Wins so far - quite a few
I'm definitely seeing a trend with myself and my growth - in 2019, one of the best books I read was The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up; earlier this year I started going through David Allen's Getting Things Done (its like Marie Kondo for your TODO list); and now, these past few weeks I've been getting my brain into YNAB mode. (These resources are all about getting way more organized - and I love YNABs contribution to that part of my life; it feels like there's way more space in my brain being made for future awesomeness.)
With YNAB, I'm enjoying the process of getting clarity around how much I spend on different categories. As a single guy who earns a professional income, I'm used to just knowing "I can afford this with no problem" (misc grocery store purchases or going out to eat) and "yeah, I could pull that off though though I probably shouldn't do it 2 or 3 times" (e.g. taking a trip or larger purchases). So "getting clarity" is a huge win for me.
That clarity is going to allow me, at the end of this month (I want to see about a months worth of budgeting action first) to start doing the math around knowing how much time I would have with my given finances, if I were to lose my job (given these uncertain economic times). Also useful as I may want to take time off from my job since I feel like there is a lack of meaning in it right now. Anyway, I'll figure that out that number, and then also start setting up goals around increasing that buffer. Before, I never really knew, I always knew "oh its probably more than a month and less than 4 months" - but YNAB is going to give me the power to figure this out with probably 20-30 minutes of math and a tiny bit of effort (rather than in the past, a ton of overwhelm which I just avoided instead).
Now, however, when I want something, I have to ask where that fits in my budget. e.g. I was considering getting a stockpot for cooking, its a ~$40 purchase, not a huge deal, but I was like "OK I have Stuff I Forgot to Budget For as a category, but do I need to change things around?" I haven't bought it yet, but I have a few options written down (in the right place in my "Getting Things Done" organization system, of course!) - and I'm not 100% sure whether I'm going to eventually get it. But if and when I do, it won't be an impulse purchase, and it'll be yet another considered decision.
Also, I would say this as well, the "funniest" win I see is that I'm considering "should I just not renew Amazon Prime?" (in June) I guess it feels a little funny because in a sense I was just "locked in" like "this is just a fixed expense" - but I realize its not at all, ha. I already cancelled a channel I had on Amazon (if I need to do some of those yoga classes again, I can just sign up again anyway!) - so I can do the same with Amazon Prime. If I don't renew (mid-June) and then "need" it (in July) I can just sign up again.
And actually, now that I think about it, its the same with AAA. I don't drive much at all, I haven't taken a road trip in quite a while and my car runs great, so I'm going to contemplate whether or not that expense is worth keeping (renews in December, but its something I can consider at some point). These annual expenses, I'll start to question them - if I keep them, then I know why, and if I don't, then, small additional savings.
Of course, the final and biggest "win" I see here...its also a big painful, but a necessary pain. Its that, as I pull back on more spending that has been unconscious, and get more conscious about what I'm spending, I do notice a bit more of an "emptiness" - with the question "What do I want my dollars to do for me?" I'm a little unsure. My biggest non-essential category is "personal growth" (a training I attend, some personal sessions, and therapy) - but this emptiness (accompanied by greater savings) means that I'm at least being able to ask myself more of the right questions, and surround myself with a little less spending, and hopefully have the money to spend if those questions' answers include needing to invest in other areas of my life.
hmm, I'd say if it's that much math, something is wrong. 😉
If all you want to know is how much you have saved for income replacement, then that money should just be in an income replacement category and you simply need to find the category Available. No maths. Then you can divide by your monthly budgeted (you don't yet have a useful monthly average expense from the Income vs Expense report). Your total budgeted is in the Inspector on the right of the budget if no category is selected. So one division and you're done.
If you'd like to know how long you could live using the money for income replacement but with a threadbare budget, then yes it will require some more work. Create a second fake budget then see what categories to keep and how much to fund them. Doesn't matter if TBB is negative in this fake budget, all you want is the total budgeted number in the inspector. Then it's again just one division: available in income replacement / total budgeted in the fake budget.
I did the whole Kondo thing from the fall 2018 through 2019. Then I discovered YNAB in July 2019 and I was ready for the financial purging, organizing, and clarity. Now during the pandemic when everybody is purging & organizing, I've already done it, and people are watching their money when I've already being doing it. Feels great to be on the team of know it alls, who are still improving, since we've already had that journey. I listen to a lot of finance podcasts, and Suze Orman says, a messy life means messy finances. Very true. Organize your stuff and then the money stuff falls into hand. Great job! :)
Tom - Great books. I've used GTD for years.
Here's another recommendation for you - especially considering your comments about seeking meaning in the emptiness of spending:
"Your Money or Your Life" by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez.
Completely changed my view on money and spending even before I found YNAB.
Be sure to get the 2018 re-release (original is a little dated.)
Keep us posted on your journey!