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What’s a “must have”?

Oct 22, 2012 | | Comments (4)

Dear Liz: You’ve written frequently about the 50/30/20 budget, where no more than 50% of your after-tax income should be spent on “must haves” so that you have 30% for “wants” and 20% for debt repayment and savings. In which category would alimony fall? How about car payments?

Answer: Any expense that can’t be put off without serious consequences is considered a must-have. Since you could be sued or held in contempt of court for not paying your alimony, that would certainly qualify as a must-have. So too are all required loan payments, since failing to pay those will lead to credit card damage, possible lawsuits and, in the case of vehicles, repossession. Other must-haves include shelter costs, food, utilities, other transportation costs, insurance and child support.

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Categories : Budgeting, Q&A



I have a family member who was sued because he did not pay alimony so it’s no surprise that it is a “must have”. I do wonder in what category do school loan early repayments fall. There is no penalty for not paying them early, but I feel as if the earlier I get started on repayment the better it will be for me in the end.


Hi, Jessica. Minimum loan payments are “must haves.” Any payments in excess of the minimum would go under the 20% for debt repayment/saving.


Tim Berthiaume
Jan. 20,2013
I couldn’t find the link to a calculator that you wrote about in The 10 Commandments of Money. I would like to use it to help create my 50/30/20
budget. Can you guide me to it?


Hi, Tim. Unfortunately, MSN disabled the calculator as it wasn’t compatible with the latest version of Internet Explorer. I’m working on getting another version created. Stay tuned.