Brand new to YNAB! When you first began, how long did it take you to feel like you were making actual financial progress?

Hello, all!

I'm not sure if I'm posting in the right place for this, but I'll give it a shot. I actually have a few questions - and maybe I'm just looking for a little moral support - but here we go:

1. How long did it take for the mild feeling of panic to subside after you began setting up your budget and realized how much you had been stretching yourself financially? 

2. I feel like after setting goals for all monthly bills and basic/necessary true expenses (like fuel, groceries, etc.) I just... don't have much left to work with. Other true expense categories like vet bills, auto maintenance, etc. are left pretty unloved. The conclusion this brings me to is that I'm living beyond my means, which is frustrating because I know I've put myself here. 

      Did you all have this realization? What changes did you make to alleviate this?

3. How long did it take for you to *feel* like you were successfully digging out? How long did it take to see the fruits of those labors?

 

I'm not married, I live/function financially alone, and I have a good job for which I am paid a salary that, in all honesty, should be enough to sustain me. I have student loans, an auto loan (that should be paid in full at the end of this year), and a few credit cards (from some poor choices, but mainly from surprise expenses - shocking I know!), totaling about $25K. I definitely know things could be worse, but seeing it all laid out so clearly has me feeling some sticker shock.

All of that said, I'm super excited to finally be taking active control of my money! Any and all advice is appreciated - thanks in advance!

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  • It does take time but you’ve done the hardest part. Starting. Now you know where you stand and you can start looking for places you can reduce spending. It won’t happen over night but if you keep working the system starting with the first 3 rules, you WILL make progress. Keep at it and don’t get discouraged.

    Like 5
  • The beginning is the hard part. I hated it too. But after a few months of learning the software and making adjustments to my spending and finding places to save money, I was good to go. Much happier because I knew where my money was finally going.

    Like 2
  • It is tough in the beginning.  For me, I started cutting back on things like Cable.  I found I was watching more shows on the regular OTA channels, so I eliminated a couple hundred bucks a month there, right away.  There are a lot of ways to do that.  I ate out less, or found more economical ways to eat out.   Quit impulse buying.  

    I went really hard on getting rid of $20K in old credit card debt.   I opened more credit cards to do some of it, with 0% interest for 12 to 18 months.  To be honest, without having to pay the fee for balance transfer, I sort of moved my regular spending to the zero % and put everything I would normally would not charge (like groceries, gas, cell phone,...) on it each month, pay the minimum on those every month and put all my cash toward paying what I couldn't charge and also on the higher interest cards.  I was completely out of credit card debt in about 15 months, total.  You have to be very disciplined to do this.  I also used any point rewards to credit my balances.  If you cannot be disciplined enough to do this, then you may want to pay for a transfer or seek a consolidation loan at a lower interest rate and stop using credit cards.

    Once you get that credit monkey off your back, you feel pretty darned accomplished.  On to the next goals.

    Like 3
    • Khaki Storm
    • YNAB book topics online: https://support.youneedabudget.com/r/q5w48j
    • Khaki_Storm.1
    • 1 yr ago
    • 2
    • Reported - view

    You've made a first big step! On spending, just tackle a category at a time and you'll get there. Theres's 1,000's of tips, but don't try to do them all at once. The easiest wins are things you pay for, but don't use (memberships, subscriptions, extra cable channels) 

    Like 2
      • Whitney
      • kitty_shcherbatsky
      • 1 yr ago
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      • Reported - view

      Ben Khaki Storm One category at a time is great advice. I think I get overwhelmed and try to change too much too soon and it works against me. Maybe I'll just start by setting small, easily attainable goals to get the ball rolling. I think I remember Jesse talking about this in an early podcast. 

      Like 3
      • adriana01
      • adriana01
      • 1 yr ago
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      • Reported - view

      Whitney yes, I have always found that it takes at least a month of tracking to really be aware of spending in different categories. During that time you might find some easy wins, but your first full month will really be eye-opening. As time goes on you will see more & more areas you could cut back or cut out, and others that are priorities you wouldn't have thought of as such before. I don't think this process ever really ends because your life changes & so does your situation & priorities for your budget. For example, my budget is having to adapt in a big way to home ownership vs renting. There are new expenses & some that are more expensive, but I don't have good averages yet for my new circumstances so I'm budgeting a lot into utilities & having to WAM money from Improvements to Household because I underestimated the "stuff" I would need. But having a budget and determining that home ownership was a priority (vs vacations or a newer car) is how I got here & how I knew it was feasible.

      Like 3
      • Whitney
      • kitty_shcherbatsky
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      adriana01 I'm trying to behave more responsibly, but I'm also trying not to make and drastic changes in the first bit so I can identify where my problem areas are. And that's so true about how life circumstances aren't ever really static, so budgets have to morph and fit your new needs.  Congratulations on your new home! I'm sure that is such a rewarding feeling.

      Like
  • It can take time to feel like you are in the swing of using YNAB to the greatest benefit, but like others said, at least you started.  When I first started I needed to hear that it would take a couple months to figure out the best amount to budget in each category and even then things will change and you "roll with the punches". You will have to move money to cover expenses a lot the first couple of months and that's ok. After a couple of months you'll see some averages in things like groceries and be able to make a better plan & start working on spending less. 

    Even if you hit bumps don't give up. It's worth it. 

    Like 3
      • Whitney
      • kitty_shcherbatsky
      • 1 yr ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      ChicagoFlyer That's great to hear. I think I'm holding onto this idea of overspending in a particular category = failure and forgetting about rule three. And I always forget about the averages being available after a few months!

      Like 1
    • MsTJ
    • YNAB has given me back my future
    • Believer_in_YNAb
    • 1 yr ago
    • 2
    • Reported - view

    Hi Whitney , 👋

    Welcome, you are in the right place.  Might consider moving this over to a journal, instead of "getting started," Believe it's a minor adjustment, if you want to. 

    I've been at this a while, and am hooked.  The progress you can make is absolutely amazing, if you work the program and learn the process.  It takes work, and determination.  How much is up to you.  

    Will attempt to answer your questions first.

     

    Whitney said:
    1. How long did it take for the mild feeling of panic to subside after you began setting up your budget and realized how much you had been stretching yourself financially? 

    If I remember correctly, thought I had a decent handle on things my first month. I could see how putting something aside every month, no matter what it's job was, would help.  I had no where near enough income to spread as far as I wanted, so I started making choices, which was most important to me?  After about 6 months, I had a little set aside and my budget was starting to take shape, so it would help me the most, in my situation.  

    2. I feel like after setting goals for all monthly bills and basic/necessary true expenses (like fuel, groceries, etc.) I just... don't have much left to work with. Other true expense categories like vet bills, auto maintenance, etc. are left pretty unloved. The conclusion this brings me to is that I'm living beyond my means, which is frustrating because I know I've put myself here. 

          Did you all have this realization? What changes did you make to alleviate this?

    I was spending over 80% of my income on debt (mortgage) repayment, and trying to live on the remaining 20%, while supporting a fairly expensive business.  I knew there was no way I was ever going to be financially sound.  I started obsessing over learning the process, and doing the best I could, with the little I had.  It took time.  It took a million different choices.  I boiled it down to a question I asked myself when tempted to "only spend $5" on some "feel good" at the store, "Do I want this more than another goal, or Financial freedom?"  It surprised me how many times I chose to save the money instead.  These choices added up, slowly and surely.

    3. How long did it take for you to *feel* like you were successfully digging out? How long did it take to see the fruits of those labors?

    This is a good question.  Can’t tell you how long it took to feel successful. Today, looking back five years later, it feels like it only took a month or two.  All I remember is being hooked, almost immediately.  I tried to get some local friends to join me but it didn’t work out as I had hoped.

    The best suggestion I can give you is start, learn, and work the process.  It is different than any other budgeting process I have ever learned, and it works. I have fought finances my entire life, without success, before YNAB.  Since YNAB, I am making progress, and living better than I ever have before.  So much so, I’m finding it difficult to believe I am actually worth that much when looking at my net worth.

    I made lots of bad choices along the way.  There are glitches in the program, with good work arounds.  Jesse and the crew are working on them and they are complicated.  The program is a work in progress and getting better all the time.

    For me, I had to find my why.  My initial why was to pay my monthly bills on time, without stressing.  I have achieved that and so much more.  As one goal, or why, is achieved, it seems there many othersI would like to reach for, and try to limit how many I reach for at one time.

    For me it has been like peeling an onion, each layer reveals more and more and things just keep getting better and better.  I am making progress I never dreamed possible, before finding YNAB.  

    Wishing you similar success.  All the best.

    TJ

    Like 2
      • Whitney
      • kitty_shcherbatsky
      • 1 yr ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      MsTJ - Thank you so much for this! I can't tell you how helpful it is to hear these things, particularly the part about bad choices. I get so worried that I won't be able to stick to the plan and the rules that I forget that it can't all be easy wins; if it was easy to do then everybody would have done it already. 

      You first "why" is absolutely where I'm at right now. I want to be able to cover all of my bills without stress, and without having to think too terribly much about it. I can't wait for my focus to shift to other things like saving for emergency vet bills, or a vacation, or my next vehicle. It's so good to hear from people that have been there before and made it out to the other side!

      Like 2
  • Hi Whitney !

    Welcome to YNAB (and to the forum)! :)

    Getting started can definitely be the hardest part, but having those numbers laid out is the beginning of creating a plan.

    When I first started using YNAB, I believe the shock got to me moreso than panic. I couldn't believe I was spending what I was spending - mostly on food. I didn't think we had that amount of money to spare, let alone spend on fast food! 

    Once I had figures to work with, it became easier to address. The very next month we halved the Dining Out spending. With those savings we were able to start rearranging things and focusing on our real priorities (like paying off debt). It's amazing how big of a difference $250 can make when properly budgeted.

    PS. If you'd like this post to be the start of your journal, I'd be more than happy to move it for you! :)

    Like 1
      • Whitney
      • kitty_shcherbatsky
      • 1 yr ago
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      • Reported - view

      Faness I think quick eating will be the one that shocks me the most, too! It was so easy to justify $4-$6 here and there, but now that I see the charges adding up in real time it's making me anxious. I'm such a planner, so it shocks me that I rely on a quick coffee or fast salads like I do. But I guess that's just part of the first months, right? To take a whack at the rules and the budget, but in the process figure out what your areas of opportunity are? 

      I don't honestly have a firm grasp on what a journal is, but if you think this is better suited to live there then I'm all for it! :)

      Like 1
      • bevocat
      • Sometimes, It Just Sucks to Be You
      • bevocat
      • 1 yr ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      Whitney It just means the moderators can move the thread over to the area of the support forum labeled "Journals", and then this can be your own personal space to chronicle your epic journey to budgetary freedom! Or just tell your friends about the new shoes you got or the weekend trip you enjoyed or the cute thing your cat just did. Not every post has to be budget-related there, though you'd be surprised how much everything can be related to your budget in some way. :)

      Like 2
      • Whitney
      • kitty_shcherbatsky
      • 1 yr ago
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      • Reported - view

      bevocat Ahh, how fun! I love that idea. I had been considering starting a paper journal anyways, because I want to be able to look back on this process and remember what I was thinking and feeling. I'm starting to pick up on that, actually! Maybe it's because it's so fresh, but it feels like I'm looking at everything through this new "budget filter" now  - haha! I'm sure my friends and family are going to get so tired of me trying to explain everything.

      Like 2
      • bevocat
      • Sometimes, It Just Sucks to Be You
      • bevocat
      • 1 yr ago
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      • Reported - view

      Whitney Yep, they will, and they all have their own methods of budgeting that they think are best (for some, that means no method at all) and they will have varying degrees of success. You can just have all those conversations in your head for all the good they'll do you or anybody else. Or come here and natter away when you feel like talking about budgety stuff. That may be my main reason to participate here without my even realizing it!

      Like 2
      • Whitney
      • kitty_shcherbatsky
      • 1 yr ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      bevocat  Yep! This will be such a great outlet. Because you're right, I'm sure they'll tolerate it in the beginning, but I'm willing to bet that will wear off pretty quickly. Plus I can engage with people here that actually understand the system and can help!

      Like 1
    • Whitney said:
      To take a whack at the rules and the budget, but in the process figure out what your areas of opportunity are?

      I have to say - I love how you phrased this! :)

      As Bevocat mentioned, the Journals section is just a different part of the forum. We monitor the posts less there and they can only be viewed by someone who's logged into the forum. This post has gotten a little lengthy with everyone weighing in - I can still move it there if you'd like or you can start a fresh journal. Just let me know what you prefer! 

      Like 1
      • Whitney
      • kitty_shcherbatsky
      • 1 yr ago
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      • Reported - view

      Faness Haha- thank you! And I think we can leave this one here as long as you think it's okay! I don't mind a bit to start a fresh journal, and that saves you from having to move it over :)

      Like 1
  • I'd say it takes  a few months for it to feel like things are truly moving forward.   The first couple months there's a lot of realizing that there's more categories than you'd thought of initially.  The next month or two you're adjusting expenses that you realize aren't worth their price.  After that, things even out a little and the numbers start trending in the direction you want it to go.

    Like 3
  • I can't exactly remember, but I can give some specific examples. Firstly, a month before I started YNAB I had to adopt my sister's cat for medical reasons and pay for an expensive surgery right before Thanksgiving, and this on top of three other cats I already had. I ended up taking out a *lot* of zero interest credit cards right before I started YNAB. I can tell you that I paid the 0% CareCredit surgery off before the usurious interest rate kicked in and paid off the 0% credit card I had been carrying a balance on before its exorbitant interest rate kicked in seven months later. I paid off my car a month early after about 4 months of YNAB (while saving up for those CC payoffs), the same month I paid my annual homeowner's insurance and made a maximal contribution to my IRA for the previous year.  I have a note in the 9th month after I started YNAB that I went to see Suicide Squad as a planned and budgeted family treat and that was a big deal because I almost never spend money on seeing movies in the theater.

    I would say any of the first things sounds pretty huge all on its own, and taken as a package I can see it was a vast improvement in my circumstances in about 5 months. But for some reason, that 9th month carefree movie expense stands out to my eyes as when it really started to happen. I had enough trust in myself and YNAB to know I could spend frivolously on something fun as long as it was planned and that I'd be okay.

    Like 2
      • Whitney
      • kitty_shcherbatsky
      • 1 yr ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      bevocat I love this so much! That has to be the best feeling in the world. Because spending frivolously, when it's unplanned, might feel good for a second, but the buyer's remorse sets in almost immediately for me. That is such a great thing to look forward to!

      Like 2
  • It's been so long, I didn't remember.  Fortunately, I wrote a lot of my then-current thoughts in a journal that I can still review.

    It took me about 2 months to begin feeling like I was making progress, 3 months to begin feeling like I was almost stable.

    It took me about 2 years to fully grasp the implications of the YNAB system as it existed in the 2008-2010 time frame.  The major thing that took me over a year to understand was savings as part of the budget, longer term categories that aren't intended to be spent every month or even every year, and how that interacts with actively spent categories.

    Coming from a YNAB 4 budget that had been working smoothly for several years, it took me 3 months to become comfortable doing my budgeting in the online version, and 6 months to understand all the changes that were made from YNAB 4 and why they were made.  It only took about a month and a half to develop all the workarounds I need to budget smoothly from a solid financial base, without having all the stuff designed for budgeting paycheck to paycheck and living on the edge get in my way.  It took 6 months to understand which things that got in my way were bugs, which were designed features, and why those designed features were designed that way.

    Like 6
  • Your situation sounds a lot like mine...

    1. How long did it take for the mild panic to subside after setting up your budget?

          I just started my second year of YNAB. Towards the end of the first month I at least felt like I had a plan. The first couple of months were hard because it was then I realized how far outside my means I was living which caused all of the debt. YNAB made me see my true living expenses and things I hadn't been accounting for in my monthly budget before. I make a good salary and should be able to live very comfortably and this forced me to take a real look at my financial reality.

     

    2.  I feel like after setting goals for all monthly bills and basic/necessary true expenses (like fuel, groceries, etc.) I just... don't have much left to work with. Other true expense categories like vet bills, auto maintenance, etc. are left pretty unloved. The conclusion this brings me to is that I'm living beyond my means, which is frustrating because I know I've put myself here. 

        Yes, this was a real eye opener for me as well.  I had never put money aside for auto maintenance, medical bills, or clothing. Those things always tended to go on a credit card which led me to a financial mess. The first few months you may not be able to contribute a lot to those categories. During that time you can really look at all of the other true expenses and see where you can cut back (Can you live with Netflix and cut cable? Do you need to go to Starbucks every day or can you make your own coffee? Cut down on number of times you eat out during the week. ) Some of these you may not do anyway but they may be things you can do. Eventually, once you pay down some of your debt, you will have more money to put towards these other things.

     

    3. How long did it take for you to *feel* like you were successfully digging out? How long did it take to see the fruits of those labors?

         Probably 5-6 months in I was feeling better about where I was financially. I had made a lot of cuts to things that weren't really necessary for me and things that weren't priority.  I have gone through many revisions of categories and where my money will go so that it works for me.  So far anything that goes on my credit card is something I already have money for so I am paying it off right away (I'm lucky there hasn't been a huge emergency expense although I do have some money in my emergency fund). I'm still paying on old credit card debt but am not accruing any new charges that I can't pay for right now.  I'm seeing debt balances going down and money building up in my categories. My student loans will be paid off by end of November this year and I am really excited about that. The money I pay to those will then be freed up to go to other things. It does take time but I am not stressed about money at this point. I know where all of my money is going. I still have a ways to go to get out of debt but I now have a plan on how to get there.

     

    The first few months are harder (at least in my experience). You will get there though. You may have to just start with the immediate expenses first and slowly start to build your other categories. You are already taking control by setting up your budget. As you pay things off and adjust your priorities, you will get to there.

    Like 5
      • Whitney
      • kitty_shcherbatsky
      • 1 yr ago
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      • Reported - view

      Maroon Piccolo Congratulations on almost being finished with your student loans! There are so many days that paying my student loans off feels like a pipe dream, and it's so refreshing to hear that you're there right now. 

      It's also so helpful to hear how far you've come after being in a situation similar to mine. I'm starting to understand that the first 4-6 months (at least) will mean lots of trial and error. Thank you so much - it's so easy to feel like things are kind of hopeless, but hearing from people that have been there before and made a way out for themselves makes it feel possible for me too.

      Like 2
  • Congratulations on taking your finances by the curlies.

     

    When I started first several years ago, it took at least a month to get over the shock of finding out what I'm wasting my (our) money on. That spurred me to start making changes and cutting totally unnecessary waste.

     

    I noticed significant improvement in a couple of months. Some of our costs are yearly, so getting fully budgeted took a significant time, but it has been worth it. Having a budget has saved our virtual bacon many times when unexpected costs have rained down.

     

    Stick with it... It becomes a habit that takes practically no time at all on daily basis, and not having to worry about finances is worth it.

     

    Good luck!

    Like 2
  • I still remember 5 years ago the nauseating feeling in my stomach when I put my accounts into YNAB and learned about the credit card float. It took me a couple of months to get over it, and I eventually budgeted it into oblivion by raiding my emergency fund.

    It took a good year to get a grip on all the True Expenses that come up throughout the year, even though we had 15 years of transaction history in MS Money that we could review. Of course, it didn't help that we had a cross-country relocation about 5 months after we started using YNAB, so there was a lot of change.

    Like 5
      • Whitney
      • kitty_shcherbatsky
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      nolesrule Oh my goodness, I can't even begin to imagine what a cross-country move would be like. A year seems very reasonable to me. I figure by that point you'll have experienced all of the holidays, seasons, and random things that tend to pop up. I'm focusing now on evaluating some of the things I'm paying for and seeing what I can cut out that isn't doing much for me. I can't wait to look back, a year from now, and have some perspective. Thank you!

      Like
  • I just started YNAB too! I've been using it for about two weeks and definitely eager to see my finances improve. Waiting is really tough so I know how you feel. I just want to see my spending improvements already!

    I noticed that my expenses were a lot higher than I realized when I entered them in YNAB. That's led me to cut down on dining out (my biggest hit by far) and focus on putting the money in an emergency fund. I like the option to set goals to each category. For my car, any extra money I don't spend on monthly cost will gointo that emergency fund so that if I have a big repair come up, I'm not panicking (which has happened more than once in the past). 

    I really like being able to plan out any large expenses like loans or rent. I can set aside a little extra in these categories when I can in case something crazy happens or I want to pay my loans off early. Even fun categories are nice to build up. I'm currently working on a vacation fund!

    Like 1
      • Whitney
      • kitty_shcherbatsky
      • 1 yr ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Alex That's awesome! Yes, I'm anxious to see some things happening too! I think I may be a little while from contributing to a vacation fund, but I went ahead and made the categories for a few goals like that to keep them on my mind!

      Like 1
      • Alex
      • ottobot
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      Whitney I feel like YNAB will have you there in no time! I'm only putting aside $20 a month so starting small for sure, but any bit I can do makes me feel good! Good luck saving!

      Like
  • Hi! Our situations when starting YNAB sound so much alike! Financially independent but also living off only  your own income, and debt bc of oopsies and emergencies, and feeling like oh crap I'm living above my means. All while having a salary that *should be* enough (you will find out soon, it is enough!)

     

    For me, I aggressively cut out extra, fun shopping for a few months. I had to, to get extra money for CC debt. I did not renew my amazon prime membership. I realized I want a LOT of things. But most of those things I only want for a short period of time. After the intial "ohh that's an awesome outfit I have to have" - I realized I didn't really need it. I unfollwed fashion bloggers on instagram. I unsubscribed from all marketing emails. I got rid of the temptation! If I wanted something I planned and saved for it and made sure I still wanted it a few weeks later. All was fine until I had to use my CC again for 2 emergencies that I didn't have any cash saved up for. I felt like a failure. But then, I started saving to my true expenses and emergency categories and that was a huge lightbulb for me. I originally thought I had to pay off debt so aggressively, but I ended up setting myself up for inevitable debt in the future! 

     

    Do you have a part time job? Do you get any extra income besides your regular paychecks? Bonuses, birthday money, tax refund, etc. - At first I was counting on my part time job to cover the gaps in between my every other week salaried job. Then I made it a goal to spend only my salary money, and all extra paychecks went straight to debt. Larger amounts such as tax refund were divided between debt and boosting my true expenses categories. Also - have a garage sale and sell stuff on FB marketplace, poshmark, mercari, offerup and letgo! 

     

    You can also adjust your categories to track what needs attention. Food was a huge issue for me as well. So I made categories:

    -Planned dining out

    -Coffee

    -Unplanned dining out

    I gave myself a small amount for coffee and unplanned dining out, and planned meals with friends accordingly. This really helped. I felt that I could still have unplanned meals, and quick coffee, I just had to reign it in a bit. For me, being completely restrictive and saying "absolutely not spending" in those areas just wasn't going to work. This gave me more clarity than just lumping everything into one "dining out" category.

     

    Keep at it! It's worth it! 

    Like 4
      • Whitney
      • kitty_shcherbatsky
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      Purple Admiral Oops, I responded to you but somehow didn't tag you. 

      I actually just thought of another question. Would you recommend purchasing the YNAB book? I have been back and forth about it but thought I'd see what your thoughts were.

      Like
  • Yes - it really does sound like our situations were super similar! I think that I will also have to do some pretty aggressive cutting back at first, especially on those random $5 things that give me a little boost but then I promptly forget about or never care about again. I am also a huge sucker for clothes shopping which has partly come about because of some recent weight loss. But I have clothes for work, church, and weekends now, so I don't see any reason why I can't go on a shopping freeze to work on saving for true expenses. 

    I don't have a part-time job, and I'd say the only good financial decision I've made has been to basically consciously forget about my bonus and tax refund until they arrive (usually it amounts to an extra paycheck for each). I go back and forth about putting them toward debt or saving them every time I get them, but they usually end up going to a credit card.

    I've been considering selling some things that I don't need anymore, actually! I tried Poshmark but never sold anything. I'd say I was pretty diligent at it for 2-3 months and no dice, but I may try it again. 

    And I love that you planned for unplanned dining out! I know I need to do better, but I worry that allowing zero wiggle room is setting myself up to feel like I've failed. I think I'll have to get through a few more paychecks before I can try out some new categories, but I'm absolutely going to incorporate those!

    How granular do you make your budget? I am worried that I'm going to over-complicate things and have WAY too many categories. 

    Like
    • Whitney dang I just replied to you and the website didn't load. Typing again! 

      I did not buy the book. I did read the blog obsessively and every article sent in emails from YNAB and that helped. I think you need granularity where you want focused improvement. To me, some categories that isn't important. Here are mine (in bold with their contents in regular font)

      -Bills - I separate out every bill except I lump together subscriptions bc I don't have that many. I put the date my bill is paid next to it, ie: Mortgage (1), Insurance (22) and put them in order. This helps a ton when allocating paychecks so I can comfortably know when to stop allocating to bills and when to allocate to savings or debt.

      -Groceries - all groceries, paper products and toiletries

      -Costco - I know I can only go here when I have this category at a certain amount, which is not every month

      -Transportation - gas, uber, parking downtown

      -Dogs - vet bills, food, treats

      -Emergency Fund - unknown unexpected stuff

      -Auto/ Home Maintenance - oil changes, car wash, house stuff, wiper blades, etc.

      -Clothing/Personal Items - I like to specify an item or two and save for it. Sometimes by the time I have enough $, I don't even want it anymore! 

      -Planned Dining, Unplanned Dining, Coffee - I don't use this method anymore but it helped a TON

      -Christmas

      -Gifts/Giving (non-Christmas events)

      -Car registration

      -Vacation Fund

      -CC Interest - happy to say I don't need this one anymore! Accounting for it sucks but it's real.

      I think that's about it! I really needed to focus on shopping and food so that's what I made my budget reflect. Now I have a combination of specific shopping items and goals (ex: bathing suit $100) and less specific (summer wardrobe refresh $300, spring lawn updates $400, etc).

      Like
    • Whitney Poshmark can be tricky and a long process but garage sales are awesome! If you don't have a garage/ driveway, borrow someones 🙂 we had a 4 person garage sale at my house that was super successful and more fun since it was with friends!

      Like
      • Whitney
      • kitty_shcherbatsky
      • 1 yr ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Purple Admiral Oooh, I hadn't thought about vehicle registration yet, but that one sneaks up on me every year! I still love the planned/unplanned dining categories, and that is total genius about the clothes! I've not been spending a whole lot on them lately, but there was a period of time that I spent way too much. I'm working through my email inboxes and unsubscribing from advertisement emails so that I can't be tempted off-guard. 

      Thank you so much for taking this time to send this! I'm about to add the dates to all of my immediate obligations now. It was stressing me out not being about to see it all laid out by date and this is so helpful. And I'm taking your advice and attending all the classes and reading all of the emails that come my way! I even went ahead and knocked off a few $10-$20 monthly bills that I thought I could live without, so hopefully that helps too. 

      Again, I really appreciate you typing that all out... twice! It is so nice to know that you've been here and are in a totally different place now. I can't wait to be there, too!

      Like 1
      • Whitney
      • kitty_shcherbatsky
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      Purple Admiral I love the idea of a group garage sale!

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  • you have some great replies here! I would love to follow your journal, should you choose to create one! I relate to what you wrote, because I was in this same position when I started on 2/19/19. I didn't think YNAB could work for me, because I was paycheck to paycheck and often relying on credit cards.

    Barely a month ago I bought bought bought. If I was stressed, I bought something. If I was tired, I'd buy takeout rather than cooking. If I was bored, I'd buy something. It seemed like all my emotions were intertwined in spending and there was no way a budgeting program could help. BOY was I wrong. If anything, I became the opposite within days. I became STINGY with money, lol! Once it was all categorized and I could see just how many things I need to fund, I didn't think there was any way I could fill all the bubbles. Like, how am I going to save for: car maintenance, xmas, birthday presents, Amazon Prime/YNAB subscriptions, contact lenses, the kids' many needs and on and on AND also spend the exorbitant amount of money my life costs me in mortgage/power/car/etc.

    I was shocked. It DID go further than I thought! Sure, I don't have $1k saved for Xmas, but I do have $100 now! And by December it will be $1k! And sure, if something medically happens I only have $90 saved, but a month ago I had NOTHING saved.

    So yeah. Hang in there. I swear it gets easier. And my guess is you will feel much freer from the control that money has on people in general.

    Like 5
      • Whitney
      • kitty_shcherbatsky
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      xgirlmama  Thank you so much for writing this! I completely agree - I couldn't believe how many people had written in response to my ramblings - haha - and still are!

      I can't even tell you how happy it makes me to hear that you're seeing changes in your behavior so quickly! I think part of my anxiety surrounding this process was fear of total failure but, like you said,  a couple of weeks ago I didn't have a process/system. So, something... anything is better than what I had before which was nothing at all! I actually do feel better for the simple fact that I feel more in control and more aware of my spending. 

      In the interest of full disclosure, this week has been a little rough in terms of spending. I've had the same after-work obligation every day this week starting at 7:30PM. It's been exactly enough time to get home, take my dog for a walk and get him some dinner, change out of my work clothes, and leave the house again. Most nights I've been getting in the car to head home at/around 9PM, so I've been getting quick bites to eat on my way back to the house. It 100% comes down to poor planning, but I have definitely learned my lesson. In an effort to counter that and do something productive I did do a quick inventory of small $10-20 monthly charges and decided on cancelling a good amount of them that I don't think I will miss. 

      I think I will start a journal! I'll need an outlet for sure, and it truly has helped to hear from everyone. It seems so daunting and impossible right now, but it's no coincidence that everyone that has commented has accomplished what they have.

      Thank you, again! And talk soon :)

      Like
  • I started YNAB almost 10 years ago. I bounced a check to my kid's preschool and it freaked me out. At that time we had very low income and low expenses (housing and utilities provided). We were stable, but I felt out of control about how to manage the situation. 2 weeks in, I felt progress on that front. I had a plan and a tool. Probably 6 months in I felt fully confident about using the system and adapting it to our lives. After that it took years to make some life changes, get us both fully employed, and two months ago we were finally in a place to save aggressively for future goals. That's when another big shift happened. Having YNAB for the 8 years of weird circumstances/low income didn't magically give us more money, but it let me handle it effectively. Now that there is more money, I feel prepared to handle it. 

    Like 3
      • Whitney
      • kitty_shcherbatsky
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      lebdavidson2 Wow - this is amazing! Ten years is incredible in and of itself, but hearing what you've been able to accomplish and where you are now is really something. And I had never considered the perspective you mention here; now that your income has increased you are prepared to handle it because of the harder years, not in spite of them. That's really powerful to me, and I'm so happy for you! Congratulations on getting to focus on big, important goals - I can't wait to hear how things go!

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  • 1. How long did it take for the mild feeling of panic to subside after you began setting up your budget and realized how much you had been stretching yourself financially? 

    I'm still there. I started YNAB at the end of January.  I'm two months in.  February was a mess of, oh, I need to add that category and that one and....80 plus categories later here I am.  I like it all separated, I like separating the household goods from the Health & Wellness purchases at the grocery store.    We don't have debt beyond a car loan and mortgage so we're admittedly ahead of some people.  On the other hand, we're looking at one of us going to grad school and we are not currently in a position to cash flow that and I don't know that we want to save up for that; I don't want to have to wait until I'm 50 to get the schooling I need.  

    2. I feel like after setting goals for all monthly bills and basic/necessary true expenses (like fuel, groceries, etc.) I just... don't have much left to work with. Other true expense categories like vet bills, auto maintenance, etc. are left pretty unloved. The conclusion this brings me to is that I'm living beyond my means, which is frustrating because I know I've put myself here. 

          Did you all have this realization? What changes did you make to alleviate this?

    No matter when I started YNAB, I would have started mid-cycle for some of our bills and known recurring expenses.  For example, I will only have a few months to set aside money for my Costco membership and summer related costs.  Next year I will have a whole year to save for those expenses, therefore the amount needed per month will decrease.  Right now I'm choosing to still fund true expenses, although perhaps at a smaller amount than ideal, but I am not buffered nor am I trying to get buffered.  In 6 months things will be a lot easier and I can save more.  We also chose to put off a trip home because trying to save funds specifically for that would have meant that I couldn't save for true expenses.  We will go next year and have longer to save up (and save more).

    3. How long did it take for you to *feel* like you were successfully digging out? How long did it take to see the fruits of those labors?

    Still in the process.  I think in summer I will be able to increase the amount of money I'm budgeting ahead, increasing the buffer.  As particular expenses/events occur, I will be able to save a smaller amount per month moving forward.  In addition, we have a health care reimbursement account.  I intend to send those reimbursements to our health care fund.    Next year I probably won't have to fund that category as much per month because those reimbursements will hopefully carry over into next year.  Many sinking fund categories have cap amounts, if those caps are met, I don't need to keep funding them until they are used.  However, right now our underfunded categories are more than we make with two pay checks a month.  I am hoping to use the three paycheck months (May and I think November) to build up sinking funds and increase the buffer.

    I think in 6 months the worst of it will be over.   I hope.  

    Like 1
      • Whitney
      • kitty_shcherbatsky
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      Technicolor Cheetah Shew, so you're right in the thick of it with me then! It IS hard, but I do feel a bit better now that some (not all) of the sticker shock has worn off and I feel a bit more in control.

      That's amazing that you have been able to stave off most major debt for this long! Education is a tough one - If you're going to go full time (which I assume is pretty much mandatory in grad school) then imagine it would be very difficult to juggle with a full time job. I used to get really bummed out every time I had to make my student loan payment, but in reality I know that I didn't have much of a choice when I took them out. So, once I'm more stable, I'm just going to focus getting my smaller debts knocked out so I can make extra, larger payments on the loans. 

      Thank you for sharing with me! It helps so much to know that I'm not just fumbling through this blindly, and that there are others who are making the same moves as me right now.

      Like
  • Unconventional answer:  I first started using YNAB because I knew I was about to face financial hardship. Starting a new family is incredibly expensive; loss of income due to extended leave-without-pay and part-time salaries combined with huge childcare costs that exceed our mortgage. I knew there was very little chance we'd make progress during those early years -- we were going to be stretched very thin --  but I also knew that I needed to get a lot more organized to maximize every dollar and avoid sinking into debt.

    Five years later, we're finally starting to get some relief. We're both back to full-time, our incomes have steadily climbed, the childcare costs have gradually reduced, and we finally have some room in our budget to start tackling some bigger financial goals. So although our cash-based net worth has been rather flat the last five years, I feel pretty good about what I was able to accomplish with YNAB.

    TLDR; Sometimes financial progress can't be measured in absolute terms like debt reduction our cash growth. Life brings ups and downs. It's a marathon, not a sprint. 

    Like 5
    • bret  I can really relate to your situation. Childcare plus my husband not having income made things tight. Now we have employment and both children are in public schools. It really changes the picture. 

      Like 2
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