True story: There was a time when Creighton and I saved every single receipt and wrote down every single transaction so we could spend an hour+ each Sunday plugging them in to an Excel spreadsheet that he built. This was a pain in the ass. Budgeting is a pain in the ass. Here’s a list of bland “good reasons to budget”:
- Save money.
- Track/curb your spending.
- Make every dollar count/give every dollar a job.
- Feel guilty about what you are spending.
- Get into fights with your family members about their spending.
The first three are things personal finance experts like Dave Ramsey will say over and over, and yet I found that I didn’t know why it was important until we started doing it. We all know WHY to save money. We often know how to save money. But the reality is more complicated. You look at your bank account, and you are like, “Oh, I have $XXX to spend; I’ll just buy this dress.” But that’s conducive to living paycheck-to-paycheck, which also sucks. Budgeting, like all things, only sucks until you make it part of you. Queue YNAB.
Creighton once decided he wanted to buy an old beat-up Nissan Z-car so he could fix it up and race it AutoCross (he didn’t). The guy who was selling it mentioned this program called You Need A Budget. Creighton was into saving philosophies at this point in time, which was the beginning of his interest in Financial Independence. During his research, he borrowed all of the YNAB philosophies and used some screenshots to build his own Excel version because we were too
cheap frugal to spend the $60 on the real version.
The YNAB “Rules”
- Give every dollar a job.
- Save for a rainy day.
- Roll with the punches.
- Live on last month’s income.
After nearly a year of using the Excel spreadsheet, which was clunky and got huge very quickly, we agreed to try out the YNAB 34-day trial. Needless to say, we spent the $60 and have the full version now. I encourage EVERYONE even remotely interested in budgeting, saving money, financial freedom, etc. to TRY THE TRIAL.
My friend over at My Cash House once told me they didn’t want to be restricted by a budget, but just wanted to save as much as possible. I think that’s a downright noble goal, and if you can make it work for you, then you should do that. It’s certainly the best philosophy. Buy only what you need, and save the rest. But I’m, like I said yesterday, incapable of non-consumption. I still like things and clothes, as much as I sometimes wish I didn’t.
My new J.Crew Factory sweater — LOVE
The budget puts a sort of structure in place. It creates “envelopes” into which you can earmark your money (a beloved method of aforementioned Dave Ramsey). It provides discipline as well as transparency. It has some cool reporting features for number-crunchers and nerds, and at least the graphs are colorful.
Other things I love about YNAB:
- They have an app that effortlessly/seamlessly enables you to update and check your budget on-the-fly.
- They are non-judgmental. People are on different levels, and shit happens, so set up your goals, save what you can and adjust as needed.
- They make me feel responsible and empowered, but not guilty.
Dave Ramsey and the like feel too preachy for me, and I don’t want to find myself constantly beating myself up over how much we are saving. YNAB doesn’t make me feel like that. It’s validating instead of soul-crushing.
Naturally, I am always looking for ways to save more, and Creighton and I revisit our YNAB set-up often to ensure it doesn’t grow stagnant or lazy. But it has been a real game-changer for us during our budgeting journey.
Postmortem: The Excel version of our budget will always have a place in our hearts, and we shared it with many friends, but it was so clunky and took forever to use. We grew to hate the hideous receipt box that gathered dust on our desk.