The 50/30/20 rule is a budgeting approach that distributes your finances toward different goals in a simple and practical way. Popularized by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 50/30/20 budgeting helps you figure out how much money to set aside for your monthly needs, wants and savings goals.
If you’re struggling with managing your finances, here’s what you need to know about the 50/30/20 rule:
The 50/30/20 rule helps you organize your budget with the big picture in mind. If other budgeting methods — like tracking every expense — discourage you, this can be a good option.
To start, calculate your after-tax income. Employers generally withhold federal income, Social Security and Medicare taxes from employee paychecks. (State income taxes may also be withheld depending on where you live.) With the 50/30/20 budgeting rule, it’s important to note: Other paycheck deductions — whether retirement, medical, dental, vision or something similar — should be added back to your after-tax income calculation.
Now that you have your after-tax income handy, you’ll further break down your expenses using the 50/30/20 budget:
- 50% on needs
- 30% on wants
- 20% on savings
Needs are your main fixed monthly expenses, such as:
- Rent or mortgage
- Minimum debt payments (student loans, car loans, etc.)
- Child care
These recurring costs are essential to keeping a roof over your head and having a functioning household.
The reason these must-haves occupy 50% of your income is twofold. It ensures that you can sustain your essentials. For example, if an apartment with rent that’s $2,200 pushes your monthly needs budget beyond 50% of your after-tax income, it’s an indication that you may need to settle on a cheaper place to live.
A 50% budget for must-haves also protects you in moments of financial uncertainty. Although your income may be stable now, an unexpected layoff or disability could suddenly cut your pay dramatically. By maintaining a modest needs budget, you’re in a safer financial position.
Dedicating funds for nonessentials that you want gives you just enough to enjoy the money you’ve earned. Purchases that can be classified as wants include:
- Luxury pairs of shoes
- Fitness memberships
- Netflix subscriptions
- Weekly happy hours with friends
However you want to use this “fun” budget is up to you, as long as you stay disciplined in capping your spending in this category to 30% of your monthly after-tax funds.
In the savings category, you’re working toward allocating 20% of your monthly income toward long-term planning and goals. This often includes:
- Saving toward an emergency fund so you have a cushion in the event of unforeseen financial hardship
- Putting aside money in a retirement account
- Directing funds toward investments
After building a rainy-day fund, you might also consider using the remaining 20% of this category toward paying down your debt. For example, in addition to setting aside minimum payments in your needs budget, you can get rid of debt faster by making extra payments toward debts.
Let’s say your monthly after-tax income is $4,500, including deductions that were removed. Based on this amount:
- 50% for your needs is $2,250
- 30% for your wants is $1,350
- 20% for your saving is $900
In this 50/20/30 budget example, your expenses are as follows:
- Rent: $1,300
- Utilities: $200
- Groceries: $400
- Gas: $100
- Car insurance: $80
- Car payment: $375
- Premium fitness membership: $175
- Concerts (including food and beverages): $250
- Dining out: $650
- Clothing: $100
- Credit card minimum payment: $75
- Salon services: $100
- 401(k) contribution: $200
- Emergency fund: $50
- Health care: $150
- Dog care expenses: $50
In this scenario:
- Your needs — rent, utilities, groceries, car payment, gas, car insurance, health care, credit card payment and dog care — total $2,730
- Your wants — fitness membership, concerts, dining out, clothing and salon services — total $1,275
- Your savings — retirement and emergency fund — total $250
You’re spending $480 more on needs than the 50/30/20 budget allows. On the other hand, you have $75 left in your wants budget and are severely lacking in savings, with the potential to save $650 more a month.
The 50/30/20 rule makes it clear that you may need to temper your expenses under your needs category and funnel those resources into your savings.
- Traditional budget: This tracks your budget monthly or year over year, typically via a spreadsheet. Starting with your gross income, you’ll track taxes, payroll deductions, spending and borrowing to observe when you’re under or over your net income.
- Zero-based budget: This involves making the dollar amount of your expenses match the dollar amount of your income. The result is having $0 unaccounted for at the end of the month. Every dollar, therefore, serves a purpose or strategy.
- Pay-yourself-first budget: This targets your retirement and savings goals first, often with the help of automation. Any monthly income that’s remaining can be used how you wish.
- 80/20 budget: This allocates 20% of your after-tax funds toward savings. You can spend the remaining 80% in any way you see fit, whether it’s toward bills or entertainment subscriptions. It’s a similar principle to the 50/30/20 budget — but a little simpler.
Who popularized the 50/30/20/rule? The 50/30/20 rule was made popular by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and her daughter, Amelia Warren Tyagi, in their co-authored book, “All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan.”
Do 401(k) contributions count in 50/30/20 rule calculations? Yes, 401(k) contributions are included in the 50/30/20 budget planner under the 20% savings category.
Are there 50/30/20 budget apps that can help? If you’re looking for a 50/30/20 budget app, one option is the Moneywyn Personal Finance App. The free budgeting app is available for iPhone users in the Apple App Store.
Are there 50/30/20 calculators available? Some financial institutions offer 50/30/20 calculators to help you budget your money using this approach. For example, Northeast Credit Union and Georgia United Credit Union provide simple 50/30/20 budget calculators. Enter your monthly after-tax income to see how much you have for each category.
Eric Rosenberg contributed to this report.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 9 lenders of 2022!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|2.75% – 8.90%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.50% – 6.80%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.81% – 7.21%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.49% – 7.99%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|3.24% – 7.99%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|3.24% – 8.24%6||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.99% – 7.24%||Undergrad |
|1.74% – 7.99%7||Undergrad & Graduate|
|3.69% – 9.92%8||Undergrad & Graduate|
|Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.
Splash Financial Disclosures
Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount. Fixed loans feature repayment terms of 5 to 20 years. For example, the monthly payment for a sample $10,000 with an APR of 5.47% for a 12-year term would be $94.86. Variable loans feature repayment terms of 5 to 25 years. For example, the monthly payment for a sample $10,000 with an APR of 5.90% for a 15-year term would be $83.85.
The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.
To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.
Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of October 1, 2022.
2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
All credit products are subject to credit approval.
Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $9 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.
As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.
Assumptions: Repayment examples above assume a loan amount of $10,000 with repayment beginning immediately following disbursement. Repayment examples do not include the 0.25% AutoPay Discount.
Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.
Interest Rate: A simple annual rate that is applied to an unpaid balance.
Variable Rates: The current index for variable rate loans is derived from the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (“SOFR”) and changes in the SOFR index may cause your monthly payment to increase. Borrowers who take out a term of 5, 7, or 10 years will have a maximum interest rate of 9%, those who take out a 15 or 20-year variable loan will have a maximum interest rate of 10%. There is no limit on the amount your interest rate can increase at one time. The Index is currently published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (“New York Fed”). If the Index is no longer available, it will be replaced by a replacement Index according to the terms of the promissory note.
KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.
This information is current as of October 31, 2022. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.
3 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of 5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.
As of 10/26/2022 student loan refinancing rates range from 2.81% APR – 7.21%APR Variable APR with AutoPay and 3.99% APR – 10.68 APR% Fixed APR with AutoPay.
4 Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. Important Disclosures for Earnest.
You can choose between fixed and variable rates. Fixed interest rates are 3.99% – 8.74% APR (3.74% – 8.49% APR with Auto Pay discount). Starting variable interest rates are 2.74% APR to 8.24% APR (2.49% – 7.99% APR with Auto Pay discount). Variable rates are based on an index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) plus a margin. Variable rates are reset monthly based on the fluctuation of the index. We do not currently offer variable rate loans in AK, CO, CT, HI, IL, KY, MA, MN, MS, NH, OH, OK, SC, TN, TX, and VA.
5 Important Disclosures for Navient.
6 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
Fixed rates range from 3.99% APR to 8.24% APR with a 0.25% autopay discount. Variable rates from 3.24% APR to 8.24% APR with a 0.25% autopay discount. Unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law, Variable Interest rates on 5-, 7-, and 10-year terms are capped at 8.95% APR; 15- and 20-year terms are capped at 9.95% APR. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on the term you select, evaluation of your creditworthiness, income, presence of a co-signer and a variety of other factors. Lowest rates reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. For the SoFi variable-rate product, the variable interest rate for a given month is derived by adding a margin to the 30-day average SOFR index, published two business days preceding such calendar month, rounded up to the nearest one hundredth of one percent (0.01% or 0.0001). APRs for variable-rate loans may increase after origination if the SOFR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. This benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit lowers your interest rate but does not change the amount of your monthly payment. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance. Autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi.
7 Important Disclosures for Purefy.
Purefy Student Loan Refinancing Rate and Terms Disclosure: Annual Percentage Rates (APR) ranges and examples are based on information provided to Purefy by lenders participating in Purefy’s rate comparison platform. For student loan refinancing, the participating lenders offer fixed rates ranging from 2.73% – 7.99% APR, and variable rates ranging from 1.74% – 7.99% APR. The maximum variable rate is 25.00%. Your interest rate will be based on the lender’s requirements. In most cases, lenders determine the interest rates based on your credit score, degree type and other credit and financial criteria. Only borrowers with excellent credit and meeting other lender criteria will qualify for the lowest rate available. Rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice. Terms and conditions apply.
8 Important Disclosures for Citizens.
Education Refinance Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.69%-9.92% (3.69%-9.92% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.49%-10.11% (4.49%-10.11% APR).
Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 6.39%- 9.60% (6.39% – 9.60% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 6.58% – 9.79% (6.58% – 9.79% APR).
Graduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.69% – 9.16% (3.69% – 9.16% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.49% – 9.35% (4.49% – 9.35% APR).
Education Refinance Loan for Parents Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.69%- 9.09% (3.69%- 9.09% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.49% – 9.28% (4.49% – 9.28% APR).
Medical Residency Refinance Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.69% – 9.16% (3.69% – 9.16% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.49% – 9.35% (4.49% – 9.35% APR).