Difference Between Disposable Income and Discretionary Income

Finances play an important role in both economic and personal finance. Although disposable income and discretionary income are sometimes used interchangeably, they represent distinct viewpoints on a client’s money.

Take-home pay is another term for disposable money. It is what is remained after all taxes have been deducted from a cheque. However, discretionary income is what exists after debt and payment responsibilities have been met.

Disposable Income vs Discretionary Income  

The main difference between disposable income and discretionary income is that disposable income is an individual’s personal take-home pay that is employed to cover both significant and non-essential costs. Meanwhile, discretionary income is what remains after the wage-earner has deducted accommodation, food, electricity, healthcare, and other necessary costs. When most consumers’ wages are reduced, their discretionary income is depleted first.

Disposable Income vs Discretionary Income

Disposable income is essentially characterized as the take-home remuneration whatever exists upon deductions for personal income tax and payroll, comprising medicare and social security. Disposable income is defined differently in different situations; in certain cases, disposable income is additionally decreased by pretax deductions or items such as healthcare coverage and retirement funds.

Discretionary Income is the remaining of the needs that must be met with disposable cash. One must pay some costs, such as rent and utilities. After one has met their fundamental necessities, the remaining is discretionary income money that they may invest over one thing or the other, or even save instead of spending.

Comparison Table Between Disposable Income and Discretionary Income  

Parameters of ComparisonDisposable IncomeDiscretionary Income  
MeaningThe amount of money someone has leftover following the payment of federal, county, and city taxesThe amount of money someone has leftover after spending all their taxes and covering all of the living expenses
FormulaPersonal income – current personal taxesGross profit – taxes – compulsory expenditures
Income percentageIncome percentage is comparatively higherIncome percentage is lower
SignificanceTo analyze families’ financial reservesTo evaluate economic health.  
ExampleCumulative earnings- $150k, average tax rate- 27%, the disposable income would be $109,500Cumulative earnings-$200k before tax, tax rate- 30%, after paying $110k on obligatory costs, the discretionary income will be $30k  

What is Disposable Income?

Disposable income, often known as disposable personal income (DPI), is the funding available for an individual or household following income taxes are removed.

Disposable personal income is extensively watched at the macro level as one of the dominant economic variables used to assess the overall status of the economy. One of the most important factors in influencing consumer purchasing is disposable income. It is also one of the most important determinants of demand.

The quantity of products and services that may be acquired at various prices throughout a certain time period is referred to as disposable income. It indicates that the quantity of disposable income accessible to a person might influence how much money is spent on products and services.

To calculate your disposable income, you must first determine your gross revenue. Individuals’ gross income is their overall salary, which is the sum of money you received prior to taxes and other deductions. Subtract your owed income taxes from your annual revenue. Your discretionary income is represented by the amount remaining.

The federal government considers disposable income to assess how much money should be excluded from an individual’s earnings for contributions to third parties or past tax payments. Furthermore, they reimburse health insurance premiums and payments to mandated retirement accounts from annual revenue when determining disposable income.

What is Discretionary Income?

Discretionary income is the portion of an employee’s wages that is available for spending, investment, or accumulation after taxation and personal essentials such as food, housing, and clothes have been met.

Spending money on luxury products, holidays, and non-essential products and services is included in discretionary income. Businesses that offer discretionary products endure the most amid market crises and economic recession since discretionary money is the first to decline as a result of a job layoff or pay reductions.

Discretionary expenditure is an essential component of a thriving economy. Consumers only expend money on items like vacation, entertainment, and consumer gadgets if they have enough money. Some individuals use credit cards to buy discretionary items, but having a discretionary income isn’t just about having credit debt.

When people and families spend much more of their discretionary money on various kinds of capital, businesses can benefit as well. The capital may be employed to improve the enterprises, resulting in more jobs and greater discretionary income. The investments are intended to create a return to the owner, increasing the individual’s discretionary income in the future.

Discretionary income is a key indicator of economic health. Analysts use it in conjunction with disposable income to calculate substantial economic proportions such as the marginal propensity to spend (MPC), a marginal propensity that would save (MPS), and customer leverage ratios.

Main Differences Between Disposable Income and Discretionary Income  

  1. Disposable income is the sum of money available to an individual or residence for expenditure, saving, or making investments after taxes have been deducted, whereas discretionary income is the funding available to an individual to save, invest, or spend upon taxes as well as all on essential items such as residences, meals, and clothing have been paid.
  2. The formula for calculating disposable income is personal income – current personal taxes, whereas the calculation for discretionary income is Discretionary income = gross profit – taxes- compulsory expenditures 
  3. Disposable income is greater for an individual because necessary costs are not deducted from income, whereas discretionary income is smaller for an individual since necessary expenses are deducted from revenue.
  4. Researchers utilize disposable income to analyze families’ financial reserves, assets, and expenditure rates, whereas economists use discretionary income to evaluate economic health.
  5. For example, if a family’s cumulative earnings are $150k, with an average tax rate of 27%, the family’s disposable income would be $109,500, meanwhile if an individual makes $200k before tax and is taxed at 30percent of total after paying $110k on obligatory costs, their discretionary income will be $30k


If you do have income left after deducting taxes, become very cautious about how quickly you consume it. Disposable money should not be mistaken with discretionary income and failing to distinguish the two can make all the difference in your budget.

Discretionary income is the amount of money you have remaining after spending on all taxes and for needs such as rental, house payments, health insurance, food, clothes, and transport. In other terms, discretionary income is disposable income except for the inevitable household expenses.

Typically, discretionary income is invested in food and eating out, vacation, yachts, RVs, securities, and a plethora of other items that we might “live without. “The basic rule is that disposable income should always be larger than discretionary income within the same family since the price of required things has still not been deducted from the sum of disposable money.


  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S014019710600056X
  2. http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&profile=ehost&scope=site&authtype=crawler&jrnl=00989258&AN=83373952&h=bESGXovu6AybSR3zJSqEx%2FMDumGLRrUPwOdBWUeS9H2%2BONCH2F7EZ1Gv2QUo%2BqjK8VClgV1E4hLq4Eio0wf58g%3D%3D&crl=c
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