Covering overspending frequently?

I am in month 3 of YNAB and loving it! I have a question wondering if I'm doing things right:

I nail down the budget at the beginning of the month thinking of everything as closely as possible. (I may be a bit too ambitious, which may be my problem.) Throughout the month I may overspend my categories multiple times (sigh, "Dining Out", anyone else?) and I'll cover the overspending each time. YNAB makes it quick but it still feels a bit tedious doing it a handful of times across categories trying to keep my money going toward my goals.

I know the problem is that I'm just spending more than I "want to" but is there anything different I could/should be doing, or is what I should expect? Am I just being unrealistic at the beginning of the month? 馃槅

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  • If you're constantly overspending the same category regularly, you are probably not being realistic about the money you should have budgeted to the category. Ultimately, your budget is merely  a reflection of your priorities. You might as well be honest with yourself. Either change your priorities or change your budget to match your priorities.

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    • nolesrule Yes, that tension covers where I'm at鈥攖rying to shift my budget to match my priorities! It's a struggle, but YNAB has brought that to the forefront, and that's why I'm enjoying it so much!

  • What you describe is exactly how YNAB is supposed to work.

    Your financial situation won't magically improve just because you created a budget on the 1st of the month.  You actually have to live according to that budget. 

    Where YNAB differs from other budget systems is that it asks you to constantly engage with the budget. When overspending happens, you don't just resign yourself to it or make some vague commitment to "do better" next month.  Instead, you acknowledge it immediately and figure out how you're going to cover it by moving money from another category.  That's supposed to feel painful.  If you hate stealing from your "vacation" fund to cover your "dining out" excesses, that pain will hopefully discourage you from overspending in the future.  

    But to nolesrule 's point, if you're chronically overspending a particular category, then you're probably not being realistic in your initial budget allocation.

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    • bret Thanks! This is encouraging and exactly answers my question in terms of the nuts-and-bolts and the mindset. Appreciate it! 馃槄

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      • bret
      • bret
      • 2 yrs ago
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      Andrew Conkling 

      You bet!

      When I began my own YNAB journey, I was horrified by how much my wife & I spent on "Dining Out" each month. So we wishfully (but unrealistically) set aggressively low targets for that category, hoping that would help us rein in the spending. Instead, we simply overspent our targets each month and scrambled to cover the excesses in our budget 馃槈

      Committing to spending less on "dining out" requires significant lifestyle changes: Making more meals at home, eating more leftovers, bringing lunches to work, etc.  Those are all things we wanted to do in the abstract, but require a commitment of time and effort that we weren't prepared to make. So my advice is to chip away slowly: If you normally spend $750, perhaps budget $700 next month, and then $650...   You're more likely to have success, and you can establish better habits.

      On the other hand, "dining out" can be a perfectly valid way to spend money. Upon reflection, we realized that we really valued those happy-hour hangouts with friends and didn't want to completely give that up. You shouldn't beat yourself up over spending that really does align with your priorities!

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    • bret That's definitely part of it! I think spousal dynamics are at work here too, because I do the budget (and work from home) but my wife probably needs more flexibility for work lunches than I imagine.
      I like your idea for ramping down, which I'll use both as a way of making it easier to stick to our budget and likely more pleasant to work on. 馃槄 Thanks again!

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  • I concur with what nolesrule wrote. If every single month you are overspending your dining out category, you need to face the fact that you are not spending more than you want to, you're spending exactly as much as you want to but you haven't been honest with yourself on what you prioritize in your life.

    But also, I think the first 3-6 months may require a lot of adjustments as you become aware of exactly how much you are spending on certain things. Grabbing a snack at the convenience store while getting gas can seem piddly in the moment, but when you stop and take a look at how much you actually spent in a month, it can be eye opening. So right now, you are getting a detailed look at how you are actually spending your money. Next you have to have a talk with yourself (and a spouse or SO that may be part of this budget) - what do I really want? What short term wants (dining out) am I ready and willing to do without in order to achieve some medium or long term goal? Turns out for me, that even though I want a new sofa bed, I'm not actually that willing to give up other stuff to get there.  And that's okay. One day I'll get a nice sofa bed, but it won't be soon.

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  • My girlfriend was budgeting $100 month for uber rides and then after the first month realized she was spending close to $200.  She kept that up for close to 3 months until it because crystal clear that it was too much.  She started consciously waking up earlier so instead of taking an peak time uber because she was late to work, she started taking the bus.  Then instead of ubering home, she would walk twice a week.  

    After 6 months, she got the spending to under $75 per month.  YNAB is suppose to help with these changes but its not an overnight thing.  

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