What Is the 70-20-10 Budget Rule? How Does It Work? | SoFi (2024)

By Walecia Konrad ·January 21, 2024 · 9 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey.Read moreWe develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide.We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right.Read less

What Is the 70-20-10 Budget Rule? How Does It Work? | SoFi (1)

There are plenty of budgets out there that promise to help you manage your money more efficiently, and some of them can get quite complicated. That’s why many people opt for the 70-20-10 budget rule. It’s a simple, percentage-based formula that can help you get and keep your personal finances in good order.

This system can help you get better acquainted with what you earn and where it goes, while tracking your daily spending (that’s the 70% of your after-tax earnings) plus debt repayment and saving (the 20% and the 10%). These aspects of the 70-20-10 budget are part of its appeal, and it can guide you to better money habits. Read on to learn how it works and can be adapted for your particular needs.

What Is the 70-20-10 Rule?

The 70-20-10 rule is a way to allocate your monthly income into three categories:

• Living expenses

• Debt repayment and short-term savings

• Investing and donations.

Using these categories can help organize the way you think about your income — how it comes in, and importantly, how it goes out. It’s a simple and often very successful way to get a personal budget in place.

Note: If it sounds very familiar, it’s worth noting that there is also the 50/30/20 budget rule, a slightly different spin on budgeting that also works with easy-to-calculate percentages.

Now, take a closer look at each of the three components of this budget tool.

💡 Quick Tip: Don’t think too hard about your money. Automate your budgeting, saving, and spending with SoFi’s seamless and secure online banking app.

70% for Living Expenses

Living expenses are exactly what they sound like — expenditures you need or want to make each month. To see how much of your post-tax dollars go toward these costs every month, you’ll do a little math. You’ll add up the monthly payments that cover essentials such as housing, utilities, food, childcare, and medical expenses.

It also includes expenditures made only once or twice a year, such as auto or home insurance premiums or yearly car tune-ups. In those cases, you simply figure the total paid for the year, divide by 12, and add that number to the monthly figure.

For the purposes of the 70-20-10 rule budget, living expenses also include discretionary spending on things like shopping, entertainment, travel, gym memberships, and other non-essential items.

To get started, scan through a couple of months of your bank statements, credit card, utility, medical, housing, insurance, and cable and internet bills to see how you’re tracking. Use the common living expenses listed below as a guide.


• Rent or mortgage and property tax

• Utilities

• Maintenance

• Insurance


• Car payments

• Maintenance

• Gas and tolls

• Parking

• Public transportation costs

• Taxis and ride shares

• Auto insurance


• Day care

• After-school programs

• Tuition

• Babysitting

• Clothes, personal care, and related expenses


• Health insurance premiums (if not deducted from your paycheck)

• Auto and home insurance premiums

• Life insurance premiums

• Disability income insurance premiums


• Groceries

• Takeout and restaurants


• Deductibles, copays, and coinsurance

• Medical and dental appointment costs not covered by insurance

• Prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs

• Eyeglasses and contacts


• Concert, theater, and movie tickets

• Paid streaming and podcast services

• Books

• Travel


• Food, equipment and accessories, and toys

• Flea and tick prevention/other medications

• Vet bills

• Pet insurance


• Clothing/shoes/accessories

• Hair care and other grooming

• Toiletries/cosmetics

• Gym membership

If your monthly number hits the 70% mark or less, congratulations. You’re living within your means. For most people, however, this first calculation will likely exceed 70%. More on what to do when that happens below. For now, keep looking at the big picture of tallying your 70-20-10 numbers.

20% for Saving and Debt Repayment

Next, you want to calculate how much it will take to hit the 20% goal of saving and debt repayment. (If you don’t have debt, hooray; you can zoom straight to saving. But many people need to use this bucket to pay off debt and save.)

If you have credit card debt, you’ll likely want to focus all or part of this 20% on paying that down so you can avoid the high interest payments. If you have college debt, the monthly repayment amount should be included here in the 20% category.

Once that’s done, you’ve cleared the decks for other savings, whether for an emergency fund (aim for three to six months’ worth of expenses) or a near-term goal such as a vacation or down payment for a home.

Depending on what and why you are saving, different kinds of savings accounts may make sense. Consider these smart options to get extra benefits:

High-yield savings accounts make sense if you need your money liquid (accessible) but want to earn more interest than the current rate on traditional savings accounts. Online banks vs. traditional banks often offer the best rates.

A certificate of deposit (CD) is another option. These accounts lock up your money at a specific interest rate for a period of time, usually from six months to a few years. What’s nice is you know how much money your money will earn, but keep in mind, if you pull your money out early, you’ll typically face penalty fees.

Money market accounts (MMAs) combine some aspects of a savings account with features of a checking account. You’ll earn interest on your savings (possibly in the ballpark of high-yield accounts), and you may be able to access funds via debit card or checks.

Once you’ve taken a look at your savings/debt picture, you’ll determine how best to handle the 20% rule. Depending on the size of your debts and your living expenses, you may need to temporarily allocate more or less funds to this category. More on that below.

💡 Quick Tip: Most savings accounts only earn a fraction of a percentage in interest. Not at SoFi. Our high-yield savings account can help you make meaningful progress toward your financial goals.

10% for Donation or Additional Savings

The remaining 10% can be allocated to investing in your future, usually for retirement. Contributions to an IRA, 401(k) 403(b), self-employed retirement savings vehicles, or other long-term, tax advantaged savings plan can be best for this category. This is money that you won’t need in the short term, so it can be invested more aggressively than the savings in your 20% category.

In addition, part of this allocation can go to charitable donations. Perhaps there’s a cause you want to support, from animal rescue to medical research, or you like to donate to your college; it’s your call.

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Example of the 70-20-10 Budget Rule

In terms of calculations, say your monthly income after taxes is $6,000. Here’s how that money would look on the 70-20-10 budget plan.

• For living expenses, you would multiply 6,000 x 0.70, and see that you have $4,200 of after-tax dollars for housing, utilities, food, entertainment, and all the other items listed above.

• For savings, you would multiply 6,000 x 0.20, or $1,200 to put toward savings and debt.

• Lastly, you would multiply 6,000 x 0.10, and see that you have another $600 to put toward additional savings and/or donations.

Here’s the math: $4,200 + $1,200 + $600 = $6,000.

How to Customize the 70-20-10 Rule to Fit Your Needs

The beauty of the 70-20-10 plan is its simplicity — and flexibility. Once you create a budget this way, you can customize the allocations within reason to meet your own needs and financial goals over time. Creating a budget can give you peace of mind, because you’ll know you are taking care of your financial health. Here, a few tips for increasing your likelihood of success in following this plan:

Include Side Hustle Earnings and Windfalls

Bonuses, tax refunds, money from side hustles and other income should be factored in later, as they are earned; don’t consider them as part of your base income. The bulk of the extra income can be designated toward the area most in need of attention, such as paying off credit card debt or boosting emergency savings. But do feel free to set aside a small percentage of those earnings as a reward for your hard work and have some fun with it.

An important note: If not already evident, this budget technique works best for those with a steady income, who are on a payroll. If you are freelance, a gig worker, or seasonal employee and your income is variable, this may not be the best technique for you.

Adjust the Percentages When Needed

After tracking your spending and making possible cuts, you may find you still can’t fit living expenses into the 70% category. Maybe you are just starting your post-grad life, earn a lower income, or live in an area with a high cost of living.

Don’t stress out over this! If you have limited funds and lots of bills, you may have to allocate a bit more to that category and put less in short-term savings until that next raise or other income spurt comes through.

Protect the 10%

A quick note for people with lots of credit card debt: Those hefty bills are a sign that you may be spending more than your income level allows. You’ll probably do better with the 70-20-10 budget if you increase the paying debt/savings percentage to higher than 20% till your debt is lower. Take steps to reduce discretionary spending, perhaps even more than you have already.

In addition, you may find you need to make more drastic cost-cutting moves too, such as finding an apartment with less expensive rent or ditching the expensive car payments and switching to mass transit. The goal is to get costly debt under control so you can start saving for your priorities and peace of mind.

Prioritize High-Interest Debt

Whenever you find the need to adjust percentages, it may be best to avoid tampering with the 10% investing for the future allocation. The sooner you start saving for retirement, the more that money will add up over time. By the same token, older people who may need to catch up on retirement savings may want to increase this 10% allocation. One of the reasons the 70-20-10 plan can be successful is that it helps you balance both short-term needs with long-term financial planning.

If you do make percentage adjustments, be sure to continue to track expenses so you can see when you can readjust allocations back to the original 70-20-10 plan.

The Takeaway

The 70-20-10 budget formula divides your after-tax income into three buckets: 70% for living expenses, 20% for savings and debt, and 10% for additional savings and donations. By allocating your available income into these three distinct categories, you can better manage your money on a daily basis. You can also take steps toward achieving your financial goals in the short- and long-term.

As you establish a budget that works for you, don’t forget to find the right banking partner.

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What Is the 70-20-10 Budget Rule? How Does It Work? | SoFi (2024)


What Is the 70-20-10 Budget Rule? How Does It Work? | SoFi? ›

The 70-20-10 budget formula divides your after-tax income into three buckets: 70% for living expenses, 20% for savings and debt, and 10% for additional savings and donations. By allocating your available income into these three distinct categories, you can better manage your money on a daily basis.

What is the 70 10 10 budget? ›

This principle consists of allocating 10% of your monthly income to each of the following categories: emergency fund, long-term savings, and giving. The remaining 70% is for your living expenses. 10% – Long Term Savings – Saving for big expenses such as university, new home, retirement, etc.

What is the 70 20 10 rule? ›

Based on the principle that:

70 percent of learning comes from experience, experiment and reflection. 20 percent derives from working with others. 10 percent comes from formal interventions and planned learning solutions.

What is the 70 spending rule? ›

By allocating 70% for what you need, 20% for what you want (either immediate luxuries or future savings goals), and 10% for your goals (like paying off debts and saving or investing in your future), you can work towards a greater sense of financial wellbeing.

What is the 20 10 rule in finance? ›

The 20/10 rule of thumb is a budgeting technique that can be an effective way to keep your debt under control. It says your total debt shouldn't equal more than 20% of your annual income, and that your monthly debt payments shouldn't be more than 10% of your monthly income.

What is the 70 20 10 budget rule example? ›

70 20 10 Budget example

Let's say your income is $5,000 a month after taxes. By this rule, $3,500, 70% of your income, would be for all expenses. Then 20%, or $1,000, is for saving. Last, $500, or 10%, is for giving or debt payoff.

How do I start a 70 20 10 budget? ›

The biggest chunk, 70%, goes towards living expenses while 20% goes towards repaying any debt, or to savings if all your debt is covered. The remaining 10% is your 'fun bucket', money set aside for the things you want after your essentials, debt and savings goals are taken care of.

What is the 70:20:10 model with examples? ›

With the 70:20:10 model you learn 70% from on the job experience and from doing. You learn 20% from others in the way of observing, coaching and mentoring. 10% is down to formal training like courses, reading and online learning.

Why is the 70 20 10 rule important? ›

The 70-20-10 rule reveals that individuals tend to learn 70% of their knowledge from challenging experiences and assignments, 20% from developmental relationships, and 10% from coursework and training.

How do you write a 70 20 10 development plan? ›

A 70 20 10 development plan prioritizes on-the-job learning as it accounts for 70% of learning and development. Then mentoring with colleagues and superiors, which accounts for 20%, and finally, formal learning making up the last 10%.

What is the 10 10 10 70 rule? ›

1) 70% of your income should go to adult responsibilities (rent, Mortgage, groceries, credit cards, car payment, etc) 10% should go to your IRA or 401k, 10% should go to your savings account don't just rely on your ira or 401k for retirement. Also Incase of emergency, finally last 10% should go to whatever you want.

What is Warren Buffett 70 30 rule? ›

A 70/30 portfolio is an investment portfolio where 70% of investment capital is allocated to stocks and 30% to fixed-income securities, primarily bonds.

What is the 60 40 rule? ›

What is the 60/40 rule? The 60/40 portfolio is a simple investment strategy that allocates 60 percent of your holdings to stocks and 40 percent to bonds. It's sometimes referred to as a “balanced portfolio.” The 60/40 rule has been widely recognized and recommended by financial advisors and experts for decades.

What are the 3 C's of credit? ›

The factors that determine your credit score are called The Three C's of Credit – Character, Capital and Capacity.

What is Rule 69 in finance? ›

What is the Rule of 69? The Rule of 69 is used to estimate the amount of time it will take for an investment to double, assuming continuously compounded interest. The calculation is to divide 69 by the rate of return for an investment and then add 0.35 to the result.

What are 5 C's of credit? ›

Called the five Cs of credit, they include capacity, capital, conditions, character, and collateral.

Is the 50 30 20 rule better than 70 20 10? ›

The 70/20/10 Budget

This budget follows the same style as the 50/30/20, but the percentages are adjusted to better fit the average American's financial situation. “70/20/10 suggests a framework of 70% of your income on essentials and discretionary spending, 20% on savings and 10% on paying off your debt.

What is the 60 30 10 rule budget? ›

What Is the 60/30/10 Budgeting Rule? The 60/30/10 budgeting rule calls for dedicating 60% of your income toward needs, 30% toward wants and 10% toward savings.

What is the 80 10 10 budget? ›

When following the 10-10-80 rule, you take your income and divide it into three parts: 10% goes into your savings, and the other 10% is given away, either as charitable donations or to help others. The remaining 80% is yours to live on, and you can spend it on bills, groceries, Netflix subscriptions, etc.

What is the 80 10 10 financial plan? ›

The 80/10/10 budget is just one way this can be done! In this approach, like other popular budgets, 80% of income goes towards spendings, such as bills, groceries, or anything else needed. 10% of income goes directly into savings to ensure that money is added regularly.

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