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Need vs Want and the 50/30/20 Budget Method

Is that case of craft brew a necessity, or a luxury?  What about that additional streaming channel, those designer mud flaps, and that second set of socket wrenches? When making financial decisions and formulating a financial plan, it’s important to know the difference between what we need and what we want.  When developing a budget, focus first on the needs – those things you have to have – while allowing for “wants” as well. Necessities should be 50% of your budget, according to the “50 (needs)/30 (wants)/20 (savings)” method – but you can still have that craft brew and fishing channel – just maybe not the mud flaps.

Advice from Nerdwallet on defining needs and wants

About that 50/30/20 budget method… from The Balance and also check out:


as well as…

Needs-vs-wants from Smart Asset

Help your kids learn this, too –  like Elmo did on Sesame Street.

Free budgeting apps can help you make sounder financial decisions, plan, and manage:


  • Syncs with your accounts
  • Free


  • Zero-based budgeting
  • Free for a basic account


  • The envelope system online/in app.  You might have learned this method from your parents.  It’s still tried and true.
  • Free for basic


Check out this free budget worksheet from Nerdwallet

Input your income and expenses, and we’ll show how your spending compares to the 50/30/20 budget.

YNAB (you need a budget) is another highly rated app (and currently has a free trial offer)

Financial fitness in times of trouble: Top Tips

During times of trouble, it’s even more difficult to stay on top of things financially.  We’re working to find good resources to help you navigate this journey. We’re keeping this page up to date with tips from financial professionals, links to articles, and videos.  And, we’re offering webinars weekly on a variety of financial fitness topics, as well.

Key tips to keep in mind, from financial advisors:

During times of crisis and market volatility like we are experiencing:

  • Keep emotions in check when making financial decisions during times of market volatility
  • Plan for the “long haul” or “big picture” rather than reacting to the immediate situation
  • Have a plan and keep saving towards your future goals, including retirement
  • Talk to a financial advisor.  All vendors (AIG, Fidelity, TIAA, and Voya) are available for virtual meetings (phone, video, etc.)
  • Establish an emergency fund

COVID-19 Financial Resources available in your community

Your local United Way has developed Covid 19 Resource pages that include ways to get help and ways to give help in your county:

  • $2.2 Million in business grants available through Denton County OPEN (Operational Plan for Economic Normalization),  offering grants up to $10,000 for local businesses negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic due to closures.  Learn more and see if your business qualifies!
  • Questions?  Call 940-349-4280, Monday-Friday, 8am - 5pm.  Email

ARTICLE 4/27/2020:

The Wall Street Journal published this article about not panicking during times of market volatility.

VIDEO 4/27/2020:

Watch “Manage Unexpected Events and Expenses” from the Fidelity resource center.