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How to List Monthly Expenses Based on Needs, Wants and Saving Goals

Categorize your expenses to better manage your spending.

List Monthly Expenses Based on Needs, Wants and Saving GoalsAre you thinking about creating a budget?

Listing expenses is important in the budgeting process. The more detailed your expense list are the more aware of how you’re spending your money. And the better you’ll be at making the necessary changes to manage your money and improve your finances.

There are different ways to list monthly expenses. You can list expenses based on fixed and variable categories, or use the “Bills, Debt, Discretionary” expense type or use the following below to categorize your spending.

The first two categories are “needs” and “wants”. Needs are things you have to have and wants are things you would like to have.


Needs are necessary expenses that include housing, taxes, healthcare, and utilities.

Housing: Mortgage or rent
Homeowners or renters insurance
Property tax (if not already included in the mortgage payment)
Auto insurance
Health insurance
Out-of-pocket healthcare costs, copayments, prescriptions
Utilities: electrical, gas, water
Life insurance
Groceries and household goods
Transportation: car, gas, tolls, public, rideshare
Debt payments: student loans, installment loans
Credit card balances: minimum payments
Other loans: monthly payments
Child support or alimony payments
Wellness programs: gym membership
Care: childcare, adult care, daycare

Be mindful you can overspend on needs too. For example, you may need a car to get to and from work but overspend on a luxury vehicle that takes a bigger chunk of your income.


Wants are expenses that can be associated with discretionary spending or fun money. Basically, these aren’t necessary to live your life but they can certainly add value in your life.

Entertainment: movies, events, concerts
Dining out
Prepaid meals and food delivery
Subscriptions: news, streaming shows, music
Travel: airline tickets, hotels, rental cars, etc.
Cable and Home phone
Additional perks: cellphone insurance

Knowing the difference between needs and wants will help you prioritize purchases that make financial sense. If you’re struggling financially or have other goals in mind, it may be good to meet the need and postpone the luxury want later. Learn more about the differences between your needs and wants to help you prioritize.


You also want to think of your savings goals as expenses. This will help you spend for your future (aka save for future expenses).

Rainy day fund (emergency savings strategy)
Other savings account
401(k) or another employer benefit plan
Individual retirement account
Other investments


The list above may not include all the needs, wants, and savings expense. Take the time to list all your expenses completely. It will help you know where you’re money is going and what items can be eliminated to manage your finances better.

Learn more about how to lower your monthly expenses.

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