50/30/20 Budget Rule

Having a personal budget is a great way to gain control over your finances. With one, you can stay on top of bills, save money, create an emergency fund, and prepare for the future. A budget shouldn’t be stressful. It should be realistic, easy to follow, and match your lifestyle.

The 50/30/20 rule aims to make handling your finances easy and uncomplicated, which is why it works for almost any type of lifestyle. Whether you’re new to budgeting or are looking for a better way to handle your money, this budget could work for you.

What is the 50/30/20 Rule?

The 50/30/20 rule is a percentage-based budget that splits your monthly net income into three categories: needs, wants, and savings.

  • 50% goes towards needs: This includes any fixed or variable expenses you pay each week or month. Examples of needs are mortgage/rent, credit card minimums, utility bills, auto loans, groceries, and child support payments.
  • 30% goes towards wants: Wants are things you don’t have to have, but that you still spend money on. This includes things like travel expenses, clothes shopping, dining out, holiday shopping, and monthly subscription services (ex. Netflix). Other things that go in this category are non-essential upgrades like a luxury vehicle or a new home entertainment system.
  • 20% goes towards savings: The rest of your income should be used to save money or set up an emergency fund. The emergency fund should be enough to cover 3 to 6 months’ worth of expenses. That way, you’ll be prepared for financial hardships such as a lost job or sudden medical expenses. This category also includes investing in your future or planning for retirement.

Keep in mind that this budget rule uses a person’s net income, not gross. Net income is your take-home pay after an employer takes out any taxes such as Social Security or income tax.

50/30/20 calculator

Monthly after-tax income

$


Needs

$2891.50


Wants

$1734.90


Savings and Debt Repayment

$1156.60

An Example of the 50/30/20 Rule

With the 50/30/20 budget, you divvy out your net income into three categories.

Say, for example, you take home $2,500 every month after taxes. In this case, you would split your paycheck as follows:

  • 50% or $1,250 for needs – house payment, utilities, loan payments, groceries
  • 30% or $750 for wants – fun/entertainment, gym memberships, etc.
  • 20% or $500 for savings and investing – emergency fund, long-term financial goals, retirement planning

On the other hand, if your net income is $3,750 every month, your budget would look like this:

  • 50% or $1,875 for needs
  • 30% or $1,125 for wants
  • 20% or $750 for savings and investing

50/30/20 budget rule

As with all budget rules, the 50/30/20 budget isn’t perfect, nor does it work for everyone. For many people, 50% isn’t enough to cover all of their household’s necessary living expenses. It can also be tough to set aside 20% of your income for savings.

However, the point of this budget rule isn’t to stress you out. It’s meant to be flexible enough to fit your financial needs. If, for instance, you need to spend more money on bills one month, you can draw from the wants category. Once things get back on track, you can return to the usual 50/30/20 split.

Ultimately, this budget rule is a general savings rule of thumb that can help you become more financially secure over time. If you’re not sure it’s the right budget for you, consider using an online budget calculator to find out.

Why the 50/30/20 Rule Generally Works

One reason why the 50/30/20 rule usually works is because it’s so straightforward. Unlike other personal budgets, you only need to focus on three categories – needs, wants, and savings. This makes handling finances a lot less stressful and more concrete, especially for those new to budgeting.

Plus, this budge rule has some wiggle room as it lets you take some money from other categories as needed on a month-by-month basis. Typically, the result is that you can make a budget that works for you.

There are many budget rules of saving money. But this particular one dedicates a large percentage – 20% – of your income to doing just that. This makes the 50/30/20 rule especially useful for people who need to start preparing for big-ticket items like a house.

Finally, since 30% of your income is dedicated towards wants, this budget makes spending money a hassle-free experience, too. That said, you still need to track your budget. Otherwise, you could end up overspending.

Importance of Savings

Saving money is important for several reasons.

For one thing, it gives you peace of mind knowing you’re prepared for an emergency or unforeseen expenses. This could be anything from a sudden medical bill to a lost job or a damaged roof.

Every household should prioritize creating an emergency fund that can cover 3 to 6 months of their total expenses. This money should only be used for emergencies and should be kept separate from your regular savings. By having this money, you won’t have to draw from your regular income to cover these costs. If you have enough money set aside, you also might not have to take on other forms of debt.

Even if there aren’t financial emergencies, having savings can give you a sense of financial security and reduce the stress of the unknown. It can also make it easier to build wealth or purchase big-ticket items in the future. And it can make investing in your future or a retirement account more feasible.

Conclusion

Ultimately, the 50/30/20 budget is a great way to start budgeting your finances, while preparing for a more financially stable future. It’s a straightforward, no-frills type of budget that can work with almost any income or lifestyle. By following it, you can also reduce financial stress, build wealth, and potentially avoid debt.

With this budget rule, 50% of your net income goes towards needs, 30% goes towards wants, and 20% goes towards savings. There are a lot of budgeting rules for saving money. This one, though, stands out because it can help you get ahead of financial emergencies while still having money for fun.

Angela Mae Watson Angela Mae Watson Last update:
Angela Mae is a personal finance writer specializing in loans, debt management, investing, retirement planning, and financial literacy. She comes from a journalistic background and pulls from hands-on experience and deep-dive research to breathe life into her stories. Her goal is to help others achieve financial stability and independence. When not writing, she can be found traveling, honing her yoga skills, hiking, or exploring new means of healthy, sustainable living.