Over the years, we’ve used several different budgeting systems for our household. We’ve tried Mint, Every Dollar, and some random systems of our own. We would start each year off with great intentions and motivation for sticking with a particular system and then a few months in we’d become frustrated with it! Nothing was working for us long term. We went through a few seasons where we didn’t even budget at all because of some major life changes - namely when we moved from Oregon to Utah and bought our second home. That transition was TOUGH financially because home prices are way higher in Utah. We were really, really stretched! We essentially didn’t have a budget for the whole first year we lived in Utah (not our finest year financially) because we couldn’t figure out a system that we loved and would stick with. Our financial situation has changed drastically (for the better) in the last year and a half and that has a lot to do with my husband’s job change, but it also has a lot to do with how we’re managing our money!
We started using You Need a Budget (YNAB) back in December of 2017 (the month of Christmas is a really challenging time to start a new budget, by the way - haha). We did a free trial run for a month, took webinars, learned the system, and played around with our budgets. We loved it so much that we decided to take the plunge and sign up for the paid version in January of 2018. And we haven’t turned back!
The flexibility of YNAB is what keeps us hooked. The whole idea of it is that you “assign every dollar a job” once you get paid. We get paid every other week so we sit down the morning we get paid and do just that - give every one of our dollars a job, whether that be for immediate bills, household needs, or savings goals. During the interim time (in between pay checks) I keep a running list of things we need to budget for - down to the details. If we’ll need diapers, I add that to my list. If we need to purchase a baby or wedding gift for someone, I write that down. Or if I know the kids will be needing new clothes in the next few weeks, I make note of that! That way when “budgeting day” comes around I’m not taking a stab in the dark - I have anticipated exactly what needs to be purchased during that two-week period. And it keeps us from much impulse purchasing. Delaying those purchases until they can be budgeted for truly lets us know if they’re necessary or not! I take care of budgeting for the household needs (because I’m more aware of them), my husband manages (and knows more about) the immediate bills and such, and we both work together on savings goals! We are thrilled to be setting aside a good portion of money every pay check this year to furnish and set up our new house when it’s complete in the fall. YNAB has been instrumental in making that a success!
Another aspect of YNAB that we love is that the system allows you to move money around from budget to budget during the month. Even the most detailed, committed budgeters can’t possibly anticipate everything. So if you spend more in one category and not as much in another, you can move your money around! So let’s say one month you budgeted $500 for groceries and $100 for dining out. But you ended up having a large family over for dinner which inflated the grocery budget and you didn’t end up eating out like you thought. You can just move, say, $30 out of the dining out budget and put it in groceries - and you’re covered! I’m constantly moving things around as the weeks progress. Other budgeting systems we’ve used didn’t have this kind of real-life flexibility!
To some, budgeting may seem like prison - like the relinquishing of freedom. But to us, it’s the exact opposite! It is SO freeing! Because we know exactly where every dollar is going there is no guilt about our spending! We budget our necessities and have freedom to budget for fun too! It does take a lot of discipline and of course tricky things come up now and then, but overall this system has been AMAZING for our family and for our financial situation. Having detailed knowledge of finances at all times (no matter if you have little or much) is the best way to live! Ignorance is not bliss!