless. Be sure to check your coverage area before switching. If they cover your area, you could save hundreds by switching.
If one of these don’t work in your area, try asking on Facebook in your area to see if you can get the name of some other companies that have good service and cost less.
Don’t forget to add your daycare costs and annual one-time fees like registration fees, supply fees, etc. The annual fees can be added to your savings if you can’t afford to pay for them out of pocket in your monthly budget.
Subscription payments are HUGE. People forget about these when they create their budget. If you want to double check the ones you have, check your bank statement from last month.
These are any monthly fees you have like the gym, beauty boxes, razors, pet boxes, kid boxes, etc.
Car insurance can be paid monthly or twice a year. If you pay insurance twice a year, you might receive a discount. If you do pay it twice a year, you can add this cost to your sinking funds list. This way, you won’t be caught off guard when your insurance payment is due.
Don’t forget to include all of your monthly insurances to your budget. Some of these may be paid for by you and/or your employer and already be deducted from your paycheck.
Here are some common ones:
- Short-Term Disability
- Long-Term Disability
- Supplemental (Like Aflac)
Variable Monthly Expenses List
Variable monthly expenses change from month to month. For example, your water or electricity bill might change each month depending on usage. Some of these can be fixed expenses if you’re on a budget billing.
Groceries should take around 10% give or take of your income each month. This will depend on your family size, dietary restrictions/preferences, etc.
Your restaurant budget is whatever amount you and your family decide. Most people generally go out at least once a week.
If it costs your family an average of $50 every time you eat out, then you can budget $200 a month on restaurants. You can even budget for once a week and 1-2 spontaneous trips per month if you want.
Your water bill will depend on usage. Your sewer bill may be a fixed expense if it’s not included in your monthly water bill.
If you’re on budget billing- you can move your power bill to fixed expenses.
Clothing expenses can be monthly, but you can move these to sinking funds if you choose to buy clothes less often. Our family personally sets aside $25 each month into a cash envelope to save for upcoming clothing expenses. Although this amount might not cover the entire cost of clothing purchases, it does help take the edge off the cost.
Don’t forget about your pet expenses. This can include everything from pet food, vet bills, pet insurance (yes that’s a thing and might be a great idea if your pet has a medical condition or older), or anything else pet related.
Kids and/or Babies
The kid’s section can get large. This can be anything they need from allowances, entertainment, and any other miscellaneous expenses they have.
If you have a baby it could include their infant medicine, diapers, wipes, bottles, pacifiers, etc. I put everything in this category except for their college fund, sports/recreation, and babysitter/daycare.
Don’t forget to include your babysitter in your budget. This will help you prioritize that date night. 🙂
The gift category can include ALL gifts or just non-Christmas gifts. Christmas gifts are usually included as a sinking fund so you can save money towards it each month.
Personal Care/ Beauty
Personal care and beauty is a category that many people see differently. Some people put their non-food grocery items in this category while others choose to just leave it for things like makeup, hair cuts, or getting your nails done.
Entertainment can include anything from Netflix, Hulu, or other streaming services, movie tickets, zoo tickets, etc.
Sports & Recreation
This is all of your children’s extracurricular activities. Baseball, football, basketball, soccer, dance, cheerleading, gymnastics, swimming, etc.
You can put your haircuts in a separate category or in your personal care category.
Medical Out of Pocket Costs
This will include any medical expenses that you will pay for out of pocket such as medicines, prescriptions, co-payments, deductibles, etc.
This can also be funded with a sinking fund or some employers offer medical savings accounts commonly called FSA or HSA.
If you have natural gas appliances in your home or a fireplace, don’t forget this monthly expense.
Your garbage expense could be monthly or quarterly. It might also be included in your water bill.
Gas For Cars
How much you budget for gas usually depends on many factors such as how often you drive as well as the type of car you drive. An easy way to determine how much you will spend is to total up how much you spent last month on gas.
Personal Spending Money
Don’t forget your personal spending money for you and your spouse.
A buffer is a miscellaneous category for any spending that doesn’t fit into the other categories and/or an unplanned expense.
Any tithes or donations to a church or charity fall into this category.
Debt Monthly Expenses List
Debt monthly expenses include all of your debt payments that you pay money towards every single month.
Your mortgage should be around 25% of your take home pay. If you get paid weekly- around 1 paycheck. It might include real estate taxes and/or home owner’s insurance with the payment too.
Your transportation costs (car payment, car insurance, gas, repairs, etc.) shouldn’t exceed 20% of your budget. This is a general number that is simply a guideline about how much car you can afford. Of course, it’s best to have zero car payments so that you can keep more of your hard-earned money!
Don’t forget to add all of your credit card payments to your budget.
Be sure to include all of your student loans you’re currently paying monthly. If your loans are in deferment and you’re not paying, you can leave them off the list for now.
Don’t forget to add your personal loans or home equity loans if you have any to your budget.
Savings & Sinking Funds Monthly Expenses List
Your savings and sinking funds are all the things you’re saving money for. Sinking funds help you save money in advance for larger purchases that will arrive in the future. By breaking down the cost of what you’ll spend into monthly savings amounts, you’ll be more prepared financially to cover the cost of that item or service.
Ex: You want $3,000 for a vacation in 1-year.
$3,000 divided by 12 payments = $250
So you need to set up a vacation sinking fund and send $250 to it every single month.
There are many opinions about how much you should have in your emergency fund. Some financial experts agree that $1,000 is enough to have set aside for emergencies. However, with the rising costs of housing and monthly expenses, $1,000 likely won’t make a dent in your expenses if you lose a job.
A good rule of thumb is to have 3-6 months of necessary expenses saved. This includes expenses such as your mortgage, food, and electricity bills. It would not include cable, subscriptions, or money for eating at restaurants.
A savings account can be anything you want to save for outside of the emergency fund.
Christmas Sinking Fund
Christmas can get expensive. To help offset the cost of Christmas, consider setting up a sinking fund to help you save for Christmas all year long.
To determine how much you’ll save each month, divide the amount of money you want to spend at Christmastime by the number of months until Christmas. That is the amount you need to put into your sinking fund each month to pay for Christmas in cash.
If you need help determining what you should budget for Christmas, here’s a great post to help you out.
Retirement is usually around 15% of your pay and can be taken out of your paycheck as a 401k contribution. If you don’t have a 401k or just want to save more for retirement, you can contribute money into an IRA.
Kid’s College Fund
There are a ton of ways to save for your kid’s college fund. You can start with a 529 plan or by asking a trusted financial advisor.
Auto Repair Sinking Fund
If you have an older car, you might have to budget more for auto repairs. On average, people spend around $397 per vehicle on auto repairs.
Home Repair and/or Maintenance Sinking Fund
Don’t forget to budget for home repairs and maintenance. Expenses such as pest control, lawn maintenance, and general home repairs can add up ove time.
Vacation Sinking Fund
Figure out how much you need for vacation and divide by the number of months until when you plan on going. That’s how much you need to save each month for vacation.
Misc. Auto Sinking Fund
Don’t forget those miscellaneous auto fees like car tag, driver’s license, inspection fees, etc. Some may be able to be funded out of your regular budget, but if not- you can add them to a sinking fund.
The Two Most Important Budget Categories
The Buffer Category
In my opinion, one of the most important budget categories is the buffer category. The buffer category is so important because it helps you budget for those unplanned expenses.
Maybe this year, you’ve used up all of your Health Savings Card money from work and now your daughter is sick. You didn’t budget for medical expenses because you don’t normally need to, but you can use the co-pay for the appointment as a buffer.
You get to determine how much of a buffer you need. A good rule of thumb is at least $100 for a family per pay period.
You can use the buffer category to pay for any unexpected expenses that pop up throughout the month. Below are a few examples:
- An unplanned extra tank of gas.
- A birthday gift for a friend that you forgot to include in your monthly budget.
- An unplanned restaurant visit.
- Anything you want to add to the budget that wasn’t in your original monthly budget.
The Personal Spending Money Category
Be sure that personal spending money is included in your monthly expenses list. Personal spending money is so important. This helps you not feel so restricted when you’re budgeting. It helps you stay on the path to debt freedom or building wealth.
I’m an advocate for personal spending money. It’s nice to have money that’s just yours to spend each month on whatever you want.
It’s completely up to you to choose how much money you will budget for yourself each month. Just make sure you choose an amount that you’re comfortable with but also fits your budget.
What to Do When You Don’t Have Any Room in Your Budget for a Buffer
If you don’t have any wiggle room in your budget for a buffer, you have a few options. The two most obvious solutions are to decrease your expenses or increase your income. There are a ton of ways to make this happen.
Here are some ideas:
- Cut back on expenses.
You can cut one category out by a chunk (ex: take $50 from your monthly clothing budget), or you can cut a small amount, like 10%, from each category.
Ex: original grocery budget $500 a month. After the 10% cut your new grocery budget amount is $450. $50 is a good chunk of change at the end of the month, but it isn’t a lot over the course of a week. It’s just $12.50 a week.
You can cut back on $12.50 groceries without even feeling like you’re cutting back.
Here are some other ideas to decrease expenses:
- 25 Things You Can Cut from Your Budget Right Away
- 10 Items that Will Save You Money
- 24 Frugal Tips to Save More Money
- 101 Money Saving Tips
Audit your expenses.
Look back at your expense. Are you really using everything? Some common expenses that people stop using are subscriptions.
Do you really need a whole box of razors every 4 weeks? Are you even looking at that magazine every month? Do you use that beauty box?
Go through the list and see if you can cut anything that you’re not using anymore. If you decide you want to keep it, you can change the subscription to come less often like every other month.
Make more money.
You can make more money in a ton of different ways. You can always sell things you no longer want on Facebook Marketplace, but that doesn’t solve your monthly budgeting problem. That’s just a one-time gig.
There are also tons of hacks to make money here and there, but that’s just pennies. If your budget is short (or even tight), you don’t need pennies. Instead, you need to increase your income each and every month.
That’s where a side hustle is the perfect option for you. Side hustles are reoccurring. They’re not one and done things like selling on Facebook Marketplace. When you’re done selling your clutter, there’s nothing left to sell to make money.
Here are some ideas to make extra money:
- 5 Side Hustles that Will Make You Money
- 17 Best Side Hustles for Teachers
- 55 Ways for a Teen to Make Money You can start to ask your teen to help with their own expenses like gas to save money on your own budget.
- Get a roommate. If you have a family, you might not have the room in your house, but you can totally get a roommate. A roommate can help pay for a chunk of your mortgage and their share of the utilities every month. This will really help you get that wiggle room in your budget.
How to Create a Budget the Easy Way
Creating a budget might sound like a daunting task (even when you have a complete monthly expenses list). However, a budget is just a plan for your money. Because money seeps into our lives every day, it’s important to make handling and planning your money a priority.
A budget doesn’t have to be restrictive. A budget is what you plan to spend your money on for that month. The key is creating a realistic budget and not going off of a done for you template you found on Pinterest. I teach you how to create a budget (the easy and simple way) in my FREE budgeting email course.
Over the course of a few days, I’ll send you everything (including free printables) you need to help you create a realistic budget you can actually stick to. Over 19,000 people have taken this course and love it’s simplicity and easy to follow steps. You can grab your free spot by filling out the form below.