Skip to Content

My Experience With the 50/30/20 Budget

If you recall in my 26 Things I Want To Accomplish While I’m 26 post, one of my goals is to get better at finances this year. It’s really a goal I am always working towards but it’s time for things to really change.

The ways I’ve decided to do that is to try out different budgeting methods. My goal with this is to help me find what works for me in terms of managing my money. The ultimate goal is to get me sticking to a budget (for once in my life). 

50/30/20 Budget Guideline

My Experience With the 50/30/20 Budget

The first method I decided to try out is the classic 50/30/20 budget. If you aren’t familiar with this budget, you essentially split your income into three different categories: needs, wants, and savings/debt.

I used this tool from Nerd Wallet to quickly find what my amount for each category would be. Math is not my strong suit so I felt more comfortable using a tool for now.

This is how the 50/30/20 rule breaks down:

  • Needs: 50% – This one has a grey area in my opinion. Sometimes it’s hard to discern what is a need and what is a want. The classification is different for each person. What I used this category for was bills and groceries.
  • Wants: 30% – I’m sure this is everyone’s favorite category. This is where those coffee-runs, online shopping, movie nights, etc., come into play. Some of my wants were a Fitness Marshall membership, new books (my personal favorite purchase) my first Start Today Journal, and other items that are probably non-essential but that I enjoy greatly.
  • Savings: 20% – This is my hardest category to manage, personally. However, the items that go into this category would be any savings accounts you have, as well as any debt you may have. 

For transparency’s sake, I want to share that at this point when I was doing the 50/30/20 budget, I was paid every-other-week. I also was let go from my seasonal job. My last check wasn’t as great as my previous ones, due to the fact that it only covered one week of work.

50/30/20 Budget Guideline50/30/20 Budget Guideline

How did I do with the 50/30/20 budget?

I did really well for about two weeks. I would check my bank account every other Friday to see what my paycheck was. Then I would input that number in that 50/30/20 calculator site to figure out how much to devote to each category. This was followed by listing out all my expenses for those two weeks in the correct categories.

As I got closer to the end of the second week, a few days before my next paycheck, everything started to unravel. Don’t get me wrong, my bills were paid so I didn’t skip any payments. My savings category is what suffered. I’ve identified my problem here. I buy things without thinking it through. It’s not big purchases. However, over time those fast food runs and small online purchases add up. 

The next paycheck I did even worse about following the 50/30/20 rule. It was my last paycheck from my seasonal job, and only a one-week paycheck. Over half of my check had to go to bills. I couldn’t even utilize the rule the way it was intended. I was kicking myself for not being true to my savings category in my last check because I could have really used the money in the last two weeks. Looking back on the month of January I can see that there were some mistakes made and lessons learned.

50/30/20 Budget Guideline

Pros of the 50/30/20 budget

Even though I failed with this budget, I can see the value in the rule. 

  • It confronts the need vs. want issue: The big one for me here was with groceries. We obviously need food, but I could have skipped out on some of my purchases, or looked for cheaper options. That is where groceries can fall into the wants category if you are not careful. I learned this the hard way.
  • It’s easy to follow: Having only three categories can be a lot easier than a ton of them. It also doesn’t hurt that it saves time. Whether you have a ton of bills and expenses, or only a few, this budget can work for you.
  • It exposes your spending habits: Having a relaxed amount of categories really showed me how much I spend on things other than bills. I need to stop going through the drive-thru so much. That is the biggest money waster I had when I look  at all I spent.

Cons of the 50/30/20 budget

While there are many benefits to this type of budget, there are also a few negatives that need to be considered. 

  • Lack of structure: Only having three categories makes this budget easy to follow, but it also makes it easy to get carried away. Especially if you are a spender, like me.
  • Not realistic for some salaries: I talked about this a little in a previous paragraph. My last check had to be devoted mostly bills. When that happens all the other percentages get thrown off. It could go the other way too. That is why I feel that percentages are hard to follow when you are budgeting. 

My Final Thoughts

I don’t think this is the budget for me, but I don’t regret trying it. In fact, I believe everyone should try this budget style at least once. I may try it again in the future, but for now, it’s time for me to find a new budgeting style to try.

I’ve realized I need my structure when it comes to a budget. I need more checks and balances that will prevent my from overspending in my wants category. I also struggle with putting “wants” into the “needs” category unnecessarily. Overall, I need to improve my relationship with money before any budgeting method will truly be effective. 

What are your thoughts? Have you ever tried this rule, if so what was your experience?

About the Author

Kelly Clark

Kelly graduated from Liberty University with a degree in Advertising and Public Relations and a minor in Journalism. Even though it took her a little while to find her career path, she was always meant to be in Communications. She remembers writing poems and songs when she was a little girl and pitching to my parents the reasons why I should have a cell phone when I was a teenager. She currently has a blog ( where she talks about her weight-loss journey, mental health and personal development. Her hope is to encourage and inspire readers and let them know they are not alone. Reading blog posts like that are what helped her in tough times and she wants to pay it forward. She loves dance fitness, listening to music, and creating layouts in her bullet journal. She's a big fan of planning, especially when cute notebooks and pens are involved. Her dream job has changed so much over the years; right now she'd love to co-own a dance studio.