11 Tips for Surviving on $1,000 a Month

11 Tips for Surviving on $1,000 a Month

Living frugally can be a smart way to save money. While adopting a frugal lifestyle is a choice for some people, it may be a necessity for others. For example, you might be trying to figure out how to live on $1,000 a month if you’re in school or you lost your job and are trying to find a new one.

Getting by on $1,000 a month may not be easy, especially when inflation seems to make everything more expensive. But it is possible to live well even on a small amount of money.

Key Points

•   Surviving on $1,000 a month requires careful budgeting, prioritizing essential expenses, and finding ways to save money.

•   Cutting down on housing costs by sharing living spaces or finding affordable options is crucial.

•   Utilizing public transportation or opting for a bike can help save on transportation expenses.

•   Cooking at home, meal planning, and buying groceries in bulk can significantly reduce food costs.

•   Exploring free or low-cost entertainment options, utilizing discounts, and avoiding unnecessary expenses are key to making $1,000 a month work.

What Does Living on $1,000 a Month Look Like?

If your income is limited to $1,000 a month, you might be wondering exactly how far it will go. Breaking it down hourly, weekly, and by paycheck can give you some perspective on how much money you’ll actually have to work with.

An income of $1,000 a month is….

•   $230.77 as a weekly salary

•   $46.15 daily

•   $6.15 an hour, assuming you work 37.5 hours a week full-time

•   $11.54 an hour, assuming you work 20 hours a week part-time.

The numbers above assume that you’re talking about net income, which means the money you bring in after taxes and other deductions.

By comparison, the median household income in the United States is $67,521, according to Census Bureau data. That works out to $5,626.75 in monthly income.

Is It Possible to Live Off of $1,000 a Month?

Living off $1,000 a month is possible, and it’s a reality for many individuals and families. Again, you might be living on a low income because you’re in school. So your monthly budget might look something like this:

•   Food: $250

•   Gas: $100

•   School supplies/equipment: $50

•   Rent: $400 (assuming you’re sharing with roommates)

•   Utilities: $100

•   Miscellaneous: $100

As you may notice, there isn’t room in this budget for debt repayment or savings.

In addition to students living on a frugal budget, this kind of scenario may apply to older people on a fixed income. Retirees may choose to cut their expenses to the bone once they stop working. And in some cases, money may be tight because you’re getting through a financial hardship and income is lower than normal.

Can you live well on just $1,000 a month? That’s subjective, as the answer can depend on how responsibly you use the money that you have as well as what the cost of living is in your area. Being frugal and flexible are essential to making life on a smaller income work.

How to Live on $1,000 a Month

Figuring out how to live on $1,000 a month, either by choice or when money is tight, requires some creativity and planning. Whether your low-income lifestyle is temporary or you’re making a more permanent shift to financial minimalism, these tips can help you stretch your dollars farther.

1. Assess Your Situation

You can’t really learn how to manage your money better if you don’t know where you’re starting from. So the first step is creating your personal financial inventory to understand:

•   Exactly how much income you have

•   Where that money is coming from

•   What you’re spending each month

•   How much you have in savings

•   How much debt you have.

It also helps to consider why you might need to know how to live on $1,000 a month. For example, if you’re knee-deep in debt because you’ve been living beyond your means, that can be a strong incentive to curb spending and live on less.

2. Separate Needs From Wants

Needs are things you spend money on because you need them to maintain a basic standard of living. For example, needs include:

•   Housing

•   Utilities

•   Food

•   Health care

Wants are all the extras that you might spend money on. So that may include dining out, hobbies, or entertainment. If you’re trying to live on $1,000 a month, needs should likely take priority over wants. One good budget plan can be the 50/30/20 rule, which allocates 50% of one’s take-home pay to needs, 30% to wants, and 20% to savings.

Here’s a hard truth, however: When working with $1,000 per month, you may have to get rid of most (or all) of the wants to make your spending plan work. As you make your budget, focus on the needs first and if you have money left over, then you can add one or two small extras back in.

3. Lower Your Housing Costs

Housing might be your biggest expense, and, if you want to make a $1,000 a month budget work, getting that cost down can help. Some of the ways you might be able to reduce housing costs include:

•   Taking on one or more roommates

•   Moving back in with your parents

•   Renting out a room

•   Refinancing into a new mortgage

•   Selling your home and moving into something smaller or less expensive.

Are these options ideal? Not necessarily. Living with parents, roommates, or strangers who are renting out part of your home can mean sacrificing some of your privacy. Refinancing a mortgage or downsizing can be time-consuming and stressful.

But if you’re trying to get your budget to $1,000 or less, these are all legitimate ways to slash your housing expenses.

4. Get Rid of Your Car

Cars can be expensive to own and maintain. A car payment could easily run several hundred dollars per month. Even if you own your car outright, putting gas in it, buying tires, and paying for regular maintenance could still make a sizable dent in your income.

If you have the means to do so, selling your car could free up money in your budget. And you could use the money you collect from the sale to pad your savings account, pay down some debt, or simply get ahead on monthly bills.

If you do sell your vehicle, use an online resource like Kelley Blue Book to check your car’s potential resale value before setting a price.

5. Eat at Home

After housing, food can easily be a budget-buster, especially if you’re eating out rather than preparing meals at home. The good news is that there’s a simple way to cut your food costs: Ditch the takeout and restaurant meals.

Planning meals around low-cost, healthy ingredients can help you to spend less on food and still eat well. You can also save on food costs by:

•   Using coupons

•   Shopping sales and clearance sections

•   Downloading cash back apps that reward you with cash for grocery purchases

•   Relying on pantry staples that you can make into multiple meals

•   Trying Meatless Mondays (which means eating vegetarian on Mondays; meat tends to be a pricey buy)

•   Repurposing leftovers as much as possible.

You could also save money on food if you’re able to make things like bread, pizza dough, or pasta yourself using basic ingredients. When shopping at your local grocery stores, take time to compare prices online before heading out. And consider whether you can get in-season vegetables and fruits for less at a local farmer’s market.

6. Negotiate Your Bills

Some of your bills might be more or less unchanging from month to month. But others may give you some wiggle room to negotiate and bring costs down.

For example, if you’re keeping your car, you don’t have to keep the same car insurance if it’s costing you a lot of money. You can shop around and compare rates with different companies, or ask your current provider about discounts. You could also raise your deductible, which can lower your monthly premium, but keep in mind that you’ll need to have cash on hand to pay it if you need to file a claim.

Other bills you might be able to negotiate or reduce include:

•   Internet

•   Cable TV (bonus points if you can get rid of it altogether)

•   Cell phone

•   Subscription services (or better yet, cancel them for extra savings)

•   Credit card interest.

Also, if you are hit with a major doctor’s bill, know that it can be possible to negotiate medical bills. It’s definitely worth talking with your provider’s office about this.

There are also services that will handle bill negotiation for you. While those can save you time, you might pay a fee to use them so consider how much that’s worth to you.

7. Learn to Barter and Trade

Bartering is something of a lost art, but reviving it could be a great idea if you’re trying to live on $1,000 a month. For example, say you need to cut the grass, but there’s no room in your budget to buy a new lawn mower to replace your broken one. You could barter the use of your neighbor’s mower in exchange for a few hours of raking leaves at their place.

Or, say that you have kids who have outgrown their clothes. Instead of resigning yourself to using a credit card to buy new outfits for school, you could set up a clothes swap with other parents in your neighborhood. You can clean out clutter and get things you need, without having to spend any money.

8. Get Rid of Debt

Debt can be one of the biggest obstacles to making a $1,000 a month income work. If you have debt, whether it’s credit cards, student loans, or a car loan, it’s important to have a plan for paying it down.

When you only have $1,000 a month to work with, you may only be able to pay a little to your debts at a time. But you might be able to make each penny count more by making debts less expensive.

For instance, you might try a 0% APR credit-card balance transfer to save on interest charges. Or if you have loans from getting your diploma that have a high interest rate, you may consider the benefits of refinancing your student loans to reduce your rate and lower your monthly payment.

If you’re really struggling with how to pay off debt on a low income, you may want to talk to a nonprofit credit counselor. A credit counselor can review your situation and help you come up with a budget and plan for paying off debt that fits your situation. One option is the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, or
NFCC
.

9. Adopt a No-Spend Attitude

When you want or need to know how to live on $1,000 a month, the fastest way to get overspending in check is to do a no-spend challenge. How this works: You commit yourself to not spending any money on nonessentials for a set time period.

A no-spend challenge can last a day, a weekend, a week, a month, or even a year. The time frame doesn’t matter as much as being all-in with the idea of not spending money on things you don’t need. And you might be surprised at how much money you’re able to save by avoiding wasteful spending.

10. Find Free or Low-Cost Ways to Have Fun

Living on $1,000 a month might mean you don’t have much room in your budget for fun. But you can still enjoy life without having to spend money.

Some of the ways you can do that include:

•   Checking out free events in your community, like festivals or fairs

•   Adopting hobbies that are low or no-cost, like walking or bike-riding

•   Checking out books, DVDs, and CDs from your local library

•   Volunteering

•   Visiting local spots that offer free admission days, like museums or aquariums.

Those are all ways to spend an enjoyable afternoon without costing yourself any money. And if you do want to do something that requires a little spending, you can use a site like Groupon to check for coupons or special deals to save some cash. Or try Meetup to see if any free or low-cost events of interest are brewing in your area.

11. Grow Your Income

If you try living on $1,000 a month and find that it just isn’t enough, the next thing you can do is figure out how to bring in more money. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to do that.

Here are some ideas for making more money to supplement your income:

•   Increase your hours if you’re working an hourly job

•   Take on a part-time job in addition to your full-time job

•   Start an online low-cost side hustle, like freelancing or Pinterest management

•   Consider an offline side hustle, like walking dogs or shopping with Instacart

•   Sell things around the house you don’t need for cash

•   Check for unclaimed money online

•   Sell unwanted gift cards for cash.

The great thing about making more money is that you can try multiple things to see what works and what doesn’t. And you can also use found money, like bonuses, rebates, or refunds to help cover bills or shore up your savings.

The Takeaway

Making your budget work when you have $1,000 in monthly income is possible, though it might take some serious work. Drastically reducing expenses can be a great place to start, and bringing in more income can of course help too.

Changing banks is one more money-saving tip to know. When you open an online bank account with SoFi, for example, you can get checking and savings in one place. Plus, if you sign up with direct deposit, you’ll avoid the usual steep banking fees and earn a competitive APY. Qualifying accounts can get paid up to two days early. If you’ve never considered an online bank before, those are great incentives to make a change.

Better banking is here with up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

FAQ

Where can you live on $1,000 a month?

The best places to live on $1,000 a month are ones that have an exceptionally low cost of living. In the United States, that may mean living in a rural area or a smaller city. When searching for the cheapest places to live, consider what you’ll pay for housing, utilities, transportation, and food – the non-negotiable “musts” in your budget.

How can I live on very little income?

The secret to living on a very little income is being careful with how you spend your money and minimizing or avoiding debt as much as possible. Keeping a budget, cutting out unnecessary expenses, and using cash only to pay can make it easier to live on a smaller income.

What is the lowest amount of money you can live on?

The lowest amount of money you can live on is the amount that allows you to cover all of your basic needs, including housing, utilities, and food. For some people, that might be 25% of their income; for others, it might be 75%; it really depends on your specific situation (household size, debt, etc.) and the cost of living. Residing in a less expensive area can make it easier to live on less of the money you make.


Photo credit: iStock/David Commins

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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2023 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
The SoFi Bank Debit Mastercard® is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A., pursuant to license by Mastercard International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.


SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a deposit to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.


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Fixed Expense Vs Variable Expense

Fixed Expenses vs Variable Expenses

A budget can be a great tool for managing your money and making it work harder for you. But typically a budget involves distinguishing between fixed expenses (those that stay constant, month after month) and variable expenses, which change over time.

Understanding where your money is going in these two ways can be helpful as you work to track and optimize how you earn, spend, and save.

What’s important to know is that each kind of expense can be lowered in many cases, and fixed vs. variable expenses don’t necessarily translate as needs vs. wants.

Here, you can learn more about these two ways you spend money and how to pay less. You will likely find smart tips for how you can budget even better.

Key Points

•   A budget helps manage money by distinguishing between fixed expenses (constant) and variable expenses (fluctuating).

•   Fixed expenses include rent, mortgage, insurance premiums, and gym memberships, while variable expenses include groceries, utilities, dining out, and entertainment.

•   Both fixed and variable expenses can be reduced, but cutting fixed expenses may require bigger life changes.

•   Examples of fixed expenses are mortgage payments, car payments, student loan payments, and subscription fees.

•   Examples of variable expenses are utilities, food, dining out, entertainment, and travel.

What Is a Fixed Expense?

Fixed expenses are those costs that you pay in the same amount each month — items like your rent or mortgage payment, insurance premiums (which can be an often-forgotten budget expense), and your gym membership. With fixed expenses, you know the amounts you will owe ahead of time, and they don’t change (or perhaps only annually).

Fixed expenses tend to make up a large percentage of a monthly budget since housing costs, typically the largest part of a household budget, are generally fixed expenses. This means that fixed expenses present a great opportunity for saving large amounts of money on a recurring basis if you can find ways to reduce their costs. However, cutting costs on fixed expenses may require bigger life changes, like moving to a different apartment — or even a different city, where the cost of living is lower.

Keep in mind, too, that not all fixed expenses are necessities — or big budget line items. For example, an online TV streaming service subscription, which is withdrawn in the same amount every month, is a fixed expense. It’s also a want as opposed to a need. Subscription services can seem affordable until they start accumulating and perhaps become unaffordable.

Examples of Fixed Expenses

Here are some examples of fixed expenses:

•   Mortgage payments or rent

•   Car payments

•   Student loan payments

•   Membership and subscription fees

•   Insurance premiums

•   Childcare or tuition payments

•   Internet or mobile phone fees

💡 Quick Tip: An online bank account with SoFi can help your money earn more — up to 4.60% APY, with no minimum balance required.

What Is a Variable Expense?

Variable expenses, on the other hand, are those whose amounts can vary each month, depending on factors like your personal choices and behaviors as well as external circumstances like the weather.

For example, in areas with cold winters, electricity or gas bills are likely to increase during the winter months because it takes more energy to keep a house comfortably warm. Grocery costs are also variable expenses since the amount you spend on groceries can vary considerably depending on what kind of items you purchase and how much you eat.

You’ll notice, though, that both of these examples of variable costs are still necessary expenses — basic utility costs and food. The amount of money you spend on other nonessential line items, like fashion or restaurant meals, is also a variable expense.

In either case, variable simply means that it’s an expense that fluctuates on a month-to-month basis, as opposed to a fixed-cost bill you expect to see in the same amount each month.

Examples of Variable Expenses

Here are specifics of what can constitute a variable expense:

•   Utilities

•   Food

•   Dining out

•   Entertainment

•   Personal care

•   Travel

•   Medical care

•   Gas

•   Property and car maintenance

•   Gifts

💡 Quick Tip: Your money deserves a higher rate. You earned it! Consider opening a high-yield checking account online and earn 0.50% APY.

Fixed vs Variable Expenses

To review the difference between variable vs. fixed expenses:

•   Fixed expenses are those that cost the same amount each month, like rent or mortgage payments, insurance premiums, and subscription services.

•   Variable expenses are those that fluctuate on a month-to-month basis, like groceries, utilities, restaurant meals, and movie tickets.

•   Both fixed and variable utilities can be either wants or needs — you can have fixed expense wants, like a gym membership, and variable expense needs, like groceries.

When budgeting, whether you are calculating expenses for one person or a family, it’s possible to make cuts on both fixed and variable expenses.

Get up to $300 when you bank with SoFi.

Open a SoFi Checking and Savings Account with direct deposit and get up to a $300 cash bonus. Plus, get up to 4.60% APY on your cash!


Ways to Save on Fixed Expenses

Just because an expense is fixed doesn’t mean it can’t be downsized. Consider these possibilities.

Review Where Your Money Is Going

Take a look at your fixed expenses with a critical eye. Did your landlord raise your rent a significant sum? It might be time to look for more affordable options or get a roommate.

Has the number of subscription services you pay for crept up over time? You might save on streaming services by dropping a platform or two.

Refinance Your Loans

Interest rates rise and fall. If they are dropping, you might be able to save money by refinancing your loans, such as your mortgage. Check rates, and see if any offers are available that would reduce your monthly spend.

One option can be to get a lower payment over a longer period. You will likely pay more interest over the life of the loan, but it could help you out if you are living paycheck to paycheck right now.

Consolidate Your Debt

If you have a significant amount of high-interest debt, such as credit card debt, you might consider paying it off with a personal loan that offers a lower interest rate. This could save you money in interest and help lower your fixed expenses.

Bundle Your Insurance

Many insurance companies offer a lower premium if you sign up for both automotive and homeowners insurance with them. Check available offers to potentially reduce your costs.

Ways to Save on Variable Expenses

As you delve into variable vs. fixed expenses, here are some possible ways to minimize the ones that vary.

Scrutinize How You Spend

When you track your spending, you may find ways to cut back. For instance, you could look for ways to do your grocery shopping on a budget by planning meals in advance and shopping with a list. You might be able to challenge yourself to go for one month without, say, takeout food and the next without movies and then put the savings towards paying down debt.

Hit “Pause” on Impulse Purchases

If you feel the urge to buy something that isn’t in your spending plan, try the 30-day rule. Mark down the item and where you saw it and the price in your calendar for 30 days in the future. When that date arrives, if you still feel you must have it, you can find a way to buy it. But there is a very good chance that sense of urgency will have passed.

Try Different Budget Methods

If you find you need more help reining in your variable expenses, you might benefit from trying different budgeting tactics. There is the popular 50/30/20 budget rule, which says to allocate 50% of your take-home pay to needs, 30% to wants, and 20% to savings.

Other people prefer the envelope budget method or using a line-item budget to dig into where their money is going. You might also benefit from apps and digital tools to help you track where your money is going. Many banks offer these to their customers.

Check in With Your Money Regularly

The exact cadence is up to you, but it can be helpful to review your money on a regular basis. Some people like to check in on their account balances a few times a week; others prefer to review their accounts in-depth monthly. Find a system that works for you so you can see if your spending is on-target or going overboard.

Benefits of Saving Money on Fixed Expenses

If you’re trying to find ways to stash some cash, finding places in your budget to make cuts is a big key. And while you can make cuts on both fixed and variable expenses, lowering your fixed expenses can pack a hefty punch, since these tend to be big line items — and since the savings automatically replicate themselves each month when that bill comes due again.

Think about it this way: if you quit your morning latte habit (a variable expense), you might save a grand total of $150 over the course of a month — not too shabby, considering it’s just coffee. Even small savings can add up over time when they’re consistent and effort-free — it’s like automatic savings.

But if you recruit a roommate or move to a less trendy neighborhood, you might slash your rent (a fixed expense) in half. Those are big savings, and savings you don’t have to think about once you’ve made the adjustment: They just rack up each month. The savings you reap can help you pay down debt or save more, which can help you build wealth.

Saving Money on Variable Expenses

Of course, as valuable as it is to make cuts to fixed expenses, saving money on variable expenses is still useful — and depending on your habits, it could be fairly easy to make significant slashes.

As mentioned above, by adjusting your grocery shopping behaviors and aiming at fresh, bulk ingredients over-packaged convenience foods, you might decrease your monthly food bill. You could even get really serious and spend a few hours each weekend scoping out the weekly flyer for sales.

If you have a spendy habit like eating out regularly or shopping for clothes frequently, it can also be possible to find places to make cuts in your variable expenses. You can also find frugal alternatives for your favorite spendy activities, whether that means DIYing your biweekly manicure to learning to whip up that gourmet pizza at home. (Or maybe you’ll find a way to save enough on fixed expenses that you won’t have to worry as much about these habits.)

Saving and Budgeting With SoFi

Fixed expenses are those costs that are in the same amount each month, whereas variable expenses can vary. Both can be trimmed if you’re trying to save money in your budget, but cutting from fixed expenses can yield bigger savings for less ongoing effort.

Great budgeting starts with a great money management platform — and SoFi can help you with that, thanks to our dashboard and smart features.

Interested in opening an online bank account? When you sign up for a SoFi Checking and Savings account with direct deposit, you’ll get a competitive annual percentage yield (APY), pay zero account fees, and enjoy an array of rewards, such as access to the Allpoint Network of 55,000+ fee-free ATMs globally. Qualifying accounts can even access their paycheck up to two days early.


Better banking is here with up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

FAQ

What are examples of variable expenses?

Variable expenses are changeable costs that include such items as groceries, utilities, entertainment, dining out, and credit card debt. They differ month by month.

What are examples of fixed expenses?

Fixed expenses are constant month after month. These can include such things as rent, car payments, student loan payments, and subscription services.

Are utilities fixed or variable?

Utilities may be a need vs. a want in life, but they often vary. For instance, if you live in a cold climate, your heating bill will rise in the winter. Or you might run the dishwasher more over the holiday season, increasing your bill.


Photo credit: iStock/LaylaBird

SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2023 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
The SoFi Bank Debit Mastercard® is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A., pursuant to license by Mastercard International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.


SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a deposit to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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grocery and product in bag mobile

How Much Should I Spend on Groceries a Month?

How much you spend on groceries each month will depend on the number of people in your household, your lifestyle, even your dietary preferences. There’s no way around the fact that food is a significant line item in any budget, but there are ways to spend less at the store without resorting to beans and rice or ramen noodles every day (getting takeout doesn’t count).

Whether eating at home or in a restaurant, it’s helpful to give yourself some guidelines so that you and your bank accounts are on good terms. We cover several rules of thumb for how much to spend on food a month so you can better ensure you’re staying on track with your budget.

Key Points

•   The average U.S. household spends $7,316 on food annually, which is about $609.67 per month.

•   The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides monthly food budgets at different price levels to help determine your own grocery spending.

•   Household size, age, and dietary restrictions can affect the amount spent on groceries each month.

•   The USDA budgets assume all meals are prepared at home, and costs vary by age, gender, and family size.

•   Strategies like meal planning, using coupons, freezing meals, and shopping at discount grocery stores can help reduce food spending.

What Is the Average Cost of Groceries Per Month?

The average U.S. household spends $7,316 on food every year, according to a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) consumer expenditure survey. That amount — about $609.67 a month, or $152.42 each week — represents nearly 12% of consumers’ income.

A note on inflation: The BLS report used data from 2021. The subsequent year saw food prices increase by a staggering 11% (typically, food prices rise about 2% annually). Over the next year, food prices are projected to rise between 5% and 10% — something to keep in mind as you compare your grocery bill to the national average.

Of course, the amount people spend on sustenance can vary widely, depending on age, household size, dietary restrictions and where they live. For instance, the consumer expenditure survey noted that single-parent family households with children spent more on food compared to single folks. Your eating habits, including how often you dine out or order in as well as a penchant for impulse grocery buys, also affect your bottom line.

Get up to $300 when you bank with SoFi.

Open a SoFi Checking and Savings Account with direct deposit and get up to a $300 cash bonus. Plus, get up to 4.60% APY on your cash!


What Should My Monthly Grocery Budget Be?

When it comes to how much you should spend on groceries each month, the answer will depend on your situation. However, you can use the following guidelines to help you develop a reasonable monthly allowance for your grocery budget.

By USDA Guidelines

The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers a series of monthly food budgets that represent the cost of a healthy diet at four price levels: thrifty, low cost, moderate cost and liberal. These budgets can serve as a benchmark against which you can measure your own monthly spending on food.

Keep in mind that the USDA assumes that all meals and snacks will be prepared at home, and that costs will vary by age, gender, and family size. It updates each plan to current dollars every month using the Consumer Price Index for food.

For example, in March 2023, the USDA pegs the monthly cost of food for a female who is 20 to 50 years old at $241 for the thrifty plan. For females ages 19 to 50, it’s $257 for the low-cost plan, $313 for the moderate-cost plan and $401 for the liberal plan.

The USDA budgets more for couples within the same age ranges. For instance, a household of two might spend $530 on a thrifty plan, $565 on a low-cost plan, $689 on a moderate-cost plan and $882 on a liberal plan.

By Household Size

Your household size should determine how much you spend on groceries each month. As you saw in the USDA guidelines above, different household sizes as well as the ages of individuals affected the amount spent on food each month.

Let’s say you are a family of four with one child aged 6 to 8 and another between the ages of 9 to 11. According to the USDA guidelines, you might spend $979 a month on a thrifty plan, $1,028 on a low-cost plan, $1,252 on a moderate-cost plan and $1,604 on a liberal plan.

The USDA guidelines can provide a starting point for a food budget, but they don’t consider all the variables that can affect cost. That’s why building a personal food budget while using these numbers as a benchmark is best. To do so, you can look at your past monthly spending on food and then compare that number to the USDA food budget guides.

If your spending is much higher than the USDA’s estimates, it’s essential to determine why. It could be due to unavoidable factors like where you live, or it may stem from discretionary decisions, such as eating out at restaurants. If it’s the latter, it may be helpful to look for ways to cut back on spending, so you can redirect money to other goals like building an emergency fund.

How Dining Out Fits Into the Equation

The USDA’s budgets only consider food prepared at home, yet a food budget will likely also need to account for meals eaten at restaurants. The BLS reports that the average household spends $5,259 a year on food at home and $3,030 a year on food away from home.

Eating at restaurants is more costly than preparing food at home, so restaurant spending can be an excellent place to start making cuts when looking for wiggle room in a food budget.

Strategies to Keep Track of Your Food Spending

There are a number of budgeting strategies that can help you keep track of your spending. Here are some to consider if you’re trying to keep better track of your food spending:

The 50/30/20 Rule

The 50/30/20 rule is a simple strategy for proportional budgeting that breaks down a budget into three categories of spending. Here’s how it works:

•   50% goes to essential needs. These are necessary expenses, such as rent, groceries, and health insurance.

•   30% goes to discretionary spending. These are fun purchases that you don’t technically need to survive.

•   20% goes to savings. The 50/30/20 method separates discretionary spending and saving for financial goals, such as retirement, a down payment on a house, or paying off debt faster.

The 50/30/20 rule is a relatively simple form of budgeting, so it can help individuals keep their eyes on the big picture and avoid getting bogged down in minute details. That said, because it isn’t detail-oriented, it can be hard to pinpoint problem areas, such as places where overspending occurs.

The Envelope Method

The envelope method seeks to make budgeting more concrete by limiting most spending to cash transactions. It works by allocating a set amount of cash each month to different spending categories, such as groceries or entertainment.

At the beginning of the month, write each category on individual envelopes. Decide how much you want to spend in each category for the month, and put enough cash to cover that amount in each respective envelope.

This method takes discipline. You can only use the cash in each envelope to make purchases in that category. When the money’s gone, it’s gone for the month. That means you can no longer do any spending in that category.

Zero-Based Budgeting

A zero-based budget is one in which you assign each dollar of your income a specific purpose. For example, you may decide to spend $1,000 on rent, $325 on food, $200 on student loan payments, $100 on savings and so on, until there are zero dollars left without a job to do. While this type of budget can take a lot of effort, it can help you think carefully about every dollar you spend and be mindful of setting aside savings.

By getting your budget on track with a checking and savings account with SoFi, you’ll have enough to work toward financial goals, like paying off student loans and saving for retirement.

Tips to Help Reduce Your Food Spending

Whether your food budget has gone out of control or you’re interested in spending less in general, there are several ways to lower your food budget.

Try Meal Prep

Shopping at a store without a plan can be a budget-buster, as it can lead to unneeded purchasing. To stay on track, create a meal plan that lays out breakfast, lunch, and dinner for every day of the week.

Once you’ve created a menu, check to see what ingredients are already in the kitchen. Make a list of the items you’re missing and the amounts that are needed. Buy only those items at the store.

Consider planning some meals that have overlapping ingredients, as buying ingredients in larger quantities can be cheaper. You’ll also want to consider preparing meals you like and can cook relatively quickly. That way, you’re not tempted to get takeout one day when you’re tired and don’t feel like cooking.

Take Advantage of Coupons

Using coupons can help buyers save money at the checkout counter. Grocery stores or major brands often offer discounts in coupons — look for them online, in a grocery store flier or in the mail.

Before you buy, however, make sure you actually need the food item. If there isn’t anyone in your household who will drink that carton of oat milk, it’s better to leave it on the shelf than to cash in your coupon.

While taking advantage of an individual coupon may not add up to much savings, using many coupons over time can start to open up space in your food budget. The same is true of buying store brands, which may be a dollar or two cheaper than their name-brand counterparts. Over time, and multiple purchases, those couple of dollars can add up to significant savings.

Freeze Meals

Having meals or ingredients ready in the freezer encourages you to eat at home instead of making the excuse of having nothing to eat in your house. It can be as simple as buying frozen vegetables, some form of protein or straight-up frozen meals (it’s still cheaper than dining out). You can even make your own freezer-ready meals by cooking additional portions of meals — eat some for dinner, then freeze the rest for later.

Shop at Discount Grocery Stores

The cost of food can vary widely from store to store, so consider visiting different stores to find budget-friendly prices. A great way to check if a grocery store offers lower prices is to look at their weekly flier. You’ll be able to find sales and other advertised goods and identify which stores offer the best deals on items you’re most likely to purchase.

Some stores may offer certain foods in bulk, such as grains, nuts, coffee, and dried fruit, which can be cheaper than buying the same packaged food items.

Getting a handle on how much you spend on food can help you build a larger household budget. That way, you may be able to set aside money for savings or other financial goals.

The Takeaway

As you can see, there’s no hard-and-fast rule for how much you should spend on groceries each month, as that varies based on your unique situation. However, everyone can likely benefit from giving their grocery budget a hard look and seeing if there’s anywhere they’re overdoing it.

Envelope and spreadsheet averse? Another way to track your grocery budget is with the SoFi money tracker app, which lets you easily set monthly spending targets and see where you’re spending the most.

See how your current food spending fits into your overall budget.



External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

SoFi Relay offers users the ability to connect both SoFi accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc.’s service. When you use the service to connect an account, you authorize SoFi to obtain account information from any external accounts as set forth in SoFi’s Terms of Use. Based on your consent SoFi will also automatically provide some financial data received from the credit bureau for your visibility, without the need of you connecting additional accounts. SoFi assumes no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy, deletion, non-delivery or failure to store any user data, loss of user data, communications, or personalization settings. You shall confirm the accuracy of Plaid data through sources independent of SoFi. The credit score is a VantageScore® based on TransUnion® (the “Processing Agent”) data.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a deposit to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.


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Tips to Track a Money Order

Tips for Tracking a Money Order

A money order can be a safe and reliable way to send money, but what happens when the recipient doesn’t receive or cash it? It’s possible to track a money order to make sure it is delivered to the intended person, but doing so may come at a cost. While the process for tracking varies by issuer, it’s usually helpful to have the receipt and money order details before filing a request.

If you are handling money orders and want to verify that they arrive at their destination and are cashed, read on.

Key Points

•   Money orders can be tracked using the receipt and details provided at the time of purchase.

•   Tracking methods vary by issuer, but typically involve using a tracking or serial number.

•   If the receipt is lost, a request can be filed with the money order issuer, but fees may apply.

•   Contacting the recipient directly can sometimes save time and cost in tracking a money order.

•   Money order tracking can help recover lost payments and protect against fraud, but it may take time and incur fees.

What Is Money Order Tracking?

Money orders are a way of transferring money. They are prepaid with cash or a debit card.

They differ from personal checks and cashier’s checks in one important way: There is no sign in your bank transaction history if and when the money order has cleared. This can raise the question “How do I track a money order?”

Figuring out how to trace a money order is fairly straightforward if you’ve kept your receipt. When you purchase a money order, the issuer should provide a receipt with a tracking or serial number that can verify if it has been cashed or deposited. Senders can submit details from the receipt through the issuer’s website or automated phone line to track the money order.

Without a receipt, however, money order tracking becomes more difficult. You’ll likely need to file a request with the money order issuer. Doing so will probably incur fees and may take several weeks to complete but can hopefully help reduce your financial stress.

Quick Money Tip: If you’re saving for a short-term goal — whether it’s a vacation, a wedding, or the down payment on a house — consider opening a high-yield savings account. The higher APY that you’ll earn will help your money grow faster, but the funds stay liquid, so they are easy to access when you reach your goal.

What Do You Need in Order to Track a Money Order?

Depending on the issuer you used, extra information could be needed beyond the tracking or serial number on the receipt. Additional information will probably be necessary if you’ve misplaced the receipt. Here are more specifics:

•   Tracing a postal money order can be done online or by phone The following details, which are listed on the USPS money order receipt, are required.

◦   The dollar amount

◦   The post office number

◦   The money order’s serial number, which is typically a 10 or 11-digit code.

However, if you don’t have a copy of the receipt, you’ll have to fill out and submit PS Form 6401 to initiate a money order inquiry.

•   Tracking money orders from other issuers, such as MoneyGram and Western Union, can usually be done online or by automated call center. This is provided that you have the serial number and exact payment total.

   If you’ve lost the receipt, you’ll need to supply more details about you and the recipient, such as:

•   Your name, phone number, and address

•   The exact money order amount

•   The purchase location address

•   The date and time of purchase

•   The payee’s (or recipient’s) name, if included on the money order.

Recommended: How to Cash a Postal Money Order

Tips to Track a Money Order

Before picking up the phone or filling out any paperwork, consider these tips for tracking money orders.

Contact the Recipient

Before you get to work tracking a money order, consider that you might be able to save time and potential cost by reaching out to the intended recipient. This individual or business is referred to as the payee on the money order.

You can ask if the money order was received. It’s possible that the money order arrived and has yet to be cashed or deposited. Contacting the recipient directly could be simpler than submitting a request with the money order issuer.

Make Sure You Keep the Issuer Receipt

Another route involves using the details from the receipt. Money orders can be purchased at banks, post offices, check-cashing businesses, and retail stores like supermarkets and pharmacies. When you buy a money order, you may receive receipts from both the issuer and location you purchased it. For example, a money order bought at a pharmacy could be issued by MoneyGram or Western Union. Note that the issuer receipt is the one with the information (i.e., serial number and dollar amount) you’ll need to track your money order.

You might have to pay an extra fee and complete additional forms to track a money order without a receipt and the serial or tracking number.

Check the Status Before Submitting a Request

There are multiple ways to check the status of a money order. If you have your serial or tracking number and the money order amount, you should be able to verify online or by automated phone line whether it has been cashed or deposited. This could be free, or there may be fees (up to $15 or more), depending on the vendor.

There are also likely fees and significant waiting times when submitting a request for a copy of the paid money order. The situation is similar if you choose to investigate a money order you believe to be missing or stolen. Checking the money order status beforehand can quickly determine if it’s been cashed and guide your next steps.

Reasons Why Someone Tracks a Money Order

Money orders are considered a safe form of payment, but there are reasons why you might want to track one. Accounting for your money, after all, can be an important aspect of managing your money.

Recover Lost Payment

A lost money order can be a major inconvenience, especially if you were waiting for the funds to make timely payments. Tracking the money order can help determine if it’s gone missing and recover funds more quickly.

If you are expecting a money order that doesn’t arrive, it’s wise to contact the issuer and complete any required documents quickly.

Protect Against Fraud

Tracking a money order can help protect senders in cases of theft or fraud. In such an event, requesting a photocopy of a cashed money order can support a fraud claim and potentially get your money back. The photocopy will indicate who endorsed the money order. If the signer does not match the payee, you could get a refund since their identity wasn’t properly verified.

Get up to $300 when you bank with SoFi.

Open a SoFi Checking and Savings Account with direct deposit and get up to a $300 cash bonus. Plus, get up to 4.60% APY on your cash!


How Long Does It Take for a Money Order to Send?

A money order can be purchased and prepared quickly — simply add the recipient’s information, put your address, fill out the memo (if desired), and sign. From there, how long it takes to send depends on the delivery method. If handing it over in person isn’t feasible, sending it via USPS First-Class Mail can deliver the money order in one to five business days.

Once received, a money order can show as available almost immediately, but in terms of how long it takes to clear fully, that might be from a couple days to up to a couple of weeks.

Tips for Protecting Yourself When Tracking a Money Order

Although money orders are generally a secure form of payment, they can potentially be used for money scams and fraud. Consider using these tips to protect yourself.

Fill out the Recipient Information Immediately

As soon as you purchase the money order, enter the recipient name in the payee field to help safeguard yourself from fraud.

Save the Receipt

After filling out the money order, be sure to detach the money order stub and any receipt. Storing the receipt in a safe and accessible place will make it easy to track the money order in real time. It also provides the necessary information to file a request for cancellation and alert law enforcement in case the money order is damaged, lost, or stolen. It’s recommended to hold onto the receipt until the money order has been cashed.

Wait Before Spending Any Funds

If you receive payment by money order, it’s advised to hold off on using any funds until they’ve been verified by the issuer or cleared by your bank. In the event a money order is fraudulent, you could be liable for any amount spent.

Recommended: The Best Options for Sending and Receiving Money From Someone Without a Bank Account

The Takeaway

A money order is usually a secure way to transfer funds to a payee instead of using cash or a check. It can be tracked to ensure that it has been received and cashed by the designated payee. Keeping the receipt and other details will streamline the tracking process if you do need to verify the money order’s status. It can take a bit of time and money to trace a money order if it goes missing.

Better banking is here with up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

FAQ

Does it cost money to track a money order?

Some issuers let you use the serial or tracking number to track the money order for free online. Otherwise, you may have to pay a small fee. Investigating a lost or stolen money order typically carries fees, often around $15.

Where can I track a money order?

You can track a money order online, by phone, or going to the issuer in person.

How do you cash a money order?

You may be able to cash a money order at a bank or retailer that issues money orders. In addition, retailers where you have cashed checks in the past (such as your local supermarket) may cash money orders. Cashing it typically requires signing the order, verifying your identity, and paying a service fee to receive the funds.


Photo credit: iStock/Prostock-Studio

SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a deposit to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.


SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2023 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
The SoFi Bank Debit Mastercard® is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A., pursuant to license by Mastercard International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

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19 Budgeting Categories For Your Budget

Building a budget can pay off quite literally: It provides guidelines for your money and helps you wrangle your spending and saving to achieve financial health. With smart planning, you can make your cash work harder for you and grow.

Many people think that a budget is all about deprivation, but it’s really about organization. A key step in developing a good budget is knowing how to categorize both your spending and saving. That can help you get a handle on where your money is going and how to make the most of it.

In this guide, you’ll learn how to divide your expenses into three main categories (namely, needs, wants, and savings), and then further separate things into smaller groups. This can help you truly understand your spending habits and optimize your finances.

Whether you’re just starting out on your independent financial life or if you’re looking to tweak your existing budget, this advice can help you better manage your budget categories and direct your spending goals.

Key Points

•   Personal budget categories help organize and track expenses for better financial management.

•   Common budget categories include housing, transportation, food, utilities, healthcare, debt payments, savings, entertainment, and personal care.

•   It’s important to customize budget categories based on individual needs and priorities.

•   Tracking expenses within each category helps identify areas for potential savings and adjustments.

•   Regularly reviewing and adjusting budget categories can help maintain financial balance and achieve financial goals.

Getting Started With the 50/20/30 Rule of Budgeting

The 50/20/30 rule for budgeting (made popular by Sen. Elizabeth Warren in her 2006 book, “All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan”) can be a helpful guideline to use when you are first setting up your budget.

The plan recommends making a budget by breaking your after-tax (or take-home) income into needs, wants and savings. Here’s how these categories are allocated:

•   50% of your earnings to needs

•   30% to wants

•   20% to savings

To see how your spending lines up with these guidelines, you’ll want to get out the past three or more months of bank and credit card statements and receipts. Then, simply start listing all of your expenses for each month and grouping them into categories.

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9 Budget Categories for Needs

Of course, you probably are wondering what actually constitutes budgeting categories. First, focus on the needs of life.

This category, which represents the largest chunk, includes expenses that you must pay in order to live and work. You might think of these as things you actually need to survive — they’re sort of like the air, water, and food of your budget.

So, for instance, a fancy dinner out or a caramel latte are definitely food, but they wouldn’t necessarily go in this category. Groceries would though.

A good rule of thumb is to have this category take up about 50% of your after tax income. Housing and utilities are likely to take up the biggest chunk, but ideally no more than 30% of income.

The percentages, however, are just guidelines. Because the cost of living in different states varies across the country, you may need to adjust your budget according to where you live.

1. Housing

Whether you pay rent or have a home mortgage, paying to keep a roof over your head is definitely a need. In addition, you may have property taxes to pay if you are a homeowner, and home maintenance costs can be part of this category for renters and owners alike.

2. Utilities

Depending on your living situation, you might pay for electricity, WiFi, heating fuel, telephone service, water, sanitation services, and other necessities.

3. Insurance

Having car, health, life, homeowners or renters insurance and possibly pet insurance can be important. You don’t want to wing it with this kind of protection (and auto insurance is required).

4. Groceries and Personal Care Items

Of course, you need food and toiletries as part of daily living. So the food you purchase to make meals and items like toothpaste go into your budget as “needs.” However, buying that $7 pack of cookies or $40 hair conditioner? Those might be better deemed “wants.”

5. Transportation

Car ownership expenses, public transportation, and the occasional Uber to get to urgent care can all be considered necessities.

6. Clothing

Yes, you need a warm winter coat if you live in the climates that get chilly, plus boots. And you need basic garments to wear to work and on your off-hours. However, if you buy a cool jacket because you love it or yet another pair of cute shoes since they are on sale, those are not vital to your survival and should go in the “wants” category.

7. Debt

Minimum payments on outstanding debts like credit cards, student loans, auto loans, or personal loans would also go into the 50% needs portion.

8. Parenting Expenses

Child care, as well as child support or alimony payments, go into the “must” bucket of your budget. Those are not discretionary expenses.

9. Healthcare

Depending on your insurance coverage, you may have expenses related to staying well, such as copays, prescription costs, and the like. Treating yourself to a massage that isn’t medically required? That’s not a “need” but a “want.”

Recommended: Budgeting for Beginners

6 Spending Categories for Wants

These are expenses that don’t qualify as needs and don’t include your savings and payments towards debt. Though it can sometimes be tricky to separate needs from wants, if you can live and earn your income without it, then it’s probably a want.

If you can live and earn your income without it, then it’s probably a want.

This is where you could put spending on clothing outside of what you need on a day-to-day basis, dinner and drinks out with friends, going to the movies, gym memberships, personal care, and miscellaneous spending.

As a general guideline, this category shouldn’t take up more than 30% of your spending. While you may need to give and take depending on your situation, seeing how much you are spending on wants in black and white may cause you to start thinking more carefully about these expenditures.

1. Clothing and Personal Care

Treated yourself to a new but unnecessary shirt as part of a little retail therapy? Took yourself to the spa for a day? Or bought yourself a fancy watch since you got a promotion? Those are all wants. They aren’t necessarily bad things, but be clear that they are not vital to your survival.

2. Dining Out and Drinking

It’s part of life to meet friends and loved ones for happy hour or a nice meal, or to get a bubble tea while running errands on the weekend. Or maybe you don’t feel inspired to cook so you order some Pad Thai for pickup or delivery. These are all discretionary food expenses vs. those that are vital to your survival.

3. Entertainment

While entertainment can definitely enrich your life, it goes into the “wants” category. This includes things like concert, play, and movie tickets; books and magazines; cable and streaming services; downloading music; and attending festivals and fairs.

4. Gym Memberships, Self-care, and Grooming

You could just workout for free at home while watching a Youtube video, so health club memberships, yoga or Pilates classes are “wants.” Same goes with self-care and grooming: Facials, manicures, and the like are considered discretionary. That $50 hair conditioner you can’t live without? That isn’t a “need” either.

5. Travel Expenses

If you are traveling for business purposes to pitch a new account, that’s more of a “need,” but otherwise, a getaway is a “want.” So tally up any airfare, rental car costs, hotel or Airbnb, food, and tour/attraction tickets, and consider them “wants.”

6. Home Decor

If your mattress bites the dust and you replace it, that is a “need,” but deciding to buy a new couch because your home could use a spruce-up is a “want.”

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Categorizing Your Savings

Under the 50/20/30 rule, it’s suggested that savings take up 20% of your post-tax income. This is the money you’re putting toward your retirement, emergency fund, and other savings. You can also put payments against debt above minimums here since this can ultimately save money on interest, it’s considered savings.

Here are specifics.

1. Emergency Fund

Financial experts recommend having three to six months’ worth of basic living expenses socked away in case of emergency. This could mean job loss or receiving an unexpected and major medical or car repair bill. You don’t want to have to resort to using your credit card for such things.

2. Retirement Savings

If you aren’t offered a 401(k) or something similar at work, you can still contribute to retirement savings. You might be able to find a low-fee, or no-fee, individual retirement account (IRA).

3. Other Short- and Long-Term Savings

You’ll also probably want to fund non-retirement savings goals, such as saving for a summer vacation or the down payment on a house. It can be a good idea to open a separate savings account, ideally where you can earn higher interest than a standard savings account, such as a money market fund, online savings account, or a checking and savings account.

To make sure saving happens each month, you may also want to set up an automatic transfer from your checking account into this account on the same day every month, perhaps after your paycheck gets deposited.

4. Additional Debt Payments

If you can pay more than the minimum on your credit card bill or make extra payments on your loans, that can decrease what you are spending on interest. That in turn can help increase your overall financial health and wealth.

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Why Categorizing Your Budget Is Important

Categorizing your budget is important because it can give you a much better sense of where your money goes versus just paying whatever bills turn up.

•   When you see how much cash goes towards the different kinds of “needs,” “wants,” and savings, you can better manage your cash. Tracking your spending can bring greater financial insight.

•   Also, as you categorize and tally your spending, you may see that much more than 30% of your take-home pay is going to ”wants.” That could convince you to recalibrate and cut back.

•   Or you might notice that you are spending way more than 50% on “needs.” This can happen when you are just starting out in your career or if you live somewhere with a high cost of living. Again, you might look to lower costs.

Finalizing Your Budget Categories and Getting Started

Now that you have an idea of how to allocate your income based on standard budgeting categories, you may want to start building out your budgeting plan.

If you find that your monthly expenses (including savings) are higher than your monthly take-home income, you’ll likely want to make some adjustments. One of the easiest places to do this is within the “wants” bucket.

Here, you can scout for unnecessary expenses you may be able to do without. For instance, maybe you would be fine saving on streaming services by dropping one or two platforms, cooking at home a few more times per week, or cutting back on clothing purchases.

If your “musts” are eating up more than 50%, perhaps you want to consider moving to a less expensive home or taking in a roommate. Another option could be to start a side hustle to bring in more income or train up for a higher-paying line of work.

It can help to keep in mind that the 50/30/20 guideline is just that, a guideline. Everyone’s situation is different and your numbers may vary depending on many different factors, including where you live, your income, how much debt you have, and your savings and investment goals. (There are also other budgeting methods to try, if you like.)

The Takeaway

Putting expenses into categories and coming up with a spending plan can bring significant benefits. These include being able to pay off debt, saving up for short-term goals (such as an emergency fund, a vacation, or a down payment on a home), and funding your retirement.

The 50/20/30 rule can give you an general idea of how to allocate your income based on standard budgeting categories and help you start building out your budgeting plan.

Need some help keeping track of spending? Many financial institutions offer tools that can help you see where your money is going and make the most of your savings.

Interested in opening an online bank account? When you sign up for a SoFi Checking and Savings account with direct deposit, you’ll get a competitive annual percentage yield (APY), pay zero account fees, and enjoy an array of rewards, such as access to the Allpoint Network of 55,000+ fee-free ATMs globally. Qualifying accounts can even access their paycheck up to two days early.


Better banking is here with up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

FAQ

What are the 4 main categories in a budget?

There are different ways to categorize a budget, but commonly, people focus on their take-home pay, their spending on their “wants,” their “needs,” and how much they save.

What categories should you have in a budget?

When building a budget, it’s important to know how much income you have after taxes, what are the expenses that are necessary for your survival, what is your usual discretionary spending (which some people call the “fun stuff” in life), and how much are you saving. Within the last three buckets, you can subdivide into more specific categories.

How do you organize a budget?

One good budgeting technique is the 50/30/20 budget rule. This principle says that 50% of your take-home pay should go towards necessities, 30% to discretionary spending, and the remaining 20% should be saved.


SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2023 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
The SoFi Bank Debit Mastercard® is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A., pursuant to license by Mastercard International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.


SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a deposit to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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