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What is the 50-30-20 budget rule?

The 50-30-20 rule is a useful guide to help you manage your spending.

It can help you decide if you’re happy with where your money’s going and see where you could make some positive changes. 

What is the 50-30-20 rule?

The idea is you’d aim to spend: 

  • 50% of your income on needs: essential living expenses, such as rent/mortgage, bills, food, and transport to work
  • 30% on wants: discretionary spending, such as eating out, shopping, trips and subscriptions
  • 20% on savings or debt: paying off debt beyond minimum payments or putting money into a savings account, investment, or pension fund

Budget planner

Our budget planning tool can help you break down your spending into different categories to see where you can make changes.

So, if your monthly income was £1,500 after tax, you might spend: 

  • £750 on needs
  • £450 on wants
  • £300 on savings or debts

Remember, everyone’s situation is different. If your spending doesn’t fit the 50-30-20 rule, that’s okay. But, if it’s realistic for you, it could give you a good goal to aim for.

Small changes can make a big difference over time. Putting more of your income into savings or paying off debt can help you feel in control and able to make more of your money.

How to apply the rule

Look at how much money you have coming in regularly. This will primarily be your salary if you're working. If your income changes from month to month, work out the average over the last 3 months.

Then, looking at your bank statements for the last 3 months, work out your average monthly spend. It can help to categorise your expenses so you can see specific areas where you may be overspending. 

These categories may include your ‘needs’ that are regular outgoings like: 

  • Bills
  • Rent or mortgage
  • Food

Plus your ‘wants’, such as: 

  • Eating out
  • Shopping
  • Subscriptions

Then note any money you’re putting towards:

  • Savings
  • Repaying debt

Once you know how much you’re spending in each area, you can work out the percentage:

  1. Divide the amount you spend on needs per month by your monthly income. For example: £750 ÷ £1,500 = 0.5
  2. Multiply that number by 100. For example: 0.5 × 100 = 50%

Once you’ve worked out the percentages, look at how they compare. Again, it’s okay if your spending doesn’t fit the 50-30-20 rule. But, if you’re looking to save more or repay debts faster, you may be able to make some changes.

If an unexpected expense has knocked you off track one month, don’t worry. Just try to get back on track the following month. It can be helpful to have a safety net to cover unexpected costs.

Mobile money management

The HSBC UK Mobile Banking app has a range of tools to help you manage your money. These include Spending insights, Monthly budgets, and our Financial fitness tool. Just tap the ‘Plan’ tab in the app and choose the option you’re interested in.

Explore: Mobile money management

Book a financial health check

You can book an appointment with one of our financial fitness trainers, who can take you through a quick and easy 30-minute financial health check. Our trainers are on hand to speak to you about your banking needs – and you don’t have to be an HSBC customer.

They won’t give financial advice, but they’re here to help you achieve your financial goals, whatever they may be. They’ll be able to explain where you’re doing well and where you may be able to improve, focusing on what’s important to you.