Does the word “budget” make you want to give up and crawl into bed?
Do you think money management is impossible? You’re too busy. There is too much going on. How can you possibly add accounting for every penny?
One of the big things about managing money and being financially independent is the necessity of a budget. No matter what you call it: a spending plan, a budget, the 50-30-20 budget. It all comes down to the same thing. Mindfully spending and saving your money. Mindlessly spending money without a budget results in going broke. And spending your retirement debating between food and medication. Because you can’t afford both.
The 50-30-20 budget is fairly simple. 50% of your money goes towards needs; 30% wants; and 20% to savings.
You might also be interested in reading about “Anti-Budget: The Budget for People Who Hate Budgets“. Or might want to check out the Frugal Finance section of the website! I also have an entirely free Budgeting Binder!
What is the 50-30-20 budget?
Senator Elizabeth Warren popularized the 50-30-20 budget. No matter what your politics (it seems like people either love her or hate her), having a budget is important. A percentage budget is different from a category budget in the flexibility. Instead of 20 or 30 categories, you only have three (in this case).
It boils down to spending 50% of your after-tax income on needs, 30% on wants, and 20% on savings.
Note this is after tax. If you have a steady job, this is easy: it’s your take-home pay. If you work freelance, your income is your yearly income minus taxes and minus business expenses.
Some people prefer this budget because it’s easier than trying to have 50 different categories. You define an expense according to: need, want, or savings. Then spend out of that category.
50% towards needs
50% of your after-tax income is dedicated to fulfilling your needs. This includes: housing, food, health insurance, utilities, auto payments/insurance, medication, basic clothing, etc. Note that the clothing is the minimum needed- shopping at thrift stores for only what is needed. Technically, needs also includes the minimum due on debt payments (at least according to the 50-30-20 budget outline designed by Warren).
30% towards wants
30% of your after-tax income is dedicated to wants. Wants are those that would be a minor inconvenience, but not impossible to live without. This includes: cable, dining out, entertainment (movies, video games, music, books), vacations, and hobbies. In regards to clothing, shopping at a thrift store or for cheap for basic necessities falls under needs. Shopping at a department store and beyond basic needs falls into the want category.
20% towards savings
20% of your after-tax income is dedicated to savings. As with all other budgets, savings can fall into two categories: debt pay-down and building up savings.
If you’re applying your 20% savings to paying down debt, you need to commit to not building up more debt in the meantime.
If you’re applying your 20% savings to building up savings: it can include building up an emergency fund. I wrote a great article “Emergency Fund or Pay Off Debt” if you’re trying to decide which is more important for your particular financial situation.
Building up savings includes your final goal: investments. You absolutely have to start saving for retirement. Too few Americans are saving for retirement. And the reason it needs to be investments (instead of just a savings account) is that inflation is going up faster than your interest rate. So your savings are actually SHRINKING by leaving it in savings. Start with an index fund. They follow the market and are a great long-term option for those who know little (or nothing) about finance.
50-30-20 budget example
Let’s say- for example- that your take-home pay is $4,000 per month. You have $2,000 for needs. $1,200 for wants. And $800 for savings.
$2,000 might seem a lot of money, but you need to take into account your most expensive category- housing. If your mortgage (or you’re locked in a lease) is too expensive, you might seriously consider down-grading. While a drastic step, you can also consider selling your car and buying something cheaper to get out of auto loans.
$1,200 goes towards your wants. This gives you plenty of flexibility- you just have to decide what your priorities are.
Most important is the $800 going towards savings. Don’t make an exception. The most important part of this budget is that you have to be strict about the savings.
50-30-20 budget worksheet
Would I even think of giving you a budget and not offering a worksheet? Old readers will know the answer is a resounding ‘NO’.
So, here is a free printable 50-30-20 budget worksheet for you.
50-30-20 Budget <<<click there to open pdf
• Print options: regular paper works
• File is in pdf above. Or click on the image. It will open in a new window and you can either print directly or save to computer.
• The default size of these is full-page. However, if you want smaller, simply reduce the print size! If you’re not sure on how much to reduce, check out my post “How to Resize Printables to Fit Your Planner.”
Some form of budgeting is needed in everyone’s life. Americans right now- in general- are digging themselves into a hole of debt and the bill is going to come due. For those who hate budgets, the anti-budget is a great place to start.
Comment below letting me know what type of budget you use!
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Whether you want to get out of debt, learn how to budget, or just how to save money, there is something in the bundle for you.