By Eric on June 22, 2011 10

Budget Breakdown

One of Kelsey’s Snappy Casual readers asked what our budget looks like when she posted about having $10/week for clothing (plus bonus opportunities). While we don’t feel comfortable sharing the exact numbers of how much income we have, we do think it’s important to keep an eye on the percentages that you allow for each category in your budget. We will share with you what financial experts say it should be, what our percentage breakdown is and a few thoughts about it along the way.

Our budget spreadsheet has the percentages built-in to help you keep track. Here’s a look at the recommend and what our current percentages stand.

Recommended Percentages (Our Percentages)

Charitable Gifts: 10-15% (13.1%)
Saving: 5-10% (12.1%)
Housing: 25-35% (34.7%)
Utilities: 5-10%
Food: 5-15%
Transportation: 10-15%
Clothing: 2-7%
Medical/Health: 5-10%
(0%) **
Personal: 5-10%
Recreation: 5-10%
Debts: 5-10%

**Our health insurance comes right out of our paycheck so we don’t budget anything for this from our paycheck. We also have a flex account that we can use for co-payments and other medical expenses which also comes out of our paycheck.

Reflections on Percentages:

  1. We don’t look at these breakdowns enough, but we should. As I write this, I have a fresh perspective of where we spend our money. Besides our house that we are trying to sell, I am pleased with how we allocate our money. Looking at our percentage breakdowns affirms that we are on track with our overall goals for the finances in our lives.
  2. I often beat myself up (figuratively, of course) by thinking that we don’t give enough money away and that we don’t save enough money. It humbled me to see the numbers written out above.
  3. Transportation is low because we don’t have any car payments. That sure is nice, and serves as a good reminder that car loans suck. I hope we never have one again.
  4. Seeing our debt percentage has the same effect. One of two categories we are out of the percentage range is savings, and we are on the high end. The 12.1% that we are saving now was all going toward paying off our consumer debt before we became debt-free.

I thought it would be fun to look back at the first time we did a percentage breakdown. So, I dug out our worksheet from Financial Peace. This was done the night after we learned what a budget was, so we had not yet practiced anything that Dave Ramsey had taught us yet.

Notice anything?

The percentages add up to 113.5%! That’s horrifying. We are so glad that we took the class when we did, because we were digging a bigger and bigger hole for ourselves each month. Which leads to a very good financial and life lesson: Sometimes when we are so focused on what is going on in the short-term, we forget to step back and realize how far we have actually come.

This was a fun post for me to reflect on, as I get discouraged without seeing immediate results on a daily basis. But, when I look at how far we have come over the last 2.5 years, it makes my heart smile.

Are there areas of your budget that are off-kilter and need realigning? We’d love to hear your thoughts.


Husband to Kelsey. Father to Rooney. Follower of Jesus. Born and raised in Iowa. I like blogging. Bulleted lists excite me. Thanks for stopping by.

  1. Do you use the spreadsheet to track actual spending or just for budgeting?

    • The spreadsheet starts as a projection with a zero balance at the bottom. Then as we actually spend that budgeted item, we bold that cell. This helps us keep track. Most bills are set and don’t fluctuate, and for food, we take out cash so we don’t over spend. Gas gets a little tricky and we have to watch that category prettly close so we don’t over spend. We also make changes as things come up, in other words, the budget is kind of fluid. But the main goal is to keep your balance at zero, so as things come up, we have to adjust other categories so that everything balances. So at the end of the paycheck, everything should be bolded and it is an actual representation of what was spent.

  2. I can’t wait to budget! It’s been super hard without a salary paying job because income fluxuates SO MUCH. But, this financial peace thing sounds great and I’m sure I will need it once the student loans come pouring in next year. :)

    • That’s the spirit!! Getting started right out of college would be a great idea. I encourage you to take the class before you graduate if you can.

  3. is a great resource for free budgeting. it does a lot of automatic tracking for you – i dont know a lot about it but my tech-savvy hubby loves it :)

  4. QUESTION: When you are saving for something, like vacation or stuff, where does that money go? For instance, if I want to save for vacation, that is taken out of my monthly recreation budget. But, I want to save that money to save up for that vacation, so how can I keep track of it and it not get lost in my savings budget? I’m struggling to keep track of my money when it needs to move from budgeted to savings. Please help.

    • Great question, Emily! If you use a spreadsheet to keep track of your budget, you can create a separate spreadsheet tab to keep track of your budgeted savings. We keep track of categories like vacations, weddings, car repairs, home repairs, car license/taxes, etc., on that particular tab. And then we bold items on our budget as we spend them (or in this case, save them), so typically at the end of a pay period, we transfer all of our ‘budget savings’ items into our savings account, record it on our ‘budget savings’ tab, and then bold the items once they are saved.

  5. Do you guys have an updated ‘budget breakdown’ post now that you have a baby? If not, I’d love to see that! We have a 9 month old, and are living off just my husband’s income, and I’d love to hear how other families are making it work with their situations.

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