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50/30/20 Rule – A Simple Budgeting Method + Examples

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Want to know everything about the 50/30/20 rule & apply it to your finances right away? Here’s a complete guide to 50/30/20 budgeting.

What is 50/30/20 Rule - Complete Guide to 50/30/20 Budget | SaturdayGift

Disclaimer: The content provided is for informational purposes only and should not be considered financial advice. Consult a financial professional for personalized guidance on budgeting and managing your finances. 

What is the 50/30/20 budget rule?

The 50/30/20 rule is a budgeting method that allocates income into three main categories: needs (50%), wants (30%), and savings (20%)

The rule suggests that 

  • 50% of your income should go towards essential expenses such as mortgage payments, rent, groceries, and utilities. 
  • 30% of your income can be used for discretionary spending on wants, like dining out, entertainment, and vacations. 
  • The remaining 20% should be allocated to savings accounts, investments, debt repayments, or other financial goals.

This budgeting method prioritizes necessities while allowing room for enjoyable expenses and savings.

50/30/20 Budget - Pie Chart | SaturdayGift
50/30/20 Budget Rule (Pie Chart)

50 % Needs

Budget 50 % for necessities, including (f.ex)

  • housing
  • utilities
  • transportation
  • food
  • health insurance

These are essential expenses you cannot live without.

How do you determine if something is a need? Ask yourself, “Can I survive without it?” If the answer is no, then it falls under the needs category.

30 % Wants

Non-essential expenses or discretionary spending falls into the wants category, including (f.ex)

  • dining out
  • shopping (excluding groceries)
  • entertainment
  • travel

These are things you can live without. But spending money on them may bring enjoyment and happiness to your life.

How do you determine if something is a want? Ask yourself, “Can I survive without it?” If the answer is yes, then it falls under the wants category.

20 % Savings

You should dedicate 20% of your income to savings and financial goals. It can go towards (f.ex) 

  • building an emergency fund
  • paying off debt
  • retirement contributions 
  • saving for the down payment on a house. 

Setting aside this money for the future can provide financial security and peace of mind.

Examples of the 50/30/20 rule

Here are examples to help clarify the 50/30/20 rule:

Example 1: Monthly Income = $3,000

  • Necessities (50%) = $1,500 
  • Wants (30%) = $900 
  • Savings (20%) = $600

In this example, the individual would use $1,500 for necessities such as rent, utilities, and groceries. They could then spend money up to $900 on wants like dining out, entertainment, or shopping. The remaining $600 would be allocated towards savings goals.

Example 2: Monthly Income = $5,000

  • Necessities (50%) = $2,500 
  • Wants (30%) = $1,500 
  • Savings (20%) = $1,000

In this example, the individual would have a larger budget for wants and savings due to their higher income. They could use up to $2,500 for necessities and have $1,500 for discretionary spending on wants. The remaining $1,000 can be allocated towards savings or financial goals.

Example 3: Monthly Income = $8,000

  • Necessities (50%) = $4,000 
  • Wants (30%) = $2,400 
  • Savings (20%) = $1,600

With a higher income of $8,000 per month, this individual would have more flexibility in their budget. They could allocate up to $4,000 for necessities and still have $2,400 for wants. With the remaining $1,600, they could focus on building their savings or paying off debt.

How to Implement the 50/30/20 Rule

Implementing the 50/30/20 rule is a simple process that you can do in a few steps:

1. Monthly income

Calculate your monthly after-tax income: Understanding your income and how much money you bring home monthly is essential because you use your net income in the 50/30/20 budget. 

RELATED POST: Income Tracker Printable – 19 Cute & Free Printable Templates

2. Determine the percentage

Determine the percentage for each category. Once you have your monthly income, calculate 50% for needs, 30% for wants, and 20% for savings and debt repayment.

You can find the 50/30/20 Budget Calculator here: Free 50/30/20 Budget Calculator

3. Create a budget

  1. Determine your essential expenses: Rent/mortgage payments, groceries, utilities, transportation costs, and other must-haves. 
  2. Calculate your discretionary spending: Dining out, entertainment, travel, shopping (excluding groceries), and other nice-to-haves. 
  3. Calculate your savings: This includes long-term savings, like your retirement account, and short-term savings, sinking funds, investing, and repaying debt.
  4. Adjust your budget if necessary: If you cannot fit all of your expenses into the suggested categories, consider cutting expenses or making other adjustments. 

4. Track your expenses

Track your expenses – To follow the 50/30/20 rule effectively, it’s essential to track all your expenses and make sure you’re sticking to the budget for each category.

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5. Adjust as needed

Adjust as needed—If one category consistently exceeds the allotted percentage, you may need to adjust your budget or cut back on certain expenses in that category.

The way I like to use this tool

I don’t actually use this method to budget and track my money, but I’ve used it (and continue to use it) to determine my budgeting goals and know my numbers. 

And the way that I do it is:

  1. I determine my monthly net income and my 50/30/20 numbers (you can use the 50/30/20 calculator to do this)
  2. Then, I write down (or estimate) all my expenses and divide them into needs, wants, and savings/debt payment categories. (I use one of my free printable templates for this.
  3. I calculate the totals as they are today and compare them to my 50/30/20 numbers.
  4. Then, I try to find ways to bring my current numbers closer to the 50/30/20 numbers by cutting back on expenses.

I recommend knowing your 50/30/20 numbers so that you can adjust your spending and savings habits so that one day, these numbers (or close to these numbers) could become a reality. 

And what if these numbers are already your reality? That’s superb! Then, you can feel good and grateful about your situation and spend your money in the “wants” category without feeling guilty.

50/30/20 budget calculator

Want to try the 50/30/20 rule for yourself? Check out this 50/30/20 calculator and see how much money you must allocate to each category.

CHECK OUT: Free 50/30/20 Budget Calculator

50/30/20 budget template Printables

Find your favorite among these five cute & free printable 50/30/20 budget templates

50/30/20 Budget Templates | SaturdayGift

Post: 50/30/20 Budget Template – 5 Cute (&Free!) Budgeting Planners

Tips for using 50/30/20 rule

  • Understand your net income, the total that lands in your bank account. Allocate 50%, 30%, and 20% from that amount to each category.
  • If needed, start by tracking your expenses for a month to get a better understanding of your spending habits and where your money is going.
  • Prioritize your needs first. Always pay for essential expenses such as rent or mortgage, utilities, and groceries. If those are more than 50% of your income, try to find ways to downsize or cut costs. 
  • If you have high-interest debt, consider allocating more than 20% of your income toward debt repayment until it is paid off.
  • Consider automating your savings by setting up automatic transfers from your checking account to your savings account.

Benefits of using the 50/30/20 rule

The 50/30/20 rule offers several benefits, such as:

  • Simplicity – This budgeting method is easy to understand and implement, making it an excellent option if you are new to budgeting.
  • Flexibility – The rule allows some flexibility in discretionary spending while prioritizing essential expenses and savings.
  • Encourages Savings – By allocating 20% of your net income towards savings, the 50/30/20 rule promotes a healthy savings habit and helps you work towards your financial goals.
  • Reduces Stress – By having a clear budget, you can reduce financial stress and gain control over your finances.

Why the 50/30/20 is not for everyone

Like any tool out there, this tool is not for everyone because it oversimplifies the complexity of personal finances by categorizing expenses into just three broad categories.

  • You might live in a place with higher rents or mortgages, and allocating only 50% of your income to your needs might be challenging.
  • Also, some may have higher debt obligations, making it impossible to adhere strictly to the suggested percentages.
  • It also doesn’t consider having a variable income or unexpected expenses. 

That said, knowing your 50/30/20 numbers can be a helpful starting point for understanding your spending habits and working toward financial stability and future goals. 

Where does the 50/30/20 rule originate from?

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren and her daughter Amelia Warren Tyagi introduced the 50/30/20 rule in their book All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan. 

However, financial experts have used the concept of allocating income into different categories for many years.

In Conclusion

Having a budget that works for you and allows you to budget your expenses and prioritize savings goals is crucial to financial health. 

It ensures your needs are taken care of while allowing for flexibility and enjoyment in your spending. Thus, it is a strategy that can lay the foundation for a more secure financial future.

Remember, the 50/30/20 rule is just a guideline. It’s not set in stone and can be adjusted to fit your circumstances. 

But it can be a tremendously helpful wake-up call to evaluate your spending and see if there are areas where you can cut back on wants or downsize your needs to increase your savings and pay off debt.

Finding a balance that works for you and your financial goals is key. 

Everyone’s financial situation is unique, so feel free to adjust the percentages or categories based on your individual needs and goals.

So, are you ready to start implementing this rule today and see its positive impact on your financial well-being in the long run?

Happy budgeting! 

50/30/20 Rule - Complete Guide to 50/30/20 Budget | SaturdayGift
50/30/20 Rule – Complete Guide to 50/30/20 Budget

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