What’s a non-discretionary budget item? Your cable bill? A gym membership? Your mortgage? One of the biggest mistakes you can make when you draw up a budget is failing to separate the things you need from the things you want.

Setting priorities is the first step in coming up with a spending plan. Recognizing which expenses are essential (non-discretionary) and which ones are negotiable (discretionary) gives you a place to start.

Non-Discretionary Expenses

At the top of your spending plan, list your non-discretionary expenses, which are those you must absolutely pay. For example, you need a place to live, so you have to pay your mortgage or rent each month. Utilities such as heat and electricity, basic phone service, food, and insurance are other non-negotiable expenses. Include any personal or student loans in this category as well.

List of common non-discretionary expenses:

  • Utilities
  • Housing
  • Phone service
  • Groceries
  • Insurance
  • Transportation costs
  • Taxes
  • Healthcare
  • Education

Discretionary Expenses

Discretionary expenses are items you want but don’t necessarily need. Premium cable service is one example. Restaurant meals and pricey vacations are others. If you need more cash to pay for essentials, areas like these are good places to look. Reducing discretionary expenses can make a big difference in your cash flow.

List of common discretionary expenses:

  • Vacation travel expenses
  • Luxury goods
  • Coffee
  • Dining out
  • Jewelry, shoes, and clothes
  • Streaming services
  • Services you pay for that you could DIY
  • Entertainment

Determine What You Can Live Without . . .

Take a hard look at where your money goes each month. Do you really need 200 cable channels and all the extras on your cell phone? While the upgraded services may be nice, cutting back on some of them can free up money to pay down credit cards or add to your savings. By curbing your spending on extras, you’ll have more money for future goals, such as a new car, a first home, and your retirement.

If you’re looking for a sounding board for your financial questions, our team is here for you. Click HERE if you’re interested in scheduling a time to chat.

Written By  Brett Sebion, Financial Coach
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