When I got married as a baby (4 days over 21), I was still a student. Then, we both worked for a bit, then we had babies, and then my husband was a student. For almost all of those years, our "budget" was: try to not spend money.
This head-in-the-sand tactic has served us... ok... BUT, now that I'm pretending to be a real grownup (at age 35 — youngest children tend to be late to the responsibility party), I'm taking a new approach!
After Christmas, I started using You Need a Budget (YNAB) to track every expense & plan for future spending. Two months in, here’s what I think.
BUDGET IS A BAD WORD
Whenever I had thought of a “budget” before (and whenever I’ve tried - oh, I’ve started & stopped many times), the associations to me were:
- An annoying way to spend time
- At odds with my driven-by-fun, enneagram 7, devil-may-care, invincible-everything-will-work-out persona
Clearly, part of the problem was me: a petulant “I don’t wanna”; avoidance as a decision.
But, part of the problem was also the reality: dealing with your own money can be cringeworthy; the tools developed sure didn’t help, and I never want to feel like I’m back at my old data entry job.
HUMOR & WHIMSY TO THE RESCUE
I’ve vaguely followed YNAB’s brand for years. Their blog would publish articles that were interesting and I would link from my weekly dignify email. The attitude was right in line with what I promote on dignify’s blog, namely: we are in control of our money and the decisions we make about spending it. The emphasis on slowing down and thinking through money choices really resounded.
But, I also like the lightness, the fun, and the humor that YNAB brings to the whole process. By integrating little jokes & comments throughout the app, YNAB reminded me that I didn’t have to become “boring spreadsheet person” in order to budget my money. That was one huge factor in lowering my guard… and stoking a hint of desire to manage my budget.
FREEDOM, NOT RESTRICTION
YNAB’s materials also spoke truth into this falsehood. Having a budget isn’t a restriction; the point is NOT to remind me of my own failure or to prevent me from using money on what I want. Do you know what is oppressive? Feeling vague guilt when I don’t really know if I can or should spend my money in a certain way.
YNAB runs its entire methodology on four rules, and one of them is Roll with the Punches. For me, as an all-or-nothing, do-it-right-the-first-time struggler, this was key to letting go of perfection and being open to adaptability.
GIVING IT A GO
I started my YNAB 34-day trial, but really, I wasn’t trying it, I was ready to go all in.
You can sync your bank accounts, credit cards, etc. but for me in the first month, I really, really wanted to take everything off auto-pilot and know what was going on. So, I’ve manually added every expense and every payment, either on the web app or on my phone.
I also just took the lead in our family. I knew that my husband was on board, but I didn’t want it to be derailed if he was busy with something else and I was waiting on him. He has trusted me to figure out many of the details (how much do I imagine we need for haircuts x5 over a month/year?) and we have collaborated on long-term goals.
TWO MONTHS IN...
So far, I am finding the YNAB system very helpful and, dare I say, fun! (if a bit... tense at times)
- What is true is that it has taken some time. I've always thought that budgeting & receipt-management would be an annoying way to spend time. But, from the start of this attempt, I decided to prioritize this as a January project. This helped me not to feel like “I’m going to be absorbed in finances forever!” but also to acknowledge that the set-up and change would be a time commitment. Also, I thought of it as a step in my overall theme/resolution/goal in 2019 of Financial Stability, so it was part of a greater, self-development pursuit.
- In addition to time, it has FOR SURE taken some honest, self-reflection. Like, How much do we really spend on Christmas and Wow, I want a lot of stuff. 😬😫
- It is also its own expense: $83.99USD for a year (or $6.99/month). Honestly, I've wasted money on much worse. This hasn't felt like a waste, but rather a valuable investment — worthwhile for the awareness & power alone.
But, I actually think I have paid for the cost by giving more consideration to my grocery bill, and by Wayne saying, "I wanted to stop for a burger/coffee/etc., but I was scared to, because I knew you would see it right away and take it out of our budget! Yep.
- Feeling confident in how I spend money, when I do spend it. Like, I budgeted for $XX in gifts, so I am going to buy these tulips for a friend or I can replace that stupid, non-working can opener from my "Around the House" category.
- Alternately, being more mindful about expenses when the category is running low. Like, what can I eat from our cupboard instead of buying more groceries or I'll have to save that purchase until next month. It forces resourcefulness, and I like that.
- Conversations with our kids have been good, and I always appreciate a reminder for them that money does not, in fact, appear out of the air.
- I feel all grown-up & stuff. Not in a lame way, in a confident, responsible way. 🙌
So, I'm pretty pleased with myself and with YNAB. If you have any new ideas, systems, life skills, rhythms or routines that are working for you, I am all ears! Tell me what's bringing you life.