If you are working up a household budget for the first time, you may be surprised to learn how different the percentages or amounts spent can vary from one family to the next.

While some of that is related to spending habits, other times the percentages will seem off simply because a bookkeeping detail. For example, the paper goods and cleaning supplies that one family considers to be part of the grocery budget might be split off into a separate line item by another family.

Therefore, my mega household budget category list, which based on the items I’ve seen listed on sample budgets and budget worksheets, is presented in alphabetical order. I don’t want you to get too attached to what line item “should” go where. What I want you do to, regardless of which system you follow, is find a place in that budget outline to include every income and expense that is relevant to your family’s circumstances.

If you overlook an line item that your family has to deal with, your budget won’t be accurate.

Here is a list of potential household budget categories to get you started (and I have since put together a list of cost-saving steps based on this list):

  • Airline fares (and the luggage fees).
  • Alcohol (you may include this in dining out, but I would separate this from your grocery budget if you buy for take-home).
  • Alimony paid in or out.
  • Allowances (his, hers, kids …).
  • Appliances.
  • Baby formula or breastfeeding supplies.
  • Bank fees (such as when you order checks, use an out-of-network ATM, have debit card access fees, or pay a check-cashing fee).
  • Batteries.
  • Birthday gifts.
  • Bus fares.
  • Cable or satellite TV.
  • Car insurance.
  • Car payment and / or car purchase fund.
  • Car registration fees (including the driver license renewal fees).
  • Car repair and maintenance.
  • Cash assistance.
  • Child support paid in or out.
  • Christmas gifts.
  • Cleaning services.
  • Cleaning supplies.
  • Clothing.
  • Coffee shop.
  • College fund.
  • Computer and office supplies.
  • Condo or neighborhood association fees.
  • Coupons and rebates.
  • Credit card payments.
  • Day care and babysitter fees.
  • Dental insurance.
  • Diapers.
  • Dinners out.
  • Donations to church, non-profit or charity.
  • Dry cleaning.
  • Electric bill.
  • Emergency fund.
  • Fast food.
  • Fitness center or gym membership.
  • Fuel for the car.
  • Furniture purchases or repair.
  • Garden supplies.
  • Greeting cards.
  • Groceries.
  • Grocery assistance (such as you receiving food stamps or buying groceries for a family member.)
  • Haircuts, manicures, spa treatments.
  • Health insurance.
  • Hobbies.
  • Holiday candy and flowers (Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween …).
  • Home maintenance and repair.
  • Income taxes paid or refund received.
  • Income tax preparation fees.
  • Internet service.
  • Investments.
  • Landline phone.
  • Laundry service (as in coin-operated machines or drop-off laundry service).
  • Lawn care.
  • Legal expenses.
  • Life insurance.
  • Medical co-pay and deductible expenses.
  • Medical insurance payments.
  • Mortgage – primary.
  • Mortgage – secondary or home line of credit.
  • Movie tickets or DVD purchases.
  • Museum, park and zoo passes.
  • Natural gas, propane or heating oil bill.
  • Newspapers, books and magazine subscriptions.
  • Nuisance (aka annoying expenses). Yes, I did see that category on a budget list once!
  • Over-the-counter medications.
  • Parking passes and parking fees.
  • Payroll – regular.
  • Payroll – overtime.
  • Payroll – bonus or holiday pay.
  • Payroll – severance pay.
  • Personal care products.
  • Pet expenses.
  • Photo printing.
  • Postage.
  • Property taxes.
  • Property insurance.
  • Rent.
  • Retirement fund.
  • Satellite radio.
  • School lunches.
  • Sewer bill or septic tank maintenance.
  • Shoes.
  • Snacks.
  • Sports, club and activity fees and equipment.
  • Sports event tickets.
  • Student loan payments.
  • Taxi fares.
  • Textbooks.
  • Theater or concert tickets.
  • Tobacco.
  • Toiletries.
  • Trash and recycling bill.
  • Tuition and class fees.
  • Turnpike and bridge tolls.
  • Uniforms for work, school, scouts, or sports teams.
  • Union dues.
  • Unemployment benefits.
  • Vacations.
  • Vision insurance.
  • Water bill.
  • Wireless phone (including texting and data plans).
  • Wedding plans.
  • Work lunches.
  • Yearbook photos.

Originally posted June 30, 2009; updated Aug. 1, 2012.

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