Budgeting is hands down one of the best things you can do to manage your money and work toward specific financial goals. In the past, I used to think that budgeting and creating different budgeting categories wasn’t worth the effort. I thought I could get by just fine without a budget.

Over time, I realized that a budget is just a spending plan for your money. You create it and decide where your money goes. When done well, budgeting can actually provide more freedom and allow you to reach your financial goals faster.

One major issue I see with a lot of people who have trouble budgeting is that they fail to make it realistic and switch things up. Determining your budget categories is the most important step and you may add and omit some categories as your life changes. If you’re looking to up your budgeting game this year, here are 11 important budget categories to consider using.

1. Car Maintenance

If you have a car, you know you will have to spend money on maintenance sooner than later. Unlike major car repairs, maintenance is a planned expense that can be budgeted for in advance.

Start setting aside money each month for oil changes, tire rotations, and other routine maintenance services for your car now.

2. Home Improvement

If you own a home, you probably already know how expensive it can be to maintain it and fix things up. Just last week, the light switch in our main bathroom stopped working. Before that, our furnace started acting up, and I noticed a leaky pipe under the kitchen sink.

Budgeting for home improvement expenses can provide a lot of peace of mind and equip you to take care of certain issues as they arise.

3. Tolls and Parking

This is a budget category I always forgot about back when I commuted to work. My drive was only around 30 minutes but I still had to pay a toll or two, and it added up over time.

If you drive quite a bit and go through tolls or have to pay for parking throughout the month, add this expense to your budget to be better prepared.

4. Haircuts

We spend around $50 – $70 per month on haircuts in my household. I know this because we budget for it. My son and my husband both go to the barbershop about twice a month.

We try to spend no more than $15 – $20 per haircut but this expense would definitely come as a surprise if we didn’t create a budget category for it.

5. Pets

If you have pets, creating a budget category for your pet is a good idea. Some people combine pet expenses with the general household supplies budget, but how you manage this expense is really up to you.

We budget about $40 for our two pets and this includes food, cat liter, dog shampoo and other supplies we may need for the month.

6. Gifts

This is a popular spending area for most people, but it isn’t always common when you think about budget categories. Consider how many gifts you buy each year (not including Christmas) whether it’s a family member’s birthday, a friend’s new baby, a graduation, wedding or another special event.

Adding a ‘gifts’ budgeting category can make your life a lot easier when planning for these special occasions.

7. Christmas

Christmas is one of my favorite budget categories. The holidays won’t be financially stressful if you start budgeting for Christmas in advance.

Determine how much you plan to spend over the holidays then take the number and divide it by 12 so you can start saving all year long.

8. Travel/Vacations

I saw a great post the other day online that encouraged people to do more traveling by giving up their work lunches. If you spend around $10 each day on lunch or morning coffees, that’s $300 per month or $900 in three months.

By cutting out this expense and bringing your lunch to work more days, you can actually fit vacations into your budget. Prove it to yourself by creating a travel or vacation budget category and setting money aside each month. It doesn’t matter if it’s just $20 per month to start.

9. Dining Out and Fun

Don’t forget to budget for dining out and fun. I know in my last point I just mentioned how you can save a ton by cutting work lunches, but this doesn’t mean you have to cut out going to restaurants completely to meet your goals.

Determine a reasonable amount to spend on dining out and entertainment each month and stick to your budget. For my family, this means we still eat most of our meals at home and pack lunches for school and work. However, we do have at least 1-2 restaurant dinners each month that are planned out.

We also go to the movie theater sometimes or do something else that is fun and budget-friendly.

10. Miscellaneous

This is one of the best budget categories to have. No matter how good you get at budgeting, life is unexpected and things pop up all the time.

I used to be super strict with budgeting and it was no fun. Either someone would get sick, something would need to be fixed, or my son would bring home flyers for a paid event, and it would completely throw off my budget.

Now, I include a miscellaneous budget category to cover all the small, unexpected expenses so it’s not a big deal.

11. Giving

Nothing beats giving and being a blessing to someone else. If you can afford to add this category to your budget, you probably won’t regret it.

Giving has been a great way for me to focus on abundance and making a difference in someone else’s life. You can give to your church, a local or national organization, or budget to make a one-time donation to a cause you care about.

Summary

These are just a few budget categories to try that you may not have thought about right off the bat. Feel free to customize your budget however you wish according to your lifestyle and needs. A realistic and flexible budget is the best tool to help you manage your finances without feeling too stressed or deprived.

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