Still living pay check to pay check

I'm two years in to YNAB and still living pay check to pack check. It's pretty discouraging, though on the bight side I haven't had an overdraft fee.

Rule1 : give every dollar a job. Easy. I do that every week. We're lucky to get paid weekly.

Rule 2: Embrace your true expenses. Easy. It's the unplanned expenses that kill me. For example, my son's summer baseball league won their division, so this weekend past weekend we were at the state playoff 150 miles form home. Couldn't afford a hotel m so we stayed with some old friends. Had to fill up the gas tank twice. Had to eat out six times. Put put all on a credit card. Sold stocks to pay off debt six months ago. Credit card is back up to a $4000 balance.

Rule 4: Roll with the punches. This has been my rule 1. All I seem to do is shuffle money around to balance negative categories so that, in the end, there is never a balance in a category to pay for what it was intended for.  Credit card. 

Rule 5: Age the money. My money never gets to puberty.  

Spouse? Not in the least bit interested.

So, I guess my question is, has anyone else had the same difficulty budgeting and how did you get out of it? I've tried to be a bastard about spending money but saying "No, no , no" all the time doesn't make for a good marriage.


Ron in Maine

9replies Oldest first
  • Oldest first
  • Newest first
  • Active threads
  • Popular
  • The first thing I'd say, Robert, and I suspect you know this, is that "unplanned" expenses ARE true expenses. Having a true emergency is rare, but unexpected expenses happen regularly, month after month. It sounds like YNAB has helped you make some progress, but in my experience once of the keys to getting ahead of paycheck-to-paycheck is the scarcity mindset. If you're not having the experience of checking a category, seeing a low balance, and saying, "We can't do that," you're not budgeting. Everyone wishes it didn't work that way, but that's just the fact: no one has broken out of the cycle you describe without some really bad days where you don't get to do something you really wanted or "needed" to do.

    Like 6
  • Hi Ron!

    What stood out most to me is that Rule 3 needs to remain Rule 3. The key is to remind yourself that your dollars already have jobs. Check your category balances and note how much you need to stay on top of the spending in those categories before continuing to spend, that way you get to Rule 3 less often. It's a rule because rigid budgets break, but if it's the first rule you're basically tracking your expenses instead of budgeting for them.

    Tan Drill has a great point about truly embracing your True Expenses. For next year, set a goal to save for Baseball and include the amount needed for State Playoffs. If saving for that category gets a bit slim, find areas to cut back - staying with friends was a great idea! Maybe plan to pack a lunch or snacks to help the Dining Out costs. You don't necessarily have to say "No" but a "Let's try this instead" is a great start! :)

    Like 2
  • Robert Carignan said:
    Spouse? Not in the least bit interested.

     YNAB is not the problem. This is your problem. If you and your spouse aren't on the same financial team, you will continue to struggle. YNAB can't fix this.

    Like 3
    •  nolesrule Of course I'm the problem. I really like YNAB and It has worked at times. My question should have been, who else had had difficulties with them selves and how did they get beyond it with YNAB's method?

      Like 1
  • Robert Carignan said:
    So, I guess my question is, has anyone else had the same difficulty budgeting and how did you get out of it? I've tried to be a bastard about spending money but saying "No, no , no" all the time doesn't make for a good marriage.

    This is long, but you asked a serious question, and that question struck a serious nerve of remembrance for me.

    First things first, maybe change the answer from "no" to, "Sure, Hon, but you gotta tell me which category is less important to you.  Do we take the $150 out of clothing for this month, reduce what we usually spend on Christmas, cut the groceries by $150, or go without gas for the cars and use our bikes for a week? Your decision." You can't be big bad Daddy on all the decisions.

    I got to the point where I recognized after running my cc back up numerous times despite my resolutions not to that it was credit that was the biggest and most serious roadblock to my success. I cut up the cards and closed the accounts, then (after clawing my way out of the negative in my bank account)  got rid of the overdraft option on my chequing account.  (In Canada an overdraft option is like a line of credit that is combined with your account.)

    With no access to credit of any kind I finally came to understand that the last $200 in my account was literally the last $200 that I could put my hands on until I was paid again. It sounds fairly simplistic, but when you've lived on credit for a while, you don't know what zero means, and you think you can sneak one through.  I soon learned that if that $200 was needed for utilities, then it didn't matter how tempting or wonderful the unexpected want was, the answer had to be "no" because there was no other option.  My worst month was one where I literally lived on big pots of venison stew for three meals a day (the deer meat was free, a gift from relatives that sat at the bottom of my freezer for a couple of years, and all I needed to buy was potato and onion). I  walked to work because I couldn't fuel my car and didn't have the spare change to take the bus. It turned out to be both the worst and best month of my life. Every day since has been a gazillion times better.  It's been more than 12 years since that awful time, and the mention of venison stew at times can still make me slightly green.

    I also suspect that having income every single week is really not "a blessing" for you. It keeps you from getting out of the "today" mindset. There's literally always a paycheque just days away so for you  overspending today is never perceived as a problem or seen in the larger context of how it fits in for the month.  You can overspend every single week, and that adds up to a lot of overspending in the course of a year or a lifetime. That is a huge problem.   I get 12 paycheques a year. I'm paid once a month at the end of the month.  It's a long time between paycheques if I got it wrong.  My perception as a result of the timing is of a bigger picture and longer stretches of time.

    I think that the best answer would really be for you to get a full month ahead, in true YNAB parlance the one-month buffer.  August is two days away. Imagine you are sitting down to budget for the month of August, and all your income earned in July is sitting in your account and ready to be assigned. How easy would it be for you to see where everything needed to be, and how much flexibility you have to adjust for something different, and just how much was left over for killing off debt or for saving/investing?  I can attest that being a month ahead is an incredibly freeing and masterfull place to be. Getting to that point without the support and buy-in of your spouse and with the continual reliance on the cc is impossible in my opinion.  You may need to eliminate access to credit to re-calibrate you spending and your thinking. While I can recommend that drastic solution, I really cannot recommend the venison stew. 

    Like 15
    • HappyDance I know you all posted these comments months ago but this morning I woke up and felt completely overwhelmed by my budget, spending habits and general trending backwards. Basically, I felt/feel like I just can't do this. Reading Ron's comments and all the advice you have all given has also helped me look at my habits differently. For that, I thank you... and to Ron, I hope the past 10 months have resulted in huge (positive) differences to you and your family and that you are well on your way to budgeting glory.

      Like 3
      • HappyDance
      • YNABing consistently since 2014
      • HappyDance
      • 2 yrs ago
      • Reported - view

      Cadet Blue Stallion

      I found the grind to pay off my car and deal with a personal loan a really difficult slog.  It's a bit of a blur now, but I recall thinking my life was going to be gray, joyless, and and an endless repetition of saying "no" to anything fun forever, until the debt was eliminated.  My budget was equally tight in the following year, but I was saving instead of sending every dime to debt, and I could really see the light at the end of the tunnel.

      Where are you right now?

  • Ron, I have nothing specific to add beyond what the others have suggested; I do however want to comment that their advise is very impressive. I am particularly impressed that Faness  has chimed in far above and beyond the customary technical/software support, and is helping you (us) with financial philosophy and encouragement.  My hat is off to you, Faness !

    Like 1
    • Orchid Panther It is my absolute pleasure! :)

      I love seeing the progress everyone makes in the forum and it's an honor to be able to help when I can. Thank you!

      Like 1
Like1 Follow
  • Status Answered
  • 2 yrs agoLast active
  • 9Replies
  • 638Views
  • 5 Following