What Is the 70-20-10 Budget Rule? How Does It Work? | SoFi (2024)

By Walecia Konrad ·January 21, 2024 · 9 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey.Read moreWe develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide.We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right.Read less

What Is the 70-20-10 Budget Rule? How Does It Work? | SoFi (1)

There are plenty of budgets out there that promise to help you manage your money more efficiently, and some of them can get quite complicated. That’s why many people opt for the 70-20-10 budget rule. It’s a simple, percentage-based formula that can help you get and keep your personal finances in good order.

This system can help you get better acquainted with what you earn and where it goes, while tracking your daily spending (that’s the 70% of your after-tax earnings) plus debt repayment and saving (the 20% and the 10%). These aspects of the 70-20-10 budget are part of its appeal, and it can guide you to better money habits. Read on to learn how it works and can be adapted for your particular needs.

What Is the 70-20-10 Rule?

The 70-20-10 rule is a way to allocate your monthly income into three categories:

• Living expenses

• Debt repayment and short-term savings

Investing and donations.

Using these categories can help organize the way you think about your income — how it comes in, and importantly, how it goes out. It’s a simple and often very successful way to get a personal budget in place.

Note: If it sounds very familiar, it’s worth noting that there is also the 50/30/20 budget rule, a slightly different spin on budgeting that also works with easy-to-calculate percentages. To see a breakdown using this method, check out the 50/30/20 rule calculator.

Now, take a closer look at each of the three components of this budget tool.

💡 Quick Tip: Don’t think too hard about your money. Automate your budgeting, saving, and spending with SoFi’s seamless and secure online banking app.

70% for Living Expenses

Living expenses are exactly what they sound like — expenditures you need or want to make each month. To see how much of your post-tax dollars go toward these costs every month, you’ll do a little math. You’ll add up the monthly payments that cover essentials such as housing, utilities, food, childcare, and medical expenses.

It also includes expenditures made only once or twice a year, such as auto or home insurance premiums or yearly car tune-ups. In those cases, you simply figure the total paid for the year, divide by 12, and add that number to the monthly figure.

For the purposes of the 70-20-10 rule budget, living expenses also include discretionary spending on things like shopping, entertainment, travel, gym memberships, and other non-essential items.

To get started, scan through a couple of months of your bank statements, credit card, utility, medical, housing, insurance, and cable and internet bills to see how you’re tracking. Use the common living expenses listed below as a guide.

Housing

• Rent or mortgage and property tax

• Utilities

• Maintenance

• Insurance

Transportation

• Car payments

• Maintenance

• Gas and tolls

• Parking

• Public transportation costs

• Taxis and ride shares

• Auto insurance

Childcare

• Day care

• After-school programs

• Tuition

• Babysitting

• Clothes, personal care, and related expenses

Insurance

Health insurance premiums (if not deducted from your paycheck)

• Auto and home insurance premiums

Life insurance premiums

• Disability income insurance premiums

Food

• Groceries

• Takeout and restaurants

Health

• Deductibles, copays, and coinsurance

• Medical and dental appointment costs not covered by insurance

• Prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs

• Eyeglasses and contacts

Entertainment

• Concert, theater, and movie tickets

• Paid streaming and podcast services

• Books

• Travel

Pets

• Food, equipment and accessories, and toys

• Flea and tick prevention/other medications

• Vet bills

• Pet insurance

Personal

• Clothing/shoes/accessories

• Hair care and other grooming

• Toiletries/cosmetics

• Gym membership

If your monthly number hits the 70% mark or less, congratulations. You’re living within your means. For most people, however, this first calculation will likely exceed 70%. More on what to do when that happens below. For now, keep looking at the big picture of tallying your 70-20-10 numbers.

20% for Saving and Debt Repayment

Next, you want to calculate how much it will take to hit the 20% goal of saving and debt repayment. (If you don’t have debt, hooray; you can zoom straight to saving. But many people need to use this bucket to pay off debt and save.)

If you have credit card debt, you’ll likely want to focus all or part of this 20% on paying that down so you can avoid the high interest payments. If you have college debt, the monthly repayment amount should be included here in the 20% category.

Once that’s done, you’ve cleared the decks for other savings, whether for an emergency fund (aim for three to six months’ worth of expenses) or a near-term goal such as a vacation or down payment for a home.

Depending on what and why you are saving, different kinds of savings accounts may make sense. Consider these smart options to get extra benefits:

High-yield savings accounts make sense if you need your money liquid (accessible) but want to earn more interest than the current rate on traditional savings accounts. Online banks vs. traditional banks often offer the best rates.

A certificate of deposit (CD) is another option. These accounts lock up your money at a specific interest rate for a period of time, usually from six months to a few years. What’s nice is you know how much money your money will earn, but keep in mind, if you pull your money out early, you’ll typically face penalty fees.

Money market accounts (MMAs) combine some aspects of a savings account with features of a checking account. You’ll earn interest on your savings (possibly in the ballpark of high-yield accounts), and you may be able to access funds via debit card or checks.

Once you’ve taken a look at your savings/debt picture, you’ll determine how best to handle the 20% rule. Depending on the size of your debts and your living expenses, you may need to temporarily allocate more or less funds to this category. More on that below.

💡 Quick Tip: Most savings accounts only earn a fraction of a percentage in interest. Not at SoFi. Our high-yield savings account can help you make meaningful progress toward your financial goals.

10% for Donation or Additional Savings

The remaining 10% can be allocated to investing in your future, usually for retirement. Contributions to an IRA, 401(k) 403(b), self-employed retirement savings vehicles, or other long-term, tax advantaged savings plan can be best for this category. This is money that you won’t need in the short term, so it can be invested more aggressively than the savings in your 20% category.

In addition, part of this allocation can go to charitable donations. Perhaps there’s a cause you want to support, from animal rescue to medical research, or you like to donate to your college; it’s your call.

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Example of the 70-20-10 Budget Rule

In terms of calculations, say your monthly income after taxes is $6,000. Here’s how that money would look on the 70-20-10 budget plan.

• For living expenses, you would multiply 6,000 x 0.70, and see that you have $4,200 of after-tax dollars for housing, utilities, food, entertainment, and all the other items listed above.

• For savings, you would multiply 6,000 x 0.20, or $1,200 to put toward savings and debt.

• Lastly, you would multiply 6,000 x 0.10, and see that you have another $600 to put toward additional savings and/or donations.

Here’s the math: $4,200 + $1,200 + $600 = $6,000.

How to Customize the 70-20-10 Rule to Fit Your Needs

The beauty of the 70-20-10 plan is its simplicity — and flexibility. Once you create a budget this way, you can customize the allocations within reason to meet your own needs and financial goals over time. Creating a budget can give you peace of mind, because you’ll know you are taking care of your financial health. Here, a few tips for increasing your likelihood of success in following this plan:

Include Side Hustle Earnings and Windfalls

Bonuses, tax refunds, money from side hustles and other income should be factored in later, as they are earned; don’t consider them as part of your base income. The bulk of the extra income can be designated toward the area most in need of attention, such as paying off credit card debt or boosting emergency savings. But do feel free to set aside a small percentage of those earnings as a reward for your hard work and have some fun with it.

An important note: If not already evident, this budget technique works best for those with a steady income, who are on a payroll. If you are freelance, a gig worker, or seasonal employee and your income is variable, this may not be the best technique for you.

Adjust the Percentages When Needed

After tracking your spending and making possible cuts, you may find you still can’t fit living expenses into the 70% category. Maybe you are just starting your post-grad life, earn a lower income, or live in an area with a high cost of living.

Don’t stress out over this! If you have limited funds and lots of bills, you may have to allocate a bit more to that category and put less in short-term savings until that next raise or other income spurt comes through.

Protect the 10%

A quick note for people with lots of credit card debt: Those hefty bills are a sign that you may be spending more than your income level allows. You’ll probably do better with the 70-20-10 budget if you increase the paying debt/savings percentage to higher than 20% till your debt is lower. Take steps to reduce discretionary spending, perhaps even more than you have already.

In addition, you may find you need to make more drastic cost-cutting moves too, such as finding an apartment with less expensive rent or ditching the expensive car payments and switching to mass transit. The goal is to get costly debt under control so you can start saving for your priorities and peace of mind.

Prioritize High-Interest Debt

Whenever you find the need to adjust percentages, it may be best to avoid tampering with the 10% investing for the future allocation. The sooner you start saving for retirement, the more that money will add up over time. By the same token, older people who may need to catch up on retirement savings may want to increase this 10% allocation. One of the reasons the 70-20-10 plan can be successful is that it helps you balance both short-term needs with long-term financial planning.

If you do make percentage adjustments, be sure to continue to track expenses so you can see when you can readjust allocations back to the original 70-20-10 plan.

The Takeaway

The 70-20-10 budget formula divides your after-tax income into three buckets: 70% for living expenses, 20% for savings and debt, and 10% for additional savings and donations. By allocating your available income into these three distinct categories, you can better manage your money on a daily basis. You can also take steps toward achieving your financial goals in the short- and long-term.

As you establish a budget that works for you, don’t forget to find the right banking partner.

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What Is the 70-20-10 Budget Rule? How Does It Work? | SoFi (2024)

FAQs

What Is the 70-20-10 Budget Rule? How Does It Work? | SoFi? ›

The 70-20-10 budget formula divides your after-tax income into three buckets: 70% for living expenses, 20% for savings and debt, and 10% for additional savings and donations. By allocating your available income into these three distinct categories, you can better manage your money on a daily basis.

What is the 70 20 10 rule example? ›

70 20 10 Budget example

Let's say your income is $5,000 a month after taxes. By this rule, $3,500, 70% of your income, would be for all expenses. Then 20%, or $1,000, is for saving. Last, $500, or 10%, is for giving or debt payoff.

What is the 70% rule to plan your budget? ›

The majority of your income, around 70%, should be allocated for your needs. Essential stuff like rent or mortgage payments, food, utility bills, commuting, and other necessities. This chunk covers your day-to-day living expenses and provides you with financial stability.

What is the #1 rule of budgeting? ›

The 50/30/20 budget rule states that you should spend up to 50% of your after-tax income on needs and obligations that you must have or must do. The remaining half should be split between savings and debt repayment (20%) and everything else that you might want (30%).

Is the 70/20/10 rule good? ›

Like most budgeting guidelines, the 70-20-10 budgeting rule comes with its fair share of pitfalls. It's difficult to pull off: Though saving is important in any budget, Pascarella says that setting 30% of your income aside is very aggressive, especially for people who are only starting to budget their money.

Why is the 70-20-10 rule important? ›

The 70-20-10 rule reveals that individuals tend to learn 70% of their knowledge from challenging experiences and assignments, 20% from developmental relationships, and 10% from coursework and training.

What is an example of the 20 10 rule? ›

For this example, consider Tom, a hypothetical borrower who has a take-home pay of $50,000 per year. In this example, 20% of Tom's $50,000 income is $10,000. According to the 20/10 rule, Tom's total debt should fall below $10,000.

Is 50/30/20 or 70/20/10 better? ›

The 70/20/10 Budget

This budget follows the same style as the 50/30/20, but the percentages are adjusted to better fit the average American's financial situation. “70/20/10 suggests a framework of 70% of your income on essentials and discretionary spending, 20% on savings and 10% on paying off your debt.

What is the 60 40 budget rule? ›

Save 20% of your income and spend the remaining 80% on everything else. 60/40. Allocate 60% of your income for fixed expenses like your rent or mortgage and 40% for variable expenses like groceries, entertainment and travel.

What is the golden budget rule? ›

Simply put, it states that you should always save a portion of your income before spending it. This fundamental principle encourages you to prioritize saving over impulsive spending, ensuring a secure financial future. When it comes to managing personal finances, the golden rule serves as a guiding principle.

What is the 70 10 10 10 method? ›

This principle says for each dollar you earn or are given, you should save 10%, share 10%, invest 10% and spend 70%.

How much does Dave Ramsey say you should save? ›

According to the Ramsey Solutions post, the recommendation is to invest 15% of your household income for retirement. The article uses the example of a household income which is $80,000 annually. Based on these earnings, each year you need to invest $12,000 towards your retirement savings.

What is the Dave Ramsey budget rule? ›

The 50/30/20 rule is a way of budgeting that divides up your money into three categories: needs (50%), wants (30%) and savings (20%). Some people love this way of managing their money, but, uh—we've got some issues here.

What is the 70/20/10 learning approach? ›

In fact, it states that: 70% of learning happens through on-the-job experience. 20% of learning happens socially through colleagues and friends. And 10% of learning happens via formal training experiences.

What is the 70-20-10 rule of good conversation is a measure of? ›

It holds that individuals obtain 70% of their knowledge from job-related experiences, 20% from interactions with others, and 10% from formal educational events.

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