How We Customize Our Monthly Budget Categories in YNAB

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Every month my husband and I use a budgeting app called You Need a Budget to manage our personal finances and household budget. We’ve tried almost everything under the sun to get our finances under control but nothing has worked quite like YNAB.

If you’re using a cash envelope system,, and even clunky spreadsheets and they’re not working for your family, try YNAB free for 34 days and see how it works for your family.

One of the main reasons we love this budgeting software is because of its syncing capabilities!

  • It syncs on our desktop and across multiple mobile devices. (Perfect if you have several members of your family using one budget!)
  • Also, the seamless bank syncing easily connects to ensure no transaction slips through the cracks.

Since we’ve become budgeting ninjas (all thanks to YNAB), I wanted to share how we’ve customized the software to ensure we’re spending our money wisely month-in and month-out.

Feel free to adopt these same categories for your own family budget if you like the separate categories we created. You can also get access to our free resource library and download the budget categories printable inside!

2 free Downloads!

Budget Categories &
Debt Payoff Progress Tracker

Designed to help you whip your finances into shape and become a better steward of your money!

YNAB Categories

After you sign up for YNAB, you’ll notice the budgeting app comes with some default budget categories  including:

  • Income
  • Immediate obligations
  • True expenses
  • Debt payments
  • Quality of life goals
  • Just for fun

These worked for a short season, but the more we used the app, the more we wanted to customize it to our own needs. So, we switched things around and turned them into six different master category groups, including:

  • Income
  • Giving
  • Savings
  • Debt Payments
  • Recurring Monthly Bills
  • Everyday Expenses

You really don’t need more than six to eight categories. I find the less you have, the easier your budget is to manage. This is called the K.I.S.S method.

That said, let’s take a closer look at each of these main budget categories and see what types of expenses go into each one.

1. Income

Any amount of money that comes into your household should be considered income.  That means you should include the following income categories when planning out your monthly budget:

  • Salary & Wages
  • Commissions & Tips
  • Bonuses
  • Interest
  • Retirement
  • Investments
  • Reimbursements/ Rebates
  • Received Gifts
  • Received Alimony
  • Received Child Support

2. Giving

No matter how much money you make or how much debt you’re in, make it a priority to give at least 10% of any income you receive. Giving isn’t something that you do when you’re rich or financially free, it’s a habit you create regardless of your financial situation.

If you haven’t been giving faithfully, I want to encourage you to remember the Widow’s offering in the Bible. In Mark 12:41-44 the rich made large contributions but one poor widow put in two cents.

Jesus called his disciples over and said, “The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. All the others gave what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all.”

This story is a reminder that giving isn’t some robotic obligatory chore. With a transformed heart, we can give often, give joyfully and sometimes give more than what feels comfortable.

In the giving category, be sure to include expenses like:

  • Tithes
  • Charitable Donations
  • Political Donations
  • Random Acts of Kindness

3. Savings

In the savings category, I recommend aiming to save at least 20% of your income if you’re debt-free. Things you could save for would be:

  • Emergency Fund
  • Investments
  • Retirement
  • Education
  • Health Savings Account (HSA)
  • Christmas
  • House Fund
  • Vacation Fund
  • Car Purchase
  • Other Short Term Savings

If you have pressing debt, save $1,000 as fast as you can and then start a debt snowball with extra income. If that’s a new concept for you, click here to learn how to make Dave Ramsey’s debt snowball work for you.

4. Debt Payments

Speaking of debt, in this category include any expenses that are owed to other people. Those would be things like:

  • Mortgage (if you own home)
  • Auto Loans
  • Credit Card(s)
  • Medical Bills
  • Money Borrowed From Friend
  • Payday/ Personal Loan
  • Student Loans
  • Debt Snowball (Extra Payments)

5. Recurring Monthly Bills

Next, include your monthly bills that come each and every month that aren’t considered debt. That would include expenses like:

  • Rent (if you do not own home)
  • Gas & Electricity
  • Water, Trash, Sewage
  • Internet
  • Cell Phones
  • Health Insurance
  • Life Insurance
  • Home/ Renters Insurance
  • Car Insurance
  • Disability Insurance
  • Childcare
  • Gym Membership
  • TV or Music Subscriptions
  • Home Maintenance Services (Maid, Lawn Care, Pool, et.c)
  • Identity Theft
  • Software Subscriptions (YNAB, Cloud Storage, Apps, Etc.)
  • Annual Memberships (Costco, Amazon Prime, Etc.)
  • Extracurricular Activities
  • Any Other Recurring Expense

6. Everyday Expenses

The everyday expenses aren’t bills you can set up on auto-pay. These are more like one-time expenses that you pay for as you need them.

  • Gas & Fuel
  • Car Repairs & Maintenance
  • Parking or Taxi
  • Tolls
  • Cleaners
  • Personal Care (Hair, Nails, Etc.)
  • Dining Out
  • Groceries
  • School Lunches
  • Home Repairs & Maintenance
  • Household Items
  • Pet Care
  • Doctor & Pharmacy
  • One-Time Music/App Purchases
  • Shopping
  • Fun & Entertainment
  • Gifts
  • Miscellaneous Fees
  • Non-recurring Kid Activities
  • Kid Chores or Commissions
  • Babysitter
  • Any other random expenses

If you’re up for a challenge, try cutting all of your expenses (or increase your income) so that you can live on 70% of your income. Then 10% will go to giving and the other 20% will go towards your savings goals or paying off debt.

Remember, you can score these budget categories in a neatly design printable. To get instant access, sign up for our free library of resources below.

2 free Downloads!

Budget Categories &
Debt Payoff Progress Tracker

Designed to help you whip your finances into shape and become a better steward of your money!

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