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You are watching: Which of these is an example of a flexible expense?
When making a budget, it’s important to know how to separate fixed expenses from variable expenses.
What is a fixed expense? In simple terms, it’s one that typically doesn’t change month-to-month. And, if you’re wondering what is a variable expense, it’s an expense that may be higher or lower from one month to the next.
Knowing how to include both in a budget is important to avoid overspending. It can also help with deciding how much of your income to commit to debt repayment, saving and other financial goals.
Fixed Expenses Definition
A fixed expense just means an expense in your budget that you can expect to stay the same, or close to it, over time. When you sit down to make your monthly budget, you don’t have to guess how much you’ll pay toward fixed expenses. You can simply carry over those amounts from last month’s budget.
Aside from being roughly the same amount each month, fixed expenses may also be paid on or around the same date each month. Again, the advantage here is that planning out your budget may be easier to do with recurring bill payments. If you budget by paycheck or schedule automatic bill payments, having bills due at roughly the same time can help with avoiding late payments and the fees that go along with them.
Examples of Fixed Expenses
Fixed expenses can include essential expenses, such as those needed to maintain a basic standard of living each month. Some of the most common fixed expense samples include:
Rent or mortgage paymentsRenter’s insurance or homeowner’s insuranceCell phone serviceInternet serviceHealth, disability or life insurance premiumsProperty taxesChildcare expensesStudent loan or car loan payments
Water, gas and electric bills technically fit under the umbrella of basic living expenses. But these costs can fluctuate from month to month, depending on your usage and the rates your provider charges.
While they may not be necessary for basic needs, certain recurring subscriptions could also be included as fixed expenses in your budget. If you pay for a gym membership or streaming services, for example, those costs might stay the same month to month.
Saving can also be considered a fixed expense if you’re budgeting for it regularly. For instance, you may put $100 into your emergency fund every payday. If you do that consistently and include it as a line item in your budget, you may technically consider it to be a fixed expense if you don’t deviate from your savings habit.
Other less common fixed expenses may include child support payments, alimony, back tax payments you’re making through an installment plan or payments made to satisfy a judgment from a lawsuit. These kinds of payments can be the same each month for the entire period of time in which you’re obligated to pay them.
Variable Expenses Definition
Variable expenses are the opposite of fixed expenses. A variable expense may recur from month to month. But the amount you pay in any given month could be different from previous payments or ones you’ll make in the future.
Budgeting for variable expenses can be more challenging, as you may not be able to pinpoint exactly how much they’ll add up to from one month to another. If you’re not tracking variable expenses regularly, it could be very easy to under- or overestimate how much of your budget you should allocate to them. This is something you can easily do with a budgeting app, however, which can minimize the odds of variable expenses sideswiping your spending plan.
Variable expenses can include essential expenses as well as discretionary spending. For instance, if you get sick, then a doctor visit may be a necessity that you need to cover. On the other hand, a discretionary expense means anything you budget money for or spend money on that you don’t necessarily need. In other words, these represent the “wants” in your budget.
Examples of Variable Expenses
What’s included in a budget under variable expenses will vary from one person to another. But some of the most common variable expenses you may pay include:
GasParking feesGroceriesDining outClothingPersonal care expensesHealthcare expensesHome maintenance and repairsEntertainmentHobbies and recreation
Some variable expenses may not be recurring. For example, you may take vacations or trips two to three times a year. The amount you spend each time may vary, but you’re not paying for those expenses monthly. Instead, you may budget for those kinds of variable expenses using sinking funds—money that you set aside for this purpose.
Tips for Saving Money on Fixed and Variable Expenses
If you could use some more breathing room in your budget, finding ways to save each month can help. How you approach saving money can vary, based on whether you’re trying to cut your fixed or variable expenses.
Some fixed expenses may be easier than others to trim down. For example, saving money on renter’s insurance, homeowner’s insurance or car insurance may be as simple as shopping around for a better deal with a different insurer. Saving money on housing, on the other hand, might require you to move or refinance your mortgage.
With debt repayment, you may be able to save by refinancing or consolidating bills. Taking advantage of a 0% introductory balance transfer offer, for instance, could help you save money on credit card interest. This assumes, of course, that you’re able to pay the balance off in full before the promotional rate ends. You could also consider refinancing student loans or consolidating debts with a low-interest rate personal loan to save money.
If you want to save money on variable expenses, it may require some lifestyle adjustments. For example, cutting back or cutting out things like dinners out or new clothes are some simple ways to save. You could also save on groceries by planning meals, taking advantage of coupons or switching from name brands to generic.
The upside of having variable expenses in your budget is that you have more control over them than you do with fixed expenses. So it’s typically easier to find opportunities to save money.
How to Budget for Fixed and Variable Expenses
Forgetting to plan for both fixed and variable expenses in your budget—or not budgeting the right amounts for either one—can be a costly budgeting mistake. If you have both types of expenses to pay each month, these tips can help you budget for them accordingly:
Budget for essentials first. Most of the time, your fixed expenses are also your most important ones: a roof over your head, insurance, childcare expenses. So it only makes sense that when you’re dividing up your income for the month, you make sure those bills take first priority over discretionary spending.Track variable spending. If you’re not keeping tabs on how much you spend for variable expenses, you could be setting yourself up for budgeting failure. Keeping track of your variable spending can help you see how certain expense categories in your budget trend over time, making it easier to decide how much money should be allotted for them.
It’s important not only that you have a budget but also that you make an effort to live your budget. This means that you go beyond simply planning out your budget and commit to the spending rules you’ve laid down for yourself. Living your budget may mean rethinking wants versus needs to avoid overspending. But the advantage of doing so is that you end up with a balanced budget without the risk of racking up high-interest debt.