Join my free week-long                   to stop stressing about your money and start taking control of it.

    What’s YOUR Make or Break Budget Number?

    1. Broke Millennial

      August 22nd, 2014 at 9:46 am

      Good point about including a buffer. It seems no matter what you do with budgeting, the most diligent of plans go awry and you need a bit of wiggle room. After experiencing a bit of lifestyle inflation, I plan to use September to reset my “make-or-break number”!

    2. Stefanie

      August 22nd, 2014 at 10:27 am

      I think a lot of people fail to reset when they make changes which ends up screwing them in the long run.

    3. Andrew@LivingRichCheaply

      August 22nd, 2014 at 10:02 am

      Great post. The problem I see with a lot of people is that they have the incorrect definition of “essential” expenses. Honestly, only food, shelter, a few other things like (internet/cellphone if required for you to earn money) is truly essential…Another thing is credit is easily available and people feel that it’s the norm to just spend money they aren’t committed to making.

    4. Stefanie

      August 22nd, 2014 at 10:29 am

      Yeah, the loose definition of “essential” is a problem I see a lot of.

    5. Laurie @thefrugalfarmer

      August 22nd, 2014 at 10:40 am

      Great post, Stefanie. I wrote a similar post to this quite some time ago, and it is SO important to know that make or break number. If you’ve got it done pat on paper, it’s a quick and easy reference if income ever falls short.

    6. Stefanie

      August 22nd, 2014 at 10:43 am

      So smart to write it down. Having it there as a constant reminder and reference point could really help a lot of people out.

    7. Kim

      August 22nd, 2014 at 10:55 am

      Unfortunately or fortunately, our make or break number is pretty high due to our two rental properties. Yes, they are covered by the rents, but it does make me a little nervous knowing we’d be in a jam if both became vacant at the same time and we lost jobs as well. It’s not likely, but could happen. I think the worst thing people do when they get in a really bad situation is continue living the same way as they have grown accustomed to. If we lost both tenants and a job, it would be survival mode and maybe even listing one property for sale quickly, not after we burn through all of our savings and retirement accounts.

    8. Stefanie

      August 23rd, 2014 at 6:57 pm

      I find this to be especially true in older retirees. They have trouble adjusting their living standard lower after inflating it for so long.

    9. DC @ Young Adult Money

      August 22nd, 2014 at 11:03 am

      Great post, Stefanie. I don’t think I’ve ever sat down and thought about my “make or break” number, but I do know that I have done everything I can to increase my income the past two years (and continue to try to increase it!). Increasing income, and then funneling that additional income into savings and investments, is the best way to make sure you will have finances if you hit a rough patch.

    10. Stefanie

      August 23rd, 2014 at 6:58 pm

      Increasing income has been my greatest goal for the past year. Still working on it so that I can have more than enough to cover my make or break.

    11. Tre

      August 22nd, 2014 at 11:28 am

      I do know that number! It’s the minimum salary I will consider. Anything over that and I can weigh the money vs commute, hours, etc.

    12. Stefanie

      August 23rd, 2014 at 6:59 pm

      Makes it so much easier at the negotiating table right? Good for you!

    13. Ben @ The Wealth Gospel

      August 22nd, 2014 at 11:32 am

      Great post! I’ve never really had a chance to really think about it because it seems like there’s some random thing that comes flying out of nowhere every single month. Would be interesting to sit down and take a look at it though.

    14. Stefanie

      August 23rd, 2014 at 7:00 pm

      For people who are really on the brink, I think it’s essential. Having a specific number as a target ensures clarifies the goal and makes it more tangible.

    15. Erin @ Journey to Saving

      August 22nd, 2014 at 1:04 pm

      When we moved, I made a bare-bones budget for myself and figured out what I needed to make in order to cover everything (and then some). Thankfully I had already been focusing on cutting my expenses, so rent was a big factor, but we had already figured out how much we were willing to pay for an apartment. It really is an important number to know!

    16. Stefanie

      August 23rd, 2014 at 7:01 pm

      Rent is always the biggest piece of the puzzle. If there’s a way to control that cost, it really helps with everything else.

    17. Romeo Jeremiah

      August 22nd, 2014 at 1:13 pm

      Hi Stefanie!
      I have a similar (or exactly the same) concept that I write about but I call it one’s primary wealth number. It’s a great number to know for sure. Mine is $3333. It’s good to know that in the event that Iose my job, I’d only need this amount monthly to keep living at my same level of comfort.

    18. Stefanie

      August 23rd, 2014 at 7:03 pm

      What a great number, all 3’s! And yes, so important to know. I write a lot about the pursuit of a dreams and passion. For those who want to follow that route, knowing the make or break number is a must!

    19. Shannon @ Financially Blonde

      August 22nd, 2014 at 1:53 pm

      Before we cut back on our spending, this number was significantly higher for us! One of the great things about getting spending and wants under control is that your make or break number lowers dramatically and anything that you earn above it goes straight to savings and growing your wealth so you can achieve financial freedom even faster. (At least this is our plan).

    20. Stefanie

      August 23rd, 2014 at 7:03 pm

      I think a lot of people fail to realize how much they can cut back on their “necessities”.

    21. Newlyweds on a Budget

      August 22nd, 2014 at 2:14 pm

      I think it’s really important to know your make or break number. With no debt, high income and minimum mandatory expenses, we have a pretty low break number. However, since we’re DINKs, we tend to spend a lot more on spoiling ourselves. We’re always trying to find a balance and cut back our spending so we can save faster for a house.

    22. Stefanie

      August 23rd, 2014 at 7:05 pm

      Having no one to worry about but yourself is pretty sweet. I’m in the same boat, I’m just missing the D 😉

    23. Melanie @ My Alternate Life

      August 22nd, 2014 at 5:00 pm

      It’s so important to know this number! I have it firmly in sight at all times and it motivates me to hustle. But I am inspired to do even more, so I keep on hustling. I think this is why people stay in the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle, because they aren’t willing to look at the make or break number, and see where they can cut back and earn more.

    24. Stefanie

      August 23rd, 2014 at 7:05 pm

      I agree with you entirely. The make or break number is the key to breaking the paycheck to paycheck cycle.

    25. Lance @ Healthy Wealthy Income

      August 22nd, 2014 at 5:37 pm

      Love the buffer and the retirement being included in the costs. So essential to the budget. They should never be cut unless in extreme emergency. Need to find a way to pay yourself even in the tight times. Easier to know what to work on when you know the real numbers of your finances. Nice job!

    26. Stefanie

      August 23rd, 2014 at 7:08 pm

      I hate seeing people put off retirement and emergency savings in favor of actual discretionary expenses.

    27. Brian @DebtDiscipline

      August 23rd, 2014 at 8:59 am

      We have our number from tracking both our monthly budget and overall net worth. I like the wiggle room idea, things pop up that are not true emergencies and need to be accounted for.

    28. Stefanie

      August 23rd, 2014 at 7:09 pm

      I call them either irregular expenses or “oh shit, yeah that thing” expenses 😉

    29. Emily @ evolvingPF

      August 23rd, 2014 at 1:16 pm

      Our “make or break” number is very close to my husband’s take-home income alone – maybe a little higher. Believe me, I’ve been playing with the numbers quite a bit! I’m no longer receiving a steady paycheck after this month (and I’m not yet looking for a FT job), so I’ll either be earning some side hustle income or we’ll be dipping into savings! But that’s what it’s there for.

    30. Stefanie

      August 23rd, 2014 at 7:10 pm

      Yes, having several times the make or break in savings is so important. That’s why I include it in the make or break to begin with.

    31. May

      August 23rd, 2014 at 2:16 pm

      Good points. I don’t think a lot of people really know what their number is or underestimate it and find themselves in trouble. Mine is higher than I would like but it is a work in progress.

    32. Stefanie

      August 23rd, 2014 at 7:11 pm

      Underestimating it is a huge problem, which is why I insist on adding a buffer.

    33. Paula Kiger

      August 23rd, 2014 at 4:32 pm

      Stopping by from SITS — will come back when I can visit a little longer!

    34. Stefanie

      August 23rd, 2014 at 7:11 pm

      Thanks for stopping by Paula!

    35. Arizona Trader (@ArizonaTrader)

      August 23rd, 2014 at 7:25 pm

      Good post Stefanie. Makes sense to set specific target goals for the various accounts. Clarity helps the saver measure their progress. It also makes sense to make the number a little higher to allow for surprises and increases on the cost of necessities. Thanks for sharing.

    36. Stefanie

      August 25th, 2014 at 8:23 am

      I’ve found that when it comes to finances, it’s always better to plan on a higher number and have an excess, rather than underestimating and having too little.

    37. Miss Millennial

      August 23rd, 2014 at 7:55 pm

      This is a great thought concept… going to now calculate. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    38. Stefanie

      August 25th, 2014 at 8:24 am

      Definitely a number everyone needs to or should know.

    39. Jean

      August 24th, 2014 at 1:05 am

      Great article. It’s important to know your bread-even budget, definitely.

      We’ve lived on a monthly written budget for over a decade. Intentional (as opposed to in-the-moment) spending is what got us out of debt, filled our emergency fund, and allows us to save heavily for retirement. Until we started planning the money just slipped through our fingers without supporting our goals.

    40. Stefanie

      August 25th, 2014 at 8:24 am

      Isn’t it incredible how the simple act of planning and having specific targets can change everything?

    41. Money Talks + Procrastination

      August 24th, 2014 at 4:00 am

      […] from the Broke and the Beautiful Life asks if you know your Make or Break Number. Now that I’m running my own business and have moved in with my boyfriend, I soooo need to go […]

    42. SarahN

      August 24th, 2014 at 6:20 am

      Thanks for this – I just ran the numbers (been meaning to for a while), and did ‘what ifs’ on the chance I might need a bare bones budget (in which case I’d sell the property I don’t live in, I rent). I kept the costs of my train to my currently well renumerated job, but one could assume I would need some transport costs! The salary I’d need, is more than half of what I earn, so that’s reassuring, and should mean I’ve saving a bucket load. For the record, it includes a ~9% contribution pre tax to my retirement.

    43. Stefanie

      August 25th, 2014 at 8:25 am

      It’s great to know what the contingency plan is now so that you’re not totally freaking out any more than you have to in the moment.

    44. Mel @ brokeGIRLrich

      August 24th, 2014 at 5:05 pm

      I love your add-ons. The fact that you still need to save for retirement is so true, but I really enjoyed noting the 10% buffer. No matter how you slice it, even if you cut out any sort of savings (bad idea), live still throws you curves and stuff gets forgotten. Great advice!

    45. Stefanie

      August 25th, 2014 at 8:26 am

      Oh yeah, there’s ALWAYS SOMETHING!

    46. bericm

      August 24th, 2014 at 6:30 pm

      What a great post; there is NO plan without your “number”. Going into retirement I knew it well (hence retirement). Having been forced out of retirement I’m struggling to understand my revised number and it’s driving me crazy. I need another month of driving blind before I can take the wheel again. Fingers crossed.

    47. Stefanie

      August 25th, 2014 at 8:28 am

      I think a lot of people fail to adjust their make or break when their lifestyle or circumstances change. I’m sure you’ll find your soon!

    48. Suburban Finance

      August 24th, 2014 at 11:47 pm

      I like this method — I think it really helps if you write your expenses down so you know which ones you can cut so you know the least amount of money you need to earn to get by. Especially important if you’re moving somewhere else and trying to figure out your budget.

    49. Stefanie

      August 25th, 2014 at 8:28 am

      Yes, you absolutely have to track your expenses so you can be realistic about your make or break number.

    50. Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter

      August 25th, 2014 at 9:32 am

      We have this, but we don’t include retirement and emergency savings in our make or break number – if we have to be operating on a bare bones budget, then we assume that’s an emergency so generally we wouldn’t contribute to it until we were back on our feet.

    51. Stefanie

      August 25th, 2014 at 12:12 pm

      The make or break number I consider slightly different from an emergency budget. It’s a number to have as a reference point for the bare minimum you can afford to make every day, not necessarily in case of emergency. And in terms of every day, I consider emergency and retirement mandatory.

    52. EL @ MoneyWatch101

      August 25th, 2014 at 7:51 pm

      This is a great way for people to attempt to live below means. People will be surprised how low the make or break number will be if they track only necessary expenses. I believe anyone can live below their means, with a bit of additional will power injected in their budget.

    53. jefferson

      August 26th, 2014 at 11:48 am

      i am pretty entrenched in the suburban life, with a nice house and lots of kids.

      as such, my “make or break” number is pretty high.

    54. Stefanie

      August 26th, 2014 at 9:26 pm

      Single, city life isn’t always cheap either :/

    55. Syed

      August 28th, 2014 at 10:47 am

      This is a great way to prioritize your finances. It’s also the only way to avoid living paycheck to paycheck. Very nice post.

    56. Diamonds in the Rough Roundup 8/29/14 - The Broke Professional

      September 5th, 2014 at 5:53 pm

      […] -What’s Your Make or Break Number by The Broke and Beautiful Life:  Great way to focus on what’s most important in your financial plan:  debt repayment, investing and cost cutting. […]

    57. Diamonds in the Rough Roundup 9/5/14 - The Broke Professional

      September 5th, 2014 at 5:54 pm

      […] -What’s Your Make or Break Number by The Broke and Beautiful Life:  Great way to focus on what’s most important in your financial plan:  debt repayment, investing and cost cutting. […]

    58. Woman Crush Wednesday - Personal Finance Style | Cash Cow Couple

      October 8th, 2014 at 3:01 am

      […] think you should follow your passion while staying realistically grounded in your money.  That was a lesson I came to learn after the safety net of the college years was gone.  The only […]

    59. Rethinking the Survival Job |

      October 25th, 2014 at 6:38 am

      […] of passion is getting grounded in financial reality; staying well above what I like to call “the make or break number”- the absolute minimum level of income needed to cover your most basic life expenses while […]

    60. Rethinking the Survival Job

      May 4th, 2015 at 1:57 pm

      […] of passion is getting grounded in financial reality; staying well above what I like to call “the make or break number”- the absolute minimum level of income needed to cover your most basic life expenses while […]

    61. How Much Do You Need to Live in New York City?

      June 14th, 2015 at 1:38 pm

      […] and utility consumption, among other things.  If you’re having a rough month, you can adopt a “make or break” budget where you reduce discretionary spending and savings contributions.  There are all kinds of ways to […]

    62. Beginner Financial Planning: Where Do I Start?

      July 3rd, 2015 at 1:40 am

      […] the make or break number is the only way to start making progress. If you haven’t read the make or break number post, please do that first – that is step one. This post is about what you do in step two – […]

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    latest posts

    Why I’m Not Having Bridesmaids at My Wedding

    4 Ways to Buy a Home When You Don’t Have Enough of a Down Payment

    What My Good Credit Got Me (& What It Can Get For You)

    3 Reasons Your Money Habits Are Failing You

    Top Picks

    Dating and Money: How to Talk About Money In Your Relationship

    55 Ways to Upgrade Your Lifestyle on a Budget

    33 Travel Tips For Traveling the World on a Budget

    4 Ways to Budget With Inconsistent Income

    5 Money Mindsets That Are Keeping You Broke

    what's next





    Download this worksheet to start sharpening your negotiating skills.

    Learn how to start. Even when you feel broke.

    Try these 5 strategies to help you stop buying stuff you don’t need.

    This cheat sheet will show you how to talk about money at every stage in your relationship.



    watch the video

    READ the post



    on Instagram