How “Everything Else” Works

Budgeting Made Easy

Johnny and I find budgeting to be quite stifling. It’s our money, so we should get to do with it as we please, amiright? When we first started budgeting, sticking to each and every little category made us both feel downright claustrophobic.

And so we said To heck with it! and have been budget-free ever since. Well, actually, no. We didn’t do that. Rather, we modified our budget to give us more breathing room. And thus the Everything Else category was birthed. We’ve mentioned this category in our monthly budget posts, and it’s worked really well for us. We stick to our budget, but we have flexibility on how much we want to spend on different items each month.

Here’s how it works.

First, we have our fixed expenses. Those have categories of their own. We know we’ll pay rent each month, so that’s a category. We know we’ll be paying for gas, electric, phone, and TV each month, so those are subcategories within the Utilities category. And we have a few other fixed categories as well.

And then we have the Everything Else category for all of our non-fixed expenses. Right now, the following subcategories fit into this category:

  • Baby Supplies (diapers, wipes, toys, cutest sundress you ever did see)
  • Gifts (birthdays, well wishes)
  • Medical (a copay here, a root canal there)
  • Netflix (okay, so this is a fixed expense, but we still put it in Everything Else)
  • Entertainment (movies, experiences)
  • Gas (for the car and Vespa)
  • Pet Supplies (Persie’s food, litter, toys)
  • Home/Personal Care (any home purchases, or the fancy schmancy lotion or hair gel we insist on using)
  • Clothing (that shirt one of us just can’t live without)
  • Dry Cleaning (pretty self-explanatory)
  • Personal (stuff Johnny and I buy for ourselves that don’t fit anywhere else)
  • Misc. (stuff that really doesn’t fit anywhere else)

Lotsa stuff, right? So we don’t give ourselves a spending limit on any of this stuff. It’s really nice. But we do give ourselves a limit on the total for all of this stuff combined. And currently that limit is $550. Some months the majority of the money goes to Clothing. Other months, the majority goes to Home or Medical. It depends. This may seem like a small amount for all this stuff, so let me clarify a couple of categories. First, twice a year Johnny and I have a seasonal shopping budget. It’s usually right before winter and right before summer, so throughout the year we don’t spend much on clothing, except when we see a must-buy item. Also, Johnny and I have a Personal category that’s separate from the Everything else category. It gives us $25 each/month to spend on whatever we please. So that takes care of little items such as nail polish, a must-read novel, and so forth.

So that’s how we stay within budget without feeling completely smothered by budgeting. Of course, it is still our freaking budget, and we will forever have a love hate relationship with it. But this helps us love it a bit more.

How do you survive budgeting? Do you have a catch-all category like this, too?

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  • Reply Ray Ray September 5, 2013 at 7:45 am

    We do the same thing. It’s so nice considering we buy dog food at Sam’s, for example. Since we buy so much and we have a little 20 lb dog, we don’t buy dog food every month. It wasn’t making sense for us to try and disperse that budget over a couple of months or wonder “what do we do with this $20 budgeted for dog food this month?” This definitely gives more breathing room and flexibility! Much easier = more likely to happen

    BUT we do include Netflix in our fixed expenses 😉

    • Reply Johnny September 17, 2013 at 12:33 am

      “Much easier = more likely to happen.”

      That’s exactly the conclusion we came to. We could be stricter and maybe scrimp a few extra bucks here and there, but it’d be a lot harder, and that would might mean we’d try to avoid budgeting altogether.

  • Reply Jane Savers @ Solving The Money Puzzle September 5, 2013 at 7:53 am

    I work on a zero budget and I move all the money out of my chequing account and away to the bills, debt payment and yearly bills account (vet, car registration, house insurance) so there is only a little money left for me.

    Whatever I do with the little amount of money that is left is mine to blow as I please. I have to pay my day to day expenses (gas, groceries, dog food) with that money but if I blow the bulk of it on 2 meals out I don’t regret or touch the other money I just eat cereal for supper for a few days.

    Sometimes I have money left at the end of the 2 week pay period and sometimes I am counting quarters at the gas station to put $11 worth of gas in my car to get me through to the next pay. I couldn’t stand budgeting or tracking every single penny.

    Budgeting shouldn’t be another job.

    • Reply Johnny September 17, 2013 at 12:34 am

      “Budgeting shouldn’t be another job.”

      Truer words have never been said. Totally spot on.

  • Reply Taynia | The Fiscal Flamingo September 5, 2013 at 9:35 am

    This is a great laid-back concept to budgeting. I follow this process. Sometimes. My budget is a bit more fluid – it depends in where I’m at in my financial life. If I’m in saver mode – i.e. replenishing my emergency fund, than I allocate into more categories. If I’m in maintenance mode, I follow something very similar to what you’ve laid out here.

    • Reply Johnny September 17, 2013 at 12:38 am

      We’ve definitely gone through a few different periods of budget stringency, but since we’ve cleared the Debt Monster hurdle, we’ve used the Everything Else method. But as we start preparing to buy a home in the next few years, I could see us tightening the belt a bit and categorizing a little more conservatively. But Everything Else will likely always exist in some form with us — we’re softies. 🙂

  • Reply Heather September 5, 2013 at 9:41 am

    I adopted this method after reading about it on your blog, and I love it! I too was getting strangled by having all sorts of categories that never got spent every month (things like haircuts, medical co-pays etc.). This method allows me to cover those expenses when I need it, plus spend the money elsewhere in the months I don’t need it. It also allows me to spend a bit of money on some fun stuff if I have it, but also makes me consider those purchases very carefully!

    The other strategy was to adopt a planned savings budget line. This money goes into another account and saves up for things that I want to do that are more expensive – vacation, sports/fitness etc. They usually involve a big outlay in one month, but then I don’t have to spend money on it again for another few months or more.

    I like the approach to clothing – a seasonal budget + a certain amount to supplement throughout the year. I’ve struggled over how to allot clothing in my budget – especially when things like shoes and jackets (especially for winter) tend to be more expensive than what I would normally set aside for clothing. This way you can make sure all the big stuff is covered at the start of the summer/winter seasons (shoes, boots, jackets), and then supplement with one or two pieces every month over the rest of the year. My problem might be solved!

    • Reply Johnny September 17, 2013 at 12:42 am

      Awesome! Glad to hear it’s working out for you. I also love your planned savings budget line for more expensive “Everything Else” purchases that are less necessary and more fun. We’ve never been very good at budgeting out things like that, so we might have to try that out for upcoming frivolity. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply taylor September 5, 2013 at 10:03 am

    Thank you! I have a spreadsheet for each of our categories. Each spreadsheet goes behind a tab: either set in stone or everything else (only did this after reading your blog). We set specific amounts for everything, but we’re allowed to “borrow” from other categories in everything else. Thank you for being an inspiration! I mentioned you on my (rinky dink, unimportant, basically journal entries) blog, so hopefully I’ve sent some new followers your way!

    • Reply Johnny September 17, 2013 at 12:48 am

      Rad! So glad that Everything Else is working out for you! And thanks for mentioning us on your blog! Hopefully you asterisked your link to our blog with “* Just a warning: they’re pretty weird. So I’m not responsible for that.” 🙂

  • Reply The Norwegian Girl September 5, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    I have certain fixed expenses, and the rest are put in various categories like fun money, gifts (mostly around christmas, otherwise gift goes under miscellaneous) and miscellaneous which is pretty much like your “everything else” category!

  • Reply Tarynkay September 5, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    I like being able to see where all of the money goes, so I keep everything in it’s own category. There are categories that usually end up with zero spent- pretty much your what you mention in “everything else.” For instance, we have a category for clothing. We budget $50 per month for that (for me, my husband, and our 22 month old boy.) We almost never buy clothes, so we usually have a surplus of $50 on our budget spreadsheet at the end of the month. Then we just transfer the surplus to savings. That way, when we do have to buy clothing, we have the money in savings to do so. We don’t have a specific savings account for each category, but we can look back and see that it has been say, 10 months since we bought clothing, so we have up to $500 that we can spend on clothes.

    This way works best for us, b.c it means that I don’t blow the vet bill money on cute baby shoes or something.

    • Reply Johnny September 17, 2013 at 12:54 am

      Totally understand this method. In fact, this is exactly how we did it for the first year or two of budgeting. I actually really liked having so much control over every single purchase category. But after a while, we found that it was really hard to roll things over or borrow from the next month’s budget since we knew it’d be a once a X month purchase.

      As we’ve always said, do what makes budgeting work for you. And if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.

  • Reply Kayla September 5, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    This is so simple, yet so brilliant. I was just wrestling with guilt over buying clothes last month (and going over budget in that category) when I had already consciously chose to go out for dinner less as a result. If I can lump them together, then I don’t have to feel that unnecessary guilt! 🙂

    • Reply Johnny September 17, 2013 at 12:57 am

      Everything Else aka Guilt-B-Gone! Choose those spending battles wisely and you might be going out to dinner in brand new clothes! Or in my case, eating take out at home in new-to-me clothes from the thrift store. 🙂

  • Reply Simon @ Modest Money September 5, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    The laid back nature of your strategy seems to blow the boring and tough parts of budgeting out 🙂 Makes it accessible to the ordinary person who wrestles with their budgets even on a good day!
    I use something close with a “Misc” category in my budget for occasssional things that might pop up that are not anticipated or planned for in the budget. If nothing comes or am in super-saver moods (yeah, they do happen), then that money is rolled over and allocated for the next month. Some months I just blow all of it and still remain within the budget.

    • Reply Johnny September 17, 2013 at 12:59 am

      Thanks, Simon! We have our super-saver months too where we’ll look at all of the categories/expenses that make up our Everything Else and try to figure out how to scale it back. But even during the belt tightening periods, we’ve found Everything Else still keeps us motivated and most importantly, sane. 🙂

  • Reply Kristin Brown September 5, 2013 at 7:05 pm

    So glad you wrote this post! I just downloaded the HomeBudget app you guys use and wondered how you use that portion of your budget. I have been trying to lump some of that type of stuff you occasionally buy, but not every month into a “yearly” category… but it wasn’t working out well. This seems a lot more doable.

    One question: you mentioned home/personal care in this category — it sounds like you categorize all that type of stuff (cleaning supplies, toiletries, etc.) here? I have always lumped it in with groceries since I’m usually paying for it all mixed in together while I’m at Target or Walmart. Do you separate it out in your budget? Just curious. 🙂

    • Reply Johnny September 17, 2013 at 1:05 am

      For us, it’s wayyy more doable. We categorized EVERYTHING in the beginning and it worked for a while. But this was a compromise between saving and staying sane.

      As far as home/personal, we do itemize and separate those purchases. Usually when we get home, we’ll eyeball the receipts and do some fuzzy, rounding up math and split up the food from “everything else.” That way we can be honest with our grocery budget and realize if/when we need to lay off buying that extra bag of Cheetos (my request, not Joanna’s).

  • Reply Rob September 5, 2013 at 7:45 pm

    We’ve been regularly using a budget for over 40 years so we’ve been able to identify several expense categories that we’ve consistently been able to track. Of course over time some categories have been replaced by others as conditions have changed (eg., baby expenses becoming teen expenses and then later being dropped as the kids grew up and moved out on their own). Currently we quite accurately track (since most of these are fixed regular costs) 22 expense categories along with a contingency (aka “fudge factor”) limited budget category called “Misc. Spending”. It may look pretty detailed to have so many categories but as the old saying goes: “The devil is in the details” 🙂

    • Reply Johnny September 17, 2013 at 1:07 am

      That devil, Mr. Details, has definitely reared his nasty head into a few of our monthly budgets since we’ve started the Everything Else method, but it’s kept us more motivated and sane than keeping track of so many categories. I can already see some categories that are constantly popping up with expenses that may need to be categorized in the coming months.

  • Reply Retired By 40! September 9, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    Interesting! I have toyed with the idea of doing this with out budget, but was unsure of how it would actually work out. I think in our case I would budget for the pet food and supplies because I know exactly how much we spend each month on food, and vet appointments I can see coming, but the rest makes sense! I have categories such as medical, clothing, pet toys, gift, and others like you mentioned that I budget for every month but do not necessarily use. Maybe this would be a good way to simplify out budget a bit 🙂

    Going to try it out….

    • Reply Johnny September 17, 2013 at 1:08 am

      Simplifying for us was the name of the game. Anything to get an edge on budgeting. We may actually separate our pet costs, as well, as that’s becoming a more frequent, expected purchase.

  • Reply Melanie September 12, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    This is interesting because I am still in “obsessive” budgeting mode. Basically when I do my budget I stare at my calendar for the month period I’m budgeting for and budget for the smallest items like stamps, batteries-when I know there is something like that I’m running out on. Since I’m 4 months away from being debt-free, this is really crunch time, so I think the obsession thing is working for me. I’m hoping once my debt is paid off, I will be able to be much less rigid and automate stuff–especially automate big savings chunks! It’s always great to see how others budget.

    • Reply Johnny September 17, 2013 at 1:11 am

      I actually loved when we were in “obsessive” mode. I felt SOOO in control. With time we compromised and eased up a bit to stay sane, but all power to you and your four-months away from Debt Monster-dom! So awesome. Keep doing what you’re doing and best of luck on the remaining months!

  • Reply Retired By 40! September 16, 2013 at 10:13 am

    This post made my Favorite Posts Roundup!

  • Reply Kirsten January 12, 2014 at 12:44 am

    This is SUCH a great idea! The thought of putting in specific amounts gives me anxiety. I keep thinking, “what if I forget something?” “what if I misjudged?” This would eliminate all these problems! Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply Kaitlin December 14, 2014 at 2:08 pm

    I know I’m late to post a response, but I do hope you will still reply! My husband are I are just in the beginning stages of starting a monthly budget. One of the expenses that we ( mainly me) have that we do not know what to do about clothing. In order to keep us from going in the hole, this has truly fell to a very low priority- as in shopping for clothes is pretty much non-existent in our monthly budget. This leads me to feeling guilty if I do happen to buy clothing- even if it is inexpensive, but needed. Although, I really want some new work clothes and would like to be able to add to my wardrobe on a consistent basis. My question I need help with is- How do budget to be able to buy larger amounts of clothes for the seasonal shopping spree? Does it just come out of the “Everything Else” category? How much (roughly) do you use per person on your seasonal shopping spree? Thanks in advance for your response!

    • Reply Joanna January 11, 2015 at 12:37 am

      Hi Kaitlin! Great questions. And sorry for the delayed response… with the move and the holidays, we’re still getting all caught up.

      You have a few options when it comes to your clothing budget, and it kind of depends how tight you guys are keeping your budget, etc. If you see clothing as a need, though, it should definitely be part of your budget. Johnny and I used to have our clothing budget as a twice a year thing… in the spring and fall, we’d each get a couple hundred dollars to buy new clothes. Now we’ve made it part of our monthly budget that we can use at any point throughout the year. We each have our own Personal Spending category that we can do with as we will, and we’ve grouped clothing with that. The category includes clothing, books, pedicures… whatever we want that isn’t technically a “need.” If you’re buying clothes specifically for work, you may consider create a different category (possibly under Everything Else) since that is an actual need. Currently, our budget is set at $60/month each, and whatever we don’t use rolls over into the next month. I will say that category is higher than it was when we were paying down our loans, so depending on what your financial goals are, you’ll have to determine the number that’s right for you. That’s how we do it, and you can see how it’s listed in our January 2015 budget here:

      I hope that helps! Feel free to shoot us an email or comment with any other questions you have. Good luck!

  • Reply Dana February 2, 2015 at 5:27 am

    For the clothing, we just looked back at how much we spent the year before (and once we got over the shock) divided that by 12 and made a sinking fund savings account for it. Every month I transfer a set amount for short term savings into these accounts. These are things like vet bills, car/house repair, vacation, etc. Then when we spend it I transfer that amount back into our account.

    I am thinking of lowering the amount saved for clothing and only using the saved money for big shopping trips, not the times I find a good deal on a shirt at Target.

    I do love the Everything Else category, I think I will have to implement it and stop trying to divide said Target trips btw food, clothing and household.

    • Reply Joanna February 8, 2015 at 8:52 pm

      Nice. Sounds like you’ve got a great system. We’ve found that it really helps to simplify things, which, when it comes to budgeting, we need as much simplification as we can get!

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  • Reply Sarah March 23, 2015 at 2:57 pm

    I’m so onboard with the Everything Else category! It stresses me out to divide transactions between various categories and then I give up all together. I recently bought HomeBudget on your recommendation and am trying to set up the Everything Else category. I like it, but unfortunately, it won’t let me just put an overall budget amount (like your $550 above), but instead wants me to put the amounts in each subcategory. Do you list your subcategories in the app with estimated monthly amounts or do you just have the main category and not list your subcategories? Sorry if that is a confusing question, LOL.

    • Reply Joanna March 25, 2015 at 2:03 pm

      Not confusing at all! So what we do is put in a total budget amount for the main “Everything Else” category. And then for the subcategories, we put $0 for each one. It works for on ours, so hopefully it works with your app, too! Hope that helps!

  • Reply Rachel August 15, 2015 at 1:43 pm

    I really want to use the “Everything Else” category but I’m having the same problem as Sarah. I’ve been playing around with YNAB and HomeBudget (lite) to see which one I like better before forking over our $$. I cannot for the life of me figure out how to set a total budget amount for the main “Everything Else” category and it’s making me crazy! Is it different in the paid app? When I compared the App Store descriptions for both apps it looks like they’re the same, only the lite version limits the number of expense and income entries you can make. Google’s been no help either. Please, save my sanity!

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  • Reply Lacey November 10, 2016 at 1:12 pm

    I am loving the “Everything Else” idea. I have been killing myself trying to account for every little possible need, and then figure out how to divide one time expenses up. It has been driving me crazy. And then there is this simple concept. As I was reading I had one of those…DUH…moments – why didn’t I think of that. But I still have one question. At the end of the month, if you have money left over in the Everything Else category, do you roll the remainder into savings or leave it there to build that account up? I can think of good reason to do both. I am just curious what y’all do?

  • Reply Shimona August 2, 2017 at 4:59 pm

    I’m working on becoming more financially literate/stable and I LOVE how you separate things into categories. Might be common sense but it’s new to me! Adjusting my spreadsheet right now 🙂
    Thank you!

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