Once upon a time I was given YNAB as a gift by the super-kind creator (Jesse). This was many versions ago and while I loved the idea of living on last month’s income there was no way that was going to work for us. Blah, blah, blah excuses, excuses, excuses later I shelved the idea of using YNAB and went back to pens, paper, and Excel. .
The truth was much more simple than all the excuses I came up with. I wasn’t ready to make the paradigm shift to looking honestly at today’s money. I couldn’t. It was too overwhelming. When I purchased (with my birthday money) version 4 a couple days ago I have to tell you I was worried I was going to mess it up again and this time I would have paid $54 for the privilege. (It’s $60 list price but I used the discount code on the YNAB website for 10% off. Also, lot of other bloggers and vloggers and whoever else have affiliate links for 10% off, too, so head’s up that’s a thing.)
I attribute my ability to understand all this not just to being willing to actually look at where today’s money is going (because let’s be honest I was doing a form of that with Excel and have been for years) but also the education. I’ve been through three of the live classes and watched two of the not-live classes and have really been able to understand how to USE this program in a way I wasn’t able to “get” on my own or through the forums. It has a lot of thing built-in that I would have to build myself if I were to accomplish the same thing in Excel and – again, let’s be honest – I’m good at Excel but not “let’s reinvent the wheel” good.
I’ve picked up additional information from the forums both at YNAB and Reddit (/r/ynab/) and have found that YouTube videos are also helpful for figuring out how to input things and track things and why I want to have categories a certain way.
Moving from Future Focused to NOW Focused
I have a solid plan for the future. I’ll have to revisit and tweak that plan when we start investing but that’s not going to happen for a few years so there’s nothing to do before that time but learn. Learning doesn’t need a line item in the budget, it’s just something I’ll do.
What I needed was a way to put all my stuff in one place and not worry about it being monthly, annual, quarterly or whatever. Stuff like Amazon Prime memberships and car registrations and the other things that were overwhelming to think about when.
Things are still really tight here financially and we can’t fund a lot of those line items yet, but summer has only just begun and there is much income still to come in (even though it looks like there isn’t going to be any overtime for Mr. Brickie this summer – boo, hiss) and now that I have YNAB I feel really confident about where all of that money is going.
In addition to a $1000 emergency fund I’m creating a buffer so I can pay all my bills on last month’s income. I have a little category (I call them buckets) that I pour extra money into in order to build up that one month of expenses. Once I have the buffer and the emergency fund in place the next step will be…um…either a 3-6 month emergency fund or paying down debt or funding Christmas. Probably paying down debt. I know many people pay down debt before doing the buffer or the emergency fund.
It’s up in the air at this point. I figure if I do the buffer I can always change my mind and user the buffer to pay off debt. It’s not like the money goes anywhere if it’s in the buffer. It just hangs out being all secure and safe.
But maaaaaan, as much as I want to make those awesome debt paydown decisions, seeing the Christmas line item every time I log in is a good, albeit painful, reminder that I have six months to figure out how to stay far, far away from the credit cards for Christmas this year. If I start funding it THIS WEEK there are 24 weeks to get some savings in before the day happens. Yikes.
While I was doing something like this in Excel, the YNAB program was just what I needed at this point in my finance life. It makes everything easier so I can just deal with allocating the money to where it needs to go. Categories that show running totals for savings accounts … I recommend going to YouTube and searching for some videos. If you have questions you can attend a live class and ask your question or ask on the forum or on Reddit or I’m sure there’s an email where you can get support, too.
I feel a sense of accomplishment that I am at a place in my budgeting life where I can use this tool and it makes sense and it’s helping me get the cash allocated in an effective way that lets me relax at night knowing I’ll have next year’s car registration taken care of when the time comes.
A side-job check ($400) clears tomorrow and here’s where it’s going:
- Groceries:: $61.61
- Gas: $65
- Buffer (to bring it back to $100): $16.53
- Chase Visa: $236.86 (internet, cell phones, renters insurance, comcast, scentsy website, finance charge)
- Union Dues: $20
I’m still rocking a zero-based budget which is why groceries is a funny number.
The next check will be a wonky, partial week check from bricklaying and I’m not 100% sure how much it will be. Fluctuating income is tiring. (I am pretty sure that’s the same level of obvious as, “the sky is blue” or “water is wet” *sigh*) But this is the time. The time of the year where we do our best to catch up on everything and get ahead. Even when it’s tiring and even when it feels like we don’t have enough money we’re doing better than we were last year.
Now I have a tool where I can determine if I’m actually making progress instead of just feeling better about paying all the bills. Thank goodness.
All this? All this is so I can be in a position to worry about plots and characters and backstories when school starts. I need to free up the parts of my brain clogged up with numbers and bills and worry and fear. Clean it all out so I have a fresh brain to write with.
Even if I fail, at least I’ve improved where we are at and how we track things. I think.
Or maybe it will show that I’m stuck in a holding pattern that has been years in the making.
Which is, of course, my worst fear.