How Many Categories Do You Need?

A spending plan must, by necessity, include categories, but how detailed and specific is really a personal preference.

Some people, like me, need the discipline of more categories. For instance, in the beginning, I lumped together all items I could buy in a grocery store and even eating out into one category called Food.

That included:
1. Personal care items like soap.
2. Household items like paper towels.
3. Food.
4. Going out to restaurants.

But I found that I was having problems every month having enough money in this category. So I had to split out some of these items to see where the money was going. Here is a screenshot:

(Sidney is my doggie. :)) This was very helpful, so I kept the food money tracking weekly. Each week is a subcategory of the master category Grocery-Food. It isn’t written in stone, so if I need more in week two, I can take it from another week. I freely move between sub-categories that are related under one master category, but never move between master categories without talking to someone.

Another member found that such detail made her insane! She would spend so much time trying to be sure she was putting something into the right category that she was ready to leave the program. For instance, if she took a friend to dinner, was it relationships, gifts, food, etc.?

Her answer was to make bigger bucket categories. While she has a house category where she tracks her mortgage and utilities, her food, gas, restaurants, household supplies, etc., are all lumped into one big category called Consumables. Then, she grouped clothing, furniture, etc., into another category called Durables. This system has really worked for her, but would lead me to compulsive spending.

So you see, there is no hard and fast rule about categories and subcategories … except that you need some!


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