A Response to Todd’s Response Regarding Budgetary Movement Tracking (pt.2 + pt.1)

When I saw Todd’s post a few days ago (now a month ago), I knew I wanted to craft a response that was able to dive into his comments and their YNABing implications.  There are six points of his that I would like to break down:

  1. Dogmatic vs. Pragmatic

  2. “What it’s like to learn something new”

  3. “What it’s like to establish trust in a system”

  4. “What it’s like to establish trust in oneself”

  5. “YNAB has failed too many new folks over the years by insisting that they change their mindset or mental model in one fell swoop.”

  6. “As someone new to anything, it is helpful to see patterns over time, and the path to the end state - that’s how we learn.”


I’ll start with #2 because the insinuation is that an old user cannot possibly relate to the new user (despite having been one once), and their perspective is invalid in this discussion, ie. “… it’s easy for an experienced user… to forget what it is like to be a new YNABer.” I aim to bring credibility back to my ethos. 


Learning Something New

I can’t speak for others, but it is my job to not forget what it’s like to learn something new - I’m a teacher.  Further, I’m an elementary teacher, which means I am often not simply adding a new layer to my students’ understanding/skills.  Rather, I am moving them from a state of not doing/knowing to a state of doing/knowing.  


A middle school teacher who found himself on our campus recently commented that the difference between helping a student improve/add the next layer is mindblowingly different than going from nothing to something.  It is.  I’m sure you understand that the latter is not a linear process.


Further, I periodically take classes (chosen for my own learning/enjoyment) in which I find myself analyzing my experience as a student and comparing it to my students’ experiences.  I always get to grow pedagogically as well as in the stated content.  As it happens, I am a big pedagogy/curriculum nerd - it is possibly one of my favorite things to think through what students need to get from point A to B and beyond, and how to realize that systematically and individually. 


Further, I have recently helped two people get going on using YNAB in person, so I have some experience remembering what it’s like to be a new YNABer, specifically, in the not-so-long-ago past.  


Why do I bring this up?  So that the rest of what I say can be looked at logically, rather than be discounted based on my ethos of being a 2-year YNABer. 

Dogmatic vs. Pragmatic

Are you saying that YNAB’s method is inherently not pragmatically useful?  That the Four Rules, when used properly, will not transform someone’s finances in a positive way? Many testimonials would disagree.  The question is which Four Rules?


I would say that any good abstraction is based on concrete reality.  YNAB has already broken that relationship with the new Rule 4.  Are you seeking to render Rule 3 obsolete as well?


By rejecting a “dogmatic” approach to the Four Rules, you are divesting YNAB of its authority over the method.  Of course, YNAB’s modification of the Four Rules over time suggests that the philosophy is not or was not inherently true/good/pragmatically useful.  While humans can, of course, err, the question for determining the underlying methodology should not be “Is it easy?” or even “Is it attainable?” but “Is it true?”  


Just because something is not attainable in current circumstances does not mean it should be shunned, rather, the true aim should be worked towards asymptotically.  Isn’t that such a fun word?

From the current YNAB site:

“With Rule Three, when plans change, you change your budget.”

“Without Rule Three… When you overspend, you feel like a failure.  Budgets don’t work.  This whole idea of trying to ‘guess’ what you will spend is a complete waste of time.”


The implications of the above are that 

  1. YNAB is a forward-looking philosophy.  

  2. The software is a forward-looking mechanism. 

  3. The budget is the current plan for the future, based squarely on today’s money. (OK, that’s also an implication of Rule One)

Sure, historical data (transaction & budget) can help make decisions about the current plan.  However, it only takes a few years of adult living (perhaps start counting after college…) to realize that the historical needs, prices, or timeline seem to change as life progresses. 


Of course, YNAB can provide that historical data, but that is not its main purpose.  Its main purpose is to provide a plan for your current money that takes into account irregular expenses and flexes with life’s changes. The words in bold are key to the method and supported by your software better than any other budgeting platform.  


When I first found the forum, it was NolesRule, WordTenor, and Patzer who were quite stubborn about the fact that I didn’t need to keep track of my budget changes.  They asked how I knew my guesses were right and why should I hold on to them when the reality of my current priorities had obviously shifted.  I said to myself that it wasn’t worth arguing with these internet strangers who don’t know my situation, but this is obviously how YNAB works - I then used the software properly, kept a note for security, and wrote in to YNAB to please change the software. 

Tangent Alert

In fact, I wish I had a list of all the software capabilities I asked for (w/the in-app help/feedback) as a new user.  I imagine I would want most of them TAKEN OUT of consideration now.  Perhaps I will go through those old messages and compile a list, then submit a reverse feature request.  Also, when my husband read this, he said I should make a new post on the forum, explaining why I changed my mind on them.  It could be interesting, though that’s another project for another day.  (another month, more like, since this one has been waiting to be posted that long!)

End Tangent.


Anyways, it turns out that my initial guesses were actually pretty spot on in terms of averages.  However, I could not maintain them while also in the start-up phase of my true expenses and savings priorities.  The magic (I mean inherently pragmatic application of the dogma) of YNAB’s method allowed me to position all the squiggly puzzle pieces of my financial picture in the most efficient way to attain my priorities.  Since I could visualize these puzzle pieces in YNAB, I could trust my financial plan (aka. Budget).

Coming in another post... (pts. 3-6)

Establishing Trust in a System (pt.3 preview)

It took me three months to trust YNAB the software, though the method made sense right away.  Luckily, I had a friend who told me to ignore the Age of Money, in addition to sending me a VERY helpful How-To video that doesn’t exist anymore.  


The main reasons it took me that long to trust the software were as follows:

  1. Stealing From The Future (I believe the capitals, but not the bold, NolesRule)

  2. Splitting the budget across screens

  3. Not having a budget template

  4. Rule 3 moves prior to budgeting within a month

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