If YNAB only had... A purposeful way to help broke people get a grip on managing money.

So, I've been using YNAB for a little over a month and figured I'd share some newbie perspective. Jesse mentioned he occasionally gets useful feedback from the forum, so maybe this will trickle his way as well.

As a bit of a precursor, in terms of getting started with the software, I'd say I'm getting more comfortable using it, but it was a very tough start.

Even for someone like me who's fairly tech savvy and advanced in various software products including enterprise class platforms for business, and CAD as well as web design, graphics, WordPress, SEO, SEM, etc. YNAB was very, very complicated. I also root, flash and program Android operating systems, as well as build and repair computers, etc. I can do basic programming on PLCs, etc. But... YNAB is in a league of its own as far as being really quite difficult. 

I've had several support members graciously help, tried attending a class, and have exchanged numerous messages back and forth with support, but its like trying to learn Chinese for me.  I don't speak Chinese, and likewise I'm not fluent in money management or spreadsheets. I'm not an accountant, bookkeeper, tax preparer, etc. Just someone who has mismanaged my money for decades and wants to do better and stop living paycheck to paycheck.

I've watched the primary/basic YNAB videos and several others from unaffiliated YouTube ynab users/teachers. I've also watched a few official ynab training videos, as well as whiteboard videos. They're all good and helpful. As for the method, I've listened to Jesse read his book several times over  on Audible. I listen to at least a dozen of his podcasts per weekday. I get it.

The disconnect I believe, is that it seems like, or feels like, from a newbie perspective at least, that YNAB and Jesse are of the impression that their target market is made up almost completely of people who already understand money management, budgeting, finances in general, money software, spreadsheets, accounting and aren't broke. They're endearingly referred to as ynabers. Nothing wrong with that at all. Its just that for a newbie without money skills, I've felt like a checker player at a chess club.

I think there's a huge untapped market for ynab in the self improvement area of money management. For people like me who don't have stacks of cash and flush bank accounts, but are looking for an easy, simple system to help them stay afloat another day, or week, or month and and hopefully get some financial peace of mind quick fast and in a hurry.  

Anyway I've felt better having at least some sort of budgeting tools, and having gained some methodology from the training, videos and software. But, here it is, another paycheck and I'm still dumbfounded as to what to pay with it. Mortgage? Credit cards, or?

Well, that was all I had to say, over and out.

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  • Welcome, Silver Inspector ! Kudos to you for sticking with it for over a month!  It's worth it, keep at it!

    From my perspective, it took us three months to trust the software and experience some of the more hidden calculations.  That was also a good amount of time for us to get in the habit of entering transactions/reconciling/working through priorities.

    I will say that I hope the YNAB team does pay attention to your feedback, because one of the company's stated goals for 2019 was to have better on-boarding/teaching materials.  They've definitely overhauled their articles and videos.  However, as someone who started in the Fall of 2018, I don't think I would be as successful starting now as I was then. 

    It seems that, in an effort to make the learning process less complicated, the training materials are over-simplified, separated, and presented without the context of WHY.  Why do the math operations work the way they do?  (The Move Money Tool is not magic - it streamlines actual math)  What parts affect which other parts, and why?  (transactions, TBB, budgeted, activity, available, month roll overs)  Why do we approach the budget process this way?  (Rule #1, Rule #2, Rule #3, and the previous Rule #4) What are some concrete examples of scenarios for approaching the budget process?  (Obviously, YNAB can't represent every single financial experience their users will have, but multiple, real situations and the processes used to deal with them in YNAB were very useful for me.  In trying not to "exclude" people {my assumption - why else would they remove useful material?}, they have taken the meaning out of examples {if concrete ones are used anymore}.  I firmly believe that people can actually apply the logic of someone else's scenario to their own, and if they need a bit of help along the way, that's fine.  But taking away the concrete examples makes it harder for people to clearly see how the abstract principles should be applied in their own budget).

    I don't recommend YNAB at this time, mainly because I don't feel that people will be successful without me teaching them, and I simply don't have the time.  I can't send them a link to the "Budgeting When You're Broke" video that my friend sent me.  It's gone.  I can't send them to a single article that will walk them effectively through the method and its application, like my friend did.  She sent me those, said to call if I had any questions, and off I went. 

    Now, the "Learn the Method" article (if you can call it that - it's just some colored boxes that expand) and video are the most disappointing bits of non-information I have seen.  If I didn't already know them, I would not have learned what the 4 Rules really were and how they worked.  I took the classes this summer, just to see if I could recommend them.  I think Dave is a great teacher.  I also think the classes are designed for remediation - people who need some extra help in real time to figure out the math applications needed for the method.  No big deal if you need that - do whatever makes you successful.  I think that I don't have two hours during a work week to spend waiting on four 20-30 minute classes to learn the method, especially if I don't already know the right questions to ask.  A good pedagogical principle to use is "whole, part, whole" - the current 4 classes on the 4 rules are good for individualized focus on the parts, but in order for them to be effective, the student should have an understanding of the whole to start with and refer back to.  To compound the problem, if the learner doesn't know the "whole" method and how the "part" fits, they won't know what kind of questions to ask in order to learn the "part."

    The beauty of that specific "Budgeting When You're Broke" video is that it went over the whole method, walking through the steps of interacting with the program in concrete situations, and showing a few key scenario types where the process could better support the overall financial goals.  It also looked at what you wanted to be working towards and why.  This overview with examples took about 20 minutes, not 2+ hours.  I'm sure they took it down because it referenced the old Rule 4, but that is a pity.

    tl;dr - YNAB's overhaul of educational materials has diminished their pedagogical quality by trying to over-simplify and put conceptual abstractions on the same level (ditching the "whole/part/whole" approach).  This is because the Rules changed, rendering previously good trainings "obsolete."  I also think the new Rule 4 is simply not as powerful and takes a level of fundamental meaning away from the process, thus leaving less to teach.

    Like 7
    • Move Light Sound Life I agree.

      I started YNAB a thousand years ago when it was paper and pencil, or a spreadsheet. I don't remember. At the time, you added a year's worth of bills together, divided by 12, and budgeted that amount each month, regardless of how much the bill was. 

      I'm probably explaining it a little wrong, but at the time, it made such sense to me and it worked. I still have the paperwork! Of course, at some point, I fell off that wagon, and I have not been able to grasp this new system no matter how many times I try.

      I desperately need something to help me, but I don't feel that YNAB is the answer anymore. And since they've changed to charging for a full year instead of monthly, someone who is struggling already just can't do it.

      Like 1
    • Cyan Tugboat 

      I only really know nYNAB, but to me it still feels similar to what you're describing with the paper and pencil.

      My categories reflect what stuff is for, so my top list has each of the things I've already committed to pay separated by monthly / more than once per year / yearly and then I use the goals to keep track of how much each one should be for each month.  If it's a monthly goal, I use the new "spend up to this much per month" goal type.  If it's a bi-annual or annual goal, I use the "budget this much per month" type and let a balance accumulate in the category.  I still refer to the help when setting up a new category to help me decide what type of goal to use there.

      I think of the goals as my plan, that way I can shuffle the funds around when I need to without losing track of what I *wanted* to do originally.  It wasn't until the "goals are the plan, transactions are the reality" thing clicked that I felt like I knew what I was doing.

      I actually keep the rest of my funds right now in a category I call "everything else".  It has things like groceries, pet food, vet bills, fuel, holidays, etc. all rolled up into it.  Mostly because I don't know my true expenses yet.  As a few months go by, if I see the same stuff always eating my "everything else" category, then I'll break them out to try to get more details on them.  (Starbucks is the one I just broke out.  Starbucks and a walk in the park is a cheap date with my partner compared to dinner + movie :) )

      My big struggles right now are: not liking the truth that YNAB is making me confront (I have too many existing obligations, which is why I feel broke always, because everything else is a bit too small for my comfort) and getting used to proactively budgeting, rather than retroactively tracking.

      That step of being proactive instead of reactive is probably the hardest.  For years I used a(n increasingly complicated) google sheet to "budget", but all it really did was let me know that I had spent a lot on things without thinking, and that was after it was already too late.

      Like 1
      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 2 mths ago
      • 3
      • Reported - view
      Horatio Spifflewicket said:
      It wasn't until the "goals are the plan, transactions are the reality"

      I think you're right, this is a crucial distinction. I would go slightly more detailed:

      Transactions are the reality. The budget is the plan. Goals are the plan to make the plan (budget).

      Like 3
    • dakinemaui 

      If when you say that you are defining a budget as a collection of individual category level financial goals, then yes. :)

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      • MsTJ
      • YNAB has given me back my future
      • Believer_in_YNAb
      • 2 mths ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      Move Light Sound Life Thank you for this conversation.  It got me looking at what I have records of and found this one, a class by Dave, from Jun 1, 2018.  It's one of my favorites.  And reminded me what my goals are.  This is great.  

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQeS5kTE6wU

      Like 2
  • If you want my advice (but there are other, more experienced, and smarter people out there), here it is.

    0. If you had "savings" in whatever previous system you used, put that amount in a category first.  That way, you don't get excited thinking that you have more available for fun things than you do (voice of experience).

    Each paycheck, use Rule #1 and Rule #2:

    1. Budget for and pay your bills.  These are known amounts with known due dates.

    2. Budget for and pay for variable expenses (groceries, etc.).  These amounts change and are typically purchased multiple times throughout the month.

    3. Budget for known "True Expenses" - long term bills/annual subscriptions/vacation, etc. with known amounts and due dates.

    4. Budget for unknown "True Expenses" - contingency savings like home/car maintenance, medical expenses, and other emergencies (like job loss).  You don't typically know the amount or time that the money will be needed, but you'll want something there when you do need it.

    5. Budget for financial priorities.  Maybe you're paying down debt.  Maybe you want to use the old Rule 4 to get a month ahead (hopefully you can find some literature on that still).  Maybe you're trying to beef up savings categories.  Maybe you're putting away money for retirement.

    6. Budget for discretionary categories.  It's important to have some fun, otherwise the grind of a tight budget won't stick long-term.  Some people would put this step up by #2.

    7. Make sure your TBB is 0.  For us in the first several months, that meant putting less than we thought we needed in some categories because we simply didn't have enough to fund everything where we wanted.  Now, we've normalized some annual expenses, plus we have more realistic expectations.

    Throughout the month, use Rule #3:

    WAM (stands for Whack-A-Mole) ming is common, and is one of the best things about YNAB.  It allows you to put the uneven puzzle pieces of life together without wasting resources.  For example, in our tight budget, when we gave ourselves 400 in groceries, but needed more, we could pull the exact amount from the fuel category very easily (and hope we wouldn't need more gas - sometimes we didn't!).  If, later on in the month, we needed to fill up but there wasn't enough in fuel, we could pull from one of the contingency categories or debt paydown, whichever we thought was less important.

    Plan how you will budget.

    It's frustrating and disorienting to try to budget paycheck to paycheck.  It's hard to see the above priorities and make sure they're actually getting covered appropriately.  However, the point of using YNAB is that you can refer to the category available balances to make spending decisions, so it is not good to enter data that hasn't happened yet.  To deal with this, many people use the classic Rule #4 of Living on Last Month's Income.  This way, they can make all the up-front decisions of Rules #1&2 at the same time, in YNAB, ensuring the priorities for the month are met satisfactorily.

    If you don't have enough capital to fund the entirety of December on Dec. 1, then that's something to work for.  Until then, you still need a way to plan and make sure that the $50 of discretionary money from your first paycheck is a viable choice.  Some people use goals for this, but I find the goals more useful for other things.

    Personally, I use the YNAB method outside of YNAB to list out what I will use each paycheck of the month for.  That way, I know if my plan is comprehensive enough to get me through to the next cycle.  Listing this plan for the plan (budget) outside of YNAB also allows our family to have the priority (budget) conversations at our convenience, and it further meant that we didn't have to go chasing after anything that we accidentally messed up in YNAB when fiddling with numbers.  Then, on paydays, I just go down the list and record the plan that was already decided on.

    From my understanding, for most veteran users, this old Rule #4 is the key to YNAB  - it allows you to be intentional with the other rules.  Many even say that it should be the first financial priority (then build a baby E-fund, usually housed in various contingency categories; then tackle debt; then fill the savings categories; and retirement fits in various places, depending on interest rates and contributions) because of the clarity it brings to the decision making - you can aggressively approach your goals because you never have to wonder if you're short-changing another necessity. 

    I did the comparison math, and decided that the interest I would save and the cash-flow I would free up by finishing debt first was worth making the plan for the plan outside of YNAB instead of "being buffered" and being able to plan the plan effectively in YNAB.  I know others disagree on the amount of clarity I get from that, but "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush."

    Like 14
    • Move Light Sound Life This is an awesome recap of how to get started. I posted a getting started guide the other day, it would be really cool to add your post to it. I wrote it because I felt there were things that I learned after 3, 4, 5 years of use that if I had known in the beginning it would have helped a lot. Your post is right along the same thought lines.

      Like 3
  • Silver Inspector said:
    YNAB and Jesse are of the impression that their target market is made up almost completely of people who already understand money management, budgeting, finances in general, money software, spreadsheets, accounting and aren't broke.

     I think it's funny that you say this, because my impression is that the training materials and Rules were overhauled to make on-boarding easier for people who don't already have their financial life together.  My guess is that the concrete examples were nixed so that people in "broke" situations didn't feel bad or get discouraged. 

    An unintended consequence is that now the tools to improve the financial situation of the people who need it most are not as strong.

    Like 7
  • Not every topic clicks for every person. Sometimes it takes a very different explanation to make something click. That’s not the person’s fault. I don’t know that any software, short of a full blown AI, maybe, that can do things in a way that clicks for everyone, all the time. 
     

    YNAB certainly has its faults, but, in my view, it takes great pains to make budgeting accessible to those who aren’t already good at it, often to the detriment of those who are already good at it. Add in the innumerable videos and documents which go into great detail of just about any aspect of the software and I’m not sure what they, or anyone, could do to make it more accessible. 
     

    As to what may or may not be a throwaway question at the end of your post, mortgage or credit cards, in my view, depends on when the mortgage is due and how much more money you’ll have available between now and then. What happens if you don’t pay your mortgage versus not paying your credit cards? What happens if one of them is late?

    There are people who can go into more detail, but that question isn’t really about the software. YNAB can’t make that decision for you. 

    Like 6
  • I agree with Move Light Sound Life , I find that so much of YNAB is geared towards users that don’t have a strong grasp on budgets and money. I think what throws people off is that they expect something more hands off. YNAB is supposed to be very hands on. You have to constantly look at it and make decisions.

    YNAB cannot change how much is coming in or going out of your budget and fundamentally increasing income or decreasing outflow are the only ways to improve your financial situation. So if a user is in a super difficult financial position, it’s not realistic to expect YNAB to create quick peace of mind because the financial facts on the ground have nothing to do with YNAB. In fact, YNAB can make it seem worse because YNAB just lays it all out for you and you may have to recognize that you are in fact living way over your means and have been for a long time. YNAB is not going to tell you how to spend your money. That is simply not what it is designed for.

    When you get your paycheck you have to answer the question: What does this money have to do before I get paid again? Pay your mortgage? Pay your credit card bill? YNAB will not (and should not IMHO) make these choices for you because there may be really good reasons for doing something that on the surface seems totally illogical. You are the boss of your money and YNAB is a tool to help you organize your thoughts so you can instruct your money.

    Like 15
  • I think the addition of direct import has brought different expectations from new users.   There is no magic, managing money takes some work and ynab provides a tool to help but it can't suddenly force users to make good decisions.

    Like 13
  • Thanks for the replies. I didn't know about the initiative to make it easier to get started. From reading the replies, my guess is that there are 2 camps, (maybe 3), among YNAB users.

    The first would be those who have been using YNAB for years, grasp the fundamental envelope principles and use the software as a tool to manage money. I imagine most of these folks would be using something else and would be fairly successful at it, even if YNAB wasn't around. Perhaps they are inherently self disciplined savers, may have already budgeted and have likely used some tool to manage money before, from their checkbook register to a software system.  They may already be good at paying bills and are not in survival mode 99% of the time. Maybe they were taught by parents to manage money or developed it on their own at a young age. < I don't fit in this camp.  Public schools didn't feature fundamental personal finances in their curriculum when I was young and my parents kept everything financial related to themselves.

    The second would be those who maybe didn't know, or didn't know better and then somehow found and utilized YNAB's principles and software to turn their lives around. I picture these folks being pretty confident now, having overcome most deficiencies in their  finances and moving forward with an in depth understanding of how it all works together. Maybe at this point they're mastering nuances of the YNAB system as a whole, but probably aren't in survival mode. If anything, if that were ever the case, that's a distant memory. < I don't fit in this camp, but hope to someday.

    The third would be those who have made or not made plenty of money, have never been taught or just ignored personal money management skills, but have made a mess of their lives financially. Ignoring bills, over spending, maxed out on credit, bankruptcy, changing jobs or careers, not implementing any money management skills other than checking their bank's available balance. and therefore live day to day in survival mode.  Maybe they have tried methods or software in the past, but have pretty much given up and caused even more money problems for themselves.  Or maybe they made plenty of money and paid most of their bills but operated week to week and have had some life event that sent them into a financial tail spin. Now, they have come to realize they  NEED a budget or way to manage money and are seeking ways to do that, (and probably looking at things like debt consolidation, debt management, bankruptcy, career changes, (moving, changing their identity, running away, lol) ---   < That's the camp I would fall into, along with roughly 75 to 80% of America.  (a super huge market for YNAB to tap into)

    When I found YNAB and started it, I was expecting something completely different.  I certainly am not disappointed, because I can tell YNAB really cares and has spent a great deal of time and no doubt money, trying to help people learn how to manage their finances.  Accepting that it is what it is, and only by embracing it and making good use of the resources will the user be successful is key.  I personally am giving it everything I've got. Unfortunately for people in camp 3, its more DIY than they probably expect. and therefore they (we) are more apt to give up quickly and say forget it. Like being a new home buyer but instead of a set of keys and a moving truck, you get a load of lumber, building supplies  and a "How to Build your First House" book dropped off in an empty lot. Don't get me wrong, its super important that people understand how money should be earned and spent.  They wouldn't be in a precarious financial position if they knew the basics and were self disciplined. But for people in camp 3 (a wayyyyyyyyyy bigger market for YNAB than those in camp 1 and 2), it would be super cool to have a way to attack immediate pain points with a system designed for getting a handle on your money quick and easy. 

    My greatest success financially was actually back in the late 90's. By using Microsoft Money 95 (at that time it was tied directly to the bank via a 56k modem so what I saw in my financial software was the same as the bank teller could see), and a spreadsheet I had cobbled together that used a priority principle. Basically I had cells setup in order of importance, that would populate with whatever funds could be allocated based on my most recent paycheck I plunked down at the top in an income cell. When the money ran out, anything less important didn't get funded. I could only spend what I had on only the most important things and I used the MS Money to track everything. The spreadsheet was fundamental in getting bills paid, getting some credit cards paid off and saving money for closing costs on a new home.  Like everything technology based, Microsoft over designed their software to the point that it was no longer useful and I lost my spreadhseet that was on a floppy disk. That's what I was hoping for in YNAB, but more modern and automated. Like a Turbo-Tax style software for getting a grip on money management.

    Like 1
      • Khaki Storm
      • YNAB book topics online: https://support.youneedabudget.com/r/q5w48j
      • Khaki_Storm.1
      • 3 mths ago
      • 3
      • Reported - view

      Silver Inspector It sounds like you are suggesting a quiz before diving into the training material. Then a custom list of training to take based on the results. 

      Like 3
    • Silver Inspector 

       

      I more or less use YNAB the way you described your MS Money 95 experience.  I have my budget categories sorted by priority and when my paycheck comes in I start at the top and assign dollars until I get to the bottom or run out, whichever comes first (I always run out first).  Next paycheck, I pick up where I left off.

      I also use goals to keep track of what I should put in each category when I do run down the list.  Somehow, my wish farm haven't seen a dollar yet, but someday 😉

      Like 2
  • I always hesitate to share how I do my budget because I figure maybe it was obvious to everyone but me in the beginning. I just know that when I started, saying to myself, "what do I have to fund before I get paid again?" didn't really work. It was still just so much guesswork for me. I had several false starts because of it. I was constantly just shifting money around because I was underfunding some categories and overspending on others and I was whack-a-moling until there wasn't enough money to whack-a-mole anymore. It was frustrating, I didn't feel like I was getting anywhere, and I quit several times.

    I had to get very granular for it to work for me. I laid out all my categories from highest priority fixed amounts,  to lowest priority variable amounts. I put the due dates and amounts on the line with the category name. And then I calculated specifically how much would have to go into each category from each paycheck for them to be fully funded every four weeks. If you have one source of pay, that's pretty easy. You just divide by four and that's that. But I have three income sources that each represent different percentages of our total income and all three are paid on different days. So I did a lot of calculating. And then I put those numbers into the notes of each category. 

    So on payday, our money goes TBB, and then I hover over each category so that the note pops up to tell me how much to put in. The first month was extremely hard because categories had to be caught up. Something that was due next week had to have 100% put in, not 1/4 of that, obviously. So the first couple of months only the high priority stuff at the top got any funding and the purse strings were extremely tight on everything else. But after that, it was pain-free, smooth sailing.

    It's been six years and I still do my budget this way. I know common wisdom is to build that buffer, but I have never done it. We get paid 8 different times a month, and each time I'm manually distributing the funds to each category. And I LOVE doing it. I have no desire to buffer and then the first of the month do the magic auto budget. I look forward to getting my hands in there and doing it manually. So I focused on building savings instead.

    We started out where we had pennies in our bank accounts-- and even negative pennies many times. In six years we've paid off five big debts. The rest will all be paid off in the next three years. Our credit reports went from very poor to excellent. And if something catastrophic happened and overnight all three of our income sources disappeared, we'd be able to survive a solid four months before needing another paycheck. We can even take vacations now and my kids are taking private music lessons. All of that seemed absolutely unfathomable to us when we started this journey.

    Like I said, maybe my method seems painfully obvious to most people and that's how everyone did it. I just know that's not what I knew to do in the beginning and it caused me to quit several times. All I can say is, find a method that works for you and DON'T quit! Keep trying, over and over again if you have to. It will be absolutely life changing.

    Like 12
    • KaraBoo this is how I do it, too, though my income streams are separated into different budgets. I love this level of detail and am entirely uninterested in using automatic imports for my budgets.

      Like 1
  • Silver Inspector said:
    another paycheck and I'm still dumbfounded as to what to pay with it. Mortgage? Credit cards, or?

    YNAB doesn't exist to tell you where to put your money. It exists to allow YOU to make a plan -- using YOUR priorities, and then easily refer to that plan for spending guidance. YNAB doesn't care where you put your money, only that it does its level best to get you to put it where you previously decided that you wanted it.

    Your budget, your priorities.

    FWIW since you asked, just about every financial advisor on the planet would suggest paying down high-rate consumer debt before low-rate mortgage. There is also  the potential for "take-backs" if you are a bit too aggressive toward reducing CC debt. Once you send it to the mortgage, you won't get that back until after the mortgage ends.

    EDIT: so yes, you're probably right about some of YNAB's assumptions. Some knowledge of finances is useful. However, you're a grown-up and have managed to survive thus far, so you're not as clueless as you might think. Give yourself some credit. I suspect you already knew paying down CC debt would be better than reducing the mortgage.

    Like 11
  • Being self employed I can relate somewhat to this, I started with a bit of capital and I was doing well for a couple of months, budgeting for the whole month and keeping all my ducks in a row.

    Then payments coming in became smaller and further apart it became much more difficult to discern if one bill payment later in the month was more important than the one due now.

    Ultimately the premise seems to rely on having a surplus of money to cover all outgoings for the month, if you find yourself leaning on a credit card to get by until the next  income then how to manage that situation within the app is far less clear.

    As it was making me more stressed trying and failing to use YNAB in the illustrated way, I ended up side lining it in the hopes I could focus my effort on earning enough that I could fit the ideal of a YNABer. Which I'm pleased to say I'm approaching doing soon, just feel sad that YNAB felt more of a hindrance than a help when I needed it most.

    Like
  • I love this post!! Man are you my twin? Not only have a mismanaged money since I was 18 and got my first credit card offer. I filed bankruptcy in 2014 and still didn’t learn my lesson. I may still have a ton of debt but at least Ynab is teaching me healthy money habits by doing my budget daily and paying close attention. I also have auto sync and I make sure to double check it. 

    Like 1
  • I've had to really study the software to figure it all out. Especially earlier this year, I was unemployed for awhile and the YNAB rules just weren't working for me. If I only budgeted the cash I had, I wasn't eating, so I had to figure out how to work with credit cards in an unintended way. I eventually came to see red in a credit category, which would happen after making a payment I hadn't budgeted for, as money I had available to spend. I didn't find that in any tutorial, for good reason, but after studying how the software did things, it made sense, and at the end of the day using the software "wrong" is better than not keeping track of your money at all. Even now that my income is steady again, I spend a lot of time just looking at my categories and tweaking things and experimenting to get what's in the program to match what's in my head. Just keep working with it. I'm also a tech person and I'm still getting the hang of it after 3 years of on-and- off use. I don't think the the software itself is particularly difficult. It's just the concept of budgeting in general that doesn't come naturally for everyone.

    Like 5
  • To me, YNAB  works great if you earn enough to  pay your bills and your problem is overspending. If you don't,  it's not as helpful.  What it is good at is tracking and helping you not make impulsive decisions.  But in order to get your money under control in the first place, you need to do your planning somewhere else.

    I think people sometimes sell YNAB as the only tool you need.  But if you are really starting from scratch,  you'll need more. Check at your local library if you have one. They can recommend some good books and sometimes they have classes.

    In the books,  it will tell you to track all your expenses.  Use YNAB for that.

    As far as mortgage vs credit card, it's not just that. Which is due first? Do you have enough to pay the minimum on both? Always pay the minimum at least so you don't get late fees. Do you have enough to pay everything else until your next check? Once you have that all figured out,  pay anything extra towards the debt with the highest interest rate. 

    Like 3
  • Completely agree. I actually had a lot of anxiety starting with YNAB because of how confusing it was. And it wasn't just misunderstanding the "four rules," it was understanding what the system does with transactions in as far as debiting/crediting the budgeted amount. If I read "Give every dollar a job!" as a means of explanation for what was happening in YNAB one more time I may have to punch someone. It's been 3 months and I still don't understand many things. There is a crazy barrier to entry. Not everyone understands money and math the same. They need to figure out different ways to communicate to different people. 

    Like 1
  • YES, the first few months were sooooo frustrating.   The videos are way too simple and limited examples.  I had to start over twice because I kept making spaghetti out of things.    I even overdrew my checking out, something I had not done in years, costing me $$, because I tried to just follow the simple advice.  I agree with Cyan Drill that I kept getting the same stupid "canned" responses from the YNAB genuises that just seemed to refuse to offer me good detailed examples.  But, if I kept pursuing the problem, eventually some wonderful person would actually read what I wrote, attempt to understand my question, and give me a real answer.  So don't give up!!!    One thing that really helped was to pare things back a little.   Start with just your regular accounts.  Don't try to add your savings and all your other accounts until you get the hang of things.    If you like having lots of different accounts, you will just have to learn how to manage within YNAB, even though you will be told over and over not to have different accounts...very annoying.   HOWEVER, I discovered I had less need for different accounts and less need to transfer  money around as I got better at YNAB, and that helped too.     I'm about to finish up my first full year without restarting or re-budgeting, and I'm still going to make a new budget (even though the geniuses say not to) because I have learned so much and want to make things even simpler for me personally.     IF THEY WOULD ONLY HAVE A WAY FOR ME TO LOOK AT MY "MOVE MONEY" HISTORY it would really help!!!

    Like 3
    • Lavender Nomad  even though the geniuses say not to

      ; The geniuses do tell you to make a fresh start whenever you need to, don’t they? I even watched a whiteboard wednesday about the different ways, I think.

      Like
    • Lavender Nomad We're definitely not opposed to making a new budget—in fact, we encourage it, either via a Fresh Start or a whole new budget with fresh categories. Restarting your budget is sort of Rule Three: Roll with the Punches on steroids, an opportunity to ditch the past and redraw the map of your money based just on your current account balances and priorities.

      Improving our self-paced training is something we've been working on for a while, and I hope you've had a chance to check out our new Getting Started course on YouTube. It just came out at the beginning of this month, and I think it's the best we've ever done in this area—not that we can't do even better!

      I'd be happy to talk more about both the practical and philosophical concerns behind not offering a Move Money history, if you'd like.

      Best,
      Matthew

      P.S.: We're not geniuses, but we do what we can. :)

      Like 1
    • Matthew Thanks.  I was referring more specifically to restarting the budget at the start of a new year.  And when I looked it up on the YNAB forum, numerous posters said not to do it.   

      Like
      • Herman
      • herman
      • 2 mths ago
      • 1
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      Lavender Nomad  there are just as many people that think a fresh start or a new year start is just fine.   It's basically personal preference.  Primarily based on how you like to access historical data and if you like to use the new year to rethink your plans

      Like 1
    • Lavender Nomad Got it. I agree that there's no need to Fresh Start in January, but if it makes you feel good, do it! (Please don't take that phrase as our corporate motto.)

      Like 1
      • Mx Emmin
      • Orchid_Banjo.5
      • 2 mths ago
      • 1
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      Matthew Powder Blue Pony  Lavender Nomad   I'm starting over in January for a few reasons

      Firstly, because I only started in September and my current budget, my first budget, is kind of a mess

      Secondly, by January I will have paid off two of my debts and closed two other surplus current/savings accounts, so my January budget will be more streamlined 

      Thirdly, waiting another month gives me time to play with and get used to the software 

      Fourthly.... yeah, the neatness of starting in January 

      I don't think three months of transaction history whilst I'm chopping and changing categories here and there and everywhere will tell me much

      I do technically still have my excel spreadsheet - although I no longer budget on it, I track my savings vs debt on it, so I can watch the lines trend up over multiple years even when I start a new budget 

      Like 1
    • Mx Emmin I think these all sound like great reasons to start a new budget.

      Like 1
      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 2 mths ago
      • 5
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      Mx Emmin As a counter argument, your budget will NEVER be perfect for any significant amount of time. Getting comfortable with ADJUSTING and pair-wise give and take is an invaluable skill.

      I'm not aware of many things in real life where you can say, "Wait, wait, wait. Hold up. Lemme start over." Try that on your job interview, briefing your customer, disciplining your child, or while saying your wedding vows, and see how that works out.

      I think you'll find that a Fresh Start is actually MORE work than adjusting. After all, most of your categories are probably exactly where you want them.

      Like 5
    • QC
    • HaplessFinanceProfessional
    • Queenofcoin
    • 3 mths ago
    • 13
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    I agree, the learning curve is steep.  I've had to learn quite a few different programs, systems and methods over my career (in Finance) and remember taking that leap of faith with YNAB that happens when 'you don't know how  this will work, you just have to trust that it will.'  I had used enough personal finance programs that didn't give me what I wanted to know that it wouldn't be easy or standard when I found the one that gave me what I did want.

    All that being said, I think that this:

    ....their target market is made up almost completely of people who already understand money management, budgeting, finances in general, money software, spreadsheets, accounting and aren't broke. 

    ...couldn't be further from the truth.  I would say this segment of the market is the exception, not the norm.  So many people here in the forum, the old forum, the Reddit sub, the blog, the Debt Stories have all been desperate for a lifeline until YNAB came along.

    In fact, when it comes to managing personal finances, if you've always been terrible at it, you really should feel like a checker player at a chess club when you're trying to improve.  You're not just learning a new program but a whole new way of thinking!  Everything I thought I knew about money had to get shut down and put aside so I wouldn't have alarm bells ringing every time I looked at my new YNAB.  18+ months later and I don't give it a second thought when I budget a full month ahead, something I never thought I'd be able to do.  

    Stick with it, it will get easier!

    Like 13
    • Khaki Storm
    • YNAB book topics online: https://support.youneedabudget.com/r/q5w48j
    • Khaki_Storm.1
    • 3 mths ago
    • 4
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    • Khaki Storm  does that really help though? Averages spent tell you what the result was of moving that money. The fact that you had to move it, comes with the fact you didn’t guess right beforehand. And who could guess exactly right anyway, or anywhere naar the truth in the beginning?

      Like 3
      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 2 mths ago
      • 13
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      Khaki Storm said:
      Lavender Nomad said:

         IF THEY WOULD ONLY HAVE A WAY FOR ME TO LOOK AT MY "MOVE MONEY" HISTORY it would really help!!!

      Agree 100%

       Disagree 100%. There are easier ways to understand what you should budget than tediously combing through an audit trail.

      Like 13
      • Khaki Storm
      • YNAB book topics online: https://support.youneedabudget.com/r/q5w48j
      • Khaki_Storm.1
      • 2 mths ago
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      dakinemaui It would help my little brain. And it would help the budget conversations. Like, one says, I looked at the budget Sat and there was $xx in category Y, now theres only $x, what happened? I might remember if it was a simple whack a mole move, but it was complex, then I've lost the trail. 

      Like 1
      • nolesrule
      • YNAB4 Evangelist
      • nolesrule
      • 2 mths ago
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      Khaki Storm There's a song in a popular Disney children's film I often like to quote to head off these kind of thoughts.

      "Let It Go"

      If the budget has changed, so what? You can always change it again. That's the beauty of having a budget based on your priorities. You can always decide later that you made the wrong priority decision (it wasn't really wrong, it's just that you priorities changed in light of a change in information) and re-reallocate.

      Like 9
      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 2 mths ago
      • 4
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      Khaki Storm No argument you might have "lost the trail", but so what? You really don't need to know how you got where you are, only that you are where you are -- the current budget is what it is. If that's not aligned with your most up-to-date priorities, then simply change it.

      Like 4
  • I dunno. I read these sorts of threads and I never want to butt in because it feels braggy. But here and elsewhere, there’s a mantra of “YNAB is really hard! It takes three to six months to understand! It’s okay if you don’t get it!” And I ultimately don’t think that refrain is very helpful because it convinces people that it should be hard. It shouldn’t be hard.

    It’s okay if you don’t get it right away, don’t get me wrong. But it is entirely possible to get it right away. It shouldn’t take six months to understand how to use the budget, it should take six minutes. Even if you don’t have any experience managing money, if you can understand the idea of an envelope budget, you can grasp this. 

    Now, what is optimal to do with your money? That’s a different question. Does it take six months to a year before you have a budget that is humming along with everything that might come your way accounted for? Sure. Does it take a bit of a leap to accept account/category independence? Perhaps. 

    But the basics of taking a pile of money and putting it into smaller piles is very simple. The problem is that many people get caught up in goal this, scheduled that, yellow green etc. Or they don’t see the budget as really representing their on hand money and try to make it an abstraction. 

    All you are doing is sorting money, and then spending the money you sorted. That’s it. That’s the whole thing. Everything else is just ways to make that sorting and spending easier. 

    Like 23
    • WordTenor Three months is when I figured out how to stop being bit by SFTF. Three months after that, I found the forum and toolkit. Then I figured out why I couldn't trust my budget before, and why I could now trust it.

      Like 2
      • WordTenor
      • I'm the oldest and the wittiest.
      • WordTenor
      • 2 mths ago
      • 6
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      Move Light Sound Life SFTF is unfortunate, I agree. I've had the fix in my budget for over a year so I forget sometimes that it's there for other people. But 90%+ of the posts I see here and on Reddit, and used to see on Facebook  when I used FB, claiming that YNAB is sooooooo complicated stem from a failure to just use the budget as it's intended. The fundamental idea of get money, budget money, spend money gets totally lost, and then there's also a groupthink that encourages newbies to get mad when someone says, "Hey, back this train up. Just budget your money.

      Like 6
    • WordTenor Move Light Sound Life

      I have to say that every time SFTF comes up it drives me insane.  Mostly from a terminology standpoint, if not from the mechanics.

      One of the things that I really like about YNAB is that it is rooted hugely in TODAY, RIGHT NOW.  Money spent in the past is gone, and money assigned in the future is just a statement of intention.

      So on the terminology standpoint, it's not really stealing, it's just changing priorities from "oh, I'd like to get ahead on next month" to "I really am out of fuel and have a client meeting this afternoon".

      On the mechanics, Rule 3 is sort of incompatible with the idea that money you decided should be spent later is locked away for then.  Green TBB says "today, right now, you have the money for that".  And it's true, you do. 

      I think this is why the materials and discussion are moving away from the former Rule 4.  It put too much focus on planning ahead in a way that was too rigid.  When you're saying "hey, this dollar, it's job is to pay my mortgage next month" you are no longer in the now, you're forecasting.  And that doesn't really work, the future is too fluid.

      If you need to be sure that your budget for next month will be there, then it needs to be a category today.  That way you can always know now what you have and what your priorities are.  And yours and mine can then be different.  I can decide that I'd rather be a little more spartan next month and pay for my kitty's surgery with cash today than to get a credit card / loan that will eat at me forever.  You can decide that it's much better to finance it a different way, because it's so important to have enough set aside for next month, and a payment with a little interest is worth the peace of mind brought by having a nice full bucket that says "for next month".

      I'll admit, it took me awhile to get here.  But I've found now that I explicitly have a category for "One Month Ahead" (and also two months, and three months, etc. (not that any of them are full, yet)) that I feel a lot more zen about the random stuff that life throws at me than I was before when I was worried that buying fuel today would throw me off for next month.  

      Like 3
      • WordTenor
      • I'm the oldest and the wittiest.
      • WordTenor
      • 2 mths ago
      • 8
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      Horatio Spifflewicket The degree to which this post demonstrates misunderstanding of both SFTF and classic rule 4 make it difficult to reply to, I’m sorry. Maybe someone else will try, but I’ve been grading papers all day and dealing with writers’ varying abilities to get their points across and I realize I actually don’t need to bang my head about this one because you’re not my student.

      so...just...no. You clearly don’t get it. 

      Like 8
      • monkeyhanger
      • No animals were harmed
      • monkeyhanger.1
      • 2 mths ago
      • 5
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      Horatio Spifflewicket SFTF is a bug. You've totally misinterpreted what it means. And classic rule 4 for that matter.

      Like 5
      • Herman
      • herman
      • 2 mths ago
      • 7
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      Horatio Spifflewicket saying "hey, this dollar, it's job is to pay my mortgage next month" you are no longer in the now, you're forecasting. 

       

      Assuming you have the money now, this is so much not forecasting.  This is planning.  This is budgeting.   

      Like 7
    • WordTenor 

      Ah, I hope that your day/evening improves.  Also, please do not worry about explaining stealing from the future to me, it is not that I do not understand your point, I just disagree.

      You have a particular point of view about how the software should work, and you have stated it fairly completely in multiple places across the YNAB forums.  

      I still disagree, and that is ok.  If the way I understand it works for me, and I can trust my budget because I am not giving jobs to dollars I don't have, then the metaphor we use to make sense of things doesn't really matter all that much.

      If you (or anyone) would like to have the broader academic debate about it, it may be interesting (and I like learning things, especially important things), and I am certainly willing to engage in good faith, as I believe you or nolesrule are, but I'd rather do it in its own context by DM or something so we don't muddy the conversation here any further.  

      I think when it comes down to it we may agree on a fair bit of it and it's just a few details where we differ.

      I also re-read my first post about it above, and apologize if it came off a little feistier than I intended.  I should have perhaps been a bit more particular with my word choice.

      Anyway, if you're interested in talking more, let me know. 🙂

      Like
      • WordTenor
      • I'm the oldest and the wittiest.
      • WordTenor
      • 2 mths ago
      • 8
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      Horatio Spifflewicket What SFTF is, and when you are forecasting vs. when you are budgeting money you have on hand are not opinions to hold or not hold. There are definitions for both things, and not knowing the definitions does not constitute having a difference of opinion. 

      Your post demonstrates that you don’t know what SFTF is, and you don’t fully understand the distinction between forecasting and budgeting in the future. Perhaps you didn’t mean what you wrote, but I can’t read your mind. I can only read your writing. 

      Like 8
      • nolesrule
      • YNAB4 Evangelist
      • nolesrule
      • 2 mths ago
      • 7
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      WordTenor Let's take a different tact.

      Horatio Spifflewicket Here's the deal. I created the phrase Stealing From the Future. Me. No one else. The phrase is my baby.

      I'm not joking. I came up with it 4 years ago on the old YNAB forums, and there is even a story behind it. I defined exactly what it means in regards to nYNAB. It became common Lexical use in YNAB parlance over the past 4 years.

      As the person who created the phrase and defined its meaning, I can tell you with absolute certainty that you are wrong about what it means. Not my opinion. It's a fact.

      But thanks for playing.

      Like 7
      • adriana01
      • adriana01
      • 2 mths ago
      • 2
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      Horatio Spifflewicket The Classic Rule 4 is "Live on Last Month's Income", which is completely different from saying these dollars are for next month's mortgage. Budgeting for a month with a month-sized amount of money works very differently from the current process of budgeting as far ahead as you have money & care to plan (this is the process that leads to the potential of **SFTF**).

      Like 2
    • nolesrule 

      Fair game.  May I check my understanding then?  I believe very firmly in marking my beliefs to market, so if I am absolutely wrong, and it is a fact, then I should do my best to correct that problem.  Anything less would be me trying to pass ideology as reality, and I really believe that is the road to ruin.

      As I am typing on my phone, there may be the occasional typographical error, but I hope that it is still more or less understandable.

      From what you have written elsewhere, I came to understand that SFTF is what occurs when a budgeter has enough dollars today to cover what they believe is all of the expenses for this month.  They also have some surplus dollars after that and decide that the best use of those dollars is to plan ahead and allocate them to their categories next month.  They have now budgeted their TBB to zero, and all is right in the world.

      But! This is where the problem can sneak in as well.  Either by typographical error, or by making a mistake when shifting money from category to category, or even intentionally, a number is entered incorrectly in a way that would cause a budget for just this month to have overspent.  TBB would be red.  And yet, it remains green if there were funds allocated to categories in the future.  This is because the software has shifted some of the dollars assigned for next month back to this month to cover the otherwise overbudgeted month.  This makes next month's budget unreliable, as TBB is now negative next month until more dollars come in or some previously laboring dollars are removed from their categories.

      Further causing distress to our budgeter is that there is little to no indication in this month that next month is now in trouble.  If they don't click forward into next month to see the negative TBB, they don't know that things will get "exciting" when the month changes.

      So, thus the software has stolen from future months dollars that have already been given jobs, without any over notification that it has done so.

      Am I good so far?

      Like
      • nolesrule
      • YNAB4 Evangelist
      • nolesrule
      • 2 mths ago
      • 1
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      nolesrule 

      nolesrule said:
      Let's take a different tact.

       As WordTenor so kindly pointed out to me elsewhere, the correct word is "tack". It was late, I was tired and didn't notice I'd typed the wrong word. I need to find a way to get more sleep. Anyone want some children?

      Like 1
      • Superbone
      • YNAB convert since 2008
      • Superbone
      • 2 mths ago
      • 5
      • Reported - view

      nolesrule Thanks, I learned something new today. I had no idea it came from sailing:

      take a different tack

      This expression has nothing to do with tactfulness and everything to do with sailing, in which it is a direction taken as one tacks—abruptly turns—a boat. To “take a different tack” is to try another approach.

      Like 5
    • WordTenor  Marvelous!  Simplicity at its Best!!!

      Like
  • OK, so I will admit in advance our situation is maybe different than most in this post. We are 74, retired, mostly fixed income and for the most part do have enough money to pay our bills every month. I’m grateful to finally be in that position after decades of not being there/being broke. However, we found we needed a better budget program to help us allocate for goals. We looked at and tried most of ‘em before committing to the program 4-5 months ago. Somehow, however, and even after much reading, listening and even one-on-one help from YNAB (who have been great), I still don’t get how to easily tell WHERE my money is that I’ve got allocated to future goals. Once I allocate all of TBB then I simply become afraid that the amounts I’ve got allocated, especially over a couple of months of building, actually exist in savings or checking. At one point I thought I understood how to check that from Quick Budget. Now I don’t and I don’t trust the system! 
     

    Hey, I recognize that our problem is less of an issue than trying to find enough money to pay bills - we were there (it felt like) forever. But this is still another example of where I’d like YNAB to be clearer and more intuitive and I’m certainly not satisfied w my understanding of it. Ive begun to think maybe it just isn’t made for our purposes and I should go back to something a little simpler?  I really hope that isn’t true and that I can get thru this block because I have devoted dozens (hundreds?) of hours to this and I can certainly see the system is more than robust on many levels.  Any thoughts? 

    Like 3
      • HappyDance
      • YNABing consistently since 2014
      • HappyDance
      • 2 mths ago
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      Aquamarine Transistor 

      I personally struggled with the "where" for almost a year.  The linked article helps, and I had to keep revisiting the concept/article.  I'm guessing that at 74 you have a few decades of budget-by-account conditioning that are going to be difficult to stop doing automatically. It can be done.  I intro'd my septuagenarian mom to YNAB, and it's taken her almost 4 years to stop thinking of "where" as the purpose, and to stop making her categories match the where.  It all finally clicked for her this year.

      This year she also got over her fear of online banking. She even moved money out of her bricks-and-mortar bank chequing account and into a high-interest online-only bank.  Go Mom!   

      Like 6
    • HappyDance 

      Like
    • Aquamarine Transistor 

      Like
      • Herman
      • herman
      • 2 mths ago
      • 4
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      Aquamarine Transistor all you need to worry about is where to to take the money from when you need to make a payment.  It does not matter at all where the money was when you allocated it to the category.  As a general rule I keep the majority of my liquid money in my highest interest account and move money either to savings or to checking to make sure I have the next couple weeks of expenses available in checking. 

      Like 4
  • I agree with the general consensus of these posts--YNAB  is meant to give you a clear picture of your money. I also agree with some posters that stated it takes a few months to really get a feel for your budget and how your money can move around. I started a few years ago, and it took at least 3 months of using YNAB to better understand where my spending tendencies were. Then it took a little longer to nail down the target amount for each category. 

    I am currently in a financial situation where I am paying car notes, a mortgage, and a student loan on top of the normal expenses. So I have a section that is for the essentials (i.e. food, transportation, shelter, utilities, daycare, etc.) And then a section for debts, and then the longer term items or less frequent items like doctor appointments and things (i.e. true expenses), and lastly a savings category.  I split up the bills that come the first half of the months and the ones that come second half so I don't find a category that can wait until the second paycheck. This helps me manage the money assignments so I don't miss anything. 

    On top of using YNAB I am mixing in the Dave Ramsey principles (the Baby Steps) to get out of debt. I did not like the Ramsey budgeting app since I was already deep into YNAB. For those who are in dire financial situations, Dave Ramsey has some good materials on how to set up a budget and how to use your money to get out of debt in order to use your money in productive ways. I started my debt snowball and have payed off my truck and am on my way to get my wife's car and my loans paid off in 2 years instead of decades.  

    In summary though, YNAB has been a great tool to help track spending and remain flexible throughout the month, while making sure the essentials are always covered. Budgeting doesn't take as much training as it does behavioral analysis. We have to determine what our tendencies are and then evalute whether those need to be changed to be successful in our financial goals. This evaluation is why it takes a few months to get comfortable budgeting. Give yourself some grace and be patient and you'll begin to understand the steps you need to make.

    Like 4
  • Aquamarine Transistor said:
    I still don’t get how to easily tell WHERE my money is that I’ve got allocated

    Its wherever you want it to be, because money is interchangeable (technically "fungible"). Read the link Move Light Sound Life posted. Several times.

    Like 1
  • Horatio Spifflewicket said:
    "oh, I'd like to get ahead on next month"

    If you were fully ahead, you'd probably feel differently. It all plays with the consistent budgeting  It's not a "like to", it's a "until I am absolutely forced to do otherwise" kind of thing for many of us.

    Horatio Spifflewicket said:
    It put too much focus on planning ahead in a way that was too rigid.

     When "ahead" is between 1 and 30 days, I really don't think it's too fluid to have a solid Plan A. Keep in mind that there's a BIG difference between the nominal values for the month and the inter-month reallocation to deal with the "there is no normal" aspect of life.

    Like 1
    • dakinemaui 

      I was a little imprecise with my words yesterday, I noticed - having trouble focusing.  

      I think you are correct in saying that I'd feel differently once I am actually ahead.  Which is nice because I think it brings us back full circle to the reason Silver Inspector posted in the first place.  

      When you can't make the dollars in be greater than the dollars out from sheer force of will or wishing, it seems frustrating.  I know it was for me, in the beginning.  It can also be hard if your partner doesn't understand the software, or the reasons, or how it is different than the other things.  This is just an opinion, so YMMV, but I think the main hurdle in these cases is often not the software or it's complexity, or it's difference from other tools.  The struggle is more internal to the human - it's having to confront your priorities head on and accept that where you are right now is a.) not where you thought you were and b.) a long way from where you actually want to be.  

      That struggle has to happen away from the keyboard.  At least, away from YNAB.  YNAB is at it's heart a really nice calculator with many features to help make the hard and constant job of financial vigilance easier.  But it cannot set your priorities, only help you see if you are working towards them, or away from them.  It cannot tell you what the future will hold, only help you to remember that you wanted to work towards being ready for it, and reassure you that what you prepared is actually there.

      When I internalized that message was when YNAB started feeling right instead of feeling like just another way of telling me that I spend too much and earn too little. (It took three fresh starts to get there)

      Like 4
  • Horatio Spifflewicket said:
    One of the things that I really like about YNAB is that it is rooted hugely in TODAY, RIGHT NOW.  Money spent in the past is gone, and money assigned in the future is just a statement of intention.
    So on the terminology standpoint, it's not really stealing, it's just changing priorities from "oh, I'd like to get ahead on next month" to "I really am out of fuel and have a client meeting this afternoon".

     This misses the entire intent of the phrase. The software is doing the stealing, not the user. The problem is YNAB makes it too easy to unintentionally pull money from a future month without letting you know about it... in other words YNAB does something that you didn't plan for and doesn't tell you about. Thus the phrase Stealing From the Future.

    I can't believe we're still having to explain this after 4 years.

    Like 6
  • Horatio Spifflewicket said:
    I'll admit, it took me awhile to get here.  But I've found now that I explicitly have a category for "One Month Ahead" (and also two months, and three months, etc. (not that any of them are full, yet)) that I feel a lot more zen about the random stuff that life throws at me than I was before when I was worried that buying fuel today would throw me off for next month.  

    Give it some more time and you will discover that Two Months Ahead and Three Months Ahead are unnecessary. Income for Next Month is sufficient and then the rest can be put in an Emergency Fund or Income Replacement Fund, or whatever you want to call it. My EF contains 6 full months of expenses in addition to this month's income funding next month. 

    Like 4
    • Superbone 

      It's a terminology difference maybe?  "One Month Ahead" is so I could budget today with dollars from last month.  "Two months ahead" to "Six months ahead" are for collecting an emergency fund, one month at a time for peace of mind.  

      My category method is a bit... unusual compared to how many do things in YNAB, but it's a result of a lot of talking and compromise with my partner so that we can both use the software to do the important thing: be intentional with planning and spending money. :)

      Like 1
  • Cut yourself some slack. It took you how many years to get yourself into the mess you're in, you're not going to get out of it overnight, nor are you going to learn a whole new system/way of managing your money overnight either.

    You CAN figure this out. YNAB can help you, only if you allow it to.

    First - expect that it will take you a minimum of 3 months to begin to have a handle on categories and such. That's normal. And it's fine to restructure what you have as you learn where you need more detail/less detail.

    Second - after you've made it through 3 months you can begin to see patterns in your spending, you can more accurately plan for the amounts in various categories each time you get paid. At 6 months you can really begin to look at trends in your reports.

    Finally - at a year you will have enough spending down to really be able to settle in and start really pushing debt repayment and other things. You can easily begin sooner, but after a year you'll know what to expect and be able to roll with the punches without WAMing all the time. From there, it just gets better and better.

    This might sound a little harsh or critical, but it is intended to only be some tough love. You are obviously successful, and very smart, based on your list of credentials. So I know you can figure this out. It's a matter of wrapping your head around it, and going slowly enough to not overwhelm yourself in the beginning.

    I wrote a post for this very reason last week about getting set up. You might find it helpful: https://support.youneedabudget.com/t/h49pm4/far-from-the-usuals-guide-to-getting-started

    And, I'm also happy to help chat in DM's about all of this. I love crunching numbers (entirely different from doing math) and have been working with the program for 5-6 years and have figured out quite a few things that could help save you time, stress, and a learning curve. Please do reach out.

    Like 3
    • farfromtheusual 

      +10 to all of what you said.  

      I think I did a radical restructuring in my budget as I hit 6 months and a year.  I'd learned so much about the mechanics of what YNAB does and started getting comfortable with how categories and things worked that I needed to let the accumulated old information go so that I could approach it with fresh eyes.  The format we're using now for our categories helps my partner and I to see both the bigger picture and the details and to interact with the budget in a way that is comfortable for both of us.  I think the next big change will come once we have the resources to start going from the buffer-building stage to the buffer-having-wish-farm-watering stage.

      Like 2
    • Horatio Spifflewicket yes! It takes that long to figure out what the priorities are and how to arrange them in a way that works for you. I don't feel like that is discussed enough as a part of the initial learning curve that is YNAB. It also takes that long to build up tracking so that you know absolutely that you spend an average of $350/month on groceries. Really, in my opinion it takes a year to be definitive about some of those things only due to seasonal changes that aren't completely reflected in a 6 month window. And once you know that then you can start funding the categories based on the averages, and boost it when you need it, and eventually you'll always have enough there.

      I wish that were mentioned with a little more clarity.

      Like
    • farfromtheusual 

      I also think that the recent change to how the goals function has improved my ability to figure things out.  The difference between "put this much in every month" and "have this much set aside every month" is big when trying to build a buffer.  The first leaves you with no apparent buffer (because it's spread over many categories) and the second with a feeling of "oh, I only spent a portion of my funds in this category last month.  Now I can top it off and put the rest into the buffer".  

      And when you're starting, those small wins are so important :)

      Like 2
    • Horatio Spifflewicket I agree that the subtlty for goals has helped to adjust things for some people. I personally don't use goals because I have all my notes about how much goes into each category at pay day in the description of the category. I didn't like the goals because it was difficult for the program to decipher "I need to put X dollars into this category every 2 weeks when I'm paid"

      Like 1
    • farfromtheusual 

      Oh for sure.  I have to tolerate a sea of yellow categories as I wait for my mid-month paycheck right now.  It helped when I ordered them by due-date rather than just alphabetically, because now I can slowly fund my way down.  But I still get twitchy when I open the budget and see those goals waiting.  Thankfully on the app side, where I record most of my transactions, "not enough for the goal" and "you've overspent this category" are handled differently, and it only reminds me about the overspending.

      Setting the goals for me helped to put the bigger picture in there - how much of what I bring in each month is already obligated away by choices I've made.  Kiddo in year-round sports?  That's an obligation.  It made it much, much easier to look at the budget and answer "can we sign up for this thing, it's only $5/month" or "we would like to send Kiddo to a summer camp, that would be $$ per month, can we do it"

      I don't use the goals for the daily transactional stuff like groceries or fuel for the cars, as (especially with Kiddos) those things can vary so much based on what is going on.

      Like 1
    • Horatio Spifflewicket that's awesome. I love your use of goals! It was a game changer for me when I went in and looked at the averages for my spending on things that fluctuate, primarily the power bill, and how much we spend in gas and groceries. Now that I've nailed down those averages over the course of a year, I haven't had to WAM nearly as often. Total game changer! Now I just run down my categories (listed in date order like you mentioned) and fund the portion that is needed to meet the average for the pay period/monthly payment, and then I know how much leftover I have to work with. Super easy!

      Like
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