How Americans budget for life and how they don't

8 in 10 Americans use a budget – up 10 percent from the last two years.

Debt.com has run its budgeting survey for three years now. This year, the highest number of respondents in the survey’s history have answered “yes” to the question, “do you budget?”

Eighty percent of Americans told Debt.com they’re on a budget – compared to the last two years when 70 percent answered “yes” to the same question. The following infographics are some of the most interesting data we found in this year’s survey…

More men than women feel that everyone needs to budget

 

Baby boomers are the age group most likely to use a budget – but not by much

 

More people started budgeting in hopes of increasing their wealth and savings

 

The majority of men who don’t budget say they earn too little to need one

 

The women who don’t budget also say they don’t earn enough money

 

Most men have never thought to search personal finance websites for tips on building a budget

 

More than half of women haven’t checked out finance website for budgeting tips

 

If you’d like to read the full survey data, click the button below.

Who should budget? 2020
Everyone 97.48%
People with a limited income 1.39%
People with a lot of debt 0.64%
People who spend a lot of money 0.49%
Do you use a budget? Yes No
2020 79.46% 20.54%
What prompted you to start budgeting? 2020
I want to increase my wealth/savings 42.46%
Debt 31.33%
Retirement 13.41%
Loss of job/income 9.57%
Retirement 7.56%
Divorce/loss of spouse 3.22%
How does your household feel about budgeting? 2020
My whole household works to stay on budget. 50.40%
I’m single, financially independent, and I budget! 29.49%
I love to budget, but my significant other doesn’t. 15.93%
My significant other is on a budget, but I am not. 2.18%
I live with my parents, and I don’t use a budget because I’m saving up to live on my own. 1.99%
Why don’t you budget? 2020
I don’t earn enough income 32.05%
It’s too time consuming 24.54%
It makes me feel anxious/bad. 21.43%
I have budgeted, but it’s never helped me. 16.12%
It causes disagreements with my spouse. 5.86%
Have you used websites for tips on how to build a budget? 2020
No, I never thought about it 55.12%
Yes, this is one of the reasons why I visited Debt.com 23.66%
Yes, I have visited sites other than Debt.com. 21.21%
How do you prefer to create a budget? 2020
Pen and paper 58.61%
Spreadsheets 23.47%
Mobile apps 8.39%
My bank/credit union’s budgeting tools 6.78%
A financial advisor 2.75%
Which method of budgeting would you be most interested in trying? 2020
None – I’m not interested in budgeting 28.26%
Pen and paper 27.34%
Mobile apps 22.94%
Spreadsheets 12.48%
My bank/credit union’s budgeting tools 5.69%
A financial advisor 3.30%
Has budgeting helped you get out or stay out of debt? Yes No
2020 85.63% 14.37%
Have you been able to stay out of debt without a budget? Yes No
2020 51.56% 48.44%
When I shop for groceries… 2020
I shop with a list, stick to my budget, AND use coupons 46.70%
I shop with a list and stick to my budget 27.26%
I shop without a list, but control my spending 19.11%
I walk in to buy one thing, and walk out with a cart full of stuff 4.08%
I buy whatever I want 2.84%
Do you budget for special events and holidays? 2020
Yes, I save for these events throughout the year 59.93%
No, I spend on special events without a budget. 15.88%
Yes, but I shop at the last minute and often go over budget 13.23%
No, I don’t buy gifts or celebrate special events 10.95%
Do you budget separately for special events and holidays? 2020
No, I spend on special events without a budget. 52.48%
No, I don’t buy gifts or celebrate special events. 17.61%
Yes, I save for these events throughout the year. 16.70%
Yes, but I shop at the last minute and often go over budget. 13.21%
Do you think restaurant meals should be included in a grocery budget? Yes No
2020 59.32% 40.68%
Do you budget for the “little things”? (For example, vending machines, gas stations, coffee shop runs, etc.) Yes No
2020 57.71% 42.29%

For the full data from the 2018 and 2019 surveys, click the button below.

Who should budget? 2019 2018
Everyone 94.45% 92.61%
People with a limited income 2.43% 3.64%
People with a lot of debt 2.08% 2.50%
People who spend a lot of money 1.04% 1.25%
Do you use a budget? Yes No
2019 68.69% 31.31%
2018 70.24% 29.76%
What prompted you to start budgeting? 2019 2018
Desire to manage my money better 34.43% 36.15%
I have always budgeted my money 25.22% 18.96%
Debt 13.24% 16.44%
I want to increase my wealth/savings 7.94% 9.33%
Retirement 7.44% 7.56%
Loss of job/income 7.31% 8.44%
Divorce 2.40% 1.93%
Loss of spouse 2.02% 1.19%
How do you feel about budgeting? 2019 2018
My whole household works to stay on budget 43.81% 48.15%
I’m single, financially independent and use a budget 39.65% 34.67%
I’m on a budget, but my significant other is not 13.76% 11.11%
I’m living with my parents, and budget because I’m saving to live on my own 1.39% 3.85%
My significant other is on a budget, but I’m not 1.39% 2.22%
Why don’t you budget? 2019 2018
I don’t earn enough money 39.61% 33.80%
It’s too time-consuming 21.05% 21.25%
I have budgeted, but it’s never helped me 15.51% 19.86%
I have budgeted, but only for special occasions and holidays 14.13% 16.72%
I never overspend 8.31% 7.32%
I make so much money I don’t need to budget 1.39% 1.05%
Have you used websites for tips on how to build a budget? 2019 2018
No, I never thought about it 32.78% 26.74%
Yes, this is one of the reasons why I visited Debt.com 28.01% 41.52%
I have a budget that I created on my own 22.46% 11.65%
Yes, I have visited sites other than Debt.com for advice 16.74% 20.08%
What tools do you use to budget? 2019 2018
Pen and paper 67.05% 66.22%
Spreadsheets 28.66% 32.00%
I budget in my head 25.38% 26.52%
I use my bank/credit union budgeting tools 15.28% 13.33%
Mobile apps 13.26% 16.74%
I have a financial advisor 5.43% 5.93%
I don’t budget 0.88% 0.44%
Have you ever thought about trying any of these budgeting tools/methods? 2019 2018
Pen and paper 73.65% 72.01%
Spreadsheets 32.63% 36.19%
Mobile apps 32.63% 32.46%
Budgeting tools/software provided by my bank/credit union 20.36% 18.28%
Financial advisor 14.67% 18.66%
Has budgeting helped you get out or stay out of debt? Yes No
2019 75.88% 24.12%
2018 72.74% 27.26%
Have you been able to stay out of debt without a budget? Yes No
2019 29.25% 70.75%
2018 26.67% 73.33%
When I shop for groceries… 2019 2018
I shop with a list, stick to my budget, AND use coupons 46.21% 57.33%
I shop with a list and follow in according to my budget 32.07% 23.41%
I don’t bring a list, but I control myself from overspending 14.52% 12.44%
I usually walk in wanting to buy one thing, and walk out with a cart full 4.80% 5.48%
I buy whatever I want 2.40% 1.33%
Do you budget for special events and holidays? 2019 2018
Yes, I save throughout the year so I can afford to celebrate with my loved ones 33.21% 33.63%
I rarely have the money to budget for special events or gifts because I am living paycheck to paycheck 23.11% 24.74%
I set a budget and start saving a month or two before the event 21.09% 24.74%
I usually don’t buy gifts or celebrate special events 14.14% 10.52%
I shop at the last minute and I often break my weekly/monthly budget for special events 8.46% 6.37%
Do you budget separately for special events and holidays? 2019 2018
I rarely have the money to budget for special events or gifts because I am living paycheck to paycheck 44.04% 45.10%
I usually don’t buy gifts or celebrate special events 17.73% 8.04%
Yes, I save throughout the year so I can afford to celebrate with my loved ones 14.40% 19.23%
I set a budget and start saving a month or two before the event 12.19% 12.94%
I shop at the last minute and I often break my weekly/monthly budget for special events 11.63% 14.69%
Do you separate the cost of meals at restaurants from your grocery budget? Yes No
2019 62.12% 37.88%
2018 57.93% 42.07%
Do you budget for the “little things”? (For example, vending machines, gas stations, coffee shop runs, etc.) 2019 2018
Yes, I put extra money aside for the “little things” 42.68% 44.74%
I probably should, but I don’t 29.04% 28.44%
No, these things cost me little money so I do not budget for them 28.28% 26.81%

Methodology:  Debt.com surveyed 2,654 people and asked ten questions related to their budgeting behavior. People responded from all 50 states and Washington, DC and were aged 18 and above. Responses were collected through SurveyMonkey. The survey was conducted from Feb. 04, 2020 to Feb. 24, 2020. *In 2019 Debt.com surveyed 1,153 people using the same type of consumer-focused questions regarding budgeting utilizing SurveyMoney. And in 2018 Debt.com surveyed 961 people with the same survey tool.

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