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What kinds of expenses should I have separately in family budget? Like food, medications, transport, clothes, housing, kids, personal expenses, sports, flat maintenance, loans, rent. There are simply too many things and probably some categories should be combined to a more general one. Please advise.

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I'd suggest starting with some general categories like @MrChrister suggests. Each month, as you compare actuals to budget, you'll probably find some categories where you really feel like you need more details, or you need to exercise a little more discipline. Break those categories down further so that you can get the details you need.

For example, if you find that you're spending more money than you think you should on the Food category, you might break it down into Groceries, Restaurant Meals, Fast Food, and Work Lunches.

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    I should add here that it's a good idea to look at a very thorough budget form when first setting up the budget so that you can be reasonably sure you haven't missed anything important. But for tracking purposes, less categories makes life easier as long as you're getting the information you need to make good decisions. – Randy Coulman Apr 5 '11 at 4:13
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Are you meticulous?

If yes, then make lots of categories. If you want a place to start, hook up mint.com to your accounts and start sorting your transactions into the categories they already have. Sparingly add your own if you can't agree with theirs.

Once your transactions are categorized, mint will show you what you spend, and you can tweak a budget from there.

Make sure whoever else does the budget with you is helping make the decisions.

If you aren't wanting to be meticulous about your budget, here is my latest plan: after doing the detailed thing for a while, I feel it doesn't gain me much compared to the following:

  • Required spending (things like rent, mortgage, utilities, insurance, dues and subscriptions)
  • Unexpected spending (things like doctors visits for sick kids)
  • Savings (the money in my paycheck I dedicate to savings)
  • Food
  • Fun money

Really food could be pushed out to required spending, but I am also tracking with sub cats if my food was work lunches, groceries or eating out. (Because this the part of the budget we feel like we should improve.)

You can add a couple more if you want, but there isn't a big reason to track how much my cell phone bill was, it just matters that I always owe it every month.

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This budget worksheet from Vertex42.com is probably a good starting point.

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