How Much Money You Should Spend on Living Expenses - Budgeting Guidelines for Income

Budgeting guidelines for personal, family and household budgets and incomes in CanadaDevelop your budget with the money you have available after government deductions from your pay cheque, but before voluntary deductions (e.g. RRSPs, pensions or other savings).

If you have expenses such as high debt payments, childcare, school expenses or giving, you will need to reduce your spending in other areas to accommodate these higher expenses.

This guideline is only a starting point. Based on your income and family circumstances, your allocations may be very different.

General budgeting guidelines for Canadian consumer incomes

Breakdown of Budgeting Categories

  • Housing: 35%
    mortgage / taxes / strata / rent/ insurance / hydro
  • Utilities: 5%
    phone / cell phone / gas / cable / internet
  • Food: 10 – 20%
    groceries / personal care / baby needs
  • Transportation: 15 – 20%
    bus / taxi / fuel / insurance / maintenance / parking
  • Clothing: 3 – 5%
    for all members of the family
  • Medical: 3%
    health care premiums / specialists / over-the-counter
  • Personal & Discretionary: 5 – 10%
    entertainment / recreation / tobacco/alcohol / eating out / gaming / hair cuts / hobbies
  • Savings: 5 – 10%
    Plan to save money for expenses that don’t occur every month, as well as for your future. Then you’ll have a little extra available when you need it.
  • Debt Payments: 5 – 15%
    Many people find that their budget is quite tight because their monthly debt payments are closer to 25% of their net income.

NEW!  We've just finished building these budgeting guidelines into an Excel Budgeting Calculator Spreadsheet offered on our educational website,

The interactive tool guides you through the budgeting process and suggests spending amounts, for each of the categories listed above, based on your income and family size. When you're done, it shows you what your budget looks like in a pie chart divided into the various categories.

The budgeting calculator also visually compares your spending in each category to these guidelines so that you can see how you're doing.

On top of all this, the budgeting calculator offers you tons of helpful suggestions and tips along the way, so that you can avoid the common pitfalls of the budgeting process.

Check out the new Budget Calculator for yourself! It's free and easy to use - even if you've never used Excel before.

How to Create a Budget With Irregular or Fluctuating Income

If your income fluctuates, creating a budget with irregular income can be hard. However, focus on planning your spending so that as your income goes up and down, your spending doesn't have to.

Here are three ways to create a personal budget plan with irregular income...(read more) 

You can also learn how to plan for and budget with irregular income in one of our free online workshops

* The list of guidelines is available as a PDF download for offline reading and sharing.