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What Is the 50/20/30 Rule and How Does It Work?

By: Ryan Kidman



The 50/30/20 rule is a budgeting approach that may help you keep your expenditure in line with your savings objectives. Budgets should be about more than simply paying your bills on time—the appropriate budget can help you select how much and on what you should spend your money.

The 50/30/20 rule may help you diversify your financial profile, achieve dynamic savings goals, and support overall financial health.

We’ll walk you through the budgeting phases using the 50/30/20 technique in this article so you can learn how to create a sustainable, successful, and straightforward budget.

Where did the 50/30/20 rule of thumb come from?

Senator Elizabeth Warren (a Harvard law professor when she created the concept) and her daughter, Amelia Warren Tyagi, popularized the 50/30/20 rule in their book All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan. It was created as a basic guideline for working-class families to utilize when planning for the future and unexpected events.

What exactly is the 50/30/20 rule?

The 50/30/20 rule is a straightforward budgeting strategy that might assist you in long-term, profitable, and easy money management. The general rule of thumb is to split your monthly after-tax income into three spending categories: 50% for necessities, 30% for desires, and 20% for savings or debt repayment if you took a loan from a bank or used apps to borrow money when it was needed.

You may put your money to work more effectively if you maintain your costs balanced throughout these major spending categories regularly. And by tracking just three basic areas, you may spare yourself the effort and frustration of delving into the minutiae every time you spend.

“Why can’t I save more?” is a frequently asked budgeting question. The 50/30/20 guideline is an excellent method to tackle the age-old conundrum and provide discipline to your spending patterns. It may help you attain your financial objectives, whether you’re saving for a rainy day or paying off debt.

50%: Needs

Needs include things that must be purchased as well as necessities for survival. Examples include rent or mortgage payments, vehicle payments, food, insurance, health care, minimum debt payments, and utilities. These are your “must-have” items. Extras such as HBO, Netflix, Starbucks, and eating out are not included in the “needs” category.

Your demands and liabilities should be covered by half of your after-tax income. If you spend more than that on necessities, you will have to either cut down on desires or reduce your lifestyle, possibly to a smaller house or a less expensive automobile. Perhaps carpooling or using public transit to work is an option, as is cooking at home more often.

30%: Wants

All of the unnecessary items you purchase are considered wants. This includes outings to the movies and supper, a new purse, athletic event tickets, vacations, the newest technological gizmo, and ultra-high-speed Internet. When it comes down to it, everything in the “wants” bucket is optional. You may exercise at home instead of going to the gym, cook instead of dining out or watch sports on TV instead of purchasing game tickets.

This category also covers upgrading options such as selecting a more costly steak over a cheaper hamburger, purchasing a Mercedes over a more economical Honda, or deciding between viewing television for free through an antenna or paying for cable TV. Wants are all the little things you acquire to make your life more enjoyable and interesting.

20%: Savings

Last but not least, aim to reserve 20% of your net income for savings and investments. This includes putting money into an emergency fund in a bank savings account, contributing to a mutual fund account via an IRA, and investing in the stock market. Consider looking for banks offering jumbo CDs if you have a lump sum you can place in an account, as this can be the best way to see a high return on your investment. You should have at least three months’ worth of emergency money on hand in case you lose your job or anything unexpected happens. Focus on retirement and other long-term financial goals after that.

50/30/20 Rule of Thumb: How to Budget

With inflation pushing up prices everywhere, consumers of all income levels, even those earning more than $250,000 a year, live paycheck to paycheck. According to a recent study, 61 percent of U.S. consumers lived paycheck to paycheck in April 2022, up from 52 percent in April 2021. This actualizes the topic of saving money and shows that the 50/30/20 rule is now more relevant than ever.

Most individuals save too little and spend too much inadvertently. The 50/30/20 rule of thumb may help you become more conscious of your financial habits and avoid overspending and underspending. Spending less on things that don’t mean as much to you allows you to save more for things that do.

This is how it works:

Determine your monthly revenue. Total the amount you get in your bank account each month. Find out how much is deducted from your take-home pay if you have a company retirement plan, and put that amount back in. If you pay estimated taxes, deduct the amount from your monthly income.

  • Determine a budget limit for each category. To determine how much you should spend in each area, multiply your take-home income by 0.50 (for necessities), 0.30 (for desires), and 0.20 (for financial objectives).
  • Make your budget based on these figures. Consider these three categories to be “buckets” that may be filled with monthly costs. List and total your monthly costs by category and determine whether you’re spending less than the monthly objectives you set in the previous phase.
  • Stick to your budget. Track your monthly costs and make modifications as required to stay within your future spending limits.


Saving money is tough, and life often throws unexpected bills our way. Individuals that adhere to the 50-20-30 rule have a strategy for managing their after-tax income. Suppose, If they discover that they are spending more than 20% of their income on desire. In that case, they may identify strategies to cut those costs and redirect monies to more critical areas such as emergency reserves and retirement.

Life should be enjoyed, and it is not advised that you deny yourself everything but having a plan and keeping to it will help you to pay your expenditures, save for retirement, and do the things that make you happy all at the same time.

Published: August 26, 2022

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Ryan Kidman

Ryan Kidman is a startup-investor and serial entrepreneur. Founder of Catalyst For Business and contributor to search giants like Yahoo Finance, MSN. He is passionate about blogging and covering topics like big data, business intelligence, startups & entrepreneurship. Follow him on twitter: @ryankhgb

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