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BancorpSouth Review: Checking, Savings, CD, Money Market and IRA Accounts

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

BancorpSouth’s checking account options

BancorpSouth My Way Checking

This entry-level checking account does not earn interest.
  • Minimum opening deposit: $50
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: $5 (waived if you meet specific requirements, detailed below)
  • ATM fee: No fee for using BancorpSouth ATMs. If you use an out-of-network ATM in the United States, you may be charged a fee by both BancorpSouth and the ATM’s owner. Call the bank to ask about current costs associated with out-of-network ATMs. If you use a foreign ATM, you’ll pay $2 per transaction, plus a 2% cross border fee.
  • ATM fee refund: None
  • Overdraft fee: $36 per item

This checking doesn’t earn interest, but it’s relatively easy to avoid monthly fees. You can avoid the above-referenced service charge by meeting one these requirements during the statement cycle:

  • $100 minimum daily balance, or
  • Five debit card purchase transactions, or
  • At least one direct deposit of $100 or more

The My Way Checking account also comes with access to BudgetWi$e, the bank’s free online budgeting tool.

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BancorpSouth Performance Checking

This account lets you earn higher interest rates if you have a relationship with the bank.
APYMinimum Balance to Earn APY
0.10%$30,000+
1.76%$0.01 - $30,000
  • Minimum opening deposit: $50
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: $10 (waived if you meet certain requirements, detailed below)
  • ATM fee: No fee for using BancorpSouth ATMs. If you use an out-of-network ATM in the United States, you may be charged a fee by both BancorpSouth and the ATM’s owner. Call the bank to ask about current fees associated with out-of-network ATMs. If you use a foreign ATM, you’ll pay $2 per transaction, plus a 2% cross-border fee.
  • ATM fee refund: The bank will refund their $2 ATM fee plus up to $2 in fees paid by the ATM owner for the first five non-BancorpSouth transactions if the account holder meets all three of the higher rate requirements listed below.
  • Overdraft fee: $36 per item

The standard interest rate for this checking account is pretty meager, but it may be easy for you to earn the bonus rate. The Bonus APY of 1.76% applies on balances of $30,000 or less if you meet these three requirements each statement period:

  • Must have at least one direct credit or debit, such as direct deposit or automatic bill payment
  • Must make at least 12 debit card purchase transactions
  • Must be enrolled to receive online statements

You’ll definitely want to make sure you meet the requirements to receive the bonus rate every month. Doing so will not only get you a higher APY, but you’ll also be able to avoid the $10 monthly service charge and get up to $10 in ATM fees refunded each month. You can also avoid the monthly service charge by maintaining a $1,000 minimum daily balance in your account.

The Performance Checking account also comes with access to BudgetWi$e, BancorpSouth’s free online budgeting tool.

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BancorpSouth Interest Plus Checking

This account lets you earn higher interest rates as you deposit more money in your account.
APY
Minimum Balance to Earn APY
0.10%$0.01 - $4,999.99
0.12%$5,000 - $9,999.99
0.15%$10,000 - $24,999.99
0.17%$25,000 - $49,999.99
0.20%$50,000 - $99,999.99
0.25%$100,000+
  • Minimum opening deposit: $1,000
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: $10 (waived if you maintain a $1,000 minimum daily balance)
  • ATM fee: No fee for using BancorpSouth ATMs. If you use an out-of-network ATM in the United States, you may be charged a fee by both BancorpSouth and the ATM’s owner. Call BancorpSouth to ask about current fees associated with out-of-network ATMs. If you use a foreign ATM, you’ll pay $2 per transaction, plus a 2% cross-border fee.
  • ATM fee refund: None
  • Overdraft fee: $36 per item

The interest rates available for this checking account aren’t exactly generous. The highest rates available on this account are quite a bit lower than the bonus rate available through the Performing Checking account. However, since the bonus rate is available only on balances up to $30,000, this account might be a better option if you maintain a higher balance in your checking account.

And there’s one more benefit that might be appealing to people who prefer paper statements with imaged checks. This service is free for Interest Plus Checking account holders, whereas some of BancorpSouth’s other checking account options charge a fee.

The Interest Plus Checking account also comes with access to BudgetWi$e, BancorpSouth’s free online budgeting tool.

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BancorpSouth Heritage Checking

This account gives seniors age 62 and older the ability to earn travel and bonus rewards.
APYMinimum Balance to Earn APY
0.10%$0.01
  • Minimum opening deposit: $50
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: $8 (waived if you maintain a $500 minimum daily balance)
  • ATM fee: No fee for using BancorpSouth ATMs. If you use an out-of-network ATM in the United States, you may be charged a fee by both BancorpSouth and the ATM’s owner. Call BancorpSouth to ask about current fees associated with out-of-network ATMs. If you use a foreign ATM, you’ll pay $2 per transaction, plus a 2% cross-border fee.
  • ATM fee refund: None
  • Overdraft fee: $36 per item

The interest rates available for this checking account are modest, but it offers some unique perks. Account holders receive:

  • One free box of checks per year
  • $100,000 common carrier Accidental Death and Dismemberment Insurance
  • A free Savers Club Book with discount offers at over 3,000 participating lodging properties, theme parks and car rental companies
  • The ability to receive discounts and earn cash rewards when they arrange travel through a third-party partner
  • Free copies of Sojourns magazine

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BancorpSouth Student Checking

This account doesn’t earn interest, but it makes free checking available to students age 24 and under with no minimum balance requirements.
  • Minimum opening deposit: $50
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: $0
  • ATM fee: No fee for using BancorpSouth ATMs. If you use an out-of-network ATM in the United States, you may be charged a fee by both BancorpSouth and the ATM’s owner. Call BancorpSouth to ask about current fees associated with out-of-network ATMs. If you use a foreign ATM, you’ll pay $2 per transaction, plus a 2% cross-border fee.
  • ATM fee refund: None
  • Overdraft fee: $36 per item

This checking account doesn’t earn interest, but with no minimum monthly balance requirements and no monthly maintenance fee, it’s an affordable option for college students. Plus, it comes with a few nice features. Account holders receive their first box of 25 checks printed at no charge and have the option to upgrade to checks with their college’s logo.

The Student Checking account is available for students through the age of 24. After age 24, the account will automatically be converted to another standard checking account.

The Student Checking account also comes with access to BudgetWi$e, BancorpSouth’s free online budgeting tool.

How to get BancorpSouth’s checking accounts

You’ll need to provide some basic personal information, such as your name, Social Security number, date of birth, address and driver’s license number. You’ll also need details for your current U.S. checking or savings account to fund your new account. If you don’t already have a U.S. checking or savings account, you’ll have to apply in person at a BancorpSouth location.

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How BancorpSouth’s checking accounts compare

This bank’s checking accounts offer modest interest rates compared with the best online checking accounts out there. Truly fee-free checking is only available to students, although it’s possible to avoid monthly service fees rather easily.

If you’re between the ages of 24 and 62 and don’t mind jumping through a few hoops to meet the requirements each month, you’ll earn a better rate with BancorpSouth’s Performance Checking than you will with their other accounts. However, you might be able to earn more by keeping less money in your checking and more in another interest-bearing account.

BancorpSouth’s savings account options

BancorpSouth My Goal Savings

A good beginner account focused on saving toward a goal.
APYMinimum Balance to Earn APY
0.15%$0.01
  • Minimum opening deposit: $100
  • Minimum balance to earn APY: $0.01
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: $5 (waived if you maintain a minimum balance of $100)
  • ATM fee: No fee for using BancorpSouth ATMs. If you use an out-of-network ATM in the United States, you may be charged a fee by both BancorpSouth and the ATM’s owner. Call BancorpSouth to ask about current fees associated with out-of-network ATMs. If you use a foreign ATM, you’ll pay $2 per transaction, plus a 2% cross-border fee.
  • ATM fee refund: None
  • Overdraft fee: $36 per item

This is BancorpSouth’s basic savings account, and an option if you’re looking for a simple, no-frills place to store your cash. This account does have a monthly fee, but you can easily avoid it by keeping a minimum of $100 in your account.

Per Regulation D, you’re allowed up to six certain withdrawals or transfers per month. After that, there’s a $5 fee for each transaction from the bank.

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BancorpSouth Performance Savings

Earn a higher rate of interest by making a minimum monthly deposit.

Account holders can earn a higher interest rate on balances of $100,000 or less by making a minimum of $50 in total deposits into the account through either online banking transfer or ACH deposit. If you don’t make the minimum deposit, your account will earn the standard rate of interest. Call BancorpSouth to learn about the current rates.

  • Minimum opening deposit: $50
  • Minimum balance to earn APY: $0.01
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: $2.50 (waived if you maintain a minimum balance of $50)
  • ATM fee: No fee for using BancorpSouth ATMs. If you use an out-of-network ATM in the United States, you may be charged a fee by both BancorpSouth and the ATM’s owner. Call BancorpSouth to ask about current fees associated with out-of-network ATMs. If you use a foreign ATM, you’ll pay $2 per transaction, plus a 2% cross-border fee.
  • ATM fee refund: None
  • Overdraft fee: $36 per item

This savings account is an option if you plan to save at least $50 per month and can take advantage of the bonus interest rate. Even if you skip a month, the service fee is half that of the My Goal Savings account.

Again, watch out if you plan to make a lot of withdrawals each month. You’re allowed up to six certain withdrawals or transfers each month, per Federal Regulation D. After that, there’s a $5 fee for each transaction from the bank.

You cannot open a Performance Checking account online. Use BancorpSouth’s Find a Branch tool to locate a branch near you and sign up in person.

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BancorpSouth Select Savings

This account has a higher minimum balance requirement to open an account and avoid fees, but it also earns a higher interest rate.
APYMinimum Balance to Earn APY
0.25%$0.01
  • Minimum opening deposit: $1,000
  • Minimum balance to earn APY: $0.01
  • Quarterly account maintenance fee: $15 (waived if you maintain a minimum balance of $1,000)
  • ATM fee: No fee for using BancorpSouth ATMs. If you use an out-of-network ATM in the United States, you may be charged a fee by both BancorpSouth and the ATM’s owner. Call BancorpSouth to ask about current fees associated with out-of-network ATMs. If you use a foreign ATM, you’ll pay $2 per transaction, plus a 2% cross-border fee.
  • ATM fee refund: None
  • Overdraft fee: $36 per item

For people with a little more money available to open an account, the Select Savings account pays a higher rate of interest than you’ll get from BancorpSouth’s My Goal Savings account. This account does have a quarterly maintenance fee, but you can avoid it by keeping a minimum of $1,000 in the account.

Per Regulation D, you’re allowed up to six certain withdrawals or transfers each month. After that, there’s a $5 fee for each transaction from the bank.

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BancorpSouth Young Savers Savings

A low-fee alternative for teaching your children how to save.

Call BancorpSouth to learn about the current rates.

  • Minimum opening deposit: $25
  • Minimum balance to earn APY: $0.01
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: $0
  • ATM fee: No fee for using BancorpSouth ATMs. If you use an out-of-network ATM in the United States, you may be charged a fee by both BancorpSouth and the ATM’s owner. Call BancorpSouth to ask about current fees associated with out-of-network ATMs. If you use a foreign ATM, you’ll pay $2 per transaction, plus a 2% cross-border fee.
  • ATM fee refund: None
  • Overdraft fee: $36 per item

This account is only available to account holders below 17 years of age and requires a parent or guardian over 18 to be a joint account holder. Once the account holder reaches age 18, the account will convert to a My Goal Savings account.It’s a good account for teaching kids the value of savings because the minimum opening deposit is low, there’s no minimum balance requirement and no monthly service charge.

You’re allowed up to six certain withdrawals or transfer each month, per Regulation D. After that, there’s a $5 fee for each transaction imposed by the bank.

You cannot open a Young Savers Checking account online. Use BancorpSouth’s Find a Branch tool to locate a branch near you and sign up in person.

How to get a Bancop South savings account

You’ll need to provide some basic personal information, such as your name, Social Security number, date of birth, address and driver’s license number. You’ll also need details for your current U.S. checking or savings account to fund your new account. If you don’t already have a U.S. checking or savings account, you’ll have to apply in person at a BancorpSouth location.

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How BancorpSouth’s savings accounts compare

These savings accounts make it easy to avoid monthly or quarterly account maintenance fees, but their interest rates aren’t really that competitive. You’ll earn a better return on your money by opening one of these top online savings accounts.

BancorpSouth’s CD rates

BancorpSouth Certificate of Deposit

Earn a higher rate of return than a standard savings account.

Interest rates are determined at the time of purchase. Call BancorpSouth to discover current rates.

  • Minimum opening deposit: $1,000 – $5,000, depending on maturity
  • Minimum balance amount to earn APY: $1,000 – $5,000, depending on maturity
  • Early withdrawal penalty: Early withdrawal penalties apply. Call BancorpSouth to learn more.

If you want to earn a higher rate of interest and don’t mind tying up your money for anywhere from one to 60-plus months, consider a BancorpSouth CD. The longer the term, the higher the rate.

You can open a CD with BancorpSouth with as little as $1,000, so there’s a low barrier to entry.

You cannot open a BancorpSouth CD online. Use their Find a Branch tool to locate a branch near you and apply in person.

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How BancorpSouth’s CD rates compare

BancorpSouth doesn’t publish their CD rates online, so it’s impossible to know how they compare to the CDs that you can get elsewhere. However, we do like their low opening balance requirements and a variety of maturity terms.

BancorpSouth’s money market account options

BancorpSouth Money Market Select

Earn tiered interest rates based on your account balance.
APYMinimum Balance to Earn APY
0.10%$0.01 - $9,999.99
0.10%$10,000 - $24,999.99
0.15%$25,000 - $49,999.99
0.20%$50,000 - $99,999.99
0.25%$100,000 - $149,999.99
0.30%$150,000 - $499,999.99
0.50%$500,000+
  • Minimum opening deposit: $1,000
  • Minimum balance to earn APY: $0.01
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: $10 (waived if you maintain a $10,000 minimum monthly ledger balance)
  • ATM fee: No fee for using the bank’s ATMs. If you use an out-of-network ATM in the United States, you may be charged a fee by both BancorpSouth and the ATM’s owner. Call the bank to ask about current fees associated with out-of-network ATMs. If you use a foreign ATM, you’ll pay $2 per transaction, plus a 2% cross-border fee.
  • ATM fee refund: None
  • Overdraft fee: $36 per item

You’ll only need $1,000 to open a Money Market Select account, but you’ll need 10 times that amount to avoid the monthly fee mentioned above. If you can clear that hurdle, this is a way to earn a little more interest than you’d get from some of the bank’s checking account options. You’ll have access to unlimited over-the-counter and ATM transaction, but more than six withdrawals during any given month will hit you with a $10 fee per withdrawal.Keep in mind, though, you must have a BancorpSouth checking account to open a Money Market Select account.

How to get BancorpSouth’s Money Market Select account

You’ll need to provide some basic personal information, such as your name, Social Security number, date of birth, address and driver’s license number. You’ll also need details for your current U.S. checking or savings account to fund your new account. If you don’t already have a U.S. checking or savings account, you’ll have to apply in person at a BancorpSouth location.

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How BancorpSouth’s money market accounts compare

This account has a low opening deposit requirement, but the interest rates are low, too. You could potentially earn a better rate of return with a money market account from an internet bank.

BancorpSouth’s IRA account options

IRA

BancorpSouth’s IRA lets you save for retirement with flexible contribution options.

Call BancorpSouth the learn the current rates.

  • Minimum opening deposit: Call the bank to learn more
  • Minimum balance to earn APY: Call the bank to learn more
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: None

If you’re under age 70½, you can contribute to an IRA and take advantage of potential tax savings. BancorpSouth’s IRA does not charge a monthly service fee, however, if you need to withdraw funds early, those withdrawals may be taxed as earned income and incur an early withdrawal penalty.

You’ll have to call the bank to learn more about interest rates associated with this account and how to open the account.

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How BancorpSouth’s IRA accounts compare

We don’t know how BancorpSouth’s IRA CDs compare because the bank chooses not to advertise its rates. You’ll have to call to find out. If you do, be sure to compare the rates they’re paying to our list of the top IRA CD rates.

Overall review of BancorpSouth’s banking products

BancorpSouth does offer a wide variety of account options for checking and savings, and while many of their accounts to charge a monthly or quarterly service fee, they make it easy to avoid the fees by maintaining relatively low minimum balances, using your debit card, or using direct deposit.

But if you’re like most people, you probably want to put your money where it will earn the best interest rate. If that’s the case, BancorpSouth might not be the best option for you because their interest rates just aren’t competitive with those offered by other banks. With many of its rates not published online, the bank doesn’t make it easy for you to shop around.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Janet Berry-Johnson
Janet Berry-Johnson |

Janet Berry-Johnson is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Janet here

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Strategies to Save

How to Save Money Using the 20% Savings Rule

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

You can find a lot of conflicting financial advice out there, but one recommendation that is rarely disputed is that you need to save money for the future. A strong savings game – including a savings account, an emergency fund and a retirement account – is a basic requirement for good personal financial health.

Understanding that you should build your savings is step one. Step two is knowing how much to save. That’s where the 20% savings rule comes in. This rule is part of the 50/30/20 budgeting method, popularized in a 2006 book by U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren and her daughter Amelia Warren Tyagi, titled “All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan”.

Read on to learn more about the 20% savings rule and how it can help you save more.

What is the 20% savings rule?

The 50/30/20 budget recommends you divide your after-tax income in three broad categories:

  • 20% for savings: This includes savings for both near-term goals and your long-term financial security. Money in this category should be saved in an emergency fund, a high-yield savings account, and retirement accounts.
  • 30% for wants: Spending for things that are nice to have, but not strictly necessary. Money in this category is for entertainment, dining out, vacations, or a gym membership.
  • 50% for needs: Money in this category is for required monthly expenses like rent or mortgage payments, utilities, insurance, groceries and transportation.

Stephen Caplan, a financial advisor with Neponset Valley Financial Partners, a wealth management firm in the Boston area, said the 20% savings rule makes a lot of sense, especially for young people, because it helps safeguard against lifestyle inflation.

“The beauty of maintaining a 20% savings rate is that as you progress in your career and increase your earnings, you are able to live a nicer lifestyle and direct more money toward your future financial goals,” Caplan said. “If you focus on saving a specific dollar amount, rather than a percentage of your income, it’s easy to frivolously spend additional income.”

How to maximize the 20% savings rule

What makes the 20% savings rule work? It’s simple, flexible, and it can help you save more in the long run. Here’s how to make it work for you.

Set a budget

While other budgeting methods rely on detailed categories and strict dollar amounts, the 20% savings rule lets you allocate a percentage of your income to a variety of savings methods and accounts. This can be especially helpful if your income fluctuates from month to month. In months when you earn more, you can save more. If you earn less, you save less.

Start by calculating your after-tax income. This is the amount you have available to spend each month after taxes have been withheld from your paycheck or set aside for quarterly estimated payments if you are self-employed. If your employer withholds retirement contributions or insurance premiums, add them back in to reach your after-tax income. Now, multiply that number by 20%. Ideally, that’s how much you’ll put aside to savings each month.

Establish an emergency fund

Having an emergency fund is an essential component of long-term financial success as it prevents life’s curveballs, such as job loss, medical bills or unexpected home repairs, from sending you into debt.

Most financial experts recommend building an emergency fund equal to three-to-six months of expenses. If you don’t have this much saved yet, allocate a chunk of your 20% savings to establishing an emergency fund.

Focus on fixed costs

If you have trouble allocating 20% of your income to savings, Caplan recommends taking a hard look at the needs category before cutting wants.

“Too many people focus on trying to cut back the 30% discretionary spending category and ignore the big purchases in the 50% category,” Caplan said. “These expenses are usually fixed costs, such as mortgage, rent, and car payments, so getting them right from the start can have a significant impact on your financial well-being.”

Maybe you are spending more than you can afford on housing. It’s not simple to find a new apartment or sell a home, but over the long term paying less in rent or downsizing your mortgage could yield major savings. That new SUV may have felt great during the test drive, however it may be possible to reduce your monthly car payments by finding a more modest sedan. Again, downsizing could help rightsize your budget.

Get out of debt

Another unique aspect of the 50/30/20 rule is how it treats debt payments. Mortgage payments and minimum payments towards other debts, such as student loans and credit cards, are categorized as needs. After all, you need to pay at least this much every month to keep your home, avoid defaulting and preserve your credit score.

However, any additional payments made to reduce the principal balance of your debts are considered savings because once you’re out of debt, you can redirect those payments to savings.

If you have non-mortgage debt, after establishing an emergency fund, allocate a portion of your 20% savings to getting out of debt. The sooner you pay it off, the more you’ll have for long-term saving and investing.

Save for retirement

If you have access to a retirement plan through work and your employer offers matching contributions, you can boost your retirement savings without allocating more than 20% of your income to savings.

Contribute at least up to the percentage your employer matches. When your employer matches your contribution, it’s free money for you.

Create an automated savings plan

Too often, people make the mistake of saving only what is left over after covering their needs and wants. You can avoid this by automating your savings. Most banks will allow you to set up an automatic draft from your checking account into savings, or your employer may be able to have a portion of your paycheck direct deposited into savings.

When you automate your savings, you’ll save time, make it easier to commit to paying yourself first and reduce the temptation to spend what you should be saving.

Is 20% the right amount for you?

The 20% savings rule is simple and flexible, but it’s not for everyone. If you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck, just covering the necessities or facing other financial difficulties such as job loss or debt, you might need to work on increasing your income before you prioritize saving.

Caplan also noted the 50/30/20 rule might be a challenge for people residing in cities with high cost of living like San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, and even Boston. “You’ll earn more in these cities,” Caplan said, “but housing costs a disproportionate amount of your income. This makes it challenging to keep your fixed costs under 50% of your income.”

If allocating 20% of your income to savings just isn’t feasible, start with a lesser amount, such as 15% or even 5%. The most important thing is to start saving. Eventually, as your circumstances change and you pay off debt, you can get closer to the 20% rule of thumb.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Janet Berry-Johnson
Janet Berry-Johnson |

Janet Berry-Johnson is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Janet here

Advertiser Disclosure

Strategies to Save

Understanding the 50/30/20 Rule to Help You Save More

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Budgeting is tough. Not having enough money to cover your monthly expenses can leave you scrambling to dip into your emergency fund or relying on a credit card.

If you are looking for another way to manage your finances, you could consider percentage-based budgeting, which relies on a percentage of your income to determine your spending limitations. In a month where you earn more, you’ll have more to spend across your categories.

One approach is the 50/30/20 rule. This budgeting method was popularized in “All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan,” the 2006 book by U.S. Sen. (and current presidential candidate) Elizabeth Warren and her daughter Amelia Warren Tyagi.

Read on to learn more about the 50/30/20 rule, how to use it and why it might be the key to helping you save more.

What is the 50/30/20 rule?

The 50/30/20 rule states that you should budget your income in three categories: needs, wants and savings. It starts with your after-tax income. This is the amount you have available to spend each month after taxes have been withheld by your employer or set aside for quarterly estimated payments if you are self-employed.

If you receive a paycheck and your employer withholds retirement contributions or insurance premiums, add them back in to get to your after-tax income. Once you’ve determined your monthly income, you’ll budget it as follows:

  • Budget 50% toward your needs: These are required monthly expenses, such as your rent or mortgage payment, utilities, insurance, groceries and transportation.
  • Budget 30% toward your wants: This is the fun stuff, such as dining out, entertainment and the barre class you take on Saturday mornings.
  • Budget 20% toward your savings: This is for your financial security and long-term goals, such as creating an emergency fund or saving for retirement. This also includes vacations or home improvements.

Todd Murphy, a financial advisor with Prime Financial Services in Wilton, Conn., recommended direct depositing your paychecks into multiple bank accounts: 50% to checking for needs, 30% to a different account for wants and the remaining 20% to retirement and savings accounts.

“The most successful clients have separate banks for these accounts to limit the tendency to talk themselves into making ‘exceptions’ on their spending,” Murphy said.

An important note: If you’re working to pay off non-mortgage debts, such as student loans and credit card payments, you might wonder where those fit. Payments towards these debts fall into two categories:

  • The minimum payments required by your student loan or credit card company are needs. You need to pay at least this much every month to avoid default and harm to your credit score.
  • Any additional payments made to pay off the balance faster and get out of debt are savings. Why? Because once you’re out of debt, you can redirect those payments to saving and investing.

How to use the 50/30/20 rule

To show you how the 50/30/20 rule works in the real world, let’s consider a hypothetical example. Miguel’s take-home pay from his full-time job after taxes is $3,900 a month, and his employer withholds $200 a month for health insurance. Here is how Miguel might budget using the 50/30/20 rule.

Step 1: Calculate after-tax income

Since Miguel’s employer withholds $200 a month for health insurance, Miguel adds that amount back to his take-home pay to determine his income of $4,100.

Step 2: Cap needs at 50%

Now that Miguel knows his monthly after-tax income, he needs to think about his needs — what he spends each month on housing, utilities, insurance, groceries and the car that gets him to and from work.

According to the 50/30/20 rule, these costs should take up no more than 50% of his $4,100 income, or $2,050.

Miguel’s costs in this category are as follows:

Step 3: Limit wants to 30%

According to the 50/30/20 rule, Miguel has $1,230 to put toward his wants. That number may seem like a lot to some people, but limiting wants to 30% of income can be difficult.

Miguel has a Netflix subscription, stops for coffee every morning and likes to meet up with friends once a week for drinks. He also likes to take his girlfriend out to nice dinners a couple of times a week and tinker on his vintage motorcycle. Spending on all of those interests adds up.

Step 4: Restrict savings to 20%

The rest of your income should be set aside for emergency savings, putting money toward retirement, saving for future goals and getting out of debt.

According to the 50/30/20 rule, Miguel has $820 for the saving category. Let’s assume that Miguel already has an emergency fund, so he wants to prioritize retirement, paying off debt and saving for an engagement ring. His spending in this category might look like this:

How the 50/30/20 rule can save you more

The great thing about the 50/30/20 rule is it gives you a guideline for living within your means so you can save more.

Make adjustments

The 50/30/20 rule could open your eyes to changes you need to make. For example, if you run the numbers and realize housing takes up nearly 50% of your income, leaving little room for other necessities, you might decide to relocate to a less expensive neighborhood. Or you could look for other ways to reduce spending in the needs categories by shopping for new insurance or clipping coupons when you go grocery shopping.

Reduce your wants

If you’re overspending in the wants category, you may need to change up your daily habits: make coffee at home instead of buying it, cook at home more often or reconsider expensive hobbies. Small changes can add up to big savings over time.

Get a retirement bonus

If you have access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan, you may be able to get a boost to your savings without touching the other categories.

“Contribute up to the percentage your employer matches into your 401(k) or 403(b),” Murphy said. You’ll receive an automatic bonus when your employer matches your contribution.

Put more money into savings

Savings is an essential part of any budget because, without it, unforeseen expenses can leave you struggling to pay necessary costs of living or get you into debt. If you run the numbers and realize you’re not saving enough, look for ways to trim expenses in the needs and wants categories.

Pay off debt faster

Knowing you have 20% of your income to dedicate toward savings and paying off debt can motivate you to pay more than the monthly minimum and make a bigger dent in your balance.

After setting up your emergency fund, prioritize paying off debts. The sooner you pay off any credit cards, student loans and car loans, the more you’ll have to invest and save for retirement.

Is the 50/30/20 rule right for you?

As long as you have income left over after covering your needs, the 50/30/20 rule can work for you. However, if you run the numbers and realize a 50/30/20 split just isn’t feasible right now, don’t give up. Maybe your categories look more like 60/30/10 right now. That’s OK. Start where you are and look for changes you can make to reduce your cost of living, change your spending habits and get closer to a balanced budget.

Bottom line

The 50/30/20 rule is far from the only way to budget, but it’s a simple formula that allows you to meet your wants and needs and save money without strict dollar amounts and inflexible budget categories.

Murphy acknowledged this method might not work if you are experiencing financial difficulties, such as being laid off from your job. In that case, you may need to work on increasing your monthly income to cover your needs before allocating money to wants.

“Greater savings allows for more flexibility,” Murphy said. “If you live on less than half of your income, you are likely to never have a personal recession, regardless of the economy.”

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Janet Berry-Johnson
Janet Berry-Johnson |

Janet Berry-Johnson is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Janet here