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This tool shows you the average household budget based on the location and income level you select. The budget is divided into a number of categories: child care, medical care, housing, food, transportation and other. In each of these categories, SmartAsset calculates the proportion of expenditures typical to your location and indexes those proportions based on income. The savings category is calculated based on the average savings rate in your area as a proportion of monthly income. The tax category uses tax data at the federal, state and local level to estimate a monthly tax burden. Finally we combine all this data to give you an idea of the budget of a similar household in your area.
• Adults: 1 = Single, Adults: 2 = Married filing jointly.
• Number of children equals the number of dependents.
• Otherwise assume all deductions and retirement account contributions are zero.
• Number of personal exemptions is equal to the number of individuals in the household. Meaning, a single person is 1, a married couple is 2 and any additional children are counted as an additional individual
Here at SmartAsset we talk a lot about budgets. We offer advice on how to streamline your budget, how to fix your budget and how to stick to your budget. With our interactive budget calculator you can see how people like you in your zip code are budgeting based on factors including the number of adults and children in the household and the size of the household's annual income.
Household Budget Basics
A budget lets you manage how much you're spending relative to how much you're earning. Budgeting also lets you see how much you're spending in different categories. Having a budget is important for two reasons. First, it helps you live within your means. Second, having a budget leaves you better prepared for changes in the future.
Let's talk about living within your means. Ideally, every dollar of your income should be accounted for in a monthly budget. That may sound like living paycheck to paycheck and in a way it is. But it's living from paycheck to paycheck in a good way.
You "pay yourself" by beefing up your emergency fund and investing for retirement, you pay your bills (including any debts you're carrying) and then you can spend what's left over. Having a budget that you regularly reassess will help you take stock of where your money is going and how close you are to meeting your goals.
Budgeting for Your Future
Once you have a workable budget you'll see how useful it can be to prepare you for the future. For one thing, you'll have an emergency fund and retirement savings. For another, you'll be able to make room in your budget if necessary. Say you know you're spending a hefty sum on eating out, travel or clothes. If that's within your budget, you've paid your bills and you've paid yourself, go for it.
Now, what if something changes down the road? Say you want to take a dream job that pays less than you're currently making or you want to move to a city with a higher cost of living. You can take a look at your budget and see what you can reasonably trim. Maybe you're willing to cut back on some non-essential spending if it enables you to reach another goal. You won't know how much you can afford to trim from your budget if you don't have one at all.
One popular strategy that businesses and individuals can use to get started involves making a zero-based budget. With a zero-based budget, everything is on the table and you should have nothing left over. Start by keeping track of what you spend in a month. Oh, and keep track of your monthly income, or how much money you are bringing home each month.
Are you spending more than you earn? You need to trim your expenses. Are you earning more than you spend? You could afford to devote more to savings and investing.
Because expenses vary from month to month, some hardcore budget devotees will make a new spending plan each month. For example, you could budget for gifts in December and for travel in the summer. Others average the cost of all gifts and travel for the year and divide it by 12 months.
Here are the major expense categories that you will likely want to include in your budget:
If you have a bundle of joy (or several) depending on you, your budget will need to accommodate that fact. Your childcare costs will depend on your circumstances. Is your partner or relative staying home with your kids or are you paying someone to be your children's caregiver? Are you opting for public or private school? The SmartAsset budget calculator shows you the average childcare expenditure for someone like you in your area.
You may have heard that medical costs are on the rise in this country. Whether your employer helps cover your health insurance premiums or you cover that expense on your own, you probably don't go a year without incurring some medical expense. Meeting even a relatively low deductible can still eat into your budget. That's why it's a good idea to plan a certain amount of medical expenses into your budget.
The median American rent is currently equal to 30.2% of the median American income. That means that millions are already rent-burdened (they spend more than 30% of their income on rent) or are on the verge of being rent-burdened. Our budget calculator shows you the budget breakdown of people like you who live where you live. If that percentage is over 30% it tells you that your neighbors are struggling to keep up with housing costs. If you're a homeowner, your housing costs will include your mortgage and home repairs, too.
Americans spend a smaller percentage of their incomes on food than they did in previous decades. According to the USDA, the share of the average Americans' income that goes to food is down from 17.5% in 1960 to around 10% now. We also spend less on food than people in other developed countries.
Between Food Network, food pictures on social media and the popularity of the term "foodie" it may seem like we've become more food-obsessed, but we're actually spending a smaller portion of each paycheck on food items. At the same time, we're spending more of that money on food outside the home, which (as we know) can take a toll on a person's budget.
Only one in 20 Americans commutes to work by public transportation. A few walk or bike, but most of the rest of us take a car. That means paying for repairs, car insurance and gas. Depending on where you live you may also have to pay for tolls and parking.
Transportation is a budget pain point for many Americans because it's so closely related to job security. If you have an unreliable car you likely can't be a reliable employee, which means your position is less secure. Unexpected car expenses are one of the main reasons it's so important to keep an emergency fund in place.
Even the most frugal among us spend money on some miscellaneous items. The bare bones expenses in this category include toothpaste and soap, clothes, laundry and school supplies for kids. If you have more wiggle room in your budget you can allocate funds to other expenses, like entertainment and gifts, travel or meals out.
Our retirement calculator can help you figure out how much you should be saving for retirement each month. The SmartAsset budget calculator, on the other hand, tells you how the average person like you in your neighborhood is saving. If you're saving a higher percentage than your local peers, don't stop now. American savings rates are notoriously low.
It goes without saying that taxes eat into your take-home pay and limit the size of your budget. If you're a regular employee your taxes are likely withheld from each paycheck. That may seem like a bummer but it actually can make it easier for you to budget. If you're a freelancer or contractor it's important to budget for your tax payments each month so you don't get a huge bill at tax time that you're not prepared to pay.
We all get a kick out of seeing how our finances compare to other people in similar circumstances. A budget calculator is a great reference for anyone who wants that kind of detailed insight. Ultimately, making a budget that works for you will mean taking a hard look at your expenses and your income.
Do you need to cut back on your spending? Earn some income with a side hustle? The way you allocate your money will depend on your priorities and on the trade-offs you're willing to make. Just remember to pay your bills and pay yourself. Your 401(k) isn't going to fund itself!